'Doctor Who': The tragic real-life story of Noor Inayat Khan, Britain's first Muslim war hero seen in 'Spyfall, Part 2'

'Doctor Who': The tragic real-life story of Noor Inayat Khan, Britain's first Muslim war hero seen in 'Spyfall, Part 2'
Aurora Marion, Noor Inayat Khan (BBC America, Wikimedia Commons)

A number of historical figures have been featured on 'Doctor Who' over the years, some (like Winston Churchill) have even become recurring characters. But in Series 12 Episode 2 'Spyfall, Part 2' we got to meet someone whose contribution to the cause of humanity is often unfairly overlooked.

Noor Inayat Khan, who was portrayed by Aurora Marion in the episode, was born on New Year's Day 1914 in Moscow. She was the first female wireless operator to be deployed in occupied France and the first Muslim to become a British war hero, having been awarded the George Cross for her service.

Khan's mother was American and her father was Indian — interestingly enough, she was also reportedly a direct descendant of the 18th-century Muslim ruler of Mysore, Tipu Sultan. The family was living in Paris when World War II broke out and they were forced to flee to England when the Nazis occupied the country. But even though she had escaped from the lion's den, so to speak, Khan was not content with preserving her own personal freedom.

In 1940, she joined the WAAF (Women's Auxiliary Air Force) and two years later, she was recruited as a radio operator to the Special Operations Executive (SOE). A year after that, Khan returned to Paris to aid the resistance as a covert operative using the codename "Madeleine". 

Unfortunately, Khan never got to see the end of the war and the fall of the tyrants she so strongly opposed. When you think about it, that just makes it all the more tragic that the Doctor wiped Noor's mind in the episode and erased the knowledge that the Nazis would eventually be defeated.

Noor Inayat Khan was betrayed, captured and eventually shot on September 13, 1944. According to Sarah Helm's book 'A Life in Secrets: Vera Atkins and the Missing Agents of WWII', the last thing she ever said was "Liberté" (Freedom).

'Doctor Who' Series 12 Episode 3 'Orphan 55' will arrive on BBC America on January 12.

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