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BBC Rejects ‘Doctor Who’ Racism Claims

The BBC has dismissed claims made by a group of academics (desperate for funding to justify their positions? Who knows…) that Doctor Who is – steel yourselves here – “thunderingly racist”.

I know, right!?

Waris Hussein directed the first Doctor Who storyThe man above is Waris Hussein. In an age when if you weren’t white, middle class and part of the same club, you didn’t work in TV, he directed the first Doctor Who serial.

Yet the show – over its 50 years – has been accused of:

  • Failure to cast a black or Asian actor as the Doctor.
  • Casting white actors in ethnic roles such as John Bennett (Li H’sen Chang in The Talons of Weng Chiang).
  • Doing nothing to increase understanding of the Holocaust.
  • Harking back to the ‘racial and class nostalgia’ of the British Imperialism with Peter Davison’s cricketing motif.
  • Primitive cultures portrayed as ‘savages.’

And no, I am not making any of this up.

Compiled by Australian academic Lindy Orthia, the book apparently concludes:

‘The biggest elephant in the room is the problem privately nursed by many fans of loving a TV show when it is thunderingly racist.’

I mean, do you have that problem? You’ll notice how easy it is to defend against these baseless accusations – that have littered the mainstream media in the past few days – without even mentioning the modern era.

To be honest, we weren’t going to dignify this non-story with any coverage as it is clearly an attempt by publishers to generate publicity for their book, Doctor Who And Race.

It has been pointed out to me by one of our contributors that the story originates with the Daily Mail. As such, and as with the furor surrounding the John Nathan-Turner biography, there is every chance that the comments, arguments and statements have been taken considerably out of context by the originating professionally employed newspaper writer (I naturally hesitate to use the term “journalist”).

I’m not sure what this means for the quote above, but I’ve decided that we will include the book in our reviews pages as soon as it can be purchased and analyzed.

I will say this, however: on two occasions now publishers and authors have ignored our requests for details on forthcoming, independently produced works, and opportunities to chat with the authors. Simply by responding to an email message this sort of press-spun, misrepresented nonsense can be avoided. This isn’t about resources, it’s about spending 10 minutes contacting a Doctor Who website with three quarters of a million monthly page views and making sure your book is fairly represented.

However, the BBC has now reacted to the claims made against Doctor Who – which most of fandom agrees are without foundation or, indeed, logic, so we thought it only right to discuss it. The BBC says:

“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.”

Needless to say, we won’t be reviewing the book. Cynical marketing beyond words. (See above)

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