Sunday 14 October 2012

Could Doctor Who be dragged into Savile sex scandal?

That's a cynical attention-grabbing headline if ever I heard one. And I hope beyond all hope that the answer is "no". I am sure that is the answer.

And by linking to this clip I'm by no means suggesting anyone involved in it is in any way suspect, apart from Jimmy Savile, obviously.

But it is a worrying time for all lovers of nostalgic television as skeletons continue to be unearthed from the closets of Television Centre. Jimmy Savile was, it transpires, a serial molester of young women, whose crimes were covered up by those around him either through ignorance, or through the sexist culture of the times that failed to take suggestions of such behaviour seriously.

And it has led to this week's Top Of The Pops 1977 repeat being shelved, as it was presented by Savile. Ironically BBC 4 had just started allowing the episodes featuring Gary Glitter to be shown in full. I fear, however, that they might find it hard to continue showing any of the old episodes as, frankly, it's hard to watch any of those bands without finding them looking like wrong uns. The Bay City Rollers, famously, include a sentenced paedophile on the drums, Dave Lee Travis appears to have been an habitual groper, and even Radio 1's most highly respected DJ John Peel is well known for having married his wife when she was fifteen. (More unsavoury details can be found here).

A couple of years ago, The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre predicted the effect certain people's pasts could have on pop music

Which bring me to my Doctor Who fears. Reading this excellent but chilling article by former child actor Ben Fellowes, we learn that, allegedly, there are, or were, paedophiles in every conceivable corner of the entertainment business. He tells of a paedophile ring in the advertising industry, being pursued by a naked leading man in the Theatre Royal Drury Lane while he was 13 years old (an offence covered up by the director), being propositioned by a leading actor on Eastenders and hounded by him throughout his run on the show, and being manhandled by politicians (who he names) while being used in "sting" operations by ITV's The Cook Report while still only 15.

Add to this the details about cocaine being delivered by BBC couriers to BBC rehearsal rooms and this one person's account alone starts painting a picture of life behind the scenes of TV that starts to look seedy in the light of the Savile affair. Here Jane Root describes a culture "of sexist behaviour towards adult women throughout television, not just at the BBC, that was seen as acceptable then and which is, I hope, unimaginable now", while here a female TV producer who has to remain anonymous paints a picture of the sexual harrassment that still exists in the industry.

So how untouched by sleaze could my favourite programme, Doctor Who, be? When you Google "Doctor Who Scandal" you get the devastating revelation that contestants in The Million Pound Drop were asked a trick question about who's played The Doctor for longest. So far the worst anyone has had to say of Doctor Who is that Tom Baker used to turn up for work drunk, and new companion Jenna Louise-Coleman has been falsely named in a hoax sex-tape story. But let us not forget one of the series low points was when Jim Fixed It for a young viewer to meet The Sontarans.

My fear is that Doctor Who's 50th anniversary in 2013, which should be a celebration of television from the sixties to the present, full of classic archive material and nostalgic reminiscences, will go the way of Top Of The Pops 1977, scuppered by just one revelation about a leading actor turning out to have had a distasteful guilty secret. Let us keep our fingers crossed this doesn't happen.

UPDATE 14:12 15/10/12: I just tried to raise this concern on the Doctor Who forum Gallifrey Base and the thread got removed in under half an hour. I don't think it was the right place to ask.

References to Jimmy Savile were also banned from this week's Mock The Week, News Quiz & Russell Howard's Good News.

And here's a hilarious collection of Savile conspiracy theories from the David Icke website. Energy Vampires anyone?

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