Edited by Sigrid Ellis and Michael Damian Thomas, with an Introduction by John Barrowman and Carole E. Barrowman
Mad Norwegian Press, out now
It is a truth, almost universally acknowledged, that for many years, a large percentage of the most active and visible Doctor Who fans were its gay fans. But why has this been the case for Doctor Who as opposed to other “cult” TV shows? It’s easy enough to bandy about words like “camp” and “kitsch” in relation to Doctor Who, but that merely scratches the surface as to why the show appeals so much to sexual minorities.
For many, a seemingly asexual hero was a soothing balm to the relentless heterosexuality of Captain Kirk or Buck Rogers. For others, a character that relied on his intellect and verbal wit to save the universe proved to be an admirable role model. For noted author Paul Magrs – who gave the Whoniverse Mad Dogs and Englishmen (complete with Poodle People) and Iris Wildthyme – it’s “the embarrassing bits. The overacted and nonsensical bits. I love the bits that are, by anyone’s definition, monstrously bad.” For former Doctor Who Magazine editor, Big Finish co-founder and former Torchwood/The Sarah Jane Adventures script editor Gary Russell, the show sparked his love for working in print and broadcast media. (He maintains that The Tomorrow People, rather than Doctor Who, made him gay.) And for author Melissa Scott, it’s a way to remember her late partner of 27 years through their shared love of the program.
Some essays focus on specific aspects of the show, such as Amal Ed-Mohrar’s analysis of the Master’s complicated relationship with the Doctor; Julia Rios’ exploration of lesbian subtext in The Stones of Blood; and Nigel Fairs contemplates trying to explain to his much younger self just how important a part of his life Louise Jameson will eventually become.
The 2005 Doctor Who revival and its spinoff Torchwood receive much coverage as well, with 51st century omnisexuals Captain Jack Harkness and River Song receiving the lion’s share of the analysis. If anything, some of the Captain Jack essays begin to blur together after a while, but considering the character’s impact and importance to queer fans, this is understandable.
Nor are these essays without their criticisms. John Richards notes that while LGBTQ characters are more visible now, they have a high mortality rate, and he chastises the show for letting Rose use “gay” as an insult in Aliens of London. And Hal Duncan reveals how much of a sledge hammer he’d take to the show’s basic tenets if he were ever in charge. Others lament the Doctor’s now-apparent heterosexuality (noting the irony of this happening under the aegis of openly gay showrunner Russell T Davies), and mourn the way that gay fans have seemingly been swept aside in the wake of the show’s newfound mainstream popularity. Much like gay culture itself, Doctor Who has gone from a “secret club” known to a select few, to an everyday part of life.
VERDICT: Entertaining, thought-provoking and occasionally tear-jerking, Queers Dig Time Lords boasts a commendably diverse cross-section of same-sex love for Doctor Who and its spin-offs. 7/10