The Doctor’s companions come in all shapes and sizes, colors and creeds, species, and home planets. The countless travelers who have journeyed in the TARDIS are a diverse cast of characters that just keeps growing. For Pride Month, we’ll be looking at some of the characters of Doctor Who that are a part of the LGBTQ+ community. We’ll be looking at companions from both the TV series and expanded universe media, as the Whoniverse is far broader than even 60 years on the air.
[Warning: minor spoilers for Doctor Who and Torchwood]
Adric (Fourth and Fifth Doctors companion)
A companion of the Fourth and Fifth Doctors, Adric was an Alzarian from E-Space. Adric stowed away aboard the TARDIS while the Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) and Romana II were trapped in E-Space.
Adric would then witness the Doctor’s regeneration into the Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison) and joined Five, Tegan (Janet Fielding), and Nyssa (Sarah Sutton) for numerous adventures in time and space. Tragically, he was gone too soon. Adric lost his life trying to stop the Cybermen from crashing a spaceship into the Earth, not realizing that the spaceship was, in fact, a fixed point in time: it was the “asteroid” that wiped out the dinosaurs.
But, in various spinoff media, Adric has lived on in alternate timelines and universes. In one such timeline, detailed in the short story “A Full Life” (audiobook available through Big Finish), Adric gets to live a full life, with marriage and children. He first marries a Veridian woman named Asun, with whom he has two children. After Asun passes, he married a Veridian man named Reebac, confirming that he is bisexual.
Although this only takes place in the expanded universe media, and in an alternate timeline, we can assume this means Adric is bisexual in the canon universe as well. In addition, Matthew Waterhouse, who plays Adric, is openly gay in real life.
Bill Potts (Twelfth Doctor companion)
A number of primary TV series companions have been implied to be queer throughout the years. But Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie) was the first of the main companions to be unequivocally, explicitly lesbian. A companion of the Twelfth Doctor (Peter Capaldi), she first encountered the Time Lord while he was undercover at St. Luke’s University as a physics professor.
In her very first episode, Bill makes it explicitly clear she’s not interested in men, only women. Throughout her time in the TARDIS, Bill had a number of brief encounters with women across time and space.
But, like Adric, Bill tragically was killed at the hands of the Cybermen. Also, like Adric, Bill got to have her happy, gay ending thanks to some wibbly wobbliness. Heather, a sentient oil creature (and Bill’s first crush within the series), saved Bill’s life by using her tears to turn her into an oil creature as well. Bill and Heather then left the TARDIS to travel the universe together as immortal, oil-based aliens. (Trust me, I was confused too.)
Bliss (Eighth Doctor companion)
Bliss (Rakhee Thakrar) was a war orphan, whose family was erased from existence during the Last Great Time War. She exclusively appeared in the Eighth Doctor: Time War audio series from Big Finish.
Bliss was a human from the colony world of Deliobia. She met the Eighth Doctor (Paul McGann) on the starship Theseus during the war, where they escaped from a Dalek attack together. Bliss then traveled with the Doctor while he fought in the Time War, so her experience traveling in the TARDIS was a little different than most companions.
She was also explicitly bisexual, as she was in a love triangle with her friends Calla (a woman) and Ryall (a man). Bliss had marked difficulty choosing between them.
Captain Jack Harkness (First appeared with the Ninth Doctor)
Real-world controversies around John Barrowman aside, there’s no denying that Captain Jack was a huge step forward for queer representation in Doctor Who.
Jack Harkness (real name Javic Piotr Thane) was a former-time-agent-turned-con-man from the 51st century. He met the Ninth Doctor (Christopher Eccleston) and Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) during the London Blitz while trying to pull off a con. He would then travel with them for a few adventures, before dying, coming back to life, and ending up on the spinoff series, Torchwood.
Captain Jack was notorious for flirting with anything with a pulse, regardless of gender, species, or compatibility. In addition to having an unrelenting crush on the Doctor (any of them), he also had a fling with pretty much every character on Torchwood. But the love of Jack’s life has to be Ianto Jones. Ianto tragically passed away in Jack’s arms at the end of the “Children of Earth” saga.
The Ninth Doctor described Jack as very sexually fluid to Rose Tyler, seeing as he was a 51st-century guy, with much looser labels. Captain Jack was the first explicitly pansexual character on the show.
Clara Oswald (Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors companion)
Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman), like so many companions, had a complicated, timey-wimey relationship with the Doctor. She first met the Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) in the Dalek Asylum, before realizing she’d been transformed into a Dalek, and then dying. She popped up again in Victorian England as a governess, before dying again. The Doctor later discovered that Clara would end up stepping into his own time stream, saving him countless times throughout history without him even noticing.
After Eleven regenerated, Clara would go on to travel with the Twelfth Doctor for an extensive period of time.
During this time, in addition to a long-term relationship with Danny Pink (Samuel Anderson), Clara is also implied to have had flings with a number of women, including a girl called Nina, the immortal Viking Ashildr, and even Jane Austen. Although she never explicitly states her sexuality, it seems very likely that Clara is bisexual.
Sadly, like several others on this list, Clara also died young during her travels. However, the Doctor time scooped her from the instant before her death while on Gallifrey. She then got to live out an untold number of days, ageless, with Ashildr in a time-traveling American diner, before returning to the point of her death.
Izzy Sinclair (Eighth Doctor companion)
Izzy Sinclair was a human companion of the Eighth Doctor who came from 20th Century Earth. She appeared in both the Doctor Who Magazine comic strip as well as audio stories from Big Finish (Doctor Who: The Company of Friends.)
