Hullaballoo Who: Controversy in Time & Space

Offensive, contentious, or inadvertently courting an excitable media, Doctor Who has often proved itself an oncoming storm to more than just the Daleks...


The Yellow Peril!

Battlefield (1989)

Ace talks "yellow" to her friend

Yeah, you know the bit – trapped within a magic protective circle (or something), Ace and recently-acquired mate, Shou Yuing, engage in a rage-fuelled character assassination of each other. It culminates in Dorothy's far right faux pas, describing her Asian-descended buddy as "yellow" and "slant-eyed". So - inadvertently outing herself as a closet racist, or "merely" using language she knows will hurt her friend the most? If the latter, it's another Cartmelian, ham-fisted shoehorning of fuzzily-defined race issues where none are needed (conversely, it presents all non-white ethnicities as potentially problematic). If it's the former, then it's a damned good job she never met Marco Polo…


Smack My Bones Up

The Empty Child (2005)

Richard Wilson in S&M kit in Doctor Who: The Empty Child.

Such was the runaway success of NuWho's first series that even minor production decisions were deemed tabloid-worthy ink fodder. And so it was with the transformation of Richard Wilson from exposition-friendly Doctor Constantine to gas mask-donning zombie child. The removal of a skull crack sound effect for being, "a bit too horrible" (thanks Phil Collinson), hit headlines prior to the episode's airing. According to Steven Moffat, however, it was never there in the first place (although is on the DVD, confusingly). This proves two things. Firstly, that Doctor Who's production can be as baffling as its results are scary, and secondly, that newspapers will print any old guff.


Fancy a Dip, Doctor?

The Deadly Assassin (1976)

The Doctor gets it in the neck in The Deadly Assassin

Chancellor Goth buries The Doctor's curly noggin under a big, old body of breath-buggering water, making Mary Whitehouse's gang of easily-offended prudes – the NVLA - wet their collective knickers. They claimed that kids would be terrified by not knowing if their hero would survive or not, thereby completely missing the point of cliffhanger-driven drama. Such was the ferocity of her criticism, the Beeb edited out the offending linger, the scaredy wusses. Thankfully, it's been restored back to its original, violent self, and Whitehouse's cronies (now Mediawatch) are largely viewed as the zealous cranks we always knew they were.


Black to Square One

Tomb of the Cybermen (1967)

Toberman fights 60s characterisation for blacks in Doctor Who: Tomb of the Cybermen

Sweat-inducingly uneasy viewing as The Doctor gingerly treads about the dumb, servile Toberman, as if he's just encountered an alien species of vastly inferior intelligence. Whilst it could be claimed that his colour is an irrelevance, noticeable only to sour-faced Guardian readers, that's to ignore the basic truth that black characters were rarely in the series. When they did appear, then it would have probably been best that their presence wasn't inherently problematic, or that they were portrayed as "the other". Of course, Toberman does get to save the day, which might be something of a relief, were it not a sacrificial gesture, making him both tokenistic and disposable. Of course, on transmission it's fair to say that few viewers would have even noticed this, and far less cared. Ouch!


Doctor Wholigan

The Two Doctors (1985)

Someone gets asphyxiated in Doctor Who: The Two Doctors

Blimey, where to start? Well, take your pick from these. A pensioner is murdered and eaten Chessene licks blood from the pavement Shockeye munches on a rat's corpse Shockeye stabs Oscar to death.

Now, all of the above could have been passable if it was a) tastefully done (which it wasn't) and b) hadn't culminated in the show's hero hunting down and killing his adversary before making off with a James Bond style quip (which it did).

Sadly, used as a shitty stick by Michael Grade to beat the programme in public when trying to justify cancelling it.


Blink and You Still Won't Miss It

The Time of Angels (2010)

Graham Norton steals the show in Doctor Who: The Time of Angels

Poor Matt Smith was barely four episodes into the role before he was given a gallant and rallying hero's speech to perform, and what did the Beeb do? Slap a cartoon Graham Norton waddling into the middle of it, sucking the atmosphere out of the cliffhanger like some kind of bloody great drama hoover. Unsurprisingly, miffed viewers got their right to reply and complained in their thousands, leading to an initial apology, a further promise that they would never do it again, and then a public execution of the otherwise blameless Norton. Alright, not the last bit, although he did proffer an additional animation in which a Dalek zapped him to Irish bits.


Ursula Sucks!

Love & Monsters (2006)

Ursula gives love in the only way she can

Rusty's unique liplock with fandom is fit to burst with so many moments of perceived controversy, it's tempting to nominate the entire episode, as it rattled the cage of those it purports to celebrate. But we make particular mention of the closing admission by protagonist Elton that, regardless of his girlfriend Ursula's transformation into a human-faced pavement, they still manage to retain some sort of a love life. Which lead to crimson-cheeked parents awkwardly explaining to the kids that he meant only kissing. Also, this once-popular forum joke: "Do you think the Series 2 DVD will come in a special paving slab?" "No, but Elton does."


Plastic Fantastic

Terror of the Autons (1971)

Morph gets an unexpected dramatic role in Doctor Who: Terror of the Autons

Asphyxiation by nefarious plastic? Troll dolls strangling housewives? Policeman baddies? Why, Mr Holmes, you spoil us sir. Well, you cause a flurry of disquiet in the British press for reportedly terrifying the toenails off've the tiny ones by doing all of the above. Duh - isn't that, like, what Doctor Who's supposed to do? It then found itself name-checked in a House of Lords debate for being too scary for kids. Double duh – that's what Doctor Who is!



Relight My Führer

Let's Kill Hitler (2011)

Adolph Hitler in Doctor Who: Let's Kill Hitler

Re-launching the series after its mid-season break, Moffat's daftly-titled wartime romp stirred the sensitive soul of the tabloids, by claiming that the Comic-Con preview left fans "shocked" and furious that the Time Lord had saved Adolf's life. "The thought of Doctor Who helping Hitler in any positive way is terrible and unthinkable," said no one at all to a Daily Mirror hack, presumably trying to conjure up a slightly more salacious story from an otherwise incident-free screening.



Vengeance on Varos (1985)

Colin gets and squashed finger in Doctor Who: Vengeance on Varos

We're not picking on Colin here – it's just that in one season we had more needless violence than you'd find in a career-full of Ross Kemp ITV dramas. And none more so than here, in which Sixie is indirectly responsible for two assailants' sulphuric demise, before making off with – again – a gallows humour-style bon mot to punctuate the scene. After four weeks of companion-strangling and hand-crushing, following it up with a casually homicidal hero probably wasn't the series' wisest move…



The Seeds of Doom (1976)

Boycie stars in Doctor Who: The Seeds of Doom

Whitehouse again, in which her complaint about the serial's violence inadvertently gave fandom one of its favourite double entendres: "Strangulation – by hand, by claw, by obscene vegetable matter." She also objected to the handy demonstration of how to make a Molotov cocktail, as manufactured and hurled by Boycie. Sorry, Scoby. Still, comforting to know that the old whingebag unwittingly lent her moniker to a hardcore, porn rag, allowing scuzz-handed masturbators everywhere the pleasure of strangling their own obscene vegetable matter, all in the good name of Whitehouse.



Miles Hamer



Hullaballoo Who: Controversy in Time and Space
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