Doctor Who - Documentary s09e14 Episode Script

Race Against Time

(DOCTOR WHO THEME) NARRATOR: The Mutants is a typical Doctor Who adventure on an alien planet in the future.
The Doctor and his plucky assistant battle to free the oppressed people from a villainous dictator.
I want the atmosphere on the planet changed, and I want it changed now! NARRATOR: But it also seems to have things to say about our own planet and the times in which the story was made.
There are references to colonialism, the treatment of indigenous peoples, and even about racism and racial politics.
And Rick James as Cotton is one of relatively few black or minority ethnic actors to appear in classic Doctor Who.
What does that tell us about the history of Doctor Who and British television as a whole? Under the watch of producer, Barry Letts, and script editor, Terrance Dicks, Doctor Who in the early 1970s often addressed issues in the real world.
Two stories before The Mutants, The Curse of Peladon played on the UK's entry into the European Union.
There were stories about environmental issues, big business and even the miners' strike.
In that tradition, The Mutants has things to say about colonialism and empire.
-After 500 years of -Exploitation.
Expert scientific and technical aid, -we have steered you to the verge of -Disaster! Something which has always been part of the argument against colonisation is that, no matter what the benefits are, it's not the right of the coloniser to colonise.
It's not okay for them, ever, to look at another territory and say, "These people are in a mess, "they need our help.
We are going over to reform, "to bring order, to civilise, to educate.
" What we're doing is we're being the good guys.
This is a nation, a territory or planet, which is crying out for some kind of help.
And, of course, you have the colonised saying, "Well, that's none of your business.
" We want freedom and we want it now! NARRATOR: Britain's empire had been declining since the end of the Second World War.
The country was virtually bankrupt.
There was increasing opposition to colonialism in the colonies themselves, and among people in Britain.
The 1960s saw a huge increase in the rate at which formerly colonies gained independence.
Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, famously spoke in South Africa of a the wind of change blowing through the continent.
Macmillan was keen to avoid the kinds of long-running conflicts seen in colonies such as Algeria.
At the same time, as the horrors of the colonial war made the news, people were debating the role and rights of people arriving in Britain from Britain's former colonies.
Weren't they British, too? In The Mutants, the Earth, not the British Empire, are withdrawing from the colony planet, Solos, after 500 years of exploiting the natural resources and keeping the natives in their place.
The first thing we see in this story is a terrified old man being hounded by soldiers with guns.
Mutt! Mutt! NARRATOR: We're immediately put on the side of the indigenous people, the ones there before the soldiers arrived.
The soldiers don't even like the planet.
Solos, stinking rotten hole.
Can't even breathe.
What a planet.
NARRATOR: But the soldiers are also reluctant to give the planet back to its people.
We must return to Earth.
But I've put years of my life into this planet.
The whole, my whole career I'm afraid things are going to be a bit tricky for ex-colonial officials.
NARRATOR: We learn that the Earth Empire has oppressed the indigenous people, banning their religion and traditional ways of life.
The Overlords even enforce a policy of apartheid, meaning separateness.
-Segregation? -Hmm.
The Marshal treats the indigenous Mutts as inferiors, as pests in the way of the imperial project.
As The Doctor says, that means exterminating them.
Genocide as a side-effect? You ought to write a paper on that, Professor.
The Mutants is very interesting because it reflects something which has gone on throughout colonial discourse, in terms of the way colonisers talk about other nations.
Look at it.
Disgusting mess.
They talk differently, they move differently from us.
The old racist joke that they all look the same.
That's a colonial joke.
That's about being so secure in your identity as a coloniser that anyone who is other or different is strange and monstrous and peculiar.
-What's the count? -Seems to be swarming with Mutts, sir.
NARRATOR: There are other things, too.
The Marshal speaks of the planet as like like the old idea of the elephant's graveyard.
A familiar image in adventure stories set in colonial Africa.
And when the Marshal kills the Administrator, another Dr Who story might have played things differently.
It might have been a murder mystery with the Doctor having to prove his innocence and uncover the real killer.
