Doctor Who: BBC defends afterlife cremation scene in series finale after viewers complain

To date, 124 people have complained to the BBC - and nine to Ofcom - about a scene in Saturday’s episode Dark Water suggesting the bodies of the dead could feel pain while being cremated


The BBC has issued a response to the 124 viewers who have so far complained about Saturday’s Doctor Who episode Dark Water.


The first instalment of the two-part series finale saw the Doctor and his companion Clara Oswald caught up in a plot dealing with the afterlife after it emerged that Michelle Gomez’s villain Missy was transforming dead bodies into an army of Cybermen.

In the episode, Clara’s boyfriend Danny Pink was killed in a car accident and viewers heard Missy’s accomplice Dr Chang claiming that dead people remained conscious and could feel the pain of cremation, while those who had donated their bodies to medical science underwent similarly unpleasant experiences.

Missy, who was revealed to be the latest incarnation of The Master in the episode, tells Peter Capaldi’s Doctor: “All the graves on Earth are about to give birth.”

The BBC has confirmed that all the complaints concerned the reference to humans feeling pain when cremated and defended the storyline which it says was “appropriate” in the context of the show.

As well as the 124 viewers to have complained to the Corporation, a further nine people contacted media regulator Ofcom.

However, in a statement the BBC stood by the episode and the “heightened sci-fi world” of Doctor Who.

“Doctor Who is a family drama with a long tradition of tackling some of the more fundamental questions about life and death,” said the statement. “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.”

Privately the BBC is understood to be relaxed about the issue and is felt to consider that – given that around 5 million people watched the episode – the number of complaints is not excessive.

The two-part finale reaches its conclusion on Saturday.


An Ofcom spokesman told that the regulator was currently “assessing the complaints before deciding whether to investigate”.

Read more: Doctor Who’s most controversial episodes