Everybody who saw her, everywhere, remembers Nicola Bryant’s opening episode, as American botany student Peri Brown, in “Doctor Who”! And quite right, too!! It’s recently come to light that an “inappropriate” underwater scene involving Freema Agyeman stripping down to her underwear has been cut from the new series. It might have been better, and more professional unless trying to elicit a little extra publicity, had David Tennant not mentioned it in the first place, then fans would’ve been none the wiser. As it is, many feel we’ll be missing out on something or other! Removing one’s clothes to go in the water sounds perfectly reasonable to me!! It does rather smack of double standards, though, when you consider there have been innumerable occasions, in the last couple of years, when inappropriate dialogue has been broadcast in the programme. God forbid “Doctor Who” should ever resort to the language of all-time greatest TV drama “The Sopranos”! So, is seeing a pretty girl in a bikini or in her underwear really so upsetting? Is visual really more offensive than verbal?
I’d like to spotlight three different instances of such inapposite discourse, in the first season alone, and unfortunately in its three best stories, which I would’ve script-edited out to make the show more suitable for a family audience. The three offending examples are 1) Rose accusing undertaker Gabriel Sneed of groping her while presumed unconscious, in “The Unquiet Dead”, 2) Henry van Statten’s supposedly throwaway line suggesting Adam and Rose indulge in a spot of spooning, in “Dalek”, and 3) Nancy’s threats of blackmail to family-man-and-homeowner Mr Lloyd over homosexual adultery (with the butcher!) in order that he might acquire black market produce during a time of war-induced austerity, in “The Doctor Dances”. Imagine the confusing messages the latter, quite complex, example gives to young children, always assuming said children are paying attention - which you have to assume they are.
Supposedly ace-writer Steven Moffat wrote the third example, unless Russell T Davies added it at a later stage, and it’s by far the worst example in season one. I don’t think Steven intended Nancy to come across as a nasty piece of work but here she is just as amoral as Lloyd, he not because of his homosexuality (although, being illegal at this time in history, it would’ve generally been regarded as such) but because of his infidelity, trading sex for culinary favours, of all things! It’s almost as though Moffat is deliberately trying to provoke and shock a conservative audience by compounding the deceit when all he achieves is to leave a bad taste in the mouth and spoil an otherwise interesting story. All three offending examples are about the personal and thus totally parochial and pedestrian. Classic “Doctor Who” was about universals, and better for it. Much better. None of these three illustrations bother me, as such. Moffat’s would certainly not be out of place in an adult drama such as “Queer as Folk”, or something similar. I just feel sympathetic to any parent trying to explain any, or all, of these ideas to their eight-year olds!!!
“Doctor Who” is lauded as a family show. The BBC keep banging on about how “Doctor Who” has revived family viewing, early evening, on Saturdays. It’s easy to rewrite the aforementioned examples out of a final script before production even begins. Why did the writers even think of including them in the first place? As the scribes that create our favourite show weren’t able to think of anything more suitable, all it displays is a severe lack of imagination. I recently read a letter describing new “Doctor Who” as smug and I thought the writer had a point. To be frank, if it’s perceived as OK to repeatedly include adult sexual inferences and connotations in oh-so-with-it and trendily-modern “Doctor Who”, then why are its producers so frightened about putting the fear factor back into the programme too? Instead of concerning ourselves with domestic issues, which every other show already does amply well, let’s escape from the “real” world for forty-five minutes a week and inappropriately “scare the kids shitless” just like Robert Holmes used to do!