Recent Doctor Who episode Can You Hear Me? was praised by fans for its depiction of mental health, with Jodie Whittaker and her TARDIS team facing off with nightmare-themed monsters as more was revealed about the past internal struggles of Yaz (Mandip Gill) and other characters.
However, a scene later in the episode had viewers more divided when the Doctor (Whittaker) found herself unable to respond to her friend Graham’s (Bradley Walsh) worries about his cancer returning, informing him she was too “socially awkward” to offer words of comfort but might try again later.
While some fans felt the scene was in character for the sometimes awkward, alien Doctor others were less impressed, suggesting that the scene jarred with the message of the episode and this particular Doctor’s past behaviour, even coming across as unkind or insensitive.
Some even contacted the BBC about the interaction – and now an official has arrived from the BBC Complaints department following the contentious scene.
“Thank you for contacting us about Doctor Who: Can you Hear Me? with your feedback that it was insensitive for the Doctor to dismiss Graham’s cancer concerns,” the BBC Complaints response (which RadioTimes.com has independently verified) said.
“We never set out to upset our viewers with what we show and this episode tackled some sensitive themes. The episode used dreams and nightmares to explore the inner lives of the companions. Thanks to Zellin’s nightmare powers, Ryan, Yaz, and Graham were forced to confront their worst fears, many of which relate to the way traveling with the Doctor has changed their lives.
“When Graham opened up to the Doctor about his fear of his cancer returning her response was never meant to be dismissive. The Doctor’s friend was scared, and we see her struggling to deal with the severity of the situation.
“The intention of the scene was to acknowledge how hard it can be to deal with conversations on this subject matter. When faced with these situations, people don’t always have the right words to say at the right time, and this can often lead to feelings of guilt. By showing the Doctor struggling to find the right words, the intention was to sympathise with all those who may have found themselves in a similar position.”
The message concluded: “We hope this has helped to address your concerns, but please be assured your feedback has been raised with the programme’s Executive Producer.”
So there you have it – the official intent behind the scene. Though somehow we doubt the discussion about this lack of a discussion will end here…
Doctor Who airs on BBC One at 7:10pm on Sundays