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The new series of Doctor Who will see The Doctor joined by his first ever openly gay companion.

The sexuality of Bill Potts, played by British actress Pearl Mackie, will be be established from the offset when show returns to UK screens on BBC One later this month.

Mackie, whose casting was announced in April last year, has welcomed the decision to portray a gay black woman on a prime time family television show.

“It shouldn’t be a big deal in the 21st Century. It’s about time isn’t it?” the 29-year-old told the BBC.

“That representation is important, especially on a mainstream show.”

Image: BBC/Ray Burmiston

She added: “It’s important to say people are gay, people are black – there are also aliens in the world as well so watch out for them.

“I remember watching TV as a young mixed race girl not seeing many people who looked like me, so I think being able to visually recognise yourself on screen is important.

“[Being gay] is not the main thing that defines her character – it’s something that’s part of her and something that she’s very happy and very comfortable with.”

Doctor Who has long boasted a large gay following, and Bill’s sexuality represents another landmark moment for the iconic sci-fi show after the previous inclusion of LGBT characters such as Captain Jack (John Barrowman) and River Song (Alex Kingston).

Appearing on the latest Attitude Heroes podcast, former Doctor Who producer Russell T Davies says he believes the show has often resonated with LGBT people because they are “more imaginative” as a community.

“It takes a lot of nerve and a lot of work to love Doctor Who,” the legendary screenwriter says. I think, I’m gonna be really bold now and say you’ve got to be cleverer than the normal viewer.

“You’ve got to take more of a risk, you’ve gotta invest in it. Because you’ve got to fill those gaps where it’s looking cheap or it’s looking poor.

“It’s a very imaginative act to watch Doctor Who. And I think gay people are better and cleverer and more imaginative than anyone else!”

Doctor Who returns to BBC One on April 15.

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