Disability and Doctor Who

Tansy Bradshaw
3 min readNov 30, 2023
14th Doctor TARDIS Interior CREDIT: BBC

I have been a Doctor Who fan since it was brought back in its modern season in 2005. Though I didn’t truly become a fan until David Tennant became 10, there were always a few things that made me feel disconnected to any companion. Theoretically, the companion is the bridge between The Doctor and the viewer. It is a character that we can connect to and imagine ourselves in their place.

So, by that notion, as someone with a disability having a TARDIS be accessible is vital. The TARDIS was always inaccessible in some way through the modern era, there were ramps in previous interiors; however, there are still some places within the TARDIS were inaccessible. That is until now.

Seeing the excitement at the interior by the 14th Doctor (played by Tennant) and Donna Noble (played by Catherine Tate) brought a smile to my face.

Since the Children In Need special, Doctor Who has come under some criticism and been accused of ret coning the wheelchair villain, Davros. Unlike some people,but I had a feeling, especially after the latest episode, that the special was not ret conning and instead trying to rectify a trope that has plagued representations of disabled people in pop culture for years. My assumptions were proved right when Russell T. Davies said in a video:

As well as the trope of disability being evil, in the past disability has been used as a plot device. Whenever the ‘baddie’ came to the part of the story where he must learn a lesson and change their ways, a part of this would be that they were temporarily disabled. It was the temporary disability that allowed them to become humble. That is not reality, my disability is not something I need to learn from. Instead, my disability is just a part of my life, sometimes it effects my life and sometimes it doesn’t. Most of the time it affects us in ways that other people may not understand.

WhoTube D (2023) Doctor Who Unleashed: Russell T Davies speaks about Davros, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zb-PHsKGjjQ, accessed 1 December 2023.

That is why the introduction of Shirley Anne Bringham was so important for me. Aside from Donna, I have not connected with a character as fast. Her presence on Doctor Who breaks many stereotypes because:

  • she is a wheelchair user in a position of authority



Tansy Bradshaw

Murderino. Cat Lady. I write about stuff that interests me. She/Her and They/Them