Spoilers are precisely defined here. Rules vary by the story's medium. Info from television stories can't be added here until after the top or bottom of the hour, British time, closest to the end credits roll on BBC One. Therefore, fans in the Americas who are sensitive to spoilers should avoid Tardis on Sundays until they've seen the episode.



Ryan Sinclair experiences racism in 1950s Alabama. (TV: Rosa)

Racism was the idea that all members of a race were superior or inferior to another race. An individual with this belief was known as a racist. (TV: Oxygen, Rosa) Some words used to humiliate other races were also described as racist. (TV: Remembrance of the Daleks, Human Nature / The Family of Blood)

Racism was rampant in many societies, particularly on Earth among the human race, though social movements existed to challenge and combat these prejudices. (PROSE: 8.46)

By humans[]

A few centuries before 2020, African men, women, and children were forced into slavery by white people. When Lucy Wilson and Hobo Kostinen were brought back in time by Lucy's time ring, they witnessed several chained-up African slaves being herded into a log cabin, and Lucy was forced to bite her lip upon seeing a little girl screaming while being torn away from her mother. (PROSE: 8.46)

While visiting Regency London in 1814, Bill Potts was subjected to racist (as well as sexist) remarks from Lord Sutcliffe, referring to her as a "creature" and demanding she "show respect in the presence of [her] betters". The Twelfth Doctor responded by punching him in the face, knocking him down. However, the punch was what told the Doctor how old he was, what species he was, and that he was low on iron. (TV: Thin Ice)

While Martha Jones was working as a maid at the Farringham School for Boys in 1913, Hutchinson made several racist remarks to her, and Joan Redfern showed disbelief that a woman of her "colour" was really training to be a doctor. (TV: Human Nature/The Family of Blood) She also feared that she would be carted off as a slave in Elizabethan England. (TV: The Shakespeare Code)

The comic book, Le Petit Vingtième, which was in publication by 1923, contained adventures that the Eleventh Doctor regrettably branded as "ever-so-slightly racist", before saying that they eventually got better after having "had a word". (COMIC: The Doctor Shops for Comics)

In 1941, during the Second World War, 21st century native Toshiko Sato was insulted by Americans in the Ritz dance hall because she was Japanese. (TV: Captain Jack Harkness)

The Nazis' hatred of people who were different from them extended to racism. In Berlin in 1941, River Song provoked two Nazi officers by flippantly claiming that she was on her way to a "gay gypsy Bar Mitzvah for the disabled". (TV: Let's Kill Hitler) In the same year, when Clyde Langer told Nazi SS officer Koenig that he did not belong in England, he remarked that that was "quite a statement for a negro". (TV: Lost in Time)

In Paris in 1943, the Spy Master, posing as a Nazi officer, used a perception filter to mask his non-Aryan appearance from the other officers. His cover was blown when the Thirteenth Doctor used her sonic screwdriver to jam the filter. (TV: Spyfall)

Racism towards non-white individuals was commonplace in the United States of America for much of the early-to-mid 20th century. A common behaviour in the 1930s was for white people to talk down to persons of colour as if they could not understand English. This behaviour unfortunately persisted even, to an extent, into the 21st century. (PROSE: The Wonderful Doctor of Oz) Segregation of black people was rampant in the country by the 1950s, in which black people were required by law to use separate facilities to the whites, particularly in Southern states like Alabama and Mississippi. These policies were in place from at least 1943. On 1 December, 1955, while travelling home from work, civil rights activist Rosa Parks famously refused to give up her bus seat when the bus became crowded, leading to her arrest, an event that the Thirteenth Doctor, Ryan Sinclair, Yasmin Khan, and Graham O'Brien witnessed. Her arrest lead to the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and a further chain of events that would result in the abolishment of segregation a year later. (TV: Rosa)

Mexicans and those of Mexican heritage were also segregated in America during the 1950s. Yasmin Khan was mistakenly perceived as Mexican in a Montgomery diner so was denied service. She also had to discretely enter a "whites-only" motel because of this prejudice. However, she was permitted to enter through the front door to board a segregated bus and could use the "white" seating area. Such mixed treatment caused Yaz to remark she was unsure of her place in Montgomery given the scarce number of people of Pakistani heritage in the city. (TV: Rosa)

As well as segregation, black people suffered racial violence in the 1950s. After Ryan Sinclair attempted to return the glove of a passerby, Lizzie, he was slapped by her husband and ordered to get his "filthy black hands" off his wife. The husband alluded to Ryan being lynched were he to disturb a woman in Montgomery. After Rosa Parks calmed the man, she explained to the Thirteenth Doctor, Ryan, Yasmin Khan and Graham O'Brien that outsiders were not safe in Montgomery. Having read about the death of Emmett Till in the newspaper, she explained that the northern Till was found dead in a river after a "couple words to a white woman" while he was on vacation in Mississippi. (TV: Rosa)

