I recently wrote a paper on how racial diversity is used and displayed throughout the first three seasons of the New Who Series. Looking at this was very interesting and I learned a lot. I looked at the history of race in the UK along with the current state of race issues in the UK. This gave me a basis of why Doctor who lacks in racial diversity at times. Throughout this blog post I want to talk about other forms of diversity I found while watching more Doctor Who episodes for class. I found a good amount of gender diversity while watching Doctor Who. The Doctor is a male and the companions is typically a female, but other jobs that are present in the show do not seem to have gender specific roles. You see males in roles that are typically seen as female jobs and you have females who are in what we would typically consider masculine roles. This is something that I like about the show because it is different than a lot of other shows on television. Through the recent episodes I saw which were the eleventh and twelfth doctor, there was a lot more racial diversity than what was there in the start of the new who. You saw many different ethnic groups. In the first few seasons of the new who it seemed that the only racial diversity was a black male here or there. Now it seems that there are several different ethnicities present in Doctor Who. There were some points in the show where I noticed stereotypical ethnic jobs. There were a couple scenes where the real-life doctor would be someone of the Asian or Indian heritage which to me seemed stereotypical. We have discussed that the goal of this show is not to display diversity, but it makes the show more enjoyable that they do. In our society, today we expect to see diversity and when we do not see diversity it is weird. It was completely opposite of this a long time ago. I have enjoyed watching and interpreting the plot of Doctor Who and the diversity that exists in the show. I have now become more aware of diversity throughout the media which is something that is important to me now. I hope to continue to interpret other shows that I see along with other pieces of the media in the future.
Since Doctor Who rebooted in 2005 it has made strides in representing diversity on television. Strides that can’t be said for many other television shows. We open with episode one, “Rose” set in England, 2005, on a rare scene for television. Rose is a working class woman who really is working class, not a dramatized version of this. She lives in a small apartment with her single mother and wakes early every day to clock-in at her job in a department store. She’s casual, dressing in clothes that certainly aren’t the height of fashion for the time, she isn’t dolled up in makeup only a professional could do, and what’s more; she isn’t the tiny waisted, long-legged pretty girl we’re used to seeing on TV. Rose sets the pace for the growing diversity we’re about to be treated to in “Doctor Who”.
Not long after we get Captain Jack Harkness, the first openly pansexual in the history of “Doctor Who” who equally and openly shows attraction to men, women, aliens, and the non-gender conforming. This was a huge leap for sexual and romantic diversity in “Doctor Who”, and one of the very first times queer people could see themselves in a character on television that wasn’t harmful.
Next comes Martha, the first black companion on “Doctor Who”. She’s intelligent and able to keep up with the Doctor’s rambling better, perhaps, than most other companions. For people of colour, Martha is a big deal. She’s a strong, woman of colour, in a leading role on one of the most popular television shows of all time. With Martha, the television series continues to push forward for more diversity in their cast.
The next three companions, Donna, Amy, and Clara continue to portray strong female leads with diverse histories and personalities. Along the way we meet a couple more sexually diverse characters, and characters from all different walks of life.
Now we come to the most recent companion, Bill, who is both a woman of colour and openly gay. She is one of the very first leading characters like this on television, a huge influence for women, people of colour, and members of the LGBTQIA+ community. We finally have a leading character that many minorities can view themselves in in a positive way.
Soon we’ll be treated with something that came unexpected: a female Doctor. Jodie Whittaker will soon take on the role of the Doctor and make history as the first female Doctor. Many people are very excited about this. We get a leading female, and also confirmation that Gallifreyans, or at least the Doctor, experience gender fluidity, which could be a nod toward the transgender community.
But when it comes to diversity, is it enough? Though Doctor Who has done a great job positively representing different groups of people, we still are left itching for more. Several groups who wish to see any kind of representation on television have been left out. Doctor Who has come a long way, but I believe it can, and should, go much farther. I hope that as the episodes continue to air we will continue to see a rise in representation in the cast.
