BBC: Doctor Who Is Not Racist

The network defends the long-running show against charges made in an upcoming book

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It’s difficult to imagine any kind of bad press associated with Doctor Who. The beloved British sci-fi TV show marks its 50th anniversary this year, with a huge celebration planned for November. Recent episodes of the series, particularly May’s season finale, “The Name of the Doctor,” have been spurring talk among longtime fans and newbies alike.

But not all is well in Who-ville: this week, news broke online that a forthcoming anthology of essays about the show — titled Doctor Who and Race — has several pieces that find the show lacking in the areas of cultural sensitivity and diversity.

(MORE: Why Doctor Who Is Pop-Culture Sci-Fi at Its Best)

As the Telegraph reported, Doctor Who is taken to task for casting white actors as nonwhite characters, casting only white men as the shape-shifting protagonist, imbuing the Doctor with traits and characteristics associated with British imperialism (e.g., a love of cricket), making light of the Holocaust, and fostering negative portrayals of cultures different from Who’s British world. (Recent episodes have also been criticized on fan sites for perceived misogyny.)

The BBC defended the show, issuing a statement that Doctor Who uses color-blind casting and has a history of diversity.

The editors of Doctor Who and Race, via a post on their blog, are doing some spin control of their own. They make the point that the book isn’t just criticizing the show, that editor Lindy Orthia has been quoted out of context (calling the show “thunderingly racist” when, in her actual use of the phrase, she was referring to specific fans’ reactions to a specific episode), and that the book is not about academics judging fans:

Second, an ‘academics’ vs. ‘fans’ dynamic has been falsely constructed this week, as if the book’s authors are all navel-gazing academics picking on a thing that fans have no problem with. This is plain wrong.

All the book’s contributors are regular viewers, and almost all identify as fans. [And incidentally, academic fans, like other fans, are capable of dissecting something without losing the love.]

MORE: Star Wars and Doctor Who Fans Clash at Sci-Fi Convention


I've noticed for a while that black actors on the show seem overwhelmingly either greatly ignored or are cast as villains. 

Examples of ignored black characters: Mickey Smith, Martha Jones. They were left in the shadow of Rose Tyler, the super-Aryan British chick.

Examples of black villains: Lance (Donna Noble's fiance), Joshua Naismith, Colonel Manton/Colonel Runaway, Van Baalen brothers.

I don't think it's at all deliberate, but they need to be more conscious of how overlooked black people are on the show's recent history.


When will there be a BLACK or INDIAN doctor? Or even a Latina woman Doctor?  Are the show-runners saying that The Doctor can only be reincarnated as a Caucasian British man?

Sounds like the show is not necessarily racist, but not well-rounded in casting the MAIN character.


What utter nonsense. If Dr. Who starts casting to placate political correctness, I'll stop watching. I have never seen ANYTHING in Dr. Who to suggest it is racist. Not in casting, not in storylines, not in dialogue. If anything, the show is filled with strong characters of all races (Dr. Martha Jones & her entire family, Queen Elizabeth X & so on), interracial relationships (Rose & Mickey, Donna & her fiance, etc.) and a demonstrated respect for all races. This season alone, the Doctor's closest,most loyal supporters, the kindest, most sophisticated characters, have been from nonhuman races. What utter nonsense.


Who knows what the next regeneration of the Doctor will bring.  

Jaymwine 1 Like

It looks like when societies get to a certain level of development they run out of real issues to champion or complain about, given the general comfort of their lives, and they resort to going over the most mundane and innocuous of aspects of their society to look for stuff to whine about.

I am aware that my statement above would be hard to prove but every time I read such stories I am left wondering if the people who raise such complaints are actually serious or if there is a class of professional fault-finders and whiners out there. It baffles me greatly. 

squelchuk 2 Like

Seriously, with all the problems the world is facing with regards to inequality - food distribution across the world, womens' rights in some Arabic countries, gay marriage across the world and gay rights generally in Africa...

...THIS is what people are complaining about?  Get a grip.  Doctor Who has had black assistants - Martha Jones, for instance - equality between different species.  Hell, there's even a lesbian marriage between a chambermaid and a lizard woman.  

Get a life people and focus on what actually matters.

jacksonsquire 2 Like

I find this laughable. With the reboot starting in 2005 there's been multiracial characters of all kinds. Two companions have been black. There's been a few minor companions that have been of other races. There's been instances of biracial couples in the show. How is liking cricket British imperialistic? Football is the definitive British imperialistic sport. Its worldwide popularity is directly attributable to Britain's former world dominance. But, that still doesn't make the show condoning British imperialism by his liking of a particular sport. The show is British, and people of all nationalities love it for that.

Also, so what if the Doctor is white?