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If the Twelfth Doctor from Doctor Who was real, his “attack eyebrows” would certainly be in place if he was aware of a recent development online. A prominent on-and-off member of the BBC show’s production team has come out with some pretty controversial comments regarding transgender women, and fans are understandably furious.
Doctor Who Writer Gareth Roberts Tweets Controversial Comments Online
To casual fans of Doctor Who, the name Gareth Roberts may not be instantly recognizable, yet fans will certainly be familiar with his work. The writer has a long history with the franchise, penning many Doctor Who novels in the show’s hiatus. More recently though, Roberts wrote six episodes for the revived series, including the Tenth Doctor’s (#DavidTennant) encounter with Agatha Christie — Plus, he also scripted ten episodes for Doctor Who spin-off The Sarah Jane Adventures.
It’s clear that Roberts' enthusiasm for the show is a driving force in his work, but what caused him to hit out at transgender women online is as mysterious as the titular character of his beloved show;
The abbreviation of “tranny” is a term usually used to describe transsexuals in a derogatory manner. But not content with one insult — and despite being a gay man himself — Roberts took things a step further and fueled the flames with a homophobic follow-up tweet too.
These baseless and ignorant generalizations about gay men prompted an understandably negative response on Twitter from Pinknews.co.uk and many other outraged fans. Alas, Roberts hadn’t been hacked as many feared. Indeed, rather than admitting and apologizing for the pain and shock that his tweets had caused, Roberts continued in the same vein with another Tweet that read: “The Rainbow People are watching my every move now lads.”
The Rainbow People are watching my every move now lads pic.twitter.com/FJFOiPwtBs
— Gareth Roberts (@OldRoberts953) September 4, 2017
It’s always distressing when someone who is admired in the public eye or helped create your favorite show reveals an ugly side to them, yet for Whovians, this is particularly upsetting.
“In Nine Hundred Years Of Time And Space…I've Never Met Anybody Who Wasn't Important Before…”
As we’ve seen over the past few years, long lasting fan bases contain aggressively conservative elements where continuity is concerned, especially if their source material is being adapted for a modern audience. But as recent controversies around race have shown — particularly in regard to Rogue One and Spider-Man: Homecoming — it seems that this conservatism can sometimes mask a spitefully regressive mind-set in even the most open-minded of fandoms.
This is what's especially disappointing in the case of Gareth Roberts. Doctor Who is a family show, where scares, aliens, and feats of derring-do are common place. Yet Doctor Who is also a place where the titular character’s infectious wonder, compassion and tolerance for all life forms and their lifestyles is writ large.
Even before the show featured openly bisexual and gay characters such as Captain Jack Harkness (#JohnBarrowman) and Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie), Doctor Who has long generated a significant queer following. Thus, the nature of this delightfully colorful show, along with the openness and diversity of its fan base, makes Roberts’s comments even more saddening.
On the other hand – and in a nice contrast to this kind of nasty rhetoric – fans are eagerly awaiting the debut of Jodie Whitaker as Thirteenth Doctor. This gender-switch of Doctor Who’s titular character has already been praised by female fans, and comparisons between the character and real-life transsexuals have already been drawn. Indeed, there is also the possibility that the Doctor’s sexuality could be readdressed further down the line, flying in the face of Roberts’s divisive comments. Plus, we can’t see the new Doctor altering their name anytime soon because of their gender change, can we?
Thankfully, as Pinknews.co.uk reports, “Roberts is not one of the writers rumored to be working on the upcoming season under new show-runner Chris Chibnall,” and this is just as well really. As Jodie Whitaker herself said, “…the Doctor stands for [kindness and] hope,” thus its production team could do well to exclude anything other than that kind of rhetoric.