I will be looking at an episode that we watched a while ago titled “World War Three.” This episode I noticed a lot of diversity that I wasn’t used to seeing within the previous episodes. The type of diversity I noticed in this episode was racial diversity in a good way. Sometimes Doctor Who episodes try and display racial diversity and they do a bad job of displaying it. It then is looked at negatively by the viewers; even if their intentions were not negative. Usually in these episodes the white man and sometimes the white girl will be the one to save the day. This episode was different than that. This time Mickey who is black, had a huge role in saving the day. He not only saved the main characters but also saved everyone on the planet. I thought this was cool to see because it wasn’t something the show Doctor Who was used to doing. I also feel like this was a big stepping stone for this show. It showed people that it wasn’t like the classic who anymore. The Classic Who had no racial diversity and when they did try and have racial diversity it comes off as racist to us now. I believe the point of having Mickey save the planet in this episode was to show everyone that the new who was a different show in a way. Like I said, the Classic Who lacked racial diversity, but that was how the culture was in the days classic who was made. New who is made in a much different time and it should be expected to have some racial diversity. The show still lacks racial diversity of course, but this was a big step for the show in my opinion. Like we have talked about in class, it would be nice to see a Doctor Who isn’t a white male. There will be a female doctor next which is a step in the right direction. Next, it would be nice to see a person of color become to doctor. If/when this happens, it will be interesting to see the numbers of viewers change. This will give us a good idea of how the world still has a problem accepting racial diversity. Hopefully we wouldn’t see any decrease in viewers, but that more than likely wouldn’t be the case. I believe this is the reason why no person of color has been the doctor yet, because of fear of major loss of viewers.
The Whoniverse is ready for change. With the announcement that Peter Capaldi will be stepping down as the Doctor, the search to replace the Time Lord is picking up steam. I think it’s time that Doctor regenerate into a woman, or into someone that isn’t Caucasian.
Netflix recently released its own version of Lemony Snicket’s: A Series of Unfortunate Events. The series is receiving sparkling reviews and a detail that is being identified as a strong point in the first season is the racial diversity of actors in the show. This is the opposite of the cinematic version of the story. In Jim Carey’s cinematic portrayal of Count Olaf, the actors opposite him in the roles of Mr. Poe, Uncle Monty, and Aunt Josephine are all portrayed by white actors in a mostly white dominated cast. In the Netflix series, Mr. Poe and Aunt Josephine are portrayed by black actors, and Uncle Monty is played by an Indian born actor. This difference favors the Netflix series not only because of better acting, but also as a stronger parallel to what the world is like.
Doctor Who could follow the lead of A Series of Unfortunate Events, and cast the first female doctor, or a non-white actor in the role. A show that has been in existence for more than fifty years, and has had nearly three generations of viewers has a strong enough following that such a change is possible and could receive wide acceptance and praise. A female doctor would show young women that a woman can be the hero and be a strong leader. A black doctor would do the same for young black men and women alike. The BBC would miss a huge opportunity by casting another white male in the role of the Doctor. The fans are ready, and the time is now for something new in the Whoniverse.
With any television show, there are always going to be critics on racial diversity and whether or not people of different backgrounds are equally shown through the screen. However, I think people forget about the real meaning why actors are in shows. Companies do not hire actors because of their racial background, but rather because they fit the role of a particular character, or at least that’s the way it should be.
In order to get rid of racism in television shows we need to stop looking for it. As critical viewers, we are programmed to look for these kinds of things, but what if we are looking too far into it? It very well could be that the show is simply just looking for the right talent for their roles and showing no discrimination at all. We see this in the public sphere way too often. The media, for example, likes to put stories of acts that are portrayed to be racist that eventually end up being just a misunderstanding. I will acknowledge that yes, there is still racist people in the world but not as many as we make it seem. I think that our society as a whole is at fault and it will take a long time for us to fix the glitches.
I believe that a world without racism is a world that doesn’t focus on it. There is too much focus on what is wrong with our world and not enough focus on what is right. I hope that someday we put our attention on the talent of the actors rather than why the role wasn’t given to someone else. If there is to be a racially diverse actor on any show, it should be because their talents and qualifications got them there, not because of the color of their skin.