Now Series 10 of Doctor Who has drawn to a close so too has Doctor Who: The Fan Show – The Aftershow. Every week they have brought viewers to their YouTube channel interviews with cast and crew, moments after the latest episodes have been screened in the UK. BlogtorWho sat down to chat with the presenter Christel Dee about Doctor Who, cosplay and the Fan Show. In this extensive and at times very personal four part interview Christel discusses her career, her background, her sexuality and of course, her Doctor – Peter Capaldi…
In Part Three of this extensive interview, Christel tells the personal story of how she learnt to accept her sexuality, the growing problem of cyber bullying and some positive words she had from Russell T. Davies…
Young British actress Pearl Mackie became the new Doctor Who companion, Bill Potts for series 10 and her character was to travel further than those before her.
BlogtorWho: Bill Potts proved to be a huge success during Series 10, what did you make of her character?
Christel Dee: Yeah, so on the subject of Bill, there’s two things that I related to. The first being that she’s gay and the second that she was fostered. It’s something that I’ve never actually spoken about online before, but it’s sort of given me the impetus to talk about it.
BlogtorWho: So you were able to relate to Bill on a very personal level?
Christel Dee: Yeah. When I first heard that there’d be a lesbian companion, I was over the moon about it. Doctor Who is a show that has meant so much to me for so many years. I’ve never had an issue with its representation, I’ve never thought, “There should be a gay companion.” I’ve always felt quite satisfied through Captain Jack, Vastra and Jenny. I’ve always felt like the representation has been there in a small amount, small doses but it has been there.
She’s the first main companion. I say the main companion because Captain Jack, arguably he was a companion, but he wasn’t to me. He wasn’t regularly travelling with the Doctor. He visited and left again. This is the first openly lesbian main companion in the show’s 50 plus years, which is madness when you think about it. It’s been a long time coming really.
BlogtorWho: Do you not think society has got a lot to do with that as well?
Christel Dee: Yes, I think maybe. Could you have done it 10 years ago? I don’t know. I think you could have. We’ve had LGBT stuff on TV for a long time.
LGBT stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender. A term that has come to recognise the diversity of sexuality and gender identity-based cultures all around the world.
BlogtorWho: Do you think there is enough?
Christel Dee: There’s still never enough of it. I think the point that we want to get to is as Steven Moffat said of Bill, “We don’t want a pat on the back for this.” It wasn’t like they said, “Yeah, we’re going to try and tick a box, we’re going to make her gay.” I think that’s the wrong way of doing it.
Representation is massively important but it’s how you do it. I think you should get to a stage where the characters are characters, whoever they fall in love with, they fall in love. A wedding is a wedding, it’s not a gay wedding, it’s just a wedding.
Right now, the reason why things like this are news worthy is because there isn’t enough of it. Hopefully, in years to come, this will be more commonplace but right now the reason why it’s a big thing, it’s a big deal to me, is because there hasn’t been this. I don’t think society has ever had a problem, I think it’s the industry.
BlogtorWho: Do you think the industry is a bit frightened perhaps?
Christel Dee: Maybe. I think it’s to do with representation in the industry in terms of people working in it. You’ve got a lot of straight people writing for gay characters, so they’re not doing it right. You’ve got a lot of people trying to write trans characters, with all the stereotypes, and it’s like it’s not like that.
BlogtorWho: How do you feel about the numbers of female writers on the show?
Christel Dee: In Doctor Who’s history we’ve only had six female writers but other voices bring in so much. Things like Doctor Who, and other Film and TV, is a mirror into our lives. It’s meant to portray real people, real scenarios. You can only do that if you have real people in real scenarios in the production team.
BlogtorWho: A programme with diversity needs diverse voices after all?
Christel Dee: Yeah. If it is all the same type of person, straight white male, that’s what is going to come through. I’m not knocking all straight white men, there are lots of people who can write gay characters brilliantly. But I think a lot of it starts with the people who are making these shows in the first place.
BlogtorWho: Writers are always told, write what you know.
Christel Dee: Exactly, if you’re working on a show and you want to write a Trans character, get a Trans writer. Get somebody to collaborate with people. Don’t try and write what you think that is because you’re not in the shoes of that person, so how can you possibly write it? How can you possibly write from that person’s point of view? I think that’s where it starts; more representation in the industry itself.
