Seriously?! At least the poll is trending 92% No.Doctor Who is described as “thunderously racist” and guilty of treating non-white characters as “second class” in a collection of academic essays about the show.
Several of the contributors to the book, Doctor Who and Race, which is set for publication in July, believe the failure to cast a black or Asian Doctor demonstrates an integral racism in the series, while others have pointed to an inappropriately “slapstick” take on Hitler in a 2011 episode, the early use of white actors in ethnic roles (such as in 1977 adventure The Talons of Weng-Chiang), and the portrayal of primitive cultures as “savages”.
One American writer, Amit Gupta, even suggests that fifth Doctor Peter Davison’s obsession with cricket harks back to the "racial and class nostalgia" of the British Empire.
I have a sneaking suspicion that the parents of a certain bunch of smarty-pants academics are going to be prevented from ever meeting by a rather ticked-off man with a big blue box. Serves 'em right for talking a bunch of smack about a time traveler.
Yet another example of the echo chamber that is the British press. And select bits of the nerdier American 'net. Guess where the original critique of this book appeared? The Daily Mail! (Warning: Retina-searing site with a sound track!) Every other article I’ve seen has been a paraphrase of the original hatchet job.
FWIW, Weng Chiang is almost unwatchable these days, thanks to the bizarre white-actors-as-Asians casting, but I always attributed that to it’s being created in 1977 (they let real Chinese men be extras, so clearly there were some available). Also, the early episodes featuring cave men and women using perfect-vowelled RP accents are absolutely hilarious.
The “Chinese” villain in Talons was played by John Bennet, a white British actor. The other Chinese parts (not counting the alien or the dummy) seem to be played by Chinese. The part could be considered a retro play on Fu Manchu–with The Doctor in a deerstalker & a monstrous giant rat (of Sumatra?) lurking in the sewers of London.
Still, by today’s standards the casting is tacky. But not as tacky as this little gem. Which Brits were also watching on their tellies in the 70’s…
In between famously playing Khan Singh on the small screen and the big screen, Ricardo Montalban got an Emmy for playing the other kind of Indian in How The West Was Won, after passing himself off as Japanese in the Oscar-winning Sayonara and, apparently, getting nominated for a Tony playing a black dude in Jamaica. He’d play an Arab. He’d play a Frenchman. Greek? Check. Mexican? Of course.
I don’t know what that means. But Mister Roarke would’ve been a great Doctor Who.
Admittedly I don’t watch TV that much these days so maybe my perceptions aren’t right, but one of the things I noticed quickly about the new Doctor Who when I started watching it early this year was just how much of a non-issue interracial (in this case black-white) couples are. I mean, you’ve got Mickey and Rose, Lance and Donna, Donna and what’s-his-name (the guy she married after she lost her memory) and nobody even bats an eye about it. I thought it was cool. Seems like when I see mixed couples on US TV, even if nobody’s making a big deal about it they still have to bring it up one way or another. In Who, I don’t recall it ever even being mentioned on Doctor Who. They were just couples.
One thing about “white guys” playing “non white guys” when the role is lead rather than extras. The lead needs to at least both a good actor and a fairly known quantity. So between finding the Chinese actor say that is actually good and known enough that the director knows they can work with them IMO its not that big a surprise this occurred. And for that matter the good/known minority actors were probably in high demand and working elsewhere.
That’s just a thing about British TV in general - British society, really. There’s no particular expectation that black people will only pair up with black people. Any racial tension present comes out in quite different ways.
Not only are there lots of mixed-race couples, but I’ve always been pleased that LOTS of non-whites are incorporated into the show - and it’s no big deal. In the States, all too often I feel like when you put Indian people into a show, they need to be Indian first, members of the show second. In British telly they are Brits just like everyone else and no one even flickers an eye.