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When Doctor Who came back to our TV screens the last weekend in August, there was a scene in the episode that seemed controversial enough to audience members that they raised a fuss. This scene was that of Jenny and Madame Vastra sharing a lifesaving kiss that transferred oxygen. And as the two characters are also romantically linked, there was a bit more to the scene than that. Here are Vastra (left) and Jenny (right):
Of course, audiences in certain countries wanted an edit to the episode, and while UK audiences lost that battle, the cut was made for the Asian market. This weekend a second cut was make to a Doctor Who episode in the name of audience sensitivity, but this time it's a pre-emptive, and well warranted, cut.
The Radio Times noted today that this weekend's episode, "Robin Of Sherwood", will be edited from its original state. The official BBC statement was to the point, stating, "In light of recent news events, we have made an edit to Episode 3 out of respect." The recent news events that triggered the pre-emptive edit were the beheadings of two American journalists by members of the Islamic State. The scene that's being deleted also involves a decapitation described as being from “the climatic fight scene between Robin Hood and the Sheriff.”
Out of the two edits being imposed on Series Eight of Doctor Who, this weekend's edit is the one that makes the most sense. To show a beheading so close to two specific acts of terror that use the exact same method of execution seems tactless to many. The preemptive beheading edits are certainly different than the lesbian kiss edits made in the "Deep Breath" episode, as those were made for cultural (as well as financial) reasons.
According to The Digital Spy, the Asian edit of "Deep Breath" was made specifically to comply with Singapore's MDA Broadcast Code. This code stipulates a very specific set of behaviors that cannot be broadcast on their airwaves, as specified within the text of the code itself provided below.
"Information, themes or subplots on lifestyles such as homosexuality, lesbianism, bisexualism, transsexualism, transvestism, pedophilia and incest should be treated with utmost caution. Their treatment should not in any way promote, justify or glamorize such lifestyles. Explicit dialog or information concerning the above topics should not be broadcast."
Singapore was the only country that complained, but since there's only one version of the show that broadcasts throughout the region, the entire region got that version of the episode. This incident is particularly interesting because there were complaints for a similar edit in the UK that were dismissed due to regulations not being as strict about same-sex material on television.
As far as the history of controversial shows goes, Doctor Who isn't exactly a name you hear mentioned often in its pages. Neither of these scenes is particularly scandalous, as it was specified in "Deep Breath" that Madam Vastra was providing Jenny with air to prevent her from suffocating. That sort of thing tends to happen when you're holding your breath to avoid detectionn. The "Robin Of Sherwood" edit, on the other hand, is respectful and should only be a temporary measure, as you can pretty much bet that the unedited version will be included on the Series 8 DVD and Blu-ray releases.
"Robin Of Sherwood" will air on BBC America in its usual slot, Saturday night at 9 p.m. ET, and it should be no less exciting than originally planned.