BlogtorWho: Do you feel a sense of responsibility as you are part of the industry?
Christel Dee: I think if you are LGBT you do have a responsibility. This is why I ended up coming out or ended up talking about my sexuality openly online. I was always really stubborn about it. I always thought I like who I like, it’s not anyone’s business, and that’s it. I never thought it should be a big deal. Initially, I didn’t label myself. I never gave myself a label because I thought I don’t want to be put into a box, I don’t want that label to define me.
Over time I started to realise that in my position people are watching me, and looking up to me. I do have a responsibility. I’m not saying that I am representing gay women, but I’m happy to be gay, I happen to be in a job that the public are watching me.
BlogtorWho: That public includes a sizeable amount of young people too?
Christel Dee: There are a lot of young people watching the show, and a lot of people look up to the people presenting the show. In the same way that I looked up to the people in Doctor Who Magazine because I wanted to work in the industry. Since coming out and being open, so many kids, 14 and 15-year-olds say, “You inspire me because you’re gay, and you’re successful, and you’re doing stuff.” If that’s what that means, if being open and proud about who I am means that that’s going to have that effect on people, then that’s amazing.
I didn’t realise that that would happen at first. I think a lot of it had to do with accepting things myself. It took me a very long time, very long time until I felt confident enough.
BlogtorWho: It sounds like you struggled with your sexuality a lot?
Christel Dee: There were so many years where I denied it. “I’m not gay, I’m straight. I’m going to date men, and I’m going to be straight.” I hated it. Of course, it was staring me in the face the whole time. I never had a problem with being gay, my sister’s gay as well, and I was always fine with that. But I had difficulty with the idea that I could be gay too. I think it’s got a lot to do with my background. My dad was quite homophobic.
My formative years, before I went into foster care, being in that environment, it shapes you in a certain way. As a teenager all around me it was all heterosexual. It was, “Have you got a boyfriend yet?” All that kind of thing. There were no role models. There was no one to show me that it’s okay to be gay. You don’t just have to be one thing. For me, the assumption was if you’re a girl you date boys and you get married. That was how I’d been shaped. I didn’t even question it in the beginning. I just knew that something was wrong. I didn’t even think I could be gay, I just thought something was wrong with me.
I wasn’t attracted to anyone. Anyone in my head was boys, and I was looking at boys. Around that time, so we’re talking about 2013, 2014, this was just going on and on. I just thought there’s something wrong here. I don’t even know what I am anymore. I don’t even know who I’m attracted to. I don’t even know anything. It was this big confusion.
BlogtorWho: How did you manage to work through that confusion?
Christel Dee: I didn’t go out a lot in Uni, but when I was going out a lot more afterwards I met a lot more people in clubs and stuff. When somebody walks into a room, I’ve never looked at a guy and gone, “He’s hot.” A guy has never turned my head. But with girls, it was happening all the time. I started to realise that it was happening more and more.
That was when I thought okay, this is odd. It was a big battle, I was resisting against it for a long time. Then as time went on, I eventually did start seeing someone, a girl. That was last year actually. Through that happening, I was quite open about it online, because the person I was seeing also has a bit of an online presence. There was no big coming out, “Hi everyone, I’m gay.” It was just, “I happen to be in a relationship with a girl.”
BlogtorWho: Did you find people accepting of that? Better than you thought?
Christel Dee: Yeah, and from then on it was, “Okay, I think this is it. I know who I am.” I wasn’t going to label it, but I’m definitely gay and I can talk about it now.
Who’s Queer Now brings advice from Russell T. Davis
Pride Cymru funded by HLF created a discussion/event about LGBT+ people’s love of the Doctor Who universe. Guests included NewWho creator Russell T. Davies, Dalek operators extraordinaire Barnaby Edwards and Nicholas Pegg, ex-Doctor Producer Phil Collinson and Waris Hussein, director of ‘An Unearthly Child’.
BlogtorWho: You were then involved with the Who’s Queer Now event in Cardiff earlier this year?
Christel Dee: It was a Pride event in Wales. Initially, I knew the event was happening, and I wanted to go as a paying punter. But then I was speaking to Edward Russell, who had a lot to do with organising it. He said, “Do you want to get involved? We’re short of speakers, especially girls; do you want to come on board?”
Note: Edward Russell is the Senior Brand manager for Doctor Who. He started his working life at the BBC in in 2000 before moving to BBC Wales (the home of Doctor Who) in 2006.