But this is a colonial police force, charged with keeping the peace, not solving crimes.
All these things would have chimed with the audience and the real news stories of the time.
There was news of a bush war in Rhodesia and a brutal apartheid regime in South Africa.
There was even news closer to home.
We must be mad, literally mad, as a nation.
NARRATOR: In 1968, a member of the Shadow Cabinet objected to a new law banning racial discrimination.
Enoch Powell's highly emotive speech remains infamous to this day for its fear of the violence, "the rivers of blood", that would result from immigration.
The speech and the wide support it received from the British public reinforced what many ethnic minorities in Britain already felt, that they were second-class citizens.
The Mutants celebrates difference.
Of not being afraid to mix with different cultures and races.
The Marshal, the villain, fears the mutants because they mutate and change.
He wants to make their planet more like Earth, whatever the cost.
Solos will find itself with a new atmosphere.
You and the others will be the first settlers on new Earth.
NARRATOR: But the Doctor doesn't judge the mutants for being different.
Solonians are meant to mutate.
Mutation is part of it.
A part of an evolution.
NARRATOR: And the mutants are then able to free themselves.
KY: Die, Marshal.
Let there be an end to your torture of my people.
NARRATOR: The story's celebration of difference, of strangeness, is even mentioned in Salman Rushdie's book, The Satanic Verses.
The Satanic Verses is, amongst other things, about the difficult mix of cultures and the effects of British colonialism.
In a colonial context, the Doctor might be likened to the imperial hero, the bold, intelligent and white man, exploring the world, having adventures, and teaching the primitive people he meets about the science and values of Western civilisation.
In that context, we might see the Doctor as patronising, a cultural imperialist with the white man's burden of having to help people in societies that he assumes cannot help themselves.
Aggression, yes! But who were the first aggressors? Ky! This is not a political meeting.
We're all on your side, you know, all of us.
I don't think that Doctor Who, the man as a character, is a cultural imperialist in that sense, partly because he simply doesn't have enough power to change the territories that he goes to.
What he does is, essentially, have adventures and solve a problem and come away and go on to the next thing.
So, he's an adventurer.
The colonisers in The Mutants are the cultural imperialists.
Having said all of that, it was very much of its time in terms of the idea that he's a white guy, he's kind of an academic, he's a bit like an Oxford don.
And that you, whether you are black, white, male, female, young, old, you're supposed to look at him as being the voice of authority.
And if you look, for example, at BBC presenters today, not much has changed.
The majority are sort of middle-aged English chaps.
And the idea is that if a chap tells you something, well, you can rely on it, 'cause it came from a chap's mouth.
(SCREAMING) There, look! NARRATOR: The Mutants doesn't just use monstrous costumes and effects to celebrate difference.
Note the range of accents amongst the Overlords.
I thought you knew, sir.
The guard's mask was gone when we found him.
It's no use, me old son.
Let's get it over with.
The equipment here's too primitive for crystallography.
There's only one place.
-I am a scientist -(DOCTOR CLEARING THROAT) And I rest my case on scientific proof only.
NARRATOR: It's playing on the cliché of science fiction that everyone in the future is white and well-spoken and middle class.
And surely it's no coincidence that actor Rick James has been cast as a character called Cotton.
I see that it's supposed to be some kind of self-reflective post-modern play on the idea that during times of slavery in America, on plantations, cotton pickers were African-American slaves.
NARRATOR: Having him played by a black actor makes that suggestion even more blatant.
And Cotton clearly doesn't approve of the Earth Empire.
Should have given them independence years ago.
You could argue that Rick James possibly wasn't the best person to be cast as Cotton, but what I don't think we can deny is that Christopher Barry was casting a black actor with the very best of intentions.
It's like casting me as an Asian woman in a character called Masala Spice.
It's that mawkish.
It's not racist, but it shows a very unsophisticated and unnuanced understanding of what race actually is.
Christopher Barry should be praised for casting him.
It's a very bold decision.
Rick James was the only actor that season who was black.
From the point of view of an actor, I'm sure that the character, the guy who was playing that role, was happy for the role.
