Doctor Who’s Catherine Tate ‘honoured’ to play mother of a trans child: ‘I’m all your mamas’

Comedian Catherine Tate has reflected on the experience of playing the mother of a transgender child in Doctor Who, and come out as a trans ally in the process.

Tate briefly revived her role as the Doctor’s companion, Donna Noble, in “The Star Beast”, the first of the three 60th anniversary special episodes last November.

The episode brought the return of the Tenth Doctor, played by fellow trans ally David Tennant, and the introduction of Heartstopper actress Yasmin Finney as Rose Noble, Donna’s trans daughter.

Considering the episode was written by gay TV legend Russell T Davies, there was no shying away from Rose’s character in the Who-niverse, and her trans identity was sensitively touched on as well as vital to the plot.

Over the weekend, Tate appeared at the pop culture event Fan Expo Denver where took fan questions and discussed her role in the long-running BBC sci-fi series.

Fans strike back at bigots complaining about Doctor Who's trans inclusive storyline. (Fans strike back at bigots complaining about Doctor Who's trans inclusive storyline.
Yasmin Finney played Rose Noble. (Alistair Heap/Bad Wolf/BBC Studios)

“It is of course my privilege and honour to tell the story of a mother with a trans daughter,” she told the crowd, who responded with rapturous applause. “It’s important as storytellers and people in the industry that we take that mantle on and we tell those stories and we represent everyone and we do it with love and humour and kindness and interest.

“It is absolutely my honour and my privilege for Donna to be the mother of everyone. It’s so wonderful to play a character who is written so brilliantly that she just embraced her daughter.”

Tate, who first appeared alongside Tennant in the series in 2006, went on to reflect on the real-world impact of Donna’s response to her daughter being transgender.

“I get a lot of young trans people come up to me, saying: ‘Well, my parents didn’t do that’, and that breaks my heart. So, I’m all your mamas,” she said.

In the “The Star Beast”, Donna is seen standing up for Rose after her daughter is targeted by petty transphobic bullies as the pair walk home.

“I would burn down the world for you, darling. Anyone has a go, I will be there and I will descend,” Donna says.

In another scene, Donna’s mother Sylvia (Jacqueline King) accidentally misgenders Rose, and lambasts herself for being so “clumsy”.

Catherine Tate is the official Eurovision 2023 spokesperson. (BBC)
Catherine Tate. (BBC)

After a fan at Fan Expo Denver praised the storyline showing that it’s OK to make mistakes as family members learning to support their trans loved ones, Tate replied: “There probably isn’t a perfect movie version. The difference is, we’re all gonna step in it.

“I was saying to someone today… what I really loved is they kept that scene in where she says, ‘Oh, I don’t know, shall I say she looks nice? Do I say that? Should I not?’ And then [Donna] goes: ‘Does she? Then it’s fine’.

“It’s good to see people evolving and working through it,” Tate continued. “In the end, it’s always coming from love.”

Finney’s turn as Rose resulted in a handful of complaints to the BBC about the inclusion of a trans character, but these were swiftly dismissed by the broadcaster.

The latest season of Doctor Who also featured other trans stars: Jinkx Monsoon, Mary Malone, and Pete MacHale – the show’s first transgender man.

Doctor Who is streaming now on BBC iPlayer in the UK and Disney+ in the US.

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