Doctor Who executive producer Steven Moffat has been talking about how the themes of race and whitewashing will be handled in this week’s episode of the show, Thin Ice.
The episode sees the Doctor and Bill land in Regency Era London, with Bill noting that it’s a ‘bit more black than they show in the movies’.
Moffat told TVGuide.com that he and Thin Ice’s writer Sarah Dollard ‘didn’t see an alternative’ to directly confronting the topic:
“History is always white washed. How do we manage to have a diverse cast despite that? The way that we did it was … [to just] say that you will see people of different colors there. In fact, there were. People all didn’t arrive in the twinkle of an eye. It is bending history slightly, but in a progressive and useful way.
“Also, it wouldn’t be a pleasant place for [Bill] in several respects. Taking that on is just respectful of the audience really.It’s a chance to – I’m always reluctant to sound so pious and so do-gooding and all of that. It’s useful that these things are talked about. The evil in Doctor Who can sometimes be the evil in our real world, too.”
Although Thin Ice addresses the race issues that Bill, portrayed by mixed-race actress Pearl Mackie, faces on her first trip into the past, this is not the first opportunity Doctor Who has taken to do so. Former companion Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman) experiences similar treatment in 2007’s Human Nature/The Family of Blood when forced to work as a maid in 1913, almost a century after the last great Frost Fair at which the Doctor and Bill find themselves in this week’s episode.