Doctor Who star Mandip Gill has brought a much welcome change to the franchise as the Doctor’s (now) lead companion, Yaz Khan. As a woman of South Asian descent, I was ecstatic to see Gill on a show that I love and admire so much. And that sense of pride and happiness increased ten-fold when Yaz got to revisit her own history in season 11’s “Demons of the Punjab.” The episode took Yaz back to the Punjab province in August 1947, a day before the partition of India.
The entire episode was a homage to Yaz’s history and her desire to learn about her grandmother in her younger days. It is an absolutely beautiful episode and one I always commend Doctor Who for making.
Gill recently stopped by Meera Syal’s Radio4 show Gossip and Goddesses with Granny Kumar. Given that the series isn’t shy about exploring different cultures, races and ethnicities, she was asked if she thinks the lead actor will ever be a person of color. (We must ad that Jo Martin has played an incarnation of the Doctor, the first person to do so. But she wasn’t the lead.)
“Yeah, I do,” Gill said. “I think there’s a long way to go but there’s definitely room for change. And actually, I think at the BBC and at ‘Doctor Who’ they are very open and forward-thinking, so yes.”
Doctor Who has set itself up for a person of color to play the lead
The show has made an effort to feature more inclusive storylines over the last few years, including the episodes “Rosa” and “Spyfall,” which explore the stories of activist Rosa Parks and British spy Noor Inayat Khan respectively, taking a close look at the challenges they face and how they stood up for themselves.
Gill’s optimism about a future Doctor being played by a person of color isn’t naive. I feel like we may well see it happen soon, especially if rumors about Jodie Whittaker leaving the role after the upcoming thirteenth season pan out.
Time will tell if the franchise is ready, but from the looks of it, I think they’ve set themselves up to finally take that leap!
h/t Bleeding Cool