A few weeks ago Lenny Henry, guest star in Spyfall, questioned why there had yet to be a black incarnation of the Doctor. Given the dramatic events at the end of Spyfall Part 1 there has however been a significant piece of casting. Sacha Dhawan is The Master!
Sacha Dhawan, is the first non-white actor to play The Master. More specifically he is the first British-Indian actor to play such a central character in televised Doctor Who. Previously, the Twelfth Doctor episode ‘Hell Bent‘ saw Ken Bones’ incarnation of The General regenerate into T’Nia Miller. Prior to that only background artists have portrayed black Time Lords and were given no prominence whatsoever. In fact, you’ll have to look quite carefully to spot them. But The Master, now that is a big deal!
As the brilliant documentary ‘Race Against Time’, included on ‘The Mutants‘ DVD release and narrated by Noel Clarke, demonstrated that diversity was pretty poor in Doctor Who‘s original television run. But this was not exclusive to Doctor Who. Other programmes during the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s also lacked diversity, certainly when compared to the level we expect today. There were however some notable casting moments such as Earl Cameron playing astronaut Glyn Williams in ‘The Tenth Planet‘. But these were few and far between. None of the companions. No senior Time Lords. None of the lead villains.
Fortunately, things changed with Russell T Davies’ relaunch of Doctor Who in 2005. Noel Clarke, Freema Agyeman and later Pearl Mackie brought diversity to the role of the companion and made Doctor Who more reflective of modern Earth. This has since been taken forward with Mandip Gill and Tosin Cole as companions. But as of yet the show’s central character, The Doctor, has yet to be played by a black actor.