BBC aired the 60th-anniversary special episode of the long-running sci-fi television show Doctor Who on Saturday but subsequently caught flack from several conservative internet users for its decision to cast a British-Indian actor as the famous scientist Sir Isaac Newton.
The beloved TV show, which follows a time-traveling alien named Doctor Who on his mission to protect humanity, has a history of bending real-world events, but this marks the first time that the show has changed the race of a historical figure.
Isaac Newton is depicted as Indian in the Newest Episode of Doctor Who pic.twitter.com/woDj9eb6ZQ
— ɖʀʊӄքǟ ӄʊռʟɛʏ 🇧🇹🇹🇩 (@kunley_drukpa) December 2, 2023
"Wild Blue Yonder" is part of Doctor Who's three-part special and shows actor David Tennant reunited with Catherine Tate as they crash land into an apple tree and cause Isaac Newton to come up with the concept of "gravity."
However, the show also shows Newton calling gravity "mavity" for the rest of the episode, implying that the universe the Tardis crash landed into may be an alternate timeline.
Nevertheless, the decision reignited another "race swapping" debate surrounding BBC as some internet users took offense at what they perceived as the network's attempt to rewrite history.
Others agreed with the idea that the casting was unnecessarily inciting controversy, as expressed by X user @AnimarchyYT, who wrote, "Look. I hate to agree with the anti-woke brigade. But was this really necessary? We know Isaac Newton was the pastiest of pasty anorexic autistic white boys. Seems like doing it for the sake of doing it."
But others took the casting decision as part and parcel of Doctor Who's reality-bending premise, joking about other times the show has changed historical facts and figures. X user @TrilbeeReviews noted this in a tweet amid the debate and said, "But Charles Dickens didn't blow up ghosts. Agatha Christie didn't fight off a Giant Wasp. Mary Seacole didn't treat Sontarans. Van Gogh didn't stab an invisible chicken," in reference to various Doctor Who segments.
Yet other users took the outrage as an opportunity to double down on the comical notion that famous and well-documented historical figure Isaac Newton wasn't white, as seen in a post by @skyler_higley where he jokes, "Why do white people lose their minds when you change the race of a fictional character 🙄"
The controversy mirrors another from late 2017 when BBC One and co-producers Netflix released promotional material that showed the Greek hero Achilles would be played by the actor David Gyasi, a Black British actor, for its Troy: Fall Of A City miniseries that subsequently sparked memes and parodies.