In 1963, a sign hanging in the window of Mrs Smith's Shoreditch boarding-house read "NO COLOUREDS", which Ace was visibly disturbed by, so she took it down and hid it. She was about to mention it to Mrs Smith, but decided not to. (TV: Remembrance of the Daleks)

Under the influence of the sorceress Morgaine, Ace and Shou Yuing briefly turned against each other, ending with Ace telling Shou "shut up, you yellow, slant-eyed..." before stopping herself. (TV: Battlefield)

The house of Ace's friend Manisha Purkayastha was firebombed by racists in 1983. (TV: Ghost Light)

In 2009, when Wilfred Mott remarked he was saved by the cactuses, the Tenth Doctor replied with, "That's Cacti", to which the Vinvocci exclaimed "that's racist!" (TV: The End of Time)

In 2016, racist abuse was still present on Earth. While bullying, Chris Richards made the remark to Matteusz Andrzejewski that he should get back to his home country of Poland and that he was unwelcome here. (AUDIO: Now You Know...)

In the 21st century, Sheffield, racism existed on a lesser scale than that of the 1950s, bearing a massive difference that Graham O'Brien, Ryan Sinclair and Yasmin Khan were visibly appalled at. While not physically assaulted as he was in the past, Ryan Sinclair still remarked he would be stopped by the police more often than his white peers, while Yasmin Khan suffered racial slurs such as "paki", and "terrorist" because she was a Muslim. (TV: Rosa)

Lucy Wilson had faced racism at several points in her life. The first and most prominent was in 2010 when, aged five, Lucy was brought by her father to a business meeting with a client in Florida. At a birthday party, Lucy jumped into a swimming pool, prompting the other white guests to quickly usher their children out of the pool, to little Lucy's fear and confusion. One of the parents told Albert that they did not want their kids splashing around with a "dirty little monkey", angering him. Later on in her life, Lucy mentioned having been followed around a department store because of the colour of her skin, and being stopped by police for carrying a rucksack. Lucy's grandfather, Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart, once told her "sometimes human beings are worse than the monsters". For most of her life, Lucy had never experienced racism from people she cared about. She had learnt to accept that the occasional hurtful acts and slurs were just how things were. (PROSE: 8.46)

In 2020, George Floyd, an American black man, was murdered by police, an act which was caught on film and quickly circulated. His death sparked mass protesting and rioting across America and the United Kingdom, in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic. In Bristol, a statue of Edward Colston was toppled by protesters and dumped into the river, with the same subsequently happening to other statues across the UK and America. Lucy Wilson's outlook on racism completely changed upon watching the video of Floyd's death, prompting her and Hobo Kostinen to join a peaceful protest in Ogmore-by-Sea, where everybody wore face masks and stood two metres apart. (PROSE: 8.46) Bill Potts also attended a socially-distanced march in Bristol. (WC: The Best of Days)

"Black Lives Matter" was a phrase that had become synonymous with these protests. (PROSE: 8.46)

Freda's house was burnt down by racists in 2069 because of her alien mother. She was saved by a member of Torchwood, who sent her back in time to 2009 via the Rift. (AUDIO: Asylum)

Roz Forrester found it difficult to understand the racism and sexism she experienced in 1919 Paris since such attitudes did not exist between humans in the 30th century from where she came. (PROSE: Toy Soldiers)

By the 79th century, there were still racists such as Krasko who expressed a desire to alter the history of Ryan Sinclair's "kind", attempting to prevent Rosa Parks from the arrest that would begin the Montgomery Bus Boycott and lead to the end of segregation. (TV: Rosa)

Dahh-Ren briefly branded Bill Potts a racist after the latter expressed surprise at his blue skin. (TV: Oxygen)

On an infirmary base at the North Pole, when Santa Claus and his two elves entered, Santa said it was an invasion, to which Clara Oswald jokingly said "an invasion of elves" to which the elf Wolf said it was racist, and the elf Ian rebranded it "elfist". (TV: Last Christmas)

In the Unbound Universe, Marcus frequently made racist anti-Chinese comments when living in Hong Kong, though he denied being racist when Adam called him out on it. (AUDIO: Sympathy for the Devil)

Amongst other species[]

Racism in non-humans was probably most notable in the Daleks, whose whole existence was defined by their utter hatred of anything non-Dalek, believing themselves the supreme beings. Their belief in their innate superiority and need to maintain their racial purity was so intense that it led to inevitable conflict between the Imperial Daleks and the Renegade Daleks. As Ace succinctly put it, "They hate each others' chromosomes. War to the death." (TV: Remembrance of the Daleks) Dalek individuals would even become self-loathing if their genome was in some way altered, such as the one in Van Statten's museum, and even drew a line between the very mild differences between Kaled and Dalek DNA. (TV: Dalek, Victory of the Daleks)