She met the Doctor when she was a 17-year-old amateur paranormal investigator and sci-fi nerd. At the time, she had a tumultuous relationship with her foster parents. After a battle with the Celestial Toymaker, Izzy joined Eight and traveled with him in the TARDIS for a good portion of his comic strip adventures.
During her travels, Izzy came to terms with her sexuality and came out as a lesbian. After leaving the TARDIS, she made up with her foster parents and lived her life out and proud.
Oliver Harper (First Doctor companion)
In terms of chronology, Oliver Harper was perhaps the first queer Doctor Who companion. He was a closeted gay man who lived in London during the ’60s. After being exposed for being gay, he faced being arrested and fled from the law.
While on the run, he met the First Doctor and Steven Taylor during a battle with the Fulgurites in the Big Finish audio story “The Cold Equations”. After helping them defeat the aliens, Oliver joined the Doctor and Steven in the TARDIS for a few short adventures.
During his time, Oliver hid his sexuality from the Doctor, thinking he would disapprove. However, he eventually came out, and both One and Steven accepted him. Steven even reassured him that in the future, queerness was not a crime, but very common.
(The First Doctor may be a misogynist, but he’ll be damned before he’s homophobic! Happy Pride Month!)
River Song (First appeared with the Tenth Doctor)
The enigmatic River Song (Alex Kingston) was not strictly speaking a regular companion of the Doctor. But she’s a queer icon, frankly, and she deserves a spot here.
River Song was the daughter of companions Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) and Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill), who, having been conceived on the TARDIS while in flight, obtained the regenerative powers of a Time Lord. She was stolen from Amy and was raised to assassinate the Doctor by The Silence. She ended up rebelling, becoming an ally of the Doctor, and setting out on her own time travel adventures.
Although she’s best known for her complicated, out-of-synch marriage to the Doctor, River Song has also had a number of canon relationships with women. She mentions several times in the show having been married to women before. Like various other Steven Moffat characters, she’s heavily implied to be bisexual. She is also non-monogamous, and very sexually fluid, like Captain Jack.
Out-of-universe, Alex Kingston, who plays River, has stated that River would be equally as attracted to the Thirteenth Doctor as any of the male doctors. Steven Moffat has also stated that River has been married a whopping 428 times to both men and women, including Seventh Doctor companion Bernice Summerfield. (Now that’s a power couple. Hope we’ll get to see what their marriage is/was like one day).
Tania Bell & Liv Chenka (Seventh & Eighth Doctors companions)
Tania Bell was a transgender woman from modern-day Earth who worked for Torchwood. She met the Eighth Doctor in 2020 while he was living on Earth with companions Helen Sinclair and Liv Chenka. However, she had to keep her affiliation with Torchwood secret from the Doctor, as it was too early in his timeline to know about the organization.
During her adventures with the Doctor, she became infatuated with Liv Chenka, and the two of them began to date. Tania is one of the first transgender companions in the Who expanded universe, as well as her sexuality being queer. This also means that Liv is queer as well, making her another one of the Eighth Doctor’s various LGBTQ companions.
Tania and Liv presumably got a happy ending, as Liv left the TARDIS to live on Earth with Tania. Liv’s first appearance was with the Seventh Doctor in Big Finish audiobook Robophobia. And Tania’s first appearance was in Big Finish’s Stranded 1: Lost Property with the Eighth Doctor.
Madame Vastra & Jenny (Eleventh Doctor companions)
Madame Vastra (Neve McIntosh) and Jenny (Catrin Stewart) were first seen as side characters in the Eleventh Doctor episode “A Good Man Goes To War”. They’ve since become beloved companions within the Whoniverse. Along with their Sontaran butler Strax, they’ve appeared in their own comic strips and spin-off audio dramas with Big Finish.
Madame Vastra was a Silurian woman who was awakened in the Victorian Era by the construction of the London Underground. She sought revenge against the humans who awoke her, but the Ninth Doctor convinced her not to give into rage, and instead live alongside humans.
She lived on Paternoster Street, largely in hiding, with her maid Jenny. Eventually, Jenny and Vastra fell in love and got secretly married. They were unapologetic about the nature of their relationship, despite living in the middle of Victorian London together.
In addition to each other, Vastra and Jenny were both interested in detective work and sword fighting. Truly a badass and inspirational lesbian couple.
Yasmin Khan (Thirteenth Doctor companion)
Last but certainly not least is Thirteenth Doctor Yaz Khan (Mandip Gill). Yaz met the Doctor along with her old school friend, Ryan Sinclair, during yet another alien attack on England. She, along with Ryan (Tosin Cole) and Ryan’s step-grandfather Graham (Bradley Walsh), would be the Thirteenth Doctor’s first companions.
Yaz would go on to be one of the longest-running Doctor Who companions, on the show for three full seasons. During her time in the TARDIS, she slowly began to realize her feelings for the Thirteenth Doctor. All this built up to a heartfelt goodbye between Yaz and Thirteen, shortly before Thirteen regenerated. Yaz then returned to ordinary life on Earth.
Although her sexuality is never explicitly stated, Yaz is definitely queer, given her infatuation with Thirteen. Hopefully, we haven’t seen the last of her, and she may return for more adventures in the future.
What other LGBTQ Doctor Who characters are your favorites? Let us know on Discord or over on Twitter! (Special thanks to my friend Alex Buckley for helping me research the expanded universe companions for this article!)