Doctor Who is going to tackle race and whitewashing

Justin Harp
Photo credit: BBC

From Digital Spy

Doctor Who will be delving into the issue of race and whitewashing in this weekend's episode 'Thin Ice'.

The story will pick up directly where last weekend's 'Smile' finished off, with The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and his companion Bill (Pearl Mackie) arriving in early 1800s London to find that the Thames has been frozen over.

It's this Regency-era time period that will force The Doctor and Bill to delve into racial issues, partially because showrunner Steven Moffat says he couldn't see "an alternative".

Photo credit: BBC

"History is always whitewashed," Moffat told TV Guide. "How do we manage to have a diverse cast despite that? The way that we did it was... [to just] say that you will see people of different colours there. In fact, there were. People all didn't arrive in the twinkle of an eye. It is bending history slightly, but in a progressive and useful way."

The writer went on to say: "Also, it wouldn't be a pleasant place for [Bill] in several respects. Taking that on is just respectful of the audience really. It's a chance to – I'm always reluctant to sound so pious and so do-gooding and all of that. It's useful that these things are talked about. The evil in Doctor Who can sometimes be the evil in our real world, too."

This series made headlines earlier in the year when it was announced that Bill would be Doctor Who's first-ever out gay companion in its 54-year history. (Remember, Captain Jack was never a continuous companion.)

Bill's attraction to fellow student Heather was a key plot point in 'The Pilot', but Doctor Who took strides to portray their romance with the same significance as it would with any heterosexual couple.

Photo credit: BBC

(Bill's love interest Heather)

Prior to the premiere airing earlier in April, showrunner Steven Moffat told Digital Spy that Doctor Who didn't expect "a round of applause" for making a progressive character choice.

"This wasn't, as some people thought, some kind of press release we made – it was just mentioned by Pearl in an interview. I didn't even know it was happening. I saw it on the internet," Moffat told us.

"It's not a major plot strand. It's not even a minor plot strand. It's just there. She's not 'the gay companion' – she's Bill Potts. She barely bothers to mention the fact. It only comes up when it's relevant."

We'll see how Doctor Who deals with the issue of race when 'Thin Ice' airs on BBC One in the UK and BBC America in the US on Saturday (April 29). Watch a trailer for the episode below:

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