According to a startling poll conducted last year, the public's fascination with true crime has emboldened one in three Brits to believe they could easily solve a real-life case.


It's why TikTok sleuths pounce on any unsolved mystery with a complete disregard for police protocol. It's why Kate Middleton's prolonged absence from the spotlight sparked countless theories which had defamation lawyers on standby. And it's why Baby Reindeer, currently the nation's most talked-about show, has served as a siren call for every fervent armchair detective to do their worst.

The remarkably dark comedy, which has been sitting at the top of Netflix's most-watched chart for the past week, draws heavily upon the traumatic experiences of its creator and leading man Richard Gadd, namely the sustained harassment he suffered at the hands of a female stalker, and the sexual assaults he was subjected to by a male TV writer.

Gadd – who plays his fictionalised self Donny Dunn – initially insisted the culprits in the show, Jessica Gunning's Martha and Tom Goodman-Hill's Darrien, were too far removed from their real-life counterparts to inspire any credible sleuthing.

After all, he'd candidly addressed the same issues in two hit Edinburgh Fringe shows without anyone's identities being compromised.

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But getting candid in front of a few thousand festival-goers is wildly different to getting candid in front of a worldwide streaming audience of 2.6 million and counting, which has prompted a notable percentage to leap on the trail of breadcrumbs Gadd inadvertently offered.

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Donny standing behind the bar in a pub, talking to Martha
Richard Gadd as Donny in Baby Reindeer. Netflix

Case in point: the real "Darrien", with amateur investigators scrutinising IMDb to find parallels with the show's timelines.

One accused figure has publicly come out fighting, tweeting that the police are currently investigating the threatening messages he's received. And he also shared Gadd's Instagram plea to stop such damaging behaviour ("people I love, have worked with, and admire are unfairly getting caught up in speculation").

That's a noble sentiment, yet one which could be argued is the equivalent of shutting the stable doors after the horse has bolted.

During an interview with Time Out, Gadd admitted he was expecting a backlash of some sorts following Baby Reindeer's premiere.

And while the critical reception to the show itself has been unanimously rapturous, the comedian is now coming under fire from certain sections of the press for failing to provide a duty of care, particularly for the "unwell" and "needing help" woman who he's claimed is just as much a victim.

Could Gadd have done more due diligence beforehand? After all, we're living in the age of Don't F*** with Cats.

By explicitly stating the series was based on a true story, it was always inevitable that every single detail, whether grounded in facts or simply a case of artistic licence, would be meticulously raked over.

Even Fleabag – a show never once presented as autobiographical and nowhere near as inflammatory – prompted mass speculation, enough to make Phoebe Waller-Bridge acknowledge she's failed to shield her family.

Donny sat on the back seat of a bus, on the top deck, with condescension in the shape of antlers on the window behind him
Richard Gadd in Baby Reindeer. Netflix

Whether Gadd needed to better edit his own life story or not, Baby Reindeer's viewers still hold the ultimate responsibility for the witch hunts that have ensued.

The stand-up has continually shown empathy for the stalker who sent his life spiralling out of control. That can't be said for those gleefully knocking up side-by-side comparisons and resurfacing videos from the purported real individual. Furthermore, their apparent 'quest for justice' undermines the man who actually suffered the abuse depicted.

Indeed, in the final episode, Donny visits Darrien at the same flat where he was repeatedly drugged and assaulted. Instead of the heated confrontation expected, however, he allows the writer to commend his bravery for speaking out and offer him a job, stating, "It won't be like last time."

Donny, still clearly showing signs of the psychological trauma inflicted and the feelings of attachment which can result, gratefully accepts. It's not the cut-and-dry resolution we're used to, yet it's a searingly honest one.

But those determined to out the real Darrien, potentially putting entirely innocent men at risk, are essentially arguing Donny didn't deal with the situation in a satisfying or correct manner.

Only time will tell whether the typical mindset of 'act first, think later' will spark any further real-world consequences. One thing's for sure, though: As both Gadd and Gunning have pointed out, by adopting the very same obsessive traits that made Martha such a threat, such armchair detectives have entirely missed the point of the show.

All seven episodes of Baby Reindeer are now available to stream on Netflix – check out our Drama hub for all the latest news.


If you’re looking for something else to watch tonight, check out our TV Guide.