The BBC have responded to Doctor Who viewers who took issue with an exchange between Jodie Whittaker’s Time Lord and her companion Graham, who is played by Bradley Walsh.
In the episode entitled Can You Hear Me? Graham expressed his concerns about his cancer returning to the Doctor who in response told him she was too "socially awkward" to give an immediate reply, prompting some to deem it insensitive.
The response from BBC Complaints to those who expressed their concerns has been published by Radio Times.
The message read: "We never set out to upset our viewers with what we show and this episode tackled some sensitive themes. The episode used dreams and nightmares to explore the inner lives of the companions. Thanks to Zellin’s nightmare powers, Ryan, Yaz, and Graham were forced to confront their worst fears, many of which relate to the way traveling with the Doctor has changed their lives.
“When Graham opened up to the Doctor about his fear of his cancer returning her response was never meant to be dismissive. The Doctor’s friend was scared, and we see her struggling to deal with the severity of the situation.
“The intention of the scene was to acknowledge how hard it can be to deal with conversations on this subject matter. When faced with these situations, people don’t always have the right words to say at the right time, and this can often lead to feelings of guilt. By showing the Doctor struggling to find the right words, the intention was to sympathise with all those who may have found themselves in a similar position.”
It also detailed that the feedback had been "raised" with the programme's Executive Producer.
After the episode aired on Sunday evening, viewers voiced their concerns on Twitter, suggesting the moment was “off the mark”.
I liked it - BUT The Doctor's blatant lack of sympathy and reassurance (played for laughs) to Graham when he confessed his fear about his cancer returning was wildly off the mark writing in an episode about mental health. It's really no laughing matter... #DoctorWho
— Dominic G. Martin (@DominicJGM) February 9, 2020
I am astounded that the writers thought it would be a good idea to have the Doctor completely ignore Graham's fear of his cancer returning. She makes zero attempt to reassure him. It was a horrible moment that ruins an otherwise solid episode. #DoctorWho
— DoctorBlue (@The_Blue_Doctor) February 9, 2020
However, others argued it was a realistic reaction to the moment.
For what it’s worth, the Doctor’s reaction to Graham’s worries about his cancer returning was TOTALLY normal. #doctorwho
— Paul Lang (@rudemrlang) February 10, 2020
Imo the Doctor wasn't cold to Graham & it wasn't an off reaction to me it was a fairly realistic one. She didn't shrug it off, but honestly what would you say when hearing something like this? Cancer can return so the Doctor couldn't just say it wouldn't. #DoctorWho
— The names Doctor💫 (@ohbrillliant) February 10, 2020