Happy for the work and quite possibly could've been his biggest job of his career.
Great, innit? The important things are, one, there's a black actor working in the series.
Two, he's in a key role.
Three, any black people who are watching it get to see representation of themself on big screens, which, you know, goes out to millions and millions of viewers and, therefore, who knows what you get from that? NARRATOR: Rick James is one of relatively few black or minority ethnic actors to appear in classic Doctor Who in the 1960s, '70s and '80s.
As a child growing up, you look at television for what it is.
You're looking for entertainment.
I mean, at the time, more often than not, you're looking at cartoons.
You don't see many black faces in cartoons at that time, you know.
I think you just accept it for what it is.
Well, when I was younger, I did look a lot more Chinese than I do now, but, despite that, I never really felt myself as part of a repressed minority.
People on TVwere just characters.
There might be a programme, say like the Double Deckers, where you'd have one fat kid, one brainy kid, one black kid, but that was all it was.
It's only, I suppose, as you get older, you start to take a step back and you kind of want to see reflections of yourself.
NARRATOR: There's an argument that this lack of black characters was true of British television more generally.
I've heard that argument many, many times that casting directors and directors and producers in television in the 1960s and '70s, said there weren't enough good black actors, experienced black actors around.
But in the 1960s, there was a wealth of talent amongst the black acting community, doing stage work, radio work, television work and film work.
And so that argument kind of falls down.
NARRATOR: This is a contentious subject.
And it's important we don't judge previous eras by the attitudes of today.
But by exploring the issues and the choices made at the time, we can understand how far we've come and how far we still have to go.
American song and dance team, Buck and Bubbles, performed in the very first broadcast of BBC television in 1936.
A number of television plays in the 1940s and '50s gave good roles to the relatively few black actors working in Britain.
In 1957, the magazine programme Tonight, introduced Britain's first genuine black TVstar.
Each night, Cy Grant would sing the news in calypso.
He was a breakthrough and he was on television very regularly.
And also did dramatic work as well.
I mean, I recently saw a play that he did called The Encyclopedist in 1961.
But Tonight was the one that really catapulted him to national stardom.
And he was on the cover of the Radio Times in 1958, I think.
Quite a breakthrough.
NARRATOR: There had been a sizable black population in Britain before the war, mostly in London.
But the 1950s also saw Britain's ethnic mix change dramatically.
The 1948 British Nationality Act made it possible for people from the colonies to live and work in the UK without a visa.
There was a mass migration of citizens of the former British colonies in Asia, Africa and the Caribbean, on ships such as the Empire Windrush.
In 1953, 3,000 immigrants from the Commonwealth arrived in Britain.
In 1956, that figure was more than 46,000, and in 1961, over 136,000.
Yet this change was barely reflected in the images of British life presented on television.
This has to be seen in context.
Black people often faced discrimination, even institutional racism.
Excluding them from television, intentionally or not, could be seen as part of a wider exclusion from British society.
Television was influential.
By not including black people, or misrepresenting them, it reinforced the image of black people as "other.
" As outsider.
In fact, a hugely popular variety show began in 1958, that presented what would probably have been the dominant image of black culture to TV viewers.
The Black and White Minstrel Show was a major fixture in the BBC schedules for 20 years.
It didn't employ any black performers at all.
But white singers blacked-up in the musical tradition of the American South.
The progress that was made with black actors in major television dramas, like Gordon Heath as Othello, in 1955 on the BBC, co-existed alongside The Black and White Minstrel Show.
Both were acceptable to the BBC, to television companies and audiences.
JAMES: The only way it got glimpsed for a brief moment was because, we, by accident,just flicked the television over at the time it was on.
It was met actually by something that we refer to as a schups, which is a (KISSING HIS TEETH) My father would just make this noise and then it was over.
NARRATOR: Drama also blacked-up white actors and so denied leading roles to black actors.
The Doctor Who adventure Marco Polo was a seven-week trek through the Far East, in which several Caucasian actors were made up to appear Chinese.
That included the lead roles of Kublai Khan and his empress.
