Editorial dw-talons-chang

Published on May 30th, 2013 | by Christian Cawley

Racegate – Did Fandom Overreact?

A few days on, and a couple of conversations later, it now seems to me that some of the comments made by this website concerning the book Doctor Who And Race may have been wide of the mark.

Obviously it isn’t going to be clear until a copy of the book lands here at K Towers and a balanced review is published, but I’m ashamed to say I allowed the agenda of a certain newspaper (via the subsequent carbon copy reports in other publications) to influence my reporting of the supposed accusations leveled at Doctor Who in the book.

As I added to the original article:

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.

It’s difficult to get it right every time, and it seems on this occasion that Kasterborous found itself caught up in a froth-mouthed, pitchfork-wielding mob without spending the time reading the title and coming to a more balanced conclusion.

I’m sorry, and will work hard to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.

It’s worth heading over to doctorwhoandrace.com to learn more about this book.



About the Author


A long-term Doctor Who fan, Christian grew up watching the show and has early memories of the Graham Williams era. His favourite stories are Inferno, The Seeds of Doom and Human Nature (although The Empty Child, Blink and Utopia all come close). When he’s not bossing around the news team, Christian is a freelance writer specialising in mobile technology and domestic computing, and enjoys classic rock, cooking and spending time in the countryside with his wife and young children. You can find him on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

21 Responses to Racegate – Did Fandom Overreact?

  1. I am friends with several of the contributors to the book who have all said in the last few days that the Daily Mail piece that started all this grossly misrepresented the book. On top of that, they suspected that the fact that the editor of the book refused to give the newspaper an interview (and also that none of the contributors were asked either) has a lot to do with how their original article turned out.

  2. avatar Christine says:

    I remember reading two books on female fandom which in some essays were also concerned about the perceived sexism of the show. Mostly relating to 60′s and 70′s Who (which undeniably sometimes really was sexist, just as most other shows at that particular time, this wasn’t a typical Dr. Who thing at all). I don’t recall such a hype when these books were published while these were exactly the same type of books as this one: contributions by (academic) fans and authors generally with a very positive attitude towards the show, but also noting some points for criticism regarding how women sometimes were represented. It seems odd that a certain newspaper picked it up in this particular nasty way while not doing so when these two books were published. Maybe just because it’s an extra stick to beat up the show with at a time when you can find quite a bit of negativism surrounding it in any case. Or perhaps the sexism issue is less spectacular?Also the remark by Matthew above may play a part in it. And thank you Christian for referring to the link, it was very helpful. Truth is, I am now very interested in the book itself.

  3. We’re also friendly with contributors as well and we know how fans can overreact. Our first article to be published dealing with another hot-button fan community– LotR– dealt with Tolkien’s heroes & PJackson’s treatment of them in his LotR films. The title was “Humiliated Heroes” & from the title & abstract we got such venom from the PJ fans that it was overwhelming to say the least. No one had read the article– so we can understand where the editors of this DW volume are coming from. I’ve just gotten a pdf from the editor and am starting the read through of the manuscript for review. The editor, Lindy Orthia has also forwarded an article she’s written on the hubbub. http://www.intellectbooks.co.uk/weblog/view-Post,id=62700/ I am both a fan & an academic and will suspend my opinion until I READ the volume. I am astounded at how fans so wholeheartedly pan something without reading it.
    Jessie & Anthony

  4. avatar TonyS says:

    “Did fandom overreact?” Honest answer- yes probably. It is in the nature of fans to be fanatical. And those holding lukewarm views for the moist part would not have bothered to comment at all. (A generalisation- for which I apologise- but only a slight generalisation). Christian, looking back at the original article, it was not quite up to your usual high standard. But you didn’t miss by much. Some of the comments (a lot, if I am honest) were extreme and displayed an ignorance of what had actually been said. But, as I hope I said earlier, one cannot blame fans for being fannish. I don’t know what is in the book either. This is why I have not commented on it. On the positive side, there were several contributors who urged a more measured and thought out response. It was interesting to see the gamut of responses.

    • avatar TonyS says:

      When I say that the article was not up to your usual standard, I mean that you took the initial report at face value. This is unlike you and you have had the grace to correct that now. Keep up the good work.

  5. avatar Geoff says:

    I went for it in my comments. Had I known they’d been sourced from the Mail I probably would have said nothing at all but there you go so don’t worry Christian nobodys perfect, not even the Valeyard!

