Julie Hesmondhalgh reacts to claims that Doctor Who is “too politically correct” in the new series
The Coronation Street actor, who guest stars in the sci-fi series’ next episode, dismissed criticisms of the sci-fi drama’s perceived change in tone as “a load of b***ocks”
Coronation Street’s Julie Hesmondhalgh has dismissed criticism that Doctor Who has become "too politically correct" ahead of her guest-starring role in the drama.
Describing the idea as “such a load of b***ocks” Hesmondhalgh championed the new series’ storylines, which have largely won acclaim from fans and critics and which she said were “everything I want in television.”
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“To watch that first episode and see proper diversity and representation was absolutely brilliant for me,” she added. “I was so buzzing off it.
“Because that's the world we live in! And when you see it reflected onscreen it's like ‘Oh finally, this is great!’
Fans and certain critics have highlighted a perceived change in Doctor Who's tone since the casting of Jodie Whittaker as the first female Doctor, with storylines that deal with racism, intolerance and other social issues termed by some as “too politically correct.”
However, many other observers have pointed out that the series has always dealt with social justice issues since it began in 1963 – the Daleks were intended as an analogy for fascists, after all – and Hesmondhalgh feels that the show’s focus can only be a positive influence on younger viewers.
“There are always going to be naysayers about stuff like that,” she told us. “I've read a couple of things that are just absolutely preposterous.
“I mean, slagging off the series for doing an episode about [civil rights icon] Rosa Parks, which I thought was one of the most powerful bits of young people's telly that I've seen, ever. The conversations that will have sparked in houses all over the country.
“People might have a perfunctory knowledge of Rosa Parks and the Civil Rights movement, but to see Ryan (Tosin Cole) in that situation, to land him in the middle of it – only Doctor Who could do that.
“Land him in that position for him to politely pick up a glove that a woman's dropped, and for him to be punched in the face, it was absolutely shocking.
“This is where we were only a few decades ago, and this is where we're heading again. And what an absolute perfect way to discuss all those issues,” she added.
And Hesmondhalgh was also full of praise for the series’ second historical episode, Demons of the Punjab, which dealt with the dark days of Indian partition in 1947.
“My kids haven't learned about partition, I know barely anything about partition, and I'm a fairly political person,” Hesmondhalgh said.
“To be bringing that into all these homes, to start that conversation, and support, to put Yaz (Mandip Gill) in the middle of that story now, and to see it through her eyes – a character that we've already grown to love and to know, she's like one of our mates – it's just brilliant. It's just everything I want in television.
“That term, political correctness, just means to me things moving forward a little bit, in the way they should be going,” she concluded.
And apparently Hesmondhalgh’s own episode, the Pete McTighe-scripted Kerblam!, also includes a bit of subtle political commentary, with the story’s titular intergalactic delivery company bearing comparison with certain real-life online retailers….
“What I loved about it was like every episode so far, there's more to it than meets the eye. There's a little bit more going on than there seems to be at the surface of it.
“And the world that it inhabits references a world that we have here, now, but in quite clever, oblique way, I think.”
So does that mean some pops at real life online retailers?
“Well that's possibly what I'm referring to,” she teased.
“That possibly might have been what I was giving a nod to when I said there was something in our world that it gives a nod to. But it's set in the future. I can tell you that much.
“I think it's quite a clever episode, but actually great fun,” she added.
“In lots of ways, I feel like it's maybe one of the most traditionally Doctor Who episodes of this series so far. It might be a little bit more one for the purists.”
Doctor Who continues on BBC1 on Sundays