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Doctor Who abandoned the ‘bury your gays’ trope in a big way and we love to see it

Emma Powys Maurice February 3, 2020
Doctor Who

Jodie Whittaker as the Doctor in series 12 episode 6, 'Praxeus' (BBC)

Doctor Who fans rejoiced as the show left the ‘bury the gays’ trope firmly behind with an episode that put a proud gay romance at the front and centre. Warning: Major spoilers follow.

Whovians were already reeling from last week’s big reveal – the return of much-loved omnisexual alien space pirate, Captain Jack Harkness.

And Sunday’s episode ‘Praxeus’ scored even higher on LGBT+ representation with a death-defying love story between British astronaut Adam Lang (Matthew McNulty) and ex-police officer Jake Willis (Warren Brown).

From the beginning it’s clear the two characters share a history, but the details of their relationship remained ambiguous until halfway through the episode when Jake has a heart-to-heart with the TARDIS’s resident agony aunt, Graham. A few shrewd questions later, Jake reveals that Adam is actually his estranged husband and that Adam’s career has put pressure on them as a couple.

Their poignant conversation perfectly normalises the characters’ relationship, and actually proved to be the most engaging part of a ropey episode filled with awkward plot holes (how on earth did Adam manage to text his husband while hooked up to alien tech in Hong Kong? And did anyone even notice poor Arumu’s horrible Hitchcockian death on a beach just metres away from the Doctor and all her companions? No? OK).

But LGBT+ viewers remained cautious – with Adam fighting for his life after being infected with a deadly alien virus, it was looking all too likely that the show would follow the tired ‘bury your gays‘ trope, a common cliché in which LGBT+ characters are viewed as more expendable than their heteronormative counterparts.

Twitter was on tenterhooks: would show runners throw in a touching, nuanced gay romance only to kill off one or both of the characters? It’s a trap Doctor Who has fallen into before with last year’s New Year’s Day special, when a gay character was killed off literally less than thirty seconds after his sexuality was revealed.

An emotional rollercoaster followed as Adam is miraculously cured, only for Jake to sacrifice himself for the sake of the world by manually piloting an alien spaceship into the stratosphere, AKA the most Doctor Who-esque death ever. That is, until the Doctor materialises the TARDIS around Jake in the split second before the spaceship explodes – AKA the most Doctor Who-esque rescue ever.

A predictable twist for sure, but it was a pleasant surprise for the many fans steeling themselves for an unhappy ending. The couple celebrate their unlikely survival with a passionate kiss, as the Doctor smiles and says “Gay rights!” (Well, she actually said “I’m a romantic” which is basically the same thing).

 

 

 

More: BBC, Doctor Who, Jodie Whittaker, lgbt representation

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