The Great Houses of the Time Lords were suspicious of "lesser species", usually not allowing non-Time Lords to visit their Homeworld of Gallifrey. (TV: The Hand of Fear, PROSE: Lungbarrow) Gustav described Cortalian, a banished member of House Lineacrux, as "still [being] racist" despite having to live among other species, as evidenced by the fact that she purposefully made the climate of the First Auction in Heaven uncomfortable for everyone but herself. (PROSE: Going Once, Going Twice) The Time Lords had themselves become hated by the universe partway into the Time War. Cass Fermazzi instantly hated the Doctor when she recognised that he was a Time Lord, refusing to be rescued by him and telling him to go finish destroying the universe, despite his claims to have never fought in the war. (TV: The Night of the Doctor) Even Clara Oswald was disgusted with the Time Lords, calling them monsters who had to hide out at the end of time because the rest of the universe hated them. (TV: Hell Bent)

The Doctor did not tolerate racism against their companions. (TV: Thin Ice, Rosa) Susan Foreman saw no issue with Lloyd Walker being black and assured him that her grandfather held no prejudices based on skin pigmentation. (AUDIO: An Unearthly Woman)

According to the Fifth Doctor, the Pakhars found the term "rodent people" extremely offensive, even racist. (AUDIO: Nekromanteia)

Jeff Shrubb was accused of stirring up racism, sexism and homophobia on Olleril. (PROSE: Tragedy Day)

The Raxacoricofallapatorians became resented by their fellow Raxas Alliance members in light of the crimes committed by the family Slitheen. Gleda Ley-Sooth Marka Jinglatheen was branded "Raxacoricofallapatorian scum" by a native of Raxacoricovarlonpatorius. (COMIC: Doctormania)

The "Abzorbaloff", a native of the planet Clom, took offence when the Tenth Doctor questioned if he was from Raxacoricofallapatorius. Branding their people as "swine", the Abzorbaloff proclaimed "I spit on them" before revealing that his world was their twin planet. Before that, he ranted to humans that his form was "better than that crude pink shape [they] call[ed] a body." (TV: Love & Monsters)

Behind the scenes[]


Closer Look Episode 3 - Rosa Doctor Who BBC America

Chris Chibnall talks about Rosa, which tackled racism.

The Black and White Minstrel Show was known for its racism in the 1970s. Controversially, Alpha Centauri made a guest appearance in 1972.

Various stories in Doctor Who have been alleged to be racist or had characters that were written or depicted in a racist manner. In The Daleks' Master Plan, Part 8, the Doctor says, "This place is a madhouse, it's full of Arabs!" Most infamously, the broadcast of The Talons of Weng-Chiang in Canada led to protests by Chinese-Canadian groups and TVOntario's decision not to repeat the broadcast. The story was criticised for having white actors depict Chinese characters, especially given the use of exaggerated yellowface make-up, as well as for incorporating various racist stereotypes in the script itself (the character of Li H'sen Chang being evocative of Fu Manchu), and having the Fourth Doctor himself display racist attitudes in dialogue.[1] Kate Orman authored an essay on the topic in 2018.[2]

Critic Elizabeth Sandifer, of TARDIS Eruditorum, also criticised the earlier The Celestial Toymaker (also infamous for quoting the N-word as part of a nursery rhyme) for leaning into sinophobic stereotypes with the titular character, particularly as rendered in the novelisation; although portrayed by white actor, Michael Gough, without any yellowface, and presented as a nonhuman character, the Toymaker was conspicuously dressed as a Chinese mandarin and his character was aesthetically reminiscent, as a result, of “Yellow Peril” masterminds trapping western protagonists in fiendish games. Sandifer further criticised the use of the adjective "Celestial", which, while primarily indicating the Toymaker's cosmic nature, was also used as an Orientalist synonym for "Chinese" in the 19th and early 20th century, thus providing a potential racist double-meaning to the title.[3] British Asian writer James Cooray Smith dismissed these criticisms, arguing that the serial showed a "clear anti-establishment ethos", that the use of "Celestial" was purposeful on multiple levels, and that the Toymaker was explicitly "a posh white European man who sits surrounded by the plunder of other civilisations".[4]

The presentation of Toberman in The Tomb of the Cybermen, the only black member of the cast, as a mostly-mute strongman who is initially an instrument of the villains, speaks in broken English, and ends up sacrificing himself, has also been held up as racist by Sandifer and others.[5] Kemel, Theodore Maxtible's Turkish assistant in The Evil of the Daleks, who similarly betrays the villains to go over to the Doctor's side only to die to save the Doctor before the end of the story, and is medically mute, was highlighted by Sandifer as an only slightly less egregious repetition of the same stereotypes, "one in a rather tedious chain of mute black strongmen during this period of Doctor Who".[6]