Hello and welcome to In Too Deep, where I over-analyse a certain section of pop culture.

Now it’s a common enough trend to throw insults at Steven Moffat for being a ‘sexist’ or a ‘racist’ or things along that regard. People taking quotes of his that were out of context in an interview he made ten years ago and using that as a basis to support their argument (and conveniently ignoring any quotes that show that Moffat is willing to listen to the opposition and is not the devil amongst us). But something I noticed in the last season of Doctor Who is, above all else, how socially progressive it was. So as much as Steven Moffat gets attacked, are those attacking just being blinded by their own prejudices? Is Steven Moffat and Doctor Who in general that ‘sexist/racist’? Well lets find out.

1.4 Listen, or Why Moffat Haters Are So Unreasonable.

Listen is likely to go down in history as one of the better Doctor Who episodes, one that can achieve a lot of quality scares on a minimal budget. But the interesting, and most infuriating, complaint I’ve seen is by far the stupidest: “The episode is bad because we never find out what was under the bed sheet.” Now anyone who has seen the episode will be able to point out why this is a stupid complaint (short answer: the ambiguous nature of the episode is meant to be that you never know whether the monster is real or just a series of mundane things, so you’re not suppose to find out what was under the sheet, since it was deliberately left up to the viewer to decide), but what I find more interesting is that the complaint came up to start with. Because it demonstrates a prejudice that those who hate on Moffat claim he suffers from. It’s a blind reading of the text on a literal level. It’s looking only at the surface and declaring something is bad, when even the slightest of deeper readings will examine more of what is going on underneath the hood. And yet the haters seem content not to do this, instead taking the surface level glance as true. It’s frustrating to say the least, but mostly because they’re often the ones reading deeply into works to pull out accusations that do not exist. It’s a selective bias when it comes to reading the evidence, choosing to focus on what they like rather than what they don’t. Again, this comes much back to how they view the writer himself. They cherry-pick anything that makes him look bad and ignore any times when he admits fault or encourages criticism. They’d rather focus on the bad and ignore the good because it justifies their beliefs, rather than risk being proven wrong. And therein lies the great irony: They want more tolerance and people to be more open, but they themselves refuse to be tolerant to the idea that their interpretation is wrong. But since I’ve been on my soapbox for the whole blog, it’s probably best to get off.

Though we now reach a matter of record keeping. Officially the story’s main focus are the big three of the series: Peter Calpadi, Jenna Colmean and Samuel Anderson. So that means the story only has three characters, right? The Doctor, Clara and Danny Pink. But we have Rupert Pink, Danny Pink’s younger self, played by another actor. Does that make Rupert his own character? Likewise we have Danny Pink’s future grandson, Orson Pink, played by Samuel Anderson. Are they different characters, or is the similarity between them stop this from being a valid interpretation? Well for the sake of argument I’m going to say there are three different characters here, the same way the Doctor can be played by different actors in different ways and still be the Doctor. While Rupert and Danny are meant to be the same person, and Danny and Orson are played by the same actor, each character is meant to be on their own. Add in a caretaker who, from memory, is the only other character there and we have a very minimalist cast.

Tally:

White Male character: 1

Non-White Male character: 3

Total:

White Male characters: 7

White Female characters: 3

Non-White Male characters: 3

Non-White Female characters: 2

Alien Male characters: 1

Alien Female characters: 1

1.5 Time Hiest, or How To Do Diversity Right

I think the most interesting part of this episode is the minor character who exists to show how dangerous the monster of the week is. He only exists to be killed, but he’s a black man. Now the fact that he’s a black man means nothing in the text. No one comments on it or notices it. He is just an incredibly unimportant minor character who only exists to serve a point. So the fact he’s a black man isn’t important… the face they chose to cast a black man is. After all, as mentioned last time, if you’re going to cast anyone why not go outside the mould? Go for a non-white actor in the part. I mean why not after all?

Which brings us to the other characters in this story. Aside from our two leads, we have bank robbing accomplices Psi and Sabre, and the villainous Miss Dephlox. Sabre is played by a black woman, Miss Dephlox is played by a white woman. Both are very strong female characters who do a lot in this story. But, most importantly here, they’re female. They’re diverse. In a show famous for once having a story that featured no female characters (The Deadly Assassin), the fact that we’ve had so many in just these five stories is pretty impressive. Sure it’s not as great as it could be, at least to some, but it’s certainly a start to say the least.

