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BBC Defends 'Doctor Who' Against Racism Claims

Doctor Who TV Still 2011

In an upcoming book, academics call the sci-fi show "thunderously racist," highlighting casting choices and even the cricket obsession of a past Doctor.

The BBC has defended popular sci-fi series Doctor Who against racism claims.

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An upcoming book that presents a collection of academic essays on the show describes it as "thunderously racist" and guilty of treating nonwhite characters as "second-class," according to Radio Times magazine.

Several of the contributors to the book, entitled Doctor Who and Race, which is set to be published in July, point to the failure to cast a black or Asian actor as the lead character in the show, it said. Others point to an inappropriately "slapstick" take on Hitler in a 2011 episode, the use of white actors in ethnic roles in the show's early days, such as in the 1977 adventure "The Talons of Weng-Chiang," and the use of the word "savages" to describe members of primitive cultures, Radio Times said.

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One American writer, Amit Gupta, even highlighted that the show's fifth Doctor, played by Peter Davison in the early 1980s, was obsessed with the sport of cricket, which the writer argues harks back to the "racial and class nostalgia" of the British Empire.

Australian academic Lindy Orthia, who compiled the anthology, concludes: "The biggest elephant in the room is the problem privately nursed by many fans of loving a TV show when it is thunderingly racist."

The BBC defended Doctor Who, pointing to what it called a "strong track record of diverse casting among both regular and guest cast." The broadcaster particularly mentioned Freema Agyeman's arrival as the Time Lord's first black companion in 2007 and Noel Clarke's role as Mickey Smith, who appeared on and off over the course of five years.

Doctor Who celebrates its 50th anniversary later this year.