BritBox, a digital video subscription service created by BBC and ITV, recently announced they added trigger warnings to old episodes of Doctor Who.
The episodes include a six-part series that was released in 1977 titled The Talons of Weng-Chiang. The storyline saw the 51st century criminal Magnus Greel portrayed by Michael Spice travel to the city and pose as an ancient Chinese god in order to find his missing time machine. The storyline also saw actor John Bennett play the Chinese magician Li H’sen Chang.
The storyline has been accused of racism as far back as 1980. The Torontoist reports The Canadian National Council for Equality took issue with the story’s stereotyping. Their president Dr. Joseph Wong took issue with the show because it included, “everything from an evil Fu Manchu character to pigtailed coolies and laundrymen who submissively commit suicide on their master’s orders.”
In 2013 the AV Club’s Christopher Bahn also accused the storyline of racism. He wrote, “If it wasn’t for the uncomfortably racist aspects of the story, it’d be close to perfection.”
More recently, Emma Ko, the screenwriter for Hollyoaks and Doctors as well as a spokeswoman for the British East Asians in Theatre & on Screen also criticized the storyline for its depiction of Chinese people.
Ko told The Times, “It is really hard to watch because yellowface is so unacceptable now.”
She added, “When you are somebody who was called a ‘Chink’ in your childhood, as I have been, it is so hard to hear that word and not feel immediately a trigger reaction of how wrong it is.”
The Times reports that after they approached BritBox about the storyline they added the trigger warning.
The trigger warning for these episodes now reads, “Contains stereotypes that some may find offensive.”
Not only did BritBox add a trigger warning, but they also told The Times they are reviewing the episodes with their compliance teams.
BritBox stated, “We are in the process of reviewing the episodes with our compliance teams across both BBC and ITV.”
BritBox would issue a separate statement to Metro:
“BritBox provides a wide variety of programming from different decades for our subscribers to choose from. Some of this content reflects the times and attitudes of the time in which these programmes were made. Appropriate warnings are on the site to flag sensitive material and enable our subscribers to make their own choices as to what they watch.”
The Talons of Weng-Chiang has an average user rating of 8.8 on IMDB across all six episodes.