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.
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.]