Tally:

White Male characters: 1

White Female characters: 1

Non-White female characters: 1

Total:

White Male characters: 8

White Female characters: 4

Non-White Male characters: 3

Non-White Female characters: 3

Alien Male characters: 1

Alien Female characters: 1

1.6 The Caretaker, or Where Colour-blind Casting Rears its Ugly Head.

Perhaps the strangest complaint I’ve seen in this episode is that the Doctor is a horrible, horrible racist for his treatment of Danny Pink. He constantly belittles and insults the character, not believing that someone like him could be a maths teacher. He approves of Clara going after a man that looks like his previous incarnation, while also telling a girl to go back to shoplifting. Clearly the Doctor must be racist, yes? Well lets actually break these complaints down properly.

Yes the Doctor treats Danny Pink poorly, but that’s because Danny is a former soldier and the Doctor hates soldiers. As evident back in Into the Dalek, he has a dislike for soldiers in this incarnation. He calls Danny ‘P.E.’ as an insult to him being a soldier, rather than his race. But this is still a troubling image, right? A white man insulting a black man like that. But therein lies the problem of the colour-blind casting approach. Danny Pink isn’t written to be a black man or a white man. He is written to be a man. A foil to the Doctor in many ways. The fact that he is played by Samuel Anderson, a man who is black, is irrelevant to the character. But all the same, it does look bad, yes? To have this image. Well then, we’ll just have Danny Pink played by a white man. That’ll solve the problem… and make the situation worse, but having less diversity. And that is my problem with this complaint. A multicultural cast is something I’m a-okay with, especially if they’re cast colour-blind. If they’re cast without special attention being paid to race. But, if you going to make this a situation of race, you put the producers into a Catch-22. Do they write the character, then cast the actor, and then face potential backlash? Or do they cast a white person to avoid the implications? Now I’m more for the former. An actor or actress should be cast based on how good they are in the part and nothing else. But, if you’re going to throw up obstacles in the way of getting more diversity on screen, all it does is encourage the producers not to be diverse. Sure, being a whitewash is bad, but being accused of being racist is worse. Why take the risk of having diversity when it’s safer to just have no diversity? Those that want diversity than complain about how a character is portrayed (when the complaint about how it’s racist is an out-of-text complaint, rather than something that is happening within the episode itself) are just making it harder for diversity to be achieved. Why would you risk giving someone what you want when they’re just going to throw it back in your face?

This leads us on to points two and three, the Doctor confusing Clara’s boyfriend and his insult to Courtney. Now on the surface, these look bad. “Ooh, the Doctor wants Clara to be with the white guy and called the black girl a shoplifter, clearly he’s racist”. And this would be true… if the character of the Doctor was a racist. But the character is essentially the exact opposite of a racist, at least in a human sense. He doesn’t care about the colour of one’s skin, it’s meaningless to him. Much like gender when it comes to this incarnation, the race of someone doesn’t matter to him. Now is it unfortunately that he called Courtney a shoplifter? Yeah, but I suspect that the script was written before the actress was cast, and no one thought about it long enough to change it. So should it have been changed on set? Maybe, but it crucially sets up that the Doctor is wrong. Earlier in the episode we see a white police officer harassing two black students. Now this might have been a ‘cast who is nearest’ thing, or it could be a deliberate comment on how minorities are treated. But the Doctor is treated as wrong for his treatment of Danny in this episode, and wrong for his treatment of Courtney in the next. He is seen in the bad guy in how he acted. If we take what the Doctor said and did as racist, we also see him get his comeuppance by being proved how utterly wrong he is. At the end of the day Danny manages to be better than the Doctor, saving the day when the Doctor couldn’t. Even if we treat the ‘the Doctor is a racist’ line of thought as true, ultimately he gets shown why he was wrong to think that to begin with.

Tally (excluding Danny, who was already covered):

White Male characters: 1

Non-White Female characters: 1

Total:

White Male characters: 9

White Female characters: 4

Non-White Male characters: 3

Non-White Female characters: 4

Alien Male characters: 1

Alien Female characters: 1

So there you have it. Part of my extensive look at Doctor Who in relation to the concept of diversity. If you disagree with anything, or have anything to add, feel free to leave a comment. Till next time.

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