Tuesday, 28 May 2013


Doctor Who has come under attack, not from Daleks or Cybermen this time, but rather from academics who claim that the show – which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year – is racist. In a collection of essays titled Doctor Who and Race, the show is criticized for having archaic attitudes, with a few of the 23 authors who contributed stating that the lack of a black or Asian actor in the main role highlights recurrent racism within the programme.

Lindy Orthia, an Australian academic who compiled the anthology, said, ‘The biggest elephant in the room is the problem privately nursed by many fans of loving a TV show when it is thunderingly racist.’ One of the contributors, an American professor named Amit Gupta, writes that the cricket-loving Fifth Doctor – as played by Peter Davison – harks back to the ‘racial and class nostalgia’ of British Imperialism. Other criticisms include the casting of white actors in ethnic roles – as in The Talons of Weng-Chiang, where John Bennett was cast as a Chinese villain – and the ‘slapstick’ manner in which Hitler was portrayed in an episode last year; detracting from any real understanding of the Holocaust. A general consensus among the book’s authors appears to be that primitive cultures are usually depicted as ‘savages’.

Fans in online Doctor Who forums are, on the whole, incredulous at the comments and view them as having absolutely no validity. Many argue that imposing twenty-first century ethics on the older shows is ludicrous and unfair. The editor of Doctor Who online, Sebastian Brook, told The Mail on Sunday: 'I think the suggestion the show is racist is ridiculous.’ The BBC stated: 'Doctor Who has a strong track record of diverse casting among both regular and guest cast. Freema Agyeman became the first black companion and Noel Clarke starred in a major role for five years [Mickey Smith]. Reflecting the diversity of the UK is a duty of the BBC, and casting on Doctor Who is colour-blind. It is always about the best actors for the roles.”

In another controversy regarding the show, actor John Simm, who played the Master in five episodes, is upset at - allegedly - being quoted out of context by the Radio Times in a recent interview in which he said, ‘It's great to be into something, but for goodness' sake, really? I'm not the Master, I'm not that evil Time Lord who rules the galaxy, I'm just in Tesco with my kids. Leave me alone!’ On first reading it appears that the actor is ‘doing a Shatner’ but perhaps it’s not quite as straightforward.

Sources – The Telegraph and The Independent


  1. Well, that is nonsense. How can one attribute today's standards to episodes produced in the '60s and '70s. Granted, it may be that William Hartnell was racist (reportedly), but that's neither here nor there since he is a product of his time. Doctor Who, when looked at as a whole, is a pratcial example of the development of television, and like social attitudes, it changes with the time. Even as early as 1980 the Doctor travelled with a black companion, Sharon Davies in the pages of Doctor Who Magazine. He's travelled with every race and creed (from aliens, to robot dogs, to human). The Doctor doesn't differentiate and neither should we. Not once during Martha's time on Doctor Who was anything made of her ancestry - she was just an intelligent doctor, who saved the entire world and was smart enough, unlike Rose, to know what to 'get out' and move on...

  2. And indeed, people should remember that the director of the first DW story, way back in the less-PC era of 1963, was Indian.