They’re being chased by a horde of angry Judoon when she catches sight of her reflection in a passing window. Broad shoulders, flat chest. Her coat flies back as she runs, revealing the distinct lack of curve in her hips.
She sighs inwardly, and keeps running.
She spends a week living in an eighteenth century English molly-house and picks up a few tips. They teach her to slouch less and lean her weight on one hip. She returns to twenty-first century Bristol and starts crossing her legs whenever she sits, ignoring the funny looks Nardole throws at her.
None of it is ideal, though. She’s aligning herself to stereotypically gendered patterns of movement and – regardless of how accurate they are – it feels like she’s compromising part of who she is. Maybe it’s true that gender is a performance, but it’s also so much more than that.
She starts looking for her own ways to be feminine instead. She keeps the power stance and the elaborate hand gestures but aims to pull them off with a grace which doesn’t come naturally to her.
Sometimes – in the midst of giddy excitement about some concept or theory or creature – she feels herself twirling happily with a kind of fluidity and poise; the sort of movement that makes her think one day she might even be able to get it right.
The hair is quite nice, she supposes, examining herself in a bathroom mirror. There’s nothing wrong with grey, and she’s always enjoyed letting it get big.
But when it stands up like that she can see just how far back her hairline sits. It emphasises the size of her bushy eyebrows and makes her cheeks look flat and masculine.
She drags a hand down her face, and supposes she’ll have to make do.
“Just hold still for a bit longer,” says Bill, leaning back and looking at her sternly. The Doctor does as she’s told, trying not to blink as Bill moves forward again and applies some kind of… thing to her eyes.
“There, all done.” Bill picks up a mirror with a pleased flourished and holds it up in front of the Doctor’s face. She blinks in surprise at what she sees.
Somehow, Bill’s managed to make her eyebrows look thinner. Where before they were angry and sharp, now they’re shapely and rounded. It makes her eyes look far less deep-set. Bigger too, with longer, more prominent eyelashes, though the Doctor assumes this is also thanks to whatever Bill has just done with the miniature brush thing. And above all that, her hair curls gently downwards over her forehead, easily concealing her hairline.
“Is it okay?” Bill asks. She sounds a little hesitant.
The Doctor looks over herself critically in the mirror. This still isn’t quite how she wants to look, but it’s certainly a lot closer. She smiles and nods. “Thank you.”
Bill beams. “You’re welcome. So would you like me to show you how to do this, or shall we try some blusher first?”
Somebody hands her a glass to drink from, and her distorted reflection stares out from its depths.
She’s applied some of her make-up today, but her Adam’s apple still bobs prominently when she swallows. The Doctor looks determinedly away.
“You okay?” asks Bill.
The Doctor nods, fiddling with the pot of screwdrivers on her desk.
“So, are we still going out today?” Bill continues, nodding towards the TARDIS.
If she’s perfectly honest, the Doctor would rather not. She sort of just wants to curl up in her holey jumper and eat jelly babies all day. At least that way she won’t have to deal with anyone calling her he.
“We don’t have to,” suggests Bill, gently. “We could just stay here instead, if you prefer.”
“Yes, please,” says the Doctor, relieved that she doesn’t need to explain herself.
“Cool,” Bill says, with an easy smile. “In that case, how about I go and make us some chips, and then you can teach me to play the guitar?”
If she could choose what to become, she probably wouldn’t be quite so reluctant to change. She could wish for a curvier figure, a rounder face and a voice high enough that she doesn’t feel too embarrassed to sing. If she could choose, she would choose to become comfortable in her own skin again.
But she can’t. Regeneration is just a lottery, and she’s worried she might not win.
She stumbles towards the TARDIS console and catches sight of her reflection in one of the screens.
Blonde hair – and there’s nothing wrong with blonde – but more importantly a low hairline, thin eyebrows and full cheeks. She stares, and as she stares she feels the ring that she’s worn for so long slip away. It doesn’t fit anymore.
A smile breaks across her face, and her fingers clench in excitement. “Oh, brilliant.”