An edit was made to yesterday’s Doctor Who episode to remove a beheading scene. The BBC said it made the change “in light of recent events” – presumably the beheadings of James Foley and Steven Sotloff by Islamic terrorists, and the beheading of an 82 year old woman in London last week.
Whilst the real life beheadings are obviously tragic, barbaric and deserve condemnation in the strongest possible terms, I must admit I am always dubious when Auntie BBC censors programmes to protect the sensitivities of their apparently oh-so-sensitive audience. The escapist romance of last Saturday’s Doctor Who story – an episode entitled Robot of Sherwood that involved Robin Hood – was hardly likely to draw comparisons with horrific real life events.
SPOILER WARNING: I have seen the beheading sequence in full (look around the internet, and you can too), and it simply involved Robin Hood beheading the Sheriff which revealed, as suspected, that he was an android. Incidentally, this did not kill the android, and a few seconds later he had his head back on again, sword fighting exactly as seen in the transmitted episode. The sequence was not disturbing in any way but rather comical, entirely in line with what one would expect for the family audience.
I cannot understand how this scene could offend anyone. For one thing, fantastical events in Doctor Who are hardly likely to be on the radar of the victim’s relatives, as they will be too caught up in the hellish aftermath of the real life murders. Even if they were, I doubt an analogy would be drawn between robotic decapitation in a sword fight and real life execution/murder. Indeed, it is hard to imagine even the most professionally offended getting angry at this scene, so why act in such a heavy handed, censorial, patronising manner?
The Doctor Who incident is just one of many such cases in the past where the BBC has, I believe, overreacted. Perhaps I am foolish and naïve, but I actually think audiences should be credited with intelligence. Besides, even if they are determined to find Doctor Who offensive or insensitive (which again, based on the edited footage in question I simply cannot believe), every television has an off switch.