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Last Updated: Thursday, 14 April, 2005, 15:25 GMT 16:25 UK
BBC stands by 'scary' Doctor Who
Doctor Who
Parents complained about scenes of zombies and spectres
The BBC has withdrawn advice about Doctor Who being too frightening for under-eights to watch.

A statement on the BBC's complaints website on Wednesday saying the show was not for children under eight had been "a mistake", said a spokesman.

Monsters in the early evening show "may be scary" but content was "carefully considered" for all of the pre-watershed audience, he added.

"We leave it to parents' discretion to ultimately decide."

Do you think Doctor Who is too scary for young children? Click here to send your views

The original statement said the series "had never been intended for the youngest of children".

"We would suggest that only children aged eight and above should watch with their parents," it went on.

Walking dead

The advice followed 91 complaints from viewers about the third episode in the new series, starring Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper.

Billie Piper in Doctor Who
Billie Piper plays the Doctor's assistant Rose

The Unquiet Dead, written by The League of Gentlemen's Mark Gatiss, featured corpses being possessed by alien spirits and coming back to life in an undertaker's parlour.

Set in 1869, the episode saw Charles Dickens, played by guest star Simon Callow, team up with the Doctor to fight the undead after a zombie appeared at his theatre performance.

Scenes included a grandson being strangled by his zombie grandmother, a mob of walking dead cornering the Doctor and his sidekick Rose and a seance with spectres.

The corporation had not meant to advise against younger children watching the series, the BBC spokesman added.

"The programme sets out to balance the right amount of humour, drama and suspense in each episode," he went on.

Comedy and bravery had been incorporated to create "the right context" for the ghost story, he said, adding that the BBC would be vigilant about the balance in each week's episode.


Do you think Doctor Who is suitable for young children to watch alone?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Isn't it meant to be scary. When I was a kid, the Daleks and Davros were frightening...that's why it was such a good show to watch.
Tim , Leicester, UK

People seem to be forgetting the weekly horror that was Buffy the vampire slayer at 6pm weekdays. Gory make up, scary acting, oh and of course, sex. Though, judging by the on-screen body language between the doctor and Rose, they are obviously saving that one for later in the series.
john kerswell, London

I watched 'Doctor Who' as a child and I loved all the scary bits - the scare factor was the whole point of the show back in the seventies. You always knew that the Dr would win in the end. I would have thought that children have seen far worse on TV these days.
Paul, Swansea

Dr Who is supposed to be scary! Why else do generations of children (me included) remember Dr Who from behind the sofa.
Alan Dow, Fleet, UK

Of course it's scary...and it was when I was young and we watched the first doctors tackling all sorts of things. Keep it up, BBC....and don't let silly parents influence you. I agree with Anthony Dry....there are more horrifying programmes on that this.
S Keane, UK

I agree with Jan. There is more that a parent should be worried about in an eposode of EastEnders than in Dr Who. Besides as I kid I liked Dr Who because it was scarey. I still remember running out the room crying when I thought Dr Who died.
Robert MacDonald, Aberystwyth, Wales

We all love the new series. My 7 year old, Saskia, did find the Zombies distressing, but not as much as the Blob in Episode 2. If there is a problem it's that the effects were genuinely scary (unlike say Ghostbusters)and closer to Buffy, which I'm sure the Beeb has had an eye on with the new series. In any case, Josh (12), Zach (9) and my wife and myself (substantially older and who remember fleeing the Cybermen) are having a great time. My suggestion for the new Doctor? Michael Howard.
Tas, London, England

Doctor Who has always been a programme to 'hide behind the sofa to.' What do people expect from a sci-fi show? With all the real horrors of war and crime etc. being described on the nightly 6 o'clock news harmless fantasy, like Dr. Who, is a welcome relief!
Rob, Newcastle, Tyne & Wear

