Doctor Who Failed Its Thirteen & Yaz Romance

This article contains spoilers for the Doctor Who Centenary Special, The Power of the Doctor.

In their final episode, Doctor Who failed the romance subplot between the Thirteenth Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and her companion Yaz (Mandip Gill). The Doctor Who Centenary Special, « The Power of the Doctor, » almost completely ignores the romance that has been blooming between the Thirteenth Doctor and Yaz, in favor of an abundance of action scenes and a plethora of fan service. While the action sequences are fun and the appearances from many classic Doctors and companions are more than welcome, the Doctor Who Centenary Special’s ending for the relationship between Yaz and the Thirteenth Doctor is disappointing and lacking in closure.

The romance between the Thirteenth Doctor and Yaz is far from the first time that a romantic relationship has been teased between The Doctor and their companions on the show: the Eighth Doctor (Paul McGann) and Grace Holloway (Daphne Ashbrook) shared a kiss in the Doctor Who TV Movie back in 1996, and later Doctors had explicit romantic relationships with companions Rose Tyler and River Song. What makes the lack of closure in the romance between the Thirteenth Doctor and Yaz in « The Power of the Doctor » especially disheartening is that it is the first LGBTQ+ relationship that the Doctor has had with a companion. Their relationship already felt underdeveloped compared to previous romances with it only really emerging in their final few episodes together, despite Yaz and the Thirteenth Doctor having traveled together for three seasons. Unfortunately, « The Power of the Doctor » does little to fix that.

Doctor Who first really hinted at a potential romance between the Thirteenth Doctor and Yaz during season 13. In Doctor Who: Flux episode 5, Yaz replays a holographic message of The Doctor over and over again. Mandip Gill plays the scene as if she is yearning for her long-lost love, a feeling present in much of LGBTQ+ fiction. Then, in episode 6, Doctor Who once again hints at a romance between Yaz and The Doctor during the scene in which they are reunited. However, any hint at a romance is only present in how Gill and Whittaker play the scene, rather than having any confirmation in the script, disappointingly restricting the romance to mere queer coding. The romance between Yaz and the Thirteenth Doctor is finally confirmed in the Doctor Who 2022 New Year’s Day special, « Eve of the Daleks, » when Dan (John Bishop) confronts Yaz about her unsaid feelings towards The Doctor. The following special, « Legend of the Sea Devils, » then has The Doctor acknowledge Yaz’s romantic feelings toward her before quickly shooting her down at the end, explaining that she cannot be with Yaz due to believing that a potential relationship will only end in hurt. Going into « The Power of the Doctor, » so much about the relationship between Yaz and The Doctor is left to subtext and the Centenary Special continues this trend of disappointment.

What makes The Power of the Doctor’s lack of acknowledgment of the relationship between Yaz and The Doctor disappointing is that the series has a good history of LGBTQ+ representation. Ever since the beginning of the 2005 revival, Doctor Who has not shied away from LGBTQ+ characters and representation. The first LGBTQ+ companion, Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman), was introduced back in Doctor Who season 1, episode 9, « The Empty Child. » His bisexuality was not shied away from, either, with him kissing both the Ninth Doctor (Christopher Eccleston) and Rose Tyler (Billie Piper). The first lesbian companion, Bill Potts, who traveled with the Twelfth Doctor throughout season 10 of Doctor Who, had an explicit female love interest.

The depiction of Yaz and The Doctor’s relationship in « The Power of the Doctor » picks up from where « Legend of the Sea Devils » leaves off, with it being depicted in an utterly platonic manner. Their relationship ends with the two eating ice cream, sitting atop the TARDIS, and looking down upon the Earth, but sidestepping any sense of romance between The Doctor and Yaz. Yaz then declares that they should not say goodbye to each other, clearly still not wanting this to be the end of their relationship. « The Power of the Doctor » leaves any declaration of love from either of the women unstated and avoids The Doctor saying that she loves Yaz explicitly. While this feels in keeping with how the previous episodes have treated their relationship, the lack of closure and passion is disappointing, especially when compared to other companions like Rose Tyler and Amy Pond. Rather than feeling like the goodbye that would take place between loved ones, The Doctor treats Yaz as just a friend. It’s especially disheartening as this is the first proper LGBTQ+ relationship between The Doctor and a companion.

Rather than feeling organic, Yaz’s exit from the TARDIS at the ending of « The Power of the Doctor » has the distinct feel of being contractually necessary. After all, behind-the-scenes, Doctor Who is changing showrunners with Russell T. Davies once again taking the reins. « The Power of the Doctor » does not effectively sell Yaz leaving the TARDIS, especially after she has explicitly stated that she would stay with The Doctor forever. The Doctor simply states that she needs to regenerate alone, which Yaz reluctantly accepts. This creative choice does not feel in keeping with Yaz’s character and instead simply comes across as Chris Chibnall wanting to leave Russell T. Davies with a clean slate. Companions have stayed with a regenerated Doctor in the past; in the revived series alone, Rose Tyler continued to travel with the Tenth Doctor, and Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman) stayed with the Twelfth as well. However, no companion or Doctor has stayed on during a change in showrunner.

However, despite the disappointing end of the relationship between Yaz and The Doctor in « The Power of the Doctor, » it can still be fixed. Jodie Whittaker has already confirmed that she would love to return to the character and has even talked to Russell T. Davies about a potential reappearance. Given David Tennant’s surprise appearance as the Fourteenth Doctor, after having previously played the Tenth, her return is certainly a possibility. If Mandip Gill also chooses to return to Doctor Who in the future alongside Whittaker, then the romance between the Thirteenth Doctor and Yaz could finally be given the closure that evaded it in « The Power of the Doctor. »