It's not quite as straightforward as saying that the white actors had all the speaking roles and any ethnic minorities didn't.
For instance, in Marco Polo, you've got Zienia Merton who plays Ping-Cho.
NARRATOR: But in film and television of the time, actors of East-Asian heritage were generally only offered roles as extras and non-speaking walk-ons.
For example, BBC's Kipling series in 1964, used almost exclusively white actors blacked-up to play Indians.
Zia Mohyeddin helped to break this tradition when he was given leading roles in a 1965 production of E.
Forster's A Passage to India and a 1966 production of Noel Coward's Pretty Polly.
Early Doctor Who stories, like The Aztecs andThe Crusade, also used blacked-up white actors.
The white actor, Kevin Stoney, played the villainous, Mavic Chan, in the epic 12-episode, Daleks' Master Plan, over the winter of 1965 and '66.
Chan was even described in the script as "clearly part-Oriental, " tapping into racial stereotypes of yellow peril, and Sax Rohmer's Fu Manchu stories as shorthand for his being evil.
BOURNE: When you look back at British television in the 1960s, there is clearly a lot of cutting-edge dramas being made.
The drama output was phenomenal.
And integrated casting did start quite early on.
Much earlier than people think.
So you had a black photographer in a soap opera on BBC called Compact in 1964.
The same year Joan Hooley played in a very controversial storyline in the ITV soap, Emergency-Ward 10, where she played an African doctor, who has a relationship with a white doctor.
NARRATOR: Doctor Who's fourth year clearly made an effort to employ more black and Asian actors.
The babbling superstitious pirate,Jamaica, might be a terrible stereotype in the 1966 story, The Smugglers.
But that's not true of the next story, The Tenth Planet.
Set in the far-off future of 1986, the cast ofThe Tenth Planet included respected Bermudan actor, Earl Cameron, as astronaut Glyn Willaims.
The script specified Williams as Welsh.
Director Derek Martinus didn't change the script to accommodate his choice of actor, recognising that the astronaut could be both black and Welsh.
That same kind of blind casting of roles, where black actors were given parts not specifically written as black, can be seen in the casting of Rick James as Cotton in The Mutants, and me, as Mickey Smith, in 2005.
As the 1960s continued, there were more supporting roles for black actors.
It could be argued that the roles played by black actors were less prominent than those played by white actors and that Doctor Who rarely represented any specifically black culture or experience in this period.
By the end of the 1960s, although black actors still didn't have many leading roles in Doctor Who, their visibility was much better.
Sorry, Captain, but that stuff doesn't work on me.
NARRATOR: Rudolph Walker's appearance as a soldier of the American Civil War in 1969's The War Games, subtly suggest a different history and experience because the actor was black.
But it's also useful to consider the things that Doctor Who didn't do.
A 1966 story, The Savages, was developed under the working title, The White Savages, as if to suggest that savages must otherwise be black.
The production team didn't decide to do that though.
They decided to call it just The Savages, maybe going against expectations by actually whiteing-up the actors, rather than blacking-up in this case.
NARRATOR: And when, the same year, the series recast a Doctor for the first time, one radical suggestion was considered for his appearance.
My original idea was to black-up, wear a big turban, and brass earrings, and a big grey beard, and do it like The Arabian Nights.
I thought it would be a wonderful idea, because, you see, when I'd finished, I could shave off, take the black off, take me turban off, and nobody would know who I was.
And I wouldn't be typecast, but they didn't think that was a very good idea.
When Patrick Troughton said in that notorious BBC interview that he once planned to play the Doctor blacked-up, like a windjammer captain, he hadn't played the Doctor for some time.
I'm not entirely sure he was being serious.
Certainly, I've not heard of any evidence back in the day that that's how the production team really envisaged that the Second Doctor would be played that way.
But if anyone knows any different, got any film, photos, please send it in.
BOURNE: There was a kind of so-called golden age in British television for black actors.
Then it all changed in the 1970s, partly because of the tensions in society about race, brought to the foreground by people like Enoch Powell.