  6. The headline is misleading. To me the article doesn’t show that fans over-reacted, but that the reporters did.

    • avatar TimeChaser says:

      I agree. What we reacted to was a perceived attack upon our favorite show, not the first we’ve had in a year when all we want to do is celebrate its longevity. I would say though, not really knowing yet what this book is actually going to say, is that any racism going on was more to do with the BBC and its casting practices back in the day than Doctor Who itself. There is a very good documentary about this on The Mutants DVD, narrated by Noel Clarke.

  7. avatar authorman94 says:

    Yeah, I think we all, including myself, overreacted. I don’t agree with the academic’s sentiments (with some exceptions), but yeah, we really overreacted in trying to defend the show. So this post is definitely an apology from me personally for maybe overreacting a bit.

  8. avatar Geoff says:

    BTW Christian, I like your writing but can we please stop calling things …..gate! Only Watergate (and at a push Irangate)!shoukd ever be referred to as such. Have you ever seen Peepshow when Jez refers to “Watergate-gate”?

    • Hi Geoff

      I have indeed seen Peepshow. That’s why I do it ;)

      • avatar Geoff says:

        Ah! In that case can I reserve nob-gate to describe my pomposity and my comments then please?

  9. avatar iank says:

    Nope, no overreaction from what I can see. The piece I read certainly appeared to be from the actual book not the Daily Mail version. And it was absolute bs, deliberately OTT and deliberately leaked in order to get a reaction. Well, they got one, and it was the one they deserved for such a stunt too.

  10. avatar TonyS says:

    It turned out that the article was from the Daily Mail. My preferred reaction to that newspaper (if that is not dignifying it with a description it barely deserves) is to ignore it. A debate on whether the programme is racist should be about that- and not about the character or the deserved fate of someone who is supposed to have made the claim.

  11. avatar Doc Whom says:

    ***The title was “Humiliated Heroes” & from the title & abstract we got such venom from the PJ fans that it was overwhelming to say the least.***

    That seems to me to be on par with the fuss over Richard Marson’s JNT book. If you deliberately give your book an over-the-top title to boost sales and attract attention, you’ve no-one but yourself to blame if people take the title at face value. Would fans have reacted so badly had you titled the book “Poor Characterisation in LoTR”?

    Similarly, Richard Marson has tied himself in knots of sophistry trying to excuse his own title but it’s pretty obvious that he put “Scandalous” in the title to try to capitalise on the salacious bits. That’s his choice but he then loses the right to play the misrepresented author when the press concentrates wholly on the backstage blow-jobs.

    If the compilers of the Race book wanted it to be taken as a serious work, more fool them for including a piece asserting that Peter Davison’s cricket outfit had racist and imperialist undertones – the sort of nonsense which could only be dreamed up by someone whose experience of life comes out of a sociology textbook. If they don’t want the press to pick up on the more stupid bits of their book to the detriment of the more serious bits then here’s a suggestion – don’t include any stupid bits.

    As for the sentence ““perhaps the biggest elephant in the room is the problem, privately nursed by many fans, of loving a television show even when it is thunderingly racist”, why not avoid misinterpretation by simply saying ““perhaps the biggest elephant in the room is the problem, privately nursed by many fans, of loving a television show even when it is OCCASIONALLY thunderingly racist”? Or is it too much to expect people who are throwing around accusations of racism to choose their words carefully? How did the Press get hold of that particular sentence incidentally?

  12. avatar docwhom says:

    By the way, Christian, it’s fairly well known that opinion pollsters can be sure of getting the answers their clients want by slanting the phrasing of the actual question. You might read a headline saying that 70% of people are opposed to gay marriage but they won’t mention that the actual question put to the sample was “Are you in favour of destroying the institution of marriage.

    In the same way, your question “Did Fandom Overreact?” is susceptible of only one answer. You don’t even need to check what issue is being referred to – fandom will have overreacted to it.

    • Docwhom thanks for that expert reading into my headline writing skills.

      Not really certain what it was meant to achieve, and the reference to gay marriage was irrelevant at best…

  13. avatar TonyS says:

    Still attracting comments over a week after the original article. I think that answers the original question.

  14. avatar Doc Whom says:

    Oooh, how deliciously snide and touchy of you.

    Given that gay marriage was an analogy rather than a comparison, it was irrelevant by both purpose and definition. The analogous link was phraseology, not content.

    It’s fairly obvious that my post was a dig at fandom and not at your headline writing skills. Drop the touchiness, it doesn’t suit one of the best DW sites around.

    So ner with knobs on!

    • :P

  15. avatar TonyS says:

    And arguably, it is fandom’s job to overreact.

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