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Doctor Who: How Shippers Saved the Show with "Thasmin" Love Story

"Thasmin" was the fanfic love story between the 13th Doctor and companion Yaz that became a reality, giving that Doctor Who run some heart.

The latest Doctor Who compilation video highlights The Thirteenth Doctor's (Jodie Whittaker) companion Yasmin's (Mandip Gil) greatest hits, which features clips from "Flux" all the way to the finale of this Doctor and showrunner Chris Chibnall's run "The Power of the Doctor." What it really highlights is "Thasmin," which ended up saving the series from being completely empty before that run ended.

Doctor Who: The Thasmin Love Story is how the 'Shippers Saved the Show
"Doctor Who" still, BBC

The love story between The Doctor and Yaz was originally created by shippers as a slashfic meme. Jodie Whittaker saw them and suggested to Chibnall that it be made canon in the show, made text instead of subtext, and ended up giving it life in the show's final season. The compilation video actually redeems the show by cutting away all the extraneous fat, the mediocre plot, and the mediocre expositional dialogue and bringing the love story into focus for the first time. It's easier to see without all the dreadful nonsense with the dull universe-ending subplot and the tedious villains.

Before Thasmin

Until the love story became overt, Mandip Gil didn't really have a character to play in her first two series of Doctor Who. Yazmin Khan didn't have a personality, only a bunch of tropes thrown together – she was a trainee policewoman, she had a normal middle-class family, and in her second series, she was revealed to have suffered depression when she was a teenager. None of this added to a character. Even despite the story of her grandmother's past in India's Partition in "Demons of the Punjab," Yaz was barely more than a plot puppet while Chibnall seemed more comfortable telling the equally clichéd soap opera family story of Graham (Bradley Walsh) and Ryan (Tosin Cole). If Thasmin really was Whittaker's idea, then she saved the show from being a complete anti-climax. Thasmin gave Whittaker and Gil something emotional to play other than just reacting to the plot all the time. It highlighted Whittaker and Gil's chemistry. The Thirteenth Doctor's unique sweetness and Gil's acting chops.

The Trajectory of Thasmin in Doctor Who

Thasmin was first hinted at in their first series story, "Arachnids in the U.K.," where Yaz's mum asked if she was dating The Doctor. LGBTQ fans seized on that and turned it into a meme that Chibnall started to treat as text starting in "Flux." "Flux" is a terrible season that wasted the entire cast of really good actors, including the guests, but what worked was the chemistry between the show's central trio, The Doctor, Yaz, and Dan (John Bishop). The soulful Dan became the foil observing Yaz's unrequited love for The Doctor as he aches for his own unrequited love.

"Legend of the Sea Devils" is still one of the worst stories in Chibnall's run. How could you possibly have a real-life Chinese pirate queen, The Doctor, and the Sea Devils, and end up with one of the most boring stories in any show's history ever?? What works in the story, though, is the love story and the chemistry between Gil and Whittaker. Gil was by then leaning hard in Yaz's unrequited love for the Doctor, only for The Doctor to quietly, slightly reciprocate and admit she can't give Yaz everything she wants.

LGBTQ fans have criticized the show for now going far enough with The Doctor and Yaz's love story. They never kiss, and they barely touch, but there's that moment in "The Power of the Doctor" of Yaz carrying the dying Doctor back to the TARDIS. There's another way to read their love story here. This may be the first romance between a female Doctor and a female companion, but you could say it is also one of the first openly asexual love stories on film and television. The Doctor has been shown falling in love with various women before in the modern show, but this is the first time The Doctor admitted to being in love with her companion. Chibnall has described Whittaker's Doctor as nonbinary, and her gender-nonconforming dress sense suggests not only that but also her asexuality, or ace. Ace people are the most misunderstood in the LGBTQA community – they are not always celibate. They can be attracted to or in love with people, just not sexually. That seems to be how Whittaker has played her Doctor. Watching this compilation video, it now looks like Chibnall succeeded in writing an ace love story for television rather than an overt lesbian romance. The Doctor may not get to be overtly sexual, but can still be romantic, and Whittaker's Doctor is a milestone in LGBTQ representation as the hero of the longest Science Fiction series on television.

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Adi TantimedhAbout Adi Tantimedh

Adi Tantimedh is a filmmaker, screenwriter and novelist. He wrote radio plays for the BBC Radio, “JLA: Age of Wonder” for DC Comics, “Blackshirt” for Moonstone Books, and “La Muse” for Big Head Press. Most recently, he wrote “Her Nightly Embrace”, “Her Beautiful Monster” and “Her Fugitive Heart”, a trilogy of novels featuring a British-Indian private eye published by Atria Books, a division Simon & Schuster.
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