Here’s something you don’t hear very often about Doctor Who: That a recent storyline was actually too dark. People often defend some of the goofier aspects of the sci-fi series by reminding us that it’s a family-friendly show, but when storylines potentially upset the family-friendly nature of the series, there’s pushback on the other side.
It’s a more difficult line to toe that one might at first imagine, and it perhaps explains why Steven Moffat — and Russell T. Davies before him — have kept things mostly light, even when they’re dealing with heavier themes involving death, world destruction, and terrifying statues that will send you back in time.
To some, however, the first part of this season’s Doctor Who finale crossed some kind of line, because the BBC has been dealing with complaints all week over a storyline that explores a grim possibility in the afterlife.
If you haven’t seen the episode yet, you may want to avoid these spoilers. In the episode, Clara’s boyfriend, Danny, supposedly dies (there’s some question about that) and Clara and the Doctor take a trip into the “afterlife.” There, they discover that dead people are still connected to their dead bodies and can feel the same physical pain, which is why no one ever, ever wants to be cremated.
It was a little gruesome, admittedly, although the Doctor insisted it was all a con, and it turned out that it was a clever ruse orchestrated by The Master/Mistress and a bunch of Cybermen, in what is clearly the best Cybermen episode of the new Who’s run.
In a statement released by the BBC, however, they defended the storyline:
“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.”
To be honest, while I wasn’t particularly disturbed by the episode (I was a huge fan), I would much rather my small children watch the Scandal scene that the Parents Television Council is up in arms about over the Doctor Who scene. The president going down on his mistress is much less likely to give them nightmares than the thought of physically sensing their own cremations.
That said, even if it is a “family friendly” series, it’s designed with older kids in mind, i.e., children (and adults) who won’t be psychologically ruined by the thought of being burned alive.
Source: The Guardian