‘Doctor Who’: Was The Thirteenth Doctor Rude To Graham? Fans Weigh In

Doctor Who recently featured a scene where Graham O’Brien confesses something to the Thirteenth Doctor. This scene had a variety of reactions from the sci-fi show’s fans, with some feeling that the Doctor could have been more sensitive to Graham’s feelings and some defending the Doctor’s response. The BBC even responded to the former group of fans, giving their perspective on what the Doctor’s reply was meant to show.

Graham O’Brien confesses his greatest fear to the Thirteenth Doctor in season 12 episode 7 of ‘Doctor Who’

Tosin Cole, Mandip Gill, Jodie Whittaker, and Bradley Walsh of Doctor Who: the Thirteenth Doctor and Graham had a controversial scene in season 12 episode 7
Tosin Cole, Mandip Gill, Jodie Whitaker and Bradley Walsh at the premiere of Doctor Who season 11 | Anthony Devlin/Getty Images

During season 12 episode 7 of Doctor Who, Graham confesses his fears about his cancer coming back to the Doctor. She listens but doesn’t seem to know what to say. Though she does mention that she “should” say something “reassuring.” The Doctor mentions how socially awkward she is and how she’ll probably think of what she should have said another time.

It’s easy to understand how some fans view this as the Doctor being somewhat insensitive to Graham, while others view it as simply a sign of her being socially awkward. Cancer and being socially awkward are both things that real people encounter, so it’s understandable that such a scene would bring out a variety of reactions. However, let’s allow the fans to explain themselves in their own words.

Fans weigh in on the Thirteenth Doctor’s ‘extremely uncomfortable’ response to Graham

One fan on Twitter mentions “the Doctor’s blatant lack of sympathy and reassurance” and how the moment is “played for laughs.” This fan goes on to say that the scene “was wildly off the mark writing in an episode about mental health.” In another Tweet, the same fan wonders why the writers made the Doctor “so cold.” “She could have,” the fan says, “used the moment to bond with Graham.”

Another fan feels that the Doctor was out of character in this scene with Graham. This fan found the scene “extremely uncomfortable” and wonders why the Doctor “can help Ryan with his dyspraxia but not say something supporting to Graham.”  Someone else explains that even though they are “socially awkward” as well, they “would’ve still said something nice to Graham.” While another fan feels that “The episode…tackles mental health really well…except for the Doctor.” 

This fan says that even though the Doctor has had “many lifetimes,” she still “can’t think of anything to say to someone afraid of cancer.” A Twitter user feels that the Doctor was “out of character.” The scene, according to this fan, was “badly written.” Someone else thinks “The Doctor can do better than that.”

This fan believes that the writers need to “do their research.”

Other ‘Doctor Who’ fans found the scene ‘moving’ and ‘honest’ 

While some fans felt that the Doctor was “out of character” and “cold” to Graham, others interpreted the scene differently. One fan talks about how they’ve “dealt with trauma in [their] own life” and “found friends admitting their awkwardness much more comforting than platitudes.” This fan “found this scene moving.” Another fan discusses how “The Doctor is great at inspiring speeches and heroic actions, but difficult messy vulnerable nuanced personal interactions with no easy solutions?”

“Hell no” would be the Doctor’s reaction to those, according to this fan. While the fan thinks the scene “could have been written a bit clearer,” they think “it is entirely in character” for the Doctor. Someone else feels that the Doctor “intently listening” to Graham would mean a lot to him. This fan believes that even though “the Doctor didn’t know how to give comfort,” it’s ok because “Graham needed someone to listen, and that’s exactly what she did.”

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Another fan thinks that the Doctor wasn’t “out of character” and didn’t do “anything wrong after Graham opened up to her.” According to this fan, “She listened and was honest about her feelings and thought process too.” “Connecting like that,” the fan says, “can be more important than the words.” A different Twitter user says that “There hasn’t been a single incarnation [of the Doctor] who really understood…or could cope with human emotions.”

While someone else adds that “The Doctor knows the odds, so lying and telling Graham all will be fine was no option.” Neither was “offering platitudes.” The fan acknowledges that “The Doctor’s always been rubbish at talking about feelings.” This fan describes the scene as “real and honest.”

The BBC responds to fan concerns about this scene

The BBC responded to fans who felt the Doctor could have been more sensitive to Graham’s feelings. According to Radio Times, the BBC has told fans that “her response was never meant to be dismissive.” “The intention of the scene,” according to the BBC, “was to acknowledge how hard it can be to deal with conversations on this subject matter.”

The BBC’s response goes on to say “When faced with these situations, people don’t always have the right words to say at the right time.” This inability to think of the right words at the right time “often [leads] to feelings of guilt.” Therefore, “the intention” of this scene “ was to sympathize with all those who may have found themselves in a similar position.”