I have no reason to doubt the BBFC on
their judgement about the need for an age restriction. However the BBC have
got their first and effectively decided that a PG or even a 12A is
appropriate. The BBFC have opted for a 12 video certificate which threatens
to put shop keepers in prison for selling it to an under 12...for something
that has been shown on early evening TV!
The BBFC should consider the gravity of enforcement options before
stepping out of line with a high age restriction. I think they may have been
better advised to go with the flow and award a PG. Perhaps the over
exaggerated flack shows how well the BBFC have done up to now to avoid such
stories breaking out on previous occasions.
Based on an article from
In their many years of struggle against Doctor Who, the Daleks have never
hesitated to use violence whenever possible. But when the tables are turned
and someone is nasty to a Dalek it is time to draw the line, censors say.
They have refused to let young children buy a video or DVD of the Dalek
episode from the latest Dr Who series because they say it contains
‘excessive cruelty’ to one of the metal monsters. The BBFC, which must give
its approval before the programme can be released on film, awarded a 12
certificate on the programme in view of the scenes which show a Dalek being
tortured. The programme went out before 7pm, long before the adult
watershed, but the Board said it sets a bad example to children because it
suggests that using brute force and cruelty is the only way to resolve a
Speaking today John Beyer, director of mediawatch-uk, said: This is a
rather puzzling judgement by the BBFC because the programme has already been
shown by the BBC at an early evening slot when many under-12s will have been
watching. No doubt the whole series has been recorded by Dr Who fans and so
any BBFC classification seems pointless however well meaning the Board’s
judgement may be. It is a great pity that the Board does not apply the same
rationale to other material, such as the ‘excessive cruelty’ in Natural
Born Killers or Reservoir Dogs. [Hold on
the BBFC do apply the same rationale, they feel that these films
should be age restricted and so have awarded an appropriate restriction, in
these cases an 18 certificate]
Based on comment from
Doctor Who’s latest enemies are, of course, the Censors. Inhabitants of a
strange parallel universe known only as the BBFC, the Censors suffer from
tragic myopia but wield immense power. They have ruled that the latest
series of Doctor Who cannot be shown to children under 12, when it comes out
on DVD, because of the programme’s “excessive cruelty”.
The Censors specifically object to a scene broadcast last month in which the
Doctor subjects an imprisoned Dalek to a bit of rough-house treatment.
Taking a tough line with a species bent on mass murder and world
annihilation is clearly too much for the Censors, who are worried that the
Time Lord’s behaviour may set an unhappy precedent. In the words of one of
the Censors, “however cross one might be with a Dalek, being cruel is not
the way to deal with the issue. Some children might take it into the
It’s good to know that the BBFC are concerned that any Daleks who find their
way through space and time into the nation’s playgrounds should not be
unmercifully bullied. But leaving aside the important issue of just how the
nation’s children should react to the arrival of a Dalek during lunchbreak
another ticklish question of space travel arises. Just what planet are these
The BBFC professes itself “concerned at the use of violence to resolve
problems” in a programme that children might see. Where have they been while
the rest of us were growing up? Conflict is integral to drama, and those who
construct narratives to grip young minds have always known that. To
imagine that our children can be turned into a nation of
Fotherington-Thomases, tripping through the daisies and greeting the sky, is
to indulge in a fantasy further removed from reality than any Doctor Who
The truth about violence, whether in Doctor Who, Middle Earth or the Middle
East, is that it is not morally wrong in itself. The real moral question is,
do we allow the bad guys to profit by it?
It would be easy to dismiss the Censors’ judgment on Doctor Who as just
another piece of bureaucratic foolishness from a body that has taken
political correctness too far. But it is worth noting precisely because
there are all too many examples in our society of just such a phenomenon.
What is really remarkable about the BBFC’s judgment is not how singular it
is, but how typical of a prevailing attitude.
The Censors’ action over Doctor Who crystallises, in all its absurdity, key
trends of our time. First, the judgment of a bureaucratic elite is held to
be superior to that of informed individuals, so government appointees, not
parents, decree what is the correct way to bring up children.
Secondly, art, including drama, is forced to conform to external criteria of
“worthiness”. Works that should be there primarily to entertain have to
serve a socially useful function. Soaps have to communicate the right
message on drugs or dating, children’s drama has to promote an ideologically
approved means of resolving disputes.
Thirdly, children themselves have to be brought up in an environment purged
of danger, conflict, risk or jagged edges. There’s not much risk of them
torturing any stray Daleks in our playgrounds when they’re not even allowed
conkers. And while absurd restrictions are put in place to protect their
bodies, so now censorship is deployed to protect their minds.
Commentators on the Right are sometimes accused of over-reacting to the
march of political correctness by jumping at every provocation. Why get
worked up about a ruling on Doctor Who DVDs, after all? Especially when we
already know that good parents will already carefully police what their
children see and bad parents won’t care, provided the kids aren’t screaming.
But it’s because some of us want to live in a country governed by a proper
sense of proportion that we do react to every incursion of political
correctness. We don’t want a society where access to entertainment and the
upbringing of children are subject to a thousand tiny, well-intentioned but
ultimately infantilising interventions.
There are a host of traps and temptations for our children to which
sensitive parents need to be alert, such as the way teenage magazines push
forward sexual boundaries. But the answer to this, and many other dangers,
lies in teaching children to take responsibility for themselves and resist
the fashionable flow. The best children’s authors realise that, and embody
it in their heroes, from Charlie Bucket to Harry Potter. It’s a pity that
wisdom is, in every sense, so alien to the Censors.