A Queer, Angry Take on Doctor Who: The Infinite Miles by Hannah Fergesen

the cover of The Infinite Miles

This was such a let down.

I used to be a big fan of Doctor Who (see my review of Queers Dig Time Lords) and am currently trying to catch up on the newest seasons. So when I saw a queer sci-fi book coming out that drew inspiration from Doctor Who, it sounded like the perfect entertaining audiobook listen. 

When I read the description, it seemed even more fun. The Doctor character, the Argonaut, doubled as a David Bowie-esque singer! Instead of the Tardis, there’s Argo, a shapeshifting sentient spaceship that is often a muscle car. The main character, Harper, and her best friends Peggy, were huge fans of the TV show Infinite Voyage, until the real-life Argonaut swept Peggy away for adventure, leaving Harper behind. When Peggy is taken over by a dangerous alien parasite called the Incarnate, Harper has to join the Argonaut to save Peggy and the universe with the power of love!

Each of these components sounds like a wacky space adventure that matches the fun of watching an old Doctor Who episode. The problem is that despite all of this, the tone is decidedly dour. Harper is an angry, resentful main character. She hates the Argonaut for getting Peggy into this situation. She is still angry that Peggy left to go on an adventure with their shared hero without telling her.

The Argonaut brings no more levity to the situation. He feels guilty for what happened to Peggy, and he’s given up on being able to help anyone. When Harper and the Argonaut meet, they have one conversation before he abandons her in the 1970s “for her own safety,” to Harper’s fury. She then scrambles to survive, try to find a way out, and search for answers of how to help Peggy.

This ended up feeling like a slog to me, especially because I was expecting a romp through space and time. Maybe this is better suited to Doctor Who fans who preferred the Matt Smith run. 

Then, because this is the Lesbrary, we have to address the queer content, because I spent 80% of the book not sure if it had a queer main character. We do get a single chapter from the Argonaut’s perspective, where we see his background, which was my favourite part of the book. Miles (his actual name) was a queer kid growing up in a small town where he didn’t fit in, and as a young man, he’s taken in by the Argonaut Jason (as Miles dubs him). He later becomes his own idol, the David Bowie-esque singer, to inspire his younger self. He also changes sex and gender with Argo’s help several times, in a similar way to the Doctor’s regeneration, but by choice.

As for our main character, Harper, we don’t get confirmation that she’s queer until near the end of the book. It’s kind of treated as a big reveal, that she’s in love with Peggy and could never admit it, but I don’t subscribe to sexuality as a plot twist, and besides, this being reviewed on the Lesbrary tells you there’s eventual confirmation the main character is queer. Treating this as a reveal felt weird to me, especially because we’re in Harper’s head almost the entire book. The last time Peggy and Harper saw each other before Peggy went missing is referenced throughout, but we only get the flashback at the end, which is when Harper (almost, kind of, but not quite) admits her real feelings for Peggy. To be clear, I don’t mean this in a This Author Is Problematic way, just that it personally rubbed me the wrong way. Miles and Peggy’s queerness is present from the beginning.

This paragraph has spoilers for the end of the book. In some version of this story, I think this reveal maybe could have worked–especially if we already knew Harper was queer/bisexual from the beginning, but it was her feelings specifically for Peggy that she was repressing. Then, the power of queer love could save the universe at the end–I’m definitely not above that story! But while the universe and Peggy are saved at the end, when Harper wakes up at the hospital, Peggy has left. We spend the whole book waiting for Harper and Peggy to get back to each other, and then there is precisely zero interaction between them after the climactic battle between good and evil. There’s no resolution to their relationship (whether friendship or romantic relationship), even though it was the core of the entire story. And Peggy ends up feeling kind of disposable to the narrative: the “happy ending” just involves Miles and Harper going on adventures. We don’t know anything about post-Incarnate Peggy (and only a little about Peggy in general). Why did she leave? Where did she go? Is she happy? (End of spoilers)

I ended up finishing this audiobooks on about 2.6 speed, because I just wanted to get to the end. Unfortunately, it didn’t deliver for me. This has a high average rating on Goodreads, so I appear to be alone in this, but it was the mismatch between tones as well as the treatment of Harper’s feelings for Peggy that didn’t work for me. Maybe if I had been prepared for it to be a heavy read and not a fun space adventure, I might have liked it more—but in my defense, the description for this book calls it a “wacky time-traveling sci-fi odyssey wrapped in an elegiac ode to lost friendship and a clever homage to Doctor Who,” so I think I can be forgiven for thinking it would be fun and not bleak!

