The BBC has been forced to defend the latest Doctor Who episode Dark Water following complaints about the theme of death in the most recent episode.
The BBC has released an official response:
Doctor Who is a family drama with a long tradition of tackling some of the more fundamental questions about life and death. We were mindful of the themes explored in ‘Dark Water’ and are confident that they are appropriate in the context of the heightened sci-fi world of the show.
The scene in which a character reveals 3W’s unconventional theory about the afterlife was preceded by the same character warning the Doctor and Clara several times that what they were about to hear could be distressing. When the Doctor does hear these claims, he immediately pours scorn on them, dismissing them out of hand as a “con” and a “racket”. It transpires that he is correct, and the entire concept is revealed to be a scam perpetrated by Missy.
I can imagine they may have had more complaints than the six Ofcom received about Madame Vastra and Jenny “kissing” in Listen. There has been some rumbling that people who have recently lost someone may have been upset by the episode, especially those who have cremated a loved one.
That the show affected viewers is not surprising. It was great writing that addressed the viewers’ fears and emotions. We knew the tile of the finale was Death in Heaven. We’ve seen the Promised Land or the Nethersphere over and over this season. We’ve seen the afterlife with an evil woman welcoming people to it.
We shouldn’t need to be reminded that Doctor Who is not only a fictional show, but a science-fiction show. The concept of hearing voices of the dead in white noise is not new, and not even entirely fictional, as C.S Hughes explains in this article. There are plenty of Doctor Who plots and villains that will scare children, but that’s been the case since the show’s beginning. But as the BBC has pointed out the Doctor immediately cast doubt on the idea and by the end of the episode it was revealed that the whole thing was engineered by Missy so she could create an army of Cybermen.
Missy had tricked legions of people entering the afterlife by instilling fear in their hearts and promising those fears would be assuaged with a simple tap on the screen. The fear of death is primal. The concept of afterlife has long mystified humanity. And villains don’t play nice. Dark Water was supposed to scare you.