The problem? It aired just one week after the crash of Metrojet Flight 9268, which killed 224 people. Officials believe the plane was destroyed by a bomb.
Twitter posts criticized the BBC for lacking empathy. “Given the situation in Egypt, perhaps blowing up a plane on this week's episode of Doctor Who was not wise,” posted one user. “@BBC maybe in light of recent events showing a plane being shot down in Doctor Who was a bit insensitive? Or don't Russian lives matter?” asked another. (Most of the people killed on Flight 9268 were Russian tourists.)
Unfortunately, the Beeb opted for this snarky reply: “The episode was clearly signposted as science fiction set in a fantasy world and no one died in the scene."
It’s likely the BBC had little choice in airing the episode. Yanking a show from the air isn’t easily done; there are many contractual, financial and programming issues that come to play. And truth be told, networks and movie houses put on shows every day that overlap real-world tragedies yet garner little protest beyond the sound of crickets.
Still, events viewed as especially catastrophic, like the downing of Flight 9268, require sensitivity that the BBC didn’t display. If pulling the episode wasn’t an option, a simple opening screen acknowledging the Metrojet tragedy and expressing sympathy might have deflected some of the criticism. Likewise, more empathy and less snark from the Beeb’s social media manager appear in order.
What do you think? Did Who viewers overreact? Should the BBC have done a better job in its response?