Airing in the family friendly times-lot of 8PM on a Saturday night, the most recent series of Doctor Who were never really expected to push the boundaries. There was a always a risk that pushing the queer boat out would alienate parents convinced that LGBT content is not ‘wholesome’ enough for their child.
Yet, against all odds, Doctor Who has been an unlikely source of queerness. Not only is John Barrowman’s Captain Jack Harkness ‘omnisexual’ (he has loved across all genders and species, apparently) but Madame Vastra and her wife Jenny are a same-gender married couple who are touted as fan favourites.
Recently, the show also did some good for trans viewers when it introduced Missy. Missy (formerly the Master) was always the male antagonist to the titular Doctor and now Michelle Gomez, the actress who plays her, has discussed what it means.
In an interview with Gay Times Magazine, Gomez explained,
“The thing is is that with casting me and having this face, you never really know whether I’m a man or a woman anyway. You just pop a bit of red lipstick on me and I’m sort of Paul O’Grady’s love child.
We still don’t know whether Missy is the Master or the Master is Missy or whether I actually do have an enormous… [looks down] or not. Maybe I am packing. We just don’t know do we, really? That’s something between my husband and I.”
There’s no denying that Gomez’ words are offensive – equating gender with genitalia is incorrect – but they also highlight a concern about Missy’s portrayal.
During the interview, GT also asked Gomez if she anticipated the trans positive reaction to her character to which she replied “You mean did I know I was going to be the Master? [laughs]” seeming to sidestep the question altogether. Going off of this there is a possibility that Missy being female was never meant to be a big deal or was never meant to be seen as trans at all (rather, it was just meant to be a new step in the Master’s lifetime that just happened to be female).
That will be further disappointment to Doctor Who’s trans fans though as GT notes that the actress is “definitely tongue-in-cheek” maybe the smallest glimmer of hope remains.