*The BBC is defending its popular sci-fi series “Doctor Who” against claims of racism raised in an upcoming book that features a collection of academic essays on the show, according to Radio Times magazine.
The science fiction series depicts the adventures of a Time Lord—a time travelling, humanoid alien known as the Doctor – who explores the universe in his TARDIS, a time-travelling space ship. Along with a succession of companions, the Doctor faces a variety of villains while working to save civilizations, help ordinary people, and right wrongs.
A new book, however, describes the long-running series as “thunderously racist” and guilty of treating non-white characters as “second-class.”
Several of the contributors to “Doctor Who and Race,” due in July, point to the failure to cast a black or Asian actor as the lead character in the show, it said. Others point to an inappropriately “slapstick” take on Hitler in a 2011 episode, the use of white actors in ethnic roles in the show’s early days, such as in the 1977 adventure The Talons of Weng-Chiang, and the use of the word “savages” to describe members of primitive cultures, Radio Times said.
One American writer, Amit Gupta, even highlighted that the show’s fifth Doctor, played by Peter Davison in the early 1980s, was obsessed with the sport of cricket, which the writer argues harks back to the “racial and class nostalgia” of the British Empire.
Australian academic Lindy Orthia, who compiled the anthology, 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.”
The BBC defended “Doctor Who,” pointing to what it called a “strong track record of diverse casting among both regular and guest cast.” The broadcaster particularly mentioned Freema Agyeman’s (pictured above) arrival as the Time Lord’s first black companion in 2007 and Noel Clarke’s role as Mickey Smith, who appeared on and off over the course of five years.
“Doctor Who” later this year celebrates its 50th anniversary.