Doctor Who’s first transgender companion has plans to be the first transgender Doctor, too

The Doctor Who franchise will soon get its first transgender companion played by the trans actress and comedian Rebecca Root.

Root is joining the upcoming series of the Doctor Who audio drama produced by Big Finish, which has been delighting fans for the past two decades with a welcome extension to the Whoniverse.

She stars as the character of Tania alongside Paul McGann, who played the eighth Doctor in the made-for-TV movie. It’s a role she’s thrilled and honoured to play, but she’s already got her sights on an even bigger one.

“I don’t think it’s any secret in the media world that I would love to have a chance to play the Doctor myself,” she admitted to PinkNews.

“Certainly before Jodie Whittaker took over I was hinting very heavily to showrunners that I wanted a stab at that role.

“Never say never though, I’d still like a shot at the TV version, but suffice it to say that being a part of the inner circle of the TARDIS crew is an honour and a treat.”

The significance of her role as the first transgender companion in canonical Who is not lost on her, but it’s something that is deliberately downplayed on the show.

“It’s one of those things where it’s said and then everyone moves on, it’s not mentioned again. It’s kind of refreshing in its normality, really,” Root said.

Paul McGann playing the eighth Doctor in 1996 (YouTube/BBC America)

Cautious not to divulge too much about her character’s storyline, she says that Tania’s gender identity is revealed in the context of a lesbian relationship.

“I think Tania has some anxieties around her gender identity in so far as how that might get in the way of a relationship, but her anxieties are unfounded and the person involved just doesn’t bat an eyelid,” she said.
“She just shrugs and says ‘Yeah, and?’ And it’s a gorgeous little moment.

“It’s kind of indicative of, I hope, how people from other galaxies might respond to different expressions of gender. And without giving too much away, it’s just refreshing to see that it’s not a big deal, you know?”

Root made her name on BBC Two’s Boy Meets Girl, a sitcom about a developing relationship between a young cis man and an older transgender woman.

The show was widely praised for its positive portrayal of trans characters, and it also allowed Root to “crack open” a spot in the TV industry. “After many years of knocking on the door, I finally found the door opening,” she said.

Doctor Who: First trans companion has plans to be first trans Doctor, too

Rebecca Root. (Sam Irons)

But when she went into voice acting – an extremely competitive industry within an extremely competitive industry – she found that some doors were still closed to her.

“I don’t do any voiceovers for commercials for example, and I’ve asked people why they think that and the answer comes back that people don’t know how to place my voice, whether male or female, as if that matters,” she said.

“But for character work, for acting, I think my voice offers interesting layers, and I think that’s why I’ve had more work as a voice actor than as an actor.”

Listeners can hear her voice for themselves when Tania makes her debut in the episode ‘Lost Property’. Exactly what Tania will bring to the TARDIS is still kept tightly under wraps, but Root throws a few hints.

“She’s patient, she’s had to be patient in her line of work,” she said. “I played her I hope with some humour, some sensitivity, and there’s a love story amongst the mayhem of the actual story which is wonderful.

“I don’t want to give too much away, but suffice it to say that leads to Tania embarking on further adventures with the Doctor and the crew of the TARDIS. She gets embroiled in something, and I would probably say she’s been waiting a long time for this moment. And who knows where it will take her.”