This was one I was so excited for and ended up feeling disappointed.

Danika reviews Queers Dig Time Lords edited by Sigrid Ellis and Michael Damian Thomas


I feel like, really, if this book is for you, it probably already had you by the title. This is a collection of essays by queer Doctor Who fans about how their fandom and queer lives intersect. When I heard that this was coming out, I was ridiculously excited about it, even more so when I got a review copy. I would categorize myself as a casual Doctor Who fan. I became a fan through New Who and have seen most episodes only once. I do look forward to new episodes (less so with Moffat’s direction) and I have been slowly working through Classic Who (I’m up to the Fourth Doctor, though I’ve only been watching complete episodes, not reconstructions). So that’s my background going into this book.

In some ways it reminds me of when I was at Leakycon (a Harry Potter convention) earlier this summer. There was an LGBT Meet-Up, and most the time was filled with people coming to the microphone and talking about how being a fan of Harry Potter has helped them or interacted with their experiences as a queer person. Queers Dig Time Lords is similar, but with Doctor Who replacing Harry Potter. It’s generally fairly casual and autobiographical. I was actually surprised that there was a fair amount of lesbian content, considering that many of the essays expressed that the Whovian fandom has usually been associated with gay men (which I actually didn’t know before reading this! I also didn’t know that RTD was apparently repeatedly accused of having a “gay agenda” on Who.) It was still more focused on gay men, but there was a fair amount of lesbian and bisexual women stories, and a few that touched on being a trans* fan–one in particular, equating transitioning with regenerating, was especially good. The collection also mostly tells stories about growing up as a queer kid (usually a gay boy) with Classic Who. Even though that’s not my experience with the show or the fandom, it was still really interesting to read.

I got through this book quite quickly and really enjoyed it. If you’re a queer Doctor Who fan, I definitely recommend picking it up (but you were probably already wanting to). Even though there is a recurring theme of gay boys growing up with Classic Who, there is still a lot of different subject matter and opinions covered. Essays present entirely different views about what periods of the show were most queer-friendly and why, about certain character’s orientations, about writers’ queer positive slant or homophobia, etc. One essay explores the BDSM subtext of the Doctor and the Master. Another praises Mickey as a queer icon. One details the lesbian subtext of a Classic Who episode. The Doctor is cast as asexual, heterosexual, bisexual, ambiguous, shifting, and more. A couple essays focus more on Torchwood. And there are some essays that express as much disappointment with Who as love for it. It was an enjoyable read for me that made me want to dive back into Classic Who (with “camp” goggles firmly in place) and but on some New Who repeats as well.

I’ll share with you the quotation from one essay that made me put down the book and rush to tumblr to share it right away.

Much of my experience of fan culture over the last five years has been one of conflict. There’s a lot to be fought and a lot to be fought for when you’re a queer woman of color with a hunger for stories: consuming film and television and books is often like being handed beautiful, elaborately sculpted meals with bits of cockroach poking antennae and carapace out of the sauces and soufflés. You try to eat around the bugs, try to surgically remove them, but you can’t quite get away from the fact that they’ve flavored the dish and will probably make you sick. But you have to eat, or go hungry.

That’s by Amal El-Mohtar, and is actually from the Master/Doctor essay!  Here’s another: “Fun as it would be, exhaustively combing through all the Doctor’s and Master’s interactions over the years in order to underscore their validity as a One True Pairing is beyond the scope of this essays. (And, frankly, unnecessary, because their OTP-ness is as obvious as the sun is hot. And hot as the sun is obvious.)”

I did have a minor quibble with Carole Barrowman is dismissive of asexuality in her introduction (and I rolled my eyes at one essayist insisting that he is homosexual, not gay, because gay is all about gay pride and gay bars and pride parades and he is not that sort thankyouverymuch), but that was about all the complaints I had. Instead I noted a couple of great passages, like this one detailing one point of a list of things gay men may enjoy about (Classic) Doctor Who (or “Doctoroo” as it always sounded to him as a kid):

  • Bad special effects. Straight men love special effects that look real. Queers love stuff that looks as if it’s been made out of washing up liquid bottles and sticky-backed plastic and egg boxes. It’s not that’s more tolerant and imaginative, though we are. It’s just that we love being bonded by our shared sense of the ridiculous. We love the idea of a universe held together by a bit of tinsel and glitter.

Doctoroo’s special effects always seemed to have a touch of drag queen aesthetic about them.

So if you’ve been tempted to pick this one up, or if you’ve just realized it’s existence now and are thinking about giving it a try, I would recommend not fighting it. And let me know what you think about this one!