So, the 1970s is not like the '50s and '60s.
The work dries up for black actors, and then the terrible sitcoms come along, like Love Thy Neighbour or Mixed Blessings.
And Doctor Who, of course, was still running.
When we come to the 1970s and Jon Pertwee's era of Doctor Who, there are conspicuously fewer black actors appearing in the series.
So, when Christopher Barry comes to cast Rick James as Cotton, it's just branching out the range of actors that he can actually use within production and it's quite refreshing to see people of colour.
NARRATOR: As late as 1977, Doctor Who still blacked-up a white actor for a prominent role.
John Bennett played Li H'sen Chang in The Talons of Weng-Chiang, while genuine Chinese actors had non-speaking roles.
-Don't I know you? -I think not.
I've seen you somewhere before.
-I understand we all look the same.
In Canada, before it was shown, they had concerns that it might be offensive to the Chinese community, so they showed the story to a focus group, who agreed that, "No, this is just so politically incorrect "that we can't show this," and I believe it still hasn't been shown in Canada to this day.
Most regrettable incident.
Well, I think they're completely wrong.
It's a terrific story.
And although the majority of Chinese which we see there are either evil or misguided, Li H'sen Chang, the main character himself, is portrayed in, actually, quite a sympathetic way.
He plays up to the racial stereotypes in the first episode or two, but you can see he's a real three-dimensional character and I think it's unfortunate that the Canadians haven't been able to enjoy that on TVyet.
NARRATOR: By the 1980s, there were lots more roles for black actors in Doctor Who and on BBC television more generally.
Lenny Henry's comedy show began on prime-time BBC One in 1984.
One sketch in the second series featured a black incarnation of the Doctor.
(PEOPLE LAUGHING) God! What happened to you? You're different Doctor, you changed! Oh, Doctor, what's happening? What's happening, Doctor, what -Peri! -What? Shut up! NARRATOR: The soap opera EastEnders began in 1985, set in a consciously multi-cultural London.
In 1987, Doctor Who introduced a new companion, Ace, who was from the same multi-cultural London and horrified by the attitudes of the past.
The series clearly wanted to confront these issues.
Remembrance of the Daleks, broadcast in 1988, used race as a major theme, making links between the ingrained racism of Britain in the early 1960s with the Daleks own need to exterminate people.
Remembrance of the Daleks is all about dislike for the unlike, fear and hatred of the other.
It's got two groups of Daleks, one the Imperials, one the Renegades.
They hate each other.
DALEK: Retreat! WARE: The ultimate Dalek story about their racial hatred.
NARRATOR: But the story's one black character appears in just one scene, where his dialogue is solely about his ethnic background and experience.
My father, he was a cane cutter.
These things happen at a very deep subconscious level.
So you may write a story which has a marvellous adventure, goes across three different planets, the Doctor meets all sorts of lovely people, and they don't realise, by the end of it, that there's one token woman, there's one token non-white person.
It happens by default.
It happens without realising and the answer to it is always to be conscious.
NARRATOR: It's been shown that if each Doctor Who serial offers some five major guest roles, the 26 years of classic Doctor Who offered some 800 significant supporting characters.
Among those roles, there was not a single black or Asian assistant, chief scientist, guest villain, or lead Time Lord.
That is a shame.
I don't think the programme should be condemned for that, because it's still one of the best programmes that's ever been on British television.
It's still certainly one of the best children's programmes or science fiction programmes we've ever had, and certainly one of the most popular.
I wouldn't condemn the programme or criticise the programme.
Doctor who, did you say? Going right back to 1963 and the very beginning of Doctor Who, it was a show, created if you like, by outsiders.
Verity Lambert was the producer and, obviously, she was a woman.
And, I think, that was unique at the BBC at the time.
She was also very young,just 2 7.
The director was Waris Hussein, an Anglo-Indian, again, very young chap, I think he was only about 22-23.
And the series were created primarily by Sydney Newman, who was a Canadian.
So, it was a really multi-ethnic show from the very start.