BlogtorWho: Were you nervous about speaking so publicly on the subject?
Christel Dee: I was bricking it, and thought I’m not ready to talk about it. Again I was very, “No, no, I can’t talk about it.” Then in the back of my head, I thought, “No, no, no, this is it. This is what you need.” Suddenly there was a part of my brain saying, “You need to be proud of who you are.” You need to stop this, you need to start being proud of who you are.
As I say it’s a struggle with myself, accepting it and being fine with it. The thing, the kick up the ass, was a message that Edward Russell got from Russell T. Davies. I’d been speaking to Edward Russell about it, and he said, “Well Russell wants you to go.” I thought, “Hang on, what? Russell? Hang on a minute, Russell T. Davies?” “Yeah.” Literally, Russell T. Davies is my hero, one of my many heroes. Someone I admired for many, many years. The guy that brought back Doctor Who, the reason we’re all here today is because of Russell T. Davies.
BlogtorWho: What did Russell T. Davis say about you?
Christel Dee: Russell T. Davies sent something along the lines of, “Christel can inspire a lot of young women. There comes a time when she needs to be out and proud about her sexuality, and in her position, she could inspire a lot of young women.” Something along those lines.
BlogtorWho: How did you react to those words from someone as influential as Russell T. Davies?
Christel Dee: I just thought, “If Russell T. Davies says that then this is the time. This is the time to just f*ck it and just stop. It’s time to be…”
…Time to be who I am and actually not be worried about it. It was really scary doing that event, I have to say because it was the first time I’d been sort of on display.
BlogtorWho: Do you think that was maybe what you needed? Was that the push that you needed?
Christel Dee: Yeah, I think so. I think that Russell T. Davies, meeting him that day as well, and feeling like being in this room with queer Doctor Who people made me feel really at home. It was fine and I don’t know why I worried about it for so long. It’s so funny, I look back and I just think why did I worry about that for so long? It all seems so ridiculous now. It took a long time to get there. Who you are, it’s a big thing to accept something like that.
But then after that, we had a new gay companion. That gave me another reason to talk about it, and then I was able to go online and say, it’s so great to see someone like me in my favourite show. I was always really scared about talking about it, but I’m not anymore. So it was a long old process, but I got there in the end.
BlogtorWho: How did those close to you react?
Christel Dee: It was difficult. My foster parents were fine, but my actual mum didn’t take it well. She didn’t take my sister coming out very well and she came out long before I did. She’s gay too but got there first. Obviously, it was all on me to have the boyfriend, get married and have kids. It’s like that is … Firstly, whether I’m with a man or woman, there’s no set way of doing things.
Times change with Each Generation
BlogtorWho: Do you think this generation has different priorities now? It is no longer as simple as getting a boy or girlfriend, get married and have kids.
Christel Dee: It’s a generational thing, for sure, and the other thing is back in the day it was easier to bring up kids because you could buy a house. You could set up your life in your 20s. You can’t buy a house now. How could you? I mean people can barely fend for themselves, let alone kids.
You have to have certain things in place before you can look at having kids. I’m very strongly opinionated about that, because being fostered; you have to be in a position to look after kids. I would like to foster or adopt maybe one day. But if I did it would be a long way in the future because I want to be in a position where I’m well-off, and I’ve got a house, and I can give them the best life possible.
I think that’s happening later, marriage and kids. People are still choosing to do that but it’s happening later.
BlogtorWho: Now, of course, you are making a career for yourself, you’re doing what you want to do.
Christel Dee: Yeah, and I’m enjoying myself. There is a freedom to enjoy stuff when you’re young. For me, the most important thing I think has always been to do good for other people. I see our show as part of that. When I left Uni I always wanted to do a job that fulfilled me in a way but it was always to do with what it does for other people. If other people appreciate it, and it means something to them, that really means a lot to me.
BlogtorWho: The Fan Show definitely means a lot to plenty of people.
Christel Dee: The fact that the show entertains people, they feel inspired by it, it makes people feel a sense of inclusiveness; that is really amazing. A lot of the comments I get from the show make me feel like what I’m doing is so worthwhile. You get one life, you get one shot at it, and I want to make sure that every single bit of it is worth it. I’m so lucky to be able to say that I do this job that fulfils me in that way at this age because some people don’t get there straight away and I’ve been really lucky.