I remember watching Dr Who at my daughter's age (7 yrs) and I remember hiding behind the couch ALL the way throught the episodes (as do many others my age). I also remember my Dad saying "are you sure you want to watch this?" and I did! I am now in my 40's and I loved watching my daughter going through the same emotions that I went through as a kid. Is it wrong to be frightened and enjoy it in a safe and secure enviroment. I don't feel mentally scarred and I'm sure my daughter will not suffer any side effects from Dr Who either.
David Laing, Dunfermline

What's next?? Banning Casper the Friendly Ghost & Scooby Doo?? Personally I find Cybermen more frightening.
David Anderson, Belfast, Northern Ireland

What rot, people who complain about things like this make me despair. Parents should be responsible for what their children watch instead of trying to blame others. Look at some of the old episodes, whilst not as realistic in terms of special effects many of these had far higher body counts. I actually think it's been a little bit tame so far, it's meant to be a bit scary!
Richard, Heathfield, England

The highlight of the week for us as a viewing family is Doctor Who. My wife and I were brought up on a staple diet of Saturday terror from behind the sofa, or at very least a thick Dalek-resistant cushion. My daughter aged 9 and my son aged 7 (only just) cannot wait for the appearance of Christpher Ecclestone and Billy Piper on a Saturday. And yes the back of the sofa still seems to be the refuge of choice! Programmes like this should be at the parents discretion, they should know what is coming up, it's not going to be Bob the Builder, but on the other hand it's not going to be Nighmare on Elm Street either. Common sense should prevail, and there is always the remote control to end the argument anyway. Cheers Ian
Ian Venner, Bridgnorth, Shropshire

I watched 'Doctor Who' as a child and I loved all the scary bits - the scare factor was the whole point of the show back in the seventies. You always knew that the Dr would win in the end. I would have thought that children have seen far worse on TV these days.
Paul, Swansea

In the first place, why would a child under 8 be left watching TV *alone* on a Saturday at 7 pm? That aside, no, I don't think it's any scarier than it was when I was a child watching it with my Dad. I also used to love Hammer films, which, like 'Doctor Who', usually had clearly defined 'goodies' and 'baddies', and the 'goodies' won, though sometimes at a cost. 'Doctor Who' is clearly fantasy: most children can differentiate between fantasy terrors, that are unlikely to happen in the real world, and naturalistic ones, which seem more threatening. Violence and abusive behaviour in primetime soap-operas should give parents far greater cause for concern than colourful plots about space-aliens. If they worry about 'Doctor Who', they're wimps!
Doc M, Glasgow, Scotland

I have 2 neices, one 2 the other 4, both of them are quite scared when this program comes on, but then again they were scared of the sharks in Finding Nemo, choosing to cover their eyes when they were on the screen. Either way it's not really a program they would be interested in, no fairys and princesses, they much prefer watching cbeebies
Kristina, Swansea

I thought it was perfectly suitable. Even if it does scare a bit it's nothing disturbing. Perfectly healthy and normal - children love it and it's part of growing up, I think. Apart from that the episode's content was clearly signposted in trails, TV guides and within the first 60 seconds of starting. If parents of *very* little ones are concerned the off-switch is just a click away.
Simon B, London

My children (boy aged 9 and a girl aged 6) decided that they didn't want to watch that episode of Dr Who because they thought that the trailers made it look too scary.
Peter Hancock, Salisbury, UK

The new series of Doctor Who is absolutely terrific and one of the best things on TV at the moment, as the ratings has shown. I think that it's quite healthy to scare the kids a little - it didn't do us any harm when we were young - even watching from behind a cushion or through a crack in the door! Kids LOVE monsters, aliens, ghosts and spaceships - all the children I've spoken to over the last few weeks love the series and can't wait for the next episode. Don't people know how to enjoy family viewing any more? We all love to sit round each Saturday evening and tune in.
Mark English, Camden, London

