Pretty much ever since Jodie Whittaker was introduced as The Doctor on Doctor Who, and Mandip Gill joined her as Yasmin Khan, one of The Doctor’s companions, fans have ‘shipped the duo. It was clear that Whittaker and Gill had chemistry, and The Doctor is always tight with her companions, but fans read something more between the lines. And now, thanks to the New Year’s Day special “Eve of the Daleks” we know that at least one half of the feelings behind that ‘ship are canon.
Spoilers past this point, but in the episode, the first of three that will say goodbye to Whittaker as The Doctor before she “regenerates” into a new TBA actor at the end of the year, Yaz was gently pushed into a confession of love — or at least, “like” — for The Doctor by fellow companion Dan Lewis (John Bishop). And while Dan wasn’t able to coax a similar confession from The Doctor, it’s clear there are some complicated feelings to unpack, which we’ll loop back around to in a second.
First though, let’s discuss the circumstances. After discovering that the trio were trapped in a New Year’s Eve time loop with storage a facility owner played by a hilarious Aisling Bea, and her one client, played by Adjani Salmon, they additionally discovered that an increasing number of Daleks were also trapped in the time loop. Those Daleks wanted revenge for The Doctor’s actions during the recent Flux event series, which ended with her sort of committing a few back-to-back genocides, including leading to the deaths of millions of Daleks. And to be honest? The Daleks who attack The Doctor in the storage facility are not wrong. Even The Doctor notes that her actions seems to be catching up with her, though she refuses to elaborate further to her friends.
Anyway, the twist is that each time the Daleks kill them, it’s one minute closer to midnight, in a clever New Year’s Eve style countdown that of course ends in literal fireworks. But before that, they discover said fireworks, and realize they can use them — as well as some other stuff left around the storage facility — to blow it up, take out The Daleks, and escape the time loop.
With four minutes left, The Doctor tells Dan and Yaz to wait for her while she gets everyone else to safety. Yaz, already traumatized by being stranded for years in the past with Dan during Flux, shouts at The Doctor and tells her to stop running off all the time. That’s when Dan approaches Yaz.
“Have you ever told her?” Dan asks.
“Told her what?” shoots back Yaz, confused.
“How you feel about her,” Dan continues.
Yaz pretends not to know what Dan means, but undeterred, he continues. “Yeah, you do.”
Yaz pauses, looks at Dan, and says, “Is it that obvious?”
Dan presses on, explaining that during the four years they were trapped in the past trying to make their way back to The Doctor, he “saw it then.”
Yaz stammers, trying to explain her behavior, and then gives up. “I don’t know what to do, Dan. I’ve never told anyone, or even myself.”
It’s pretty clear that Yaz isn’t just talking about her feelings for The Doctor, she’s also talking about her own sexuality. It’s never been confirmed on the show (and the exact labeling certainly hasn’t been confirmed now). But for Dan, the focus on the conversation is about being true to your yourself. He liked a woman during Flux who, after multiple near-endings of the universe, he sort of missed the boat on even telling her that he “liked” her. And Dan doesn’t want Yaz to make the same mistake.
At this, Yaz cries… And then the conversation is interrupted by a Dalek (multiple Daleks, actually) who kill them. Oops.
On the next loop, they discover the fireworks, The Doctor sends Yaz away to go grab the other two trapped in the time loop with them, and that gives Dan the perfect opportunity to stick his little Liverpool nose in The Doctor’s business.
“She likes you,” Dan says, technically within earshot of Yaz but we’ll ignore that for the moment. The Doctor says that of course she likes Yaz, too. But Dan clarifies that, “No, I mean… She likes you.”
The Doctor pauses, and says, “I don’t understand what you’re saying, Dan.”
“I think you do,” says Dan, perhaps a little annoyed now. “For some reason, you pretend to me, and to her that you don’t.”
As Dan walks away to go move a box of fireworks to a different location (honestly not totally clear what they were doing with those boxes… Maybe auditioning for roles as “people who move boxes around while being interviewed on Law & Order?), the camera pans over to The Doctor. Her expression isn’t one hundred percent clear: is it panic? Realization? Heartache? True to form, we don’t know, other than it’s clear that Dan was right, she does know what he’s talking about.
There’s one last, little bit after they’ve defeated The Daleks and saved New Year’s, when Yaz confronts The Doctor in her TARDIS about what she meant when she said her past was catching up with her.
“We all say lots of things we don’t mean,” says The Doctor.
“And lots we do,” shoots back Dan, pointedly looking at both The Doctor and then Yaz.
So, what does this all mean? The short version is that in some form, the show is seemingly heading towards canonizing a same sex relationship — or at least, pointing to the fact that like many companions before her, Yaz has an intense, romantic crush on The Doctor. Mind you, this isn’t the first time an LGBTQ+ character has appeared on the show, though they have been few and far between. Most notably, companion Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie) was a lesbian, frequent guest star Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) is omnisexual, and other characters like River Song (Alex Kingston) have dropped info that indicates they lean towards at least one of the parts of the LGBTQ+ acronym. But if it moved forward it would be the first time that same sex relationship, as far as we know, included The Doctor.
The bigger question here is about The Doctor’s sexuality. Though there have been relationships in the past, most notably with River Song, it’s never been explicitly stated that The Doctor has had sex, or has any interest in sex, or who The Doctor would have sex with if she did have sex. Before that sentence gets too weird, this has led many fans to posit that The Doctor is asexual. That doesn’t mean, mind you, that The Doctor is aromantic, and in fact it’s clear that The Doctor does have deep feelings for companions, and all living things alike. We’ve seen The Doctor married to River Song, we saw David Tennant’s version of The Doctor end up in a very complicated relationship with Rose Tyler (Billie Piper). But whether due to the whole “I’m a near immortal Time Lord” thing, or the “I always have to save the universe and watch you companions die” thing, or in this case the “I’m about to regenerate into another actor and essentially die” thing, there hasn’t been a lot of commitment to any one relationship.
Whittaker’s time in the TARDIS has certainly pushed the envelope in a number of ways for the series, from the first female Doctor, to the first Black Doctor (Jo Martin). Would they go so far as to have The Doctor profess that she also doesn’t just like Yaz, she like, likes her? Or, you know, loves her, since we’re not in sixth grade anymore? With Whittaker’s stint wrapping up — a special titled “Legend of the Sea Devils” will air this Spring, followed by a feature-length goodbye special this Fall — it seems possible that Yaz and The Doctor’s relationship will be a major emotional through-line for the series. And pure speculation, but it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility for The Doctor to kiss Yaz in the final moments before she regenerates into someone new.
The Doctor knows her time is short, and bad things are coming for her. When Dan confronts The Doctor about Yaz’s feelings, does she reciprocate, but can’t act because she knows she’s about to “die?” Does she, for once, not know how to express the feelings that are inside her when it means committing to one other person? Or does she not feel the same? These are all big, game-changing questions for the show, and again, it’s a fair guess they’ll continue throughout the rest of the year, right up until Russell T. Davies once again takes over as showrunner for the series. And will those questions continue beyond then? That’s something for the next Time Lord to answer.
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