Doctor Who Cuttings Archive

When Daniel Fryer and Caroline Simpson express their views ... they are not to be brushed lightly aside

From The Doctor Who Cuttings Archive
Jump to navigationJump to search

1976-02-02 Guardian.jpg

[edit]

When Daniel Fryer and Caroline Simpson express their views ... they are not to be brushed lightly aside. And what they said was that Mary Whitehouse should stop wittering on about Dr Who

I DON'T KNOW what Daniel Fryer, age 51, or Caroline Simpson, age 10, thought about last Saturday's Dr Who, but frankly it was a bit boring. Considering it was the first episode of a new serial, it was altogether too strong on the chat and a bit short on the horror. Not that that scientist chap did not turn pretty effectively into a vegetable, lying there in the Antarctic sick-bay, with sort of green scalds all over him, a bit like an artichoke. And in the end he did leap up and swiftly strangle his mate. Perhaps that was because, the Doctor had suggested cutting off his arm.

But until then, there had been even more verbiage than foliage.. The villain appears to be a terribly well-dressed botany-nut, who considers cutting down plants a crime against nature, and who wears sleek black gloves (could we be in for Dr Who versus Dr No?) and a corrupt civil servant type on this environmental protection agency, who slipped him the map-reference 'for the strange pod his chaps in Antarctica have discovered in the permafrost.

Well, smoothies like that, of course, are bound to ramble on in words of seventeen syllables, end -then Dr Who has 'to explain what it's all about in that special ever-so-scientific Dr Who gobbledegook that sounds even longer. The best you can say for Tom Baker in that situation is that he can rattle through it with much the same aplomb as a certain style of Shakespearean actor.

Still, the programme is there because of the kids. Which is not only a question of its being seen early on a Saturday evening. They actually wouldn't make the programme for adults. So when Daniel Fryer and Caroline Simpson express their views, from the vantage point of 5t and 10 years respectively, as they did in our correspondence columns last Friday, they are not to be brushed lightly aside. And what they said, though very much more politely, was that Mary Whitehouse should stop wittering on about Dr Who.

Of course this extraordinary long-running programme is still capable of giving some children nightmares. I know of one aged six. Her mother says it's best if she doesn't watch it, and she doesn't. We probably all know of other children who quietly decide to be somewhere else when it is on, or not looking. I'm a bit like that, sometimes, faced with less fantastic grown-up suspense films, but it doesn't mean I am being traumatised, and the same is true of a lot of children. We are operating defence-mechnisms that are for the most part perfectly effective.

But such defenses, of course, do not come quite automatically. We have to learn them, as about drawing back from a flame. So it is quite true that the very young children, coming to Dr Who, might need an adult, or even older child, with them. And it is quite possible, as Mrs Whitehouse would argue, that some parents don't bother.

But at this point she really cannot have it both ways, as she tried to do in the complaint last week which provoked Daniel, Caroline, and co. If the BBC have quoted her a figure that 40 per cent of the audience for Dr Who are men, and if she accepts it (as she does for the purposes of a different argument), then there is no escaping the conclusion that in virtually every home in the country tuned to the programme there is an adult watching : are all these adults watching by themselves ?

This means that for once the idea of parental control is more that! a convenient excuse. There actually are adults watching the programmes, and able to exercise their own judgment. If Mrs Whitehouse is still receiving complaints, then they are from parents who either let their children watch, unattended, a programme whose character has been fixed -for a decade, or who can't bring themselves to switch it off.

On this occasion, however, Mrs Whitehouse was not interested in these implications of the figures she quoted. She used them to accuse the BBC of marketing cynicism: what it was actually doing, she said, was putting in an adult programme to grab viewers early in the evening, regardless of the children. 'All those men 'had been matching sport. This is characteristic of the Whitehouse method of off-the-cuff assertion. For if ever anything could have been calculated to shift audiences , out of their seats, it was BBC-1 scheduling between Grandstand ending and Dr Who beginning, a gap of some 45 minutes. First, a children's programme like Basil Brush or Walt Disney—not the most obvious way of holding all these-sport fiends. Then, the news, the big switch-off for smaller children, and lasting up. to 20 minutes. It is also the point at which, through this week, children's programmes regularly end, "Very young" children are never, as she claims, given their own programmes after 5.45 pm.

The contrast between the weekday and weekend audience is worth noting. The BBC's dramas at weekend are deliberately made as "family," as distinct from "children" viewing. The justification for this lies in the figures: the recent. Sunday teatime serial, Robin Hood, and the version of The Secret Garden, shown on a weekday for children both claimed audiences of about 8 million. But where, for Robin Hood, a clear majority-5 million--were adults, the grown-up viewers' of The Secret Garden numbered 2.7 million at their best.

But this is not the outcome of just arcane scheduling. It stems from basic social habit: at weekends, the adults are there. There is nothing wrong in a television channel recognising that fact. Of course, it can be a tricky area: the stabbing in Robin Hood, of which Mrs Whitehouse complained," was a clear error of judgment in my opinion too—though children of six and three were less moved than I was. But it was also a rare error.

Dr Who is not perfect either. They should toughen up their girl side-kick a bit more. They could use fewer stereotypes all-round add still be simple and gripping. But the special effects continue to be inventive and convincing. 'It's when one's daughter starts reading Radio Times in the middle that they've got problems.

Disclaimer: These citations are created on-the-fly using primitive parsing techniques. You should double-check all citations. Send feedback to whovian@cuttingsarchive.org

  • APA 6th ed.: Fiddick, Peter (1976-02-02). When Daniel Fryer and Caroline Simpson express their views ... they are not to be brushed lightly aside. The Guardian p. 8.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Fiddick, Peter. "When Daniel Fryer and Caroline Simpson express their views ... they are not to be brushed lightly aside." The Guardian [add city] 1976-02-02, 8. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Fiddick, Peter. "When Daniel Fryer and Caroline Simpson express their views ... they are not to be brushed lightly aside." The Guardian, edition, sec., 1976-02-02
  • Turabian: Fiddick, Peter. "When Daniel Fryer and Caroline Simpson express their views ... they are not to be brushed lightly aside." The Guardian, 1976-02-02, section, 8 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=When Daniel Fryer and Caroline Simpson express their views ... they are not to be brushed lightly aside | url=http://cuttingsarchive.org/index.php/When_Daniel_Fryer_and_Caroline_Simpson_express_their_views_..._they_are_not_to_be_brushed_lightly_aside | work=The Guardian | pages=8 | date=1976-02-02 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=16 September 2019 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=When Daniel Fryer and Caroline Simpson express their views ... they are not to be brushed lightly aside | url=http://cuttingsarchive.org/index.php/When_Daniel_Fryer_and_Caroline_Simpson_express_their_views_..._they_are_not_to_be_brushed_lightly_aside | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=16 September 2019}}</ref>