And perhaps it's the fact that Doctor Who was created by all these people who we might see or they might see themselves as outsiders making this show about an outsider, the Doctor, that has given Doctor Who such a unique voice, which has made it such an enduring and popular success on television.
NARRATOR: But in 1989, its last year, classic Doctor Who included several strong supporting roles.
There's Brigadier Bambera, new Head of Unit, and the Doctor's friends, Shou Yuing and Shreela, all forthright, aspirational characters.
Had the series continued, a new assistant would've been introduced in 1990.
It's possible she may have been the Doctor's first black companion.
That would've been keeping in step with another flagship BBC series.
1990 was also the year that Diane-Louise Jordan became the first black presenter of children's magazine programme, Blue Peter.
But shouldn't this have happened earlier? Doesn't the BBC as a publicly-funded broadcaster have a duty to reflect the ethnic mix of that public? Other BBC programmes had been quicker off the mark.
In 1981, Moira Stuart joined the team presenting BBC news.
That same year, another BBC science fiction series, Blake's 7, introduced a strong, black regular character, Dayna, played by Josette Simon.
And in 1979, issue 19 of Doctor Who Weekly, introduced a black assistant in its comic strip.
The 1996 Doctor Who TVmovie featured the prominent role of Chang Lee, a sort of assistant for the Eighth Doctor in his short-lived tenure on television.
But in 2005, the relaunch of Doctor Who included a cowardly idiot.
Can I come? NARRATOR: A year later, in the episode, School Reunion, Mickey Smith became the Doctor's first black assistant.
About time, too.
Oh, go on, Doctor, Sarah Jane Smith or Mickey Smith.
You need a Smith onboard.
Noel being in the first season is one thing.
But from Season Two, where from School Reunion, he adopts a role of a companion.
That's something different altogether.
He's then up to the next level.
He's companion status.
And for the first time on TV, we have a black companion for the Doctor.
BIDISHA: Although I do think it's interesting that he was initially going to be a character who's only used for two episodes or so, because I have this joke with friends that you have the ethnic walk-on, which means a non-white character, usually very good looking, because you've got to be Benettonian.
You got to have something that you bring to the table and being good looking is one of them.
You have the non-white character who's there for two or three episodes and isn't given very much to say.
So it's as though you tick the box of multiculturalism, without having to do anything with the actor.
It's incredibly important that this is a recurring character.
A strong character and an interesting person.
NARRATOR: When we first meet my character, Mickey Smith, he's a coward and the Doctor calls him an idiot.
He's the rubbish boyfriend Rose needs to leave behind.
But does that play into racial stereotypes when the actor playing the role is black? BOURNE: There's always been a dilemma in casting black actors in important roles in British television, because if the role that they play leans towards comedic or buffoonery, then there's always going to be a section of society that are going to criticise and attack, "You're stereotyping!" So you can't, kind of, win in that respect.
But as long as the character is written with sensitivity, and some kind of acknowledgement of their cultural identity, then there shouldn't be any reason to go wrong.
The problem we have always had in this country is that the majority of people that work in television behind the camera, the writers, the directors, the producers, the programme makers, the executives are white and middle class, from that kind of "British Empire" background.
The BBC should absolutely reflect reality, not only in its output and what we see on the screen, but in terms of who it's employing.
Racially diverse, diverse in terms of ability, which is another great sort of hurdle, which people are slowly coming to terms with.
Diverse in terms of sex, in terms of age.
It's incredibly important, because otherwise, it's just racist and sexist.
There's not very much to be said about it which is complicated.
You know, Andrea Dworkin wrote She was talking about sex, but it goes for race as well, that, a corporation which is male-dominated in formation is also male-dominated in mentality, otherwise its formation would naturally change.
And that goes for race as well.
NARRATOR: Doctor Who is not a documentary.
It creates realistic characters and situations to contrast with the monsters and explosions, but those real characters are inventions of its writers and producers.
The people making Doctor Who get to choose how they show our own time, the past and the future and the roles that black people play there.
Mickey's multi-racial relationship with Rose never needs to be commented on in the series.