If the kids of 1967 could deal with a Doctor who story involving the posession of people by evil beings, im sure those in 2005 will be able to cope...this is an age old argument for the show, it wouldn't be DOctor who if people didn't complaing about it being too violent!
James, Fareham

My 4 and a half year-old loves the show, and we have to count the days till the next time it's on! Saturday's episode was a bit scary, but he just turned away at the bits that were too much for him, asking me to let him know what was happening!
debbie, Brussels, Belgium

If the kids aren't watching who's going to tell us that it's safe to look again?
Chris, Scotland

I personally find Tony Blair far more scary than Dr. Who. But seriously, should parents be taking responsibility for what their children watch? They are the only ones, after all, who are in a position to judge how a programme affects their offspring.
Amanda, Sutton, UK

I remember with fondness hiding behind the sofa whilst Daleks tried to 'exterminate' the Dr. in the 70's. I think these days we are too quick to protect the young from supposed danger.
Neil Rusted, Dunstable

I thought when the blue spirit turned red it was very scary. Those spiders in the second episode were creepy too, perhaps some sort of warning at the start of the show would be useful?
Roger Smalls, Guildford, Surrey

It was scary and I quite enjoyed it but I always feel suspicious about occultish material purely because it is dealing with real stuff that folks have to deal with. The eyes-open bit was pretty direct!
Rama, Brighton

Doctor Who is meant to be scary - that's the point. How is it meant to engage the young if it doesn't provide that worry - and that is specifically why it has stayed in the imaginations of everybody. Aged 10 I knew I could count on Doctor Who showing me life (albeit a heightened sense of it) as I had no idea who was going to die. There was no gloss like many other shows and I knew that because of the fact Doctor Who could get seriously out of hand and scary that there are always repercussions to actions. Doctor Who plays a role in child growth... I would like it recorded that I no longer find it scary! Okay, just a little bit :)
Richard Howse, Bracknell, UK

Doctor Who used to scare me as a child - that's what we loved about it. Never did us any harm. As ever, there's always the off button. If people thinks it's unsuitable for their children then they should exercise parental control. But a self righteous minority demanding bland rubbish? - now that's really scary!
Richard Saint, Bedford, UK

Absolutely NOT! Computer games and EastEnders are more scary. The World's gone mad!
Rex Orr, Brighton, UK

The people making the complaints are probably the same people who, back in 1963, were hidden behind the sofa at the sight of a Dalek! Kids these days are more resilient than people think...give them some credit. Parents on the other hand are a bigger issue....if you think your child might be upset by the show, then change channel, there are more now than in '63! Obviously some people need a common sense transplant. Maybe The Doctor can help!
John Hancock, London

For me Doctor Who is a family entertainment show which should be watched by the whole family. Myself and my 10 year old stepson loved the third episode. Seven O'clock should be seen as a mini watershed when those CBeebies should be in bed not sitting in front of a TV on their own...
Darren New, Weston super Mare Somerset

It entirely depends on the child and their past exposure to TV/film 'baddies' or monsters. Some children I know would be terrified, others would love it.
J. Constable, Denham, South Bucks

I am a Doctor Fan and am a very liberal consumer of TV & cinema. I have to say that even I was surprised at the content of last Saturday's episode of Doctor Who given the time slot. I would not say that the tone nor content was inappropriate for Doctor Who but could see why some people would be upset or offended if they were settling down to watch the programme with young children. Perhaps a warning beforehand advising of the content would have been helpful for parents to make an informed decision?
Dave Berry, Birkenhead, UK

Like many of my generation, I was terrified by the Dr Who monsters of the 1970s. Was I traumatised? Of course not! Deep down I loved every minute of it. When are people going to realise that children enjoy being scared? One episode of Dr Who is not going to scar them for life.
Laurie White, Cambridge, UK

