By Arturo R. García
Calling this past season of Doctor Who uneven might be doing it a favor. Presented as two separate seasons marked by a change in companions for the Eleventh Doctor and capped by the prelude to the show’s 50th anniversary special in November, critiques of the show under Steven Moffat’s watch got louder than ever. That discussion, we hope, will only get louder when Doctor Who and Race is released in August.
Edited by Dr. Lindy Orthia — who has published several academic works dealing with the shows including one on Who’s “inability to acknowledge the material realities of an inequitable postcolonial world shaped by exploitative trade practices, diasporic trauma and racist discrimination” — the anthology will feature more than 20 essays explicitly tackling several aspects of the show’s presentation (and, one presumes, lack thereof) regarding issues regarding racial issues.
Naturally, some people are out to silence her efforts before the book’s even released. Warning: Misogynist language just under the cut.
These were the responses to Orthia’s announcement earlier this month of the release date and that the book’s royalties were being donated to charity:
And remember: Doctor Who fans are supposed to be the smart ones. This guy below sent the same tweet to Orthia on consecutive days:
The UK-based site Digital Spy didn’t help matters when it made this claim, seemingly sight-unseen:
A new collection of essays titled ‘Doctor Who and Race’ claims that the sci-fi program is racist for failing to cast a black or Asian actor as the Time Lord and accuses the title character of being dismissive of black companions.
Now, do you get that impression from this abstract for Roseanne Welch’s “When white boys write black: Race and class in the Davies and Moffat eras”?
This essay discusses the different ways former “Doctor Who” show runner Russell T Davies and his successor, Steven Moffat, handle race in writing the show. It concludes that while Davies’ characters of colour (Mickey, Martha and Rosita) are all three-dimensional, sexualized human beings, Moffat’s (Liz Ten, Mels and Rita) tended toward more one-dimensional, Talented Tenth types.
Or this one for Stephanie Guerdan’s “Baby steps: A modest solution to Asian under-representation in Doctor Who“?
This essay points out the lack of previous Asian representation in both the casting choices and storylines of Doctor Who. It goes on to suggest some small steps that could be taken to rectify this lack while also keeping in mind some of the BBC’s previous racial faux pas.
Methinks DS and the BBC doth protest too much. The network responded by citing the casting of Freema Agyeman as Martha Jones and Noel Clarke as Mickey Smith — both moves that occurred during the Davies era.
Digital Spy and other outlets also seized on a statement by Orthia that, “the biggest elephant in the room is the problem privately nursed by many fans of loving a TV show when it is thunderingly racist.” She elaborated on that remark in another statement:
In the book this sentence comes towards the end of my conclusion chapter, in a section which discusses the fact that many people who study “Doctor Who” are also fans, and so are personally invested in what they study and write.
The sentence is not stating that “Doctor Who” is thunderingly racist. The sentence is saying that fans often feel inner conflict at those times when Doctor Who has moments of racism, because we love the show but don’t love racism. An example is the Doctor’s line in “Doctor Who”‘s first episode, “An Unearthly Child,” in which he talks about “the savage mind” of “the Red Indian” – the episode may be 50 years old, but we still watch it today, and the line still sits uncomfortably because of its casual racism. My reflection on this is simply asking how we should best deal with that discomfort.
I end the conclusion by quoting from Kate Orman’s essay in the book, in which she says: “because we are fans, we’re capable of being sophisticated, thoughtful viewers, able to see both a story’s successes and its failings.”
I hope that this is true, and that future discussions about this book and its subject will be considered and thoughtful.
It would seem that, despite their self-appointed reputation, these Who fans aren’t interested in that.
[h/t The Mary Sue]