In their latest bid to save the reputation of the once-esteemed British sci-if series, the BBC has launched Doctor Who: Redacted, a new audio drama podcast featuring a self-described “very gay, very trans” story.
Premiering on April 17th alongside the latest Doctor Who special, Legend of the Sea Devils, Doctor Who: Redacted is a ten-part audio drama that tells the story of three friends – Cleo, Abby, and Shawna – who, after producing their own amateur investigative podcast centered around reports of the Tardis’ appearance throughout history, find themselves involved in their own adventure across space-and-time alongside the series’ eponymous hero.
As widely promoted by the BBC, each of the three friends bears a ‘non-traditional’ gender identity, with Cleo being a trans woman, Abby a bisexual, and Shawn a lesbian.
“They don’t know who the Doctor is, or if aliens are real, but soon find themselves caught in a supernatural conspiracy as they learn that everyone who’s ever met the Doctor is disappearing and being forgotten,” reads an official series synopsis provided by the BBC.
“Essentially, they’re being redacted from reality. [Their podcast], The Blue Box Files is so unsuccessful that our heroes are the last ones to be affected by the redaction, making Cleo, Abby and Shawna the world’s only hope. Now it’s a race against time to uncover the truth,” it states.
“When Cleo’s brother Jordan gets redacted, they spend the rest of the series trying to find him,” the synopsis continues.
“In the meantime Cleo is dealing with a mother who kicked her out for being trans when she was 16, whilst trying to find out what happened to her Dad – who mysteriously ‘disappeared’ when she was a kid,” it adds.
The synopsis concludes, “As the series unfolds we find Abby – the resident believer and Shawna – the sceptic, grapple with their own tribulations on the edge of a will-they, won’t-they romance, despite Abby’s controlling boyfriend.”
Notably, the series will feature cameos from a number of Doctor Who alumni, including Anjli Mohindra as The Sarah Jane Adventures’ Rani Chandra, Doon Mackichan as long-time series antagonist Madame Vastra, and even Jodie Whitaker as the 13th Doctor herself.
Speaking to the series’ direction in light of its official reveal on April 8th, series producer and director Ella Watts – the franchise’s apparent first openly trans lead writer – declared, “The cat is FINALLY out of the bag: I produced and directed a very gay, very trans OFFICIAL @BBCDoctorWho fiction podcast.”
“One of the most important things to me about the show was making sure we had a really diverse writer’s room,” Watts added. “And I’m so proud of the people we had the privilege to work with.”
This sentiment was further put forth by both Cleo voice actor Charlie Craggs and series writer Juno Dawson, both of whom are transgender individuals, during a late-April interview given to The Guardian in promotion of Doctor Who: Redacted.
Beginning with the topic of her role in the show – her first acting gig after a career as a transgender rights activist and who has self-admitted to having never watched any amount of the series before – Craggs told the outlet that she considered her casting to be “a huge step for the trans community.”
“I’m so honoured to be part of something so sacred to so many,” she said. “It’s hard not to feel for Cleo’s character. You’d have to be some sort of sociopath not to empathise with what she’s going through with her mum.”
Dawson then interjected, “She’s such a force. The label ‘trans activist’ can be a club with which to beat trans people. It’s a dehumanising term, but Charlie uses her voice so cleverly – with humour and honesty”
“When it came to casting, I said to Ella: ‘Look, we can either audition Charlie Craggs or find a trans actor and tell her to play it like Charlie Craggs,’” the writer added. “There were some nerves at the BBC about hiring someone untrained but I’m so glad we stuck to our guns.”
Noting that she was “nervous” about the series “because the fandom are so passionate,” Dawson noted, “I’ve been that judgmental fan myself. But people have been incredibly positive.”
“That goes for the queer and trans community too,” she told The Guardian. “A lot of the messages that I’m getting online are from people saying, ‘I feel seen’.”
Ultimately, Dawson asserted, “Doctor Who has always appealed to LGBTQ+. There’s something so enduring about the idea that, if you’re living a slightly humdrum life, this person in a blue box can whisk you away for an adventure in time and space.”
“Many of the Doctor’s sidekicks have been downtrodden or marginalised, even if they weren’t outwardly queer,” the writer concluded. “So to take that subtext and make it text, that means a lot. We don’t need to make it a metaphor any more. We can have three queer women front and centre.”
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