By: Beth Axford

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Doctor Who returned to our screens with a bang on Sunday 31st October, airing its first episode of a six-part saga subtitled Flux. The series 13 opener also saw a new face join the TARDIS, Liverpudlian Dan Lewis.

Played by the brilliant John Bishop, we see Dan giving an unofficial talk at the Museum of Liverpool, before a short scene at a local food bank where he volunteers. The moment is heart-warming, giving us a deep sense of who Dan is; someone who thinks that the point of being alive is to make others happy. It's joked that the main course on offer for users of the food bank are tins of soup, a fact that many in the UK know all too well.

The inclusion of a food bank in an episode of Doctor Who reflects a norm for working-class people around the UK – a fact backed up by The Trussell Trust, who gave 2.5 million emergency food parcels to people in crisis from April 2020 to March 2021 across the country. And upon transmission the scene hit home for fans of the show, many of whom have received packages from food banks themselves.

Growing up in the late 2000s/early 2010s, my mother and I regularly looked to food banks and their parcels to be able to eat. Bulked out with mostly pasta, tinned goods and biscuits, they were a lifeline throughout a time when meals weren’t easily accessible. However, receiving these always came steeped in shame. Children and adults around us looked down on such a way of life – having to rely on free food packages just to get through.

Doctor Who featuring working-class characters such as Rose Tyler had already helped me to see that my mother and I weren’t worth less than anyone else just because we lived in a council house, despite what others thought. It seems that the show has done that again, in a small way, by featuring working-class characters from Liverpool in its new series.

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The scene in question features Dan handing out boxes of food, adding special Halloween treats to bring smiles to faces. The parcels are handed out in the back of a garage filled with shelves of soup and crates of much-needed help for the people of Liverpool.

Doctor Who

Watching this moment, I felt encouraged that a show as big as Doctor Who is giving a broader view of life in the UK. The shame I had always felt around using food banks dissipated as I realised how important it is to open up a discussion as to why they are needed in the first place. Many fans online agreed that they felt seen and included, and that it was a brilliant way to introduce a new friend for the Doctor. Even the smallest moment can make a big impact.

Children around the world will watch the introduction of Dan and ask questions; they may wonder what a food bank is if they haven’t experienced one. They’ll want to be just like Dan, helping out and making a difference. They will see that there are heroes out there that help other people out with even the simplest of acts, such as volunteering and donating food parcels to those in need.

Doctor Who has used a small section of its universe to open up a conversation that urgently needs to be had. There are people all over the UK that rely on food banks, many working full-time jobs, yet still unable to afford to feed their families. If these vital seconds of a family show open up a conversation in any household about why this is, then Doctor Who has done its job.

We don’t know where Dan’s character will go, or what else we’ll find out about him – but we do know that the TARDIS continues to be a place where every story matters and deserves to be told.

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Doctor Who continues on BBC One on Sundays. For more, check out our dedicated Sci-Fi page or our full TV Guide.

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