BlogtorWho: Well you’ve earned it. You have to earn that luck.
Christel Dee: I know it has been … I say lucky, yes it has been to do with my hard work as well. I will say that because people do think … People say, “Oh yeah, you’re lucky.” Yes, I am lucky, but it wasn’t easy either.
BlogtorWho: People can also be jealous and that manifests itself in online abuse. Why you, not me?
Christel Dee: There are. I’ve seen many tweets and comments, there are people out there. It comes from a lack of understanding, that’s all it is. I just ignore it because I know what I’m doing is worthwhile to so many other people. Why me? Well because I was the right person for the job.
I auditioned. I started making the videos because I wanted something; I wanted to do what I’m doing now. So I started and I worked hard. It comes from jealousy and a lack of understanding, I think. I respect that there will be people out there who don’t understand, don’t know the full story and are jealous. There will always be those people, no matter what you do in your life. If you do something in the public eye, whether it’s singing, presenting, or something else, there will always be people who don’t like you. It comes with the job, and that’s fine.
I think it’s a shame, and I had to learn very early on that I can’t control what people think of me. I used to try, and it’s a waste of energy. It’s better to just let people get on with it.
BlogtorWho: On the flip side you also have your fans too?
Christel Dee: You know your real fans, you know that they’re there and they’re what matter. It’s those messages that I get on Twitter and Facebook, these young kids are saying that they look up to me and that they love the show. They say, ‘they really enjoy watching the show’ and ‘thank you so much for the After Show.’ That is our audience, and they’re all the people that come up to me at conventions as well. Those are what matter.
BlogtorWho: Do you get to read the comments both positive and negative?
Christel Dee: I don’t actually look at the comments anymore because it affects me too much. It distracts me from doing my job. When I’m doing my job I just want to think about the people who appreciate the show. If people don’t appreciate the show, that’s fine, you don’t have to watch it.
BlogtorWho: What you do is based on the internet and that is such a hard place to be.
Christel Dee: People online they don’t know you, they don’t know you personally. That’s why you should never criticise, not even criticise people, you should never throw hate at anyone. You should never do that. But also, people bully people, people get jealous, people throw all these comments at you without knowing who you are, what problems they’ve got, what they’ve been through. It’s very easy behind a keyboard to say what you want.
People don’t know my background, that I was fostered, that my childhood wasn’t an easy childhood. My Dad was an alcoholic and a drug addict and he passed away when I was 13. My Mum’s still alive but she suffers from mental illness and she couldn’t look after me. So at eight years old, I went into foster care, and I was until I was 18. But at 18 that’s the end; 18 you’re out the door and you’re on your own.
I’ve been living on my own since I was 18. No parental support, nothing’s been given to me on a plate, and it’s not been easy. Your background will always give you lots of problems, whether that’s mental health issues or things like that. There’s always going to be things that happen in life. I don’t broadcast any of those things online because there’s no reason to.
BlogtorWho: It does, however, mean that people form an inaccurate opinion of you, based on things that they assume?
Christel Dee: People could very quickly make assumptions that I’ve had everything given to me on a plate, and I’ve ended up in this fabulous life. Yes, of course, it is amazing. I think I do have a fabulous life. Considering where it’s come from, what I’m doing now is incredible. If people don’t know that they will be very quick to judge and go, “You’ve had this, you’ve had that, why haven’t I had that?”
BlogtorWho: How would you respond to those people?
Christel Dee: I’d never jump back at them because I don’t know what they’ve been through either. I know where they could be coming from. When people shout and scream at you online often it comes from a place of insecurity or some of their own problems. Everyone’s fighting their own battle. I think that’s why you have to be kind of everyone.
You don’t know who’s hurt and you don’t know who is struggling. Why be so petty as to throw nasty hate online? That’s so petty. We’re all people, and we’ve all got the same issues and the same problems. We’re all trying to share this planet together, and we’re all trying to get on, just leave it. Why do it? I don’t know. It doesn’t make sense to me.
They just see the thing that’s in front of them and that’s why the online world is so weird. People think that they know you, based on an image. First, the image that you’re portraying in your videos, but also what you’re tweeting out. They will go on the image that you portray in your videos. Sometimes it’s not even a true image, you’re edited. You’re edited down; you’re putting on a performance, presenting an image.