When we first meet him, he's not the greatest boyfriend, more interested in watching football than that Rose has seen aliens.
But under the Doctor's watch, Mickey has sorted himself out.
He's not the coward he used to be, taking on Daleks and Cybermen single-handed.
And the last time we saw him, still out there defending the Earth.
After Mickey, Martha Jones joined the TARDIS.
And the new series of Doctor Who has continued to offer good roles to non-white actors.
In Mickey and Martha, and many of the supporting cast, we've seen glimpses of a specifically black experience of life.
For all the fact that it's about aliens, Doctor Who's wonderfully normalising about ethnicity or sexuality.
The fact that a character might be black or gay in Doctor Who, it doesn't matter.
That they're all just part of the human race.
Since its relaunch, it's been amazing for me, as a father, to sit with I've got four children, 17, 15, and the younger ones are twin boys of five.
And we sit as a family and watch that and, you know, I suppose it throws me back to when I was their age, sitting with my parents, watching and seeing what they were interested in watching.
And what's key for me, is that my daughter wants to be an actress, my son wants to be a director, and I've got two five-year-olds, both of who could happily be actors.
And they're seeing examples of that on a regular basis in a series like Doctor Who.
So, I think they're right up there now, I think it's improved a lot.
NARRATOR: Television can be very influential on our attitudes.
There's an argument that America was prepared for its first black president by years of positive images of black presidents in film and TV.
Television, obviously, has some influence on society and it reflects society.
Now, to what degree the influence is there, and to what degree it's just reflecting what events are going on in society in general, I'm not sure.
That's something which researchers have been arguing about for years.
American television has always been very successful in many respects.
At integrated casting for decades now, since the 1960s, with the shows like, Star Trek and I Spy, which kind of started that process.
And I think that in America has helped, in some respects, to normalise black people for the wider audience, which has led to the election of a black president, Obama.
And that has not happened in this country, so, in that respect, I still think we've got a long way to go.
And I think television could do far more.
British television could do far more in that way.
In normalising black people for the wider audience.
NARRATOR: Television doesn't just reflect our own lives, it can show us how our lives might be.
There are still not many leading roles for black actors on television.
Black characters are still often the sidekicks of white characters.
They're literally to add colour.
So imagine what a black actor might bring to another role, traditionally played by a white actor.
In 2008, as the media waited to hear which actor would be cast as the 11th Doctor, many of the actors being talked about were black.
It even made the broadsheet papers.
Some of the newspapers made a story out of the fact that, "Yes, this could be the first black Doctor.
" However, none of them, as far as I'm aware, did it in a way to suggest that this would be a terrible thing, as indeed they might have done 10, 20, 30 years ago.
BIDISHA: I think the Doctor could definitely be black, because we've already thoroughly destroyed the integrity of this character as a fictional being, because he's been replaced by all sorts of actors.
Doctor Who played from the point of view of a black actor who brings everything that he brings to it from his upbringing.
From his knowledge of his own history, from his knowledge of his parents' upbringing, and all that means to him, into that role of Doctor Who and just to see what little changes that will make to the role, you know, I mean, that, as a possibility, really excites me.
For example, someone like David Harewood, Colin Salmon, Adrian Lester, Will Johnson, Idris Elba.
I see it as a question of when rather than could or if, you know.
NARRATOR: Would it change anything if the Doctor was black? For all he's a British television hero, he's not British himself.
He's an exile, a migrant, a traveller.
His perspective as an outsider was often key to his character.
Would the Doctor being black change our awareness of that? Would it add new meanings to the situations in which the Doctor commonly finds himself, suspected, wrongly imprisoned, fighting authority? Would it help reveal new elements of his character in culture and of our own? Would it be any more of a break from previous doctors and the culture and assumptions about the character, than when the Ninth Doctor spoke with a pronounced Northern accent? Will it seem strange that a black actor being up for the role was even thought worthy of the news? He's an alien who only looks human and who can change his appearance when he wants to.
Surely it should just be about the best actor for the job and not the colour of their skin? That there was even a question about the Doctor being black suggests we've still a long way to go.