Doctor Who and the Curse of the Fatal Tabloids - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Doctor Who and the Curse of the Fatal Tabloids

Isa Gunther looks behind Peter Capaldi's recent criticism of the BBC.

“Suppose the mirror started telling lies?”
Jean-Paul Sartre, “No Exit”

The rules of engagement in regards to social media and the popular press need to be looked at very closely and changed. The media, and especially the “popular press” have reached a tipping point in their journalism where the truth no longer matters. Headlines are written to attract readers, and stories are written to be the most sensationalized journalistic jargon possible, usually at the expense of the truth, the readers, and especially the deeper, more news-worthy issues underlying the headlines.

Let's take a step back from the hype and scaremongering in the press in relation to Peter Capaldi's widely-publicized “criticism” of the BBC and take a look at what's really going on. The statement in question was made during an interview with Newsweek Magazine (3 March, 2016), a midst topics of conversation that ranged from the new Companion to diversity in Doctor Who. When questioned about the constant time-shifting that Doctor Who experienced this past series, Capaldi responded with “it does frustrate me,” and cited the fact that the time shifting made it difficult for fans (including himself) to know when the show was on and that the later time slots made it difficult for families to watch together. Given that Doctor Who usually considers itself a family show, families not being able to watch together is a valid concern.

But it wasn't that comment which the press jumped on him for. When Capaldi followed that up with “...sometimes people there think that it's looking after's not being looked after,” that was what the media chose to pick up on. This is nothing new for the popular press. They seem to delight in taking quotes out of context and over-analyzing them, or at times, outright lying. What makes this strange is the timing of this story.

Back in November, both Peter Capaldi and SteVen Moffat were chatting to Her Majesty's Press. One of the comments they both made was their concerns over the constant time-shifting, for the reasons noted above, and no one commented on their statements. Fast forward several months to announcements that there would be no new Doctor Who in 2016, Moffat was leaving that the end of 2017, and rumors that 2017 would also be Capaldi's last until Capaldi himself announced that the BBC had asked him to stay through 2018. Suddenly a comment that no one had paid any attention to back in November was now being seen as a sign that Capaldi would either be fired or was on his way out of his own accord.

With one comment, an interview that had intended to focus on multiple aspects of Doctor Who suddenly became, in the eyes of the popular press, what amounts to Capaldi's resignation letter, with many news outlets asking “is this his long goodbye,” “is he going to be fired for speaking out against his bosses?” It was as if the press had suddenly found Capaldi to be vulnerable or an easy target based on previous rumors which had already been disproven, and that is where the popular press needs to be called out on their focus points.

The simple fact of the matter is that everything Peter Capaldi has been saying is correct. The show can not “take care of itself” as the BBC seems to want to believe. Not only that, but everything Capaldi has said has been brought up by the fans over the past several years. Fans have continually complained that the show is not getting enough recognition or support, and fans have been continually ignored. What the press need to be asking isn't “is this Capaldi's resignation,” but “why does he feel the need to bring this up?” At heart, he is a fan, albeit a fan who is currently in a unique position. He will always put the well-being of the show above network politics. It is Capaldi who is the truest mirror of the fandom, and if it takes the Doctor himself taking his own employers to task to get the BBC to listen, then more power to him.

Isa Gunther

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