What you put out there is an image; people don’t know me, they don’t know who I am. It’s very easy to jump to conclusions. It’s a shame about the online world because I think it happens a lot. People just see somebody that they’re jealous of and they jump at it. It’s harmful, it’s not necessary and can be very damaging.
BlogtorWho: Do you think the social media platforms should take more responsibility? But people need to be taking responsibility as well.
Christel Dee: Exactly. Both are responsible I think. I think Twitter needs to step up their game if I’m really honest with you. There are so many times where I’ve reported homophobic hate speech and nothing’s been done. I’ve witnessed friends on a daily basis that are reporting stuff to Facebook and Twitter. There needs to be more monitoring of it. I think there needs to be more regulations, but also people need to be educated. I think people need to be more aware.
BlogtorWho: So do you think there needs to be more education on the subject?
Christel Dee: I don’t know what they’re teaching in schools right now, but kids are younger and younger when they’re going online. If they’re not educated as to what’s what, what you can do and what you can’t do, they’re going to do whatever they want.
I’m going on a tangent here, but on Instagram, there are kids on there. My foster parent’s grandkids have been on Instagram since they were nine or ten. Their accounts aren’t private. They’re taking pictures of themselves with lipstick because they’re looking up to their big sister. They’re putting those pictures online and you just don’t know who’s looking. You ask young people, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” “I want to be an Instagram model.” You want to flaunt your body on Instagram for free shit? That is so bad. That is the time we’re living in at the moment, where everything is measured on followers, likes, popularity. If you don’t have those things, you’re not worth it, and you’re not popular. That’s so sad, and that’s so damaging.
BlogtorWho: Have you seen that Black Mirror episode? It’s so scary.
Christel Dee: I love Black Mirror. I thought that was so good. That is what that episode is all about. It is an extreme version of what we’ve got right now.
That’s why I worry for this generation that’s growing up now. I’m 25. I was the last set of teenagers who didn’t have all this social media stuff. I joined Facebook in 2008 I think when I was at college. I was already 17 when I joined Facebook. Joined Instagram in 2013, Twitter in 2009, but I didn’t really use it properly. Anyway, I was in my late teens. The ’90s and early 2000s in secondary school, we just spoke to each other on MSM and Myspace, that’s all it was. It wasn’t about taking pictures of yourself and all that.
The only thing was how many friends you got but that was it. In the ’90s I played out, I didn’t have any games consoles, I made my own fun, and I had a childhood, to be fair. I still had a childhood. I played with toys. I made my own fun, no computer games, nothing. I had my first Game Boy when I was about 11, as late as that, 11 or 12, it could have had one from six, but couldn’t afford it.
Nine-year-olds, they’re on Instagram. They’re looking up to these role models, if you can call them that, people with all these followers. Taking fabricated pictures that are highly posed, and highly edited, and they’re saying, “That’s who I want to be like.” Nine and 10-year-olds are saying that they’ve got weight issues and problems with their body hair. They are children.
They see themselves as adults. It’s astonishing and I really worry for that generation that’s growing up now because obviously it’s not being regulated. But then how can you stop them from being on there if all their friends are? It’s hard for the parents because the kids end up rebelling and they end up doing it anyway.
Before bullying took place in the playground.
BlogtorWho: Were you ever bullied?
Christel Dee: To be honest, secondary school I was alright, I wasn’t really bullied. But primary school I was bullied a little bit. It was nothing compared to what we’ve got now. It’s scarier on the internet. It’s scarier when you can’t see the person.
These people would never face you, they’re cowards, and they’d never stare you in the face. It’s always a reflection of them. The one thing to remember is, no matter what anyone says to you, it’s not a reflection on you. You’ve done nothing wrong by being you. It’s them and it’s their problem. It’s all to do with them. If they don’t like something, that is their problem. If they don’t like you, that is their problem.
Next time in the final part Blogtor Who talks all things Doctor Who with Christel including Peter Capaldi’s departure from the show and who’s next…
If you missed part of this 4-part interview catch up now at….
- Part 1 – Exclusive: Doctor Who The Fan Show’s Christel Dee Talks Candidly to BlogtorWho
- Part 2 – Doctor Who The Fan Show’s Christel Dee Talks After Show, Cosplay & Interviewing
- Interview by Diane Malkin
- Article by Bedwyr Gullidge