We watch Doctor Who with our eldest, who's five and a half. We sit with her, and answer any questions she has. She loves the programme, and is very fond of the Doctor's friend, Rose, who she thinks is brave and beautiful. I think they've got the balance just right. I certainly would never let her watch Buffy or Stargate, but I think Doctor Who has got it just right. Congratulations to the BBC for giving my daughter a part of her childhood that whole generation have grown up knowing nothing about. We can't WAIT to see the Daleks!!!
Mike Maddox, Chorleywood, Herts

No, Doctor Who is not suitable for young children to watch alone.
Yolanda, Schiedam, The Netherlands

I found the content of "The Unquiet Dead" not to be any more disturbing than the previous episodes contents. There was no particularly gruesome deaths or blood. My youngest son (5) was for once more interested in playing with his toy cars than actually watching this episode, that may well change when the Dalek episodes are shown.
Mark York, Exeter

My overriding memory of Doctor Who when I was younger was how scary it was. Surely that's the point? It didn't put me off watching it, if anything, it made me want to watch more.
Marcus Scott, Dereham, United Kingdom

My 4 year old Daughter was a little worried by the zombies in this week's episode, but it's pretty tame stuff, there's nastier things on The Simpsons on a regular basis. If anything it could do with being more menacing, it's all a bit too plastic for my liking.
Daryl, Leeds, UK

NO! Doctor Who is brilliant family entertainment. It is so much fun to sit on the sofa with my daughter holding tightly to my hand and loving every moment of it.
Andrea, Dunfermline, Scotland

My 4 year old was terrified - but he really enjoyed it! We told him that it was only people dressed up to be scary and that did the trick.
Allan, Hillingdon

Too Scary for Children?!? I has always been "kind of the point" of Dr Who. How many stories are there about hiding from the Daleks from behind a sofa. Dr Who is an institution and should be considered in this context. People know what to expect from Dr Who and I think this series delivers the right degree of humour, horror and drama that I would have expected
Dominic Egre, Jersey

I don't see the problem, a show that was watched by 8.3 million drew just 91 complaints. That's 0.001 % of its audience, the BBC usually get more complaints when a character in Jane Austen adaptation "wears the wrong sort of hat for that period"
David Dormer, Blackpool, Lancs

I don't think it's suitable for young children to watch. In fact, I don't think it's suitable for anyone to watch!
Tony, UK

Well the 3rd episode certainly scared me, and I'm a few years older that 8!
Peter, Newcastle

Too scary? If only it was. I remember hiding behind a cushion every Saturday evening - and that was when my parents were in the room watching, too. But when I asked my 7-year-old daughter if she was scared by the spirits in Saturday's episode, she replied: "Why? It's just like Indiana Jones." She was right, too, it takes a lot more than a zombie to scare kids today. Now threaten to take away their PlayStations or mobile phones and they'd be really frightened.
Nicki Shearer, Croydon, UK

No, Doctor Who is not too scary for younger viewers! In fact I think it's good that kids should be scared of it. Remember the good old days of kids behind the sofas? That's where they should be when Doctor Who is on! More I say!
Sebastian J. Brook (Editor of Doctor Who Online), London; UK

Of course it is, nothing has changed since the original 60's series apart from the use of CGI and better sets. I was afraid of the Zarbi's but it did not stop me watching further episodes. Kids like to be scared as long as it's in the comfort of home. Anyway no child under 13 should be at home alone, so lets get some common sense into this.
Owen, Tonbridge

It's not too scary for young children but may be a bit much for over-protective adults. I suggest they go in another room and leave their kids to it!
Chris D, Woking, UK

I think the new series of Doctor Who is fantastic and I am engrossed already with the series. I do not think that it is scary in the slightest and isn't really aimed at the young, with its complex plots, though they can still enjoy all the cool effects that the series holds.
Mark Griffin, London, UK

Personally I find the idea of them watching EastEnders and programmes of that ilk much more terrifying.
Jan, Guildford, UK

Bah Humbug! What's wrong with people these days? They will complain about absolutely anything, anything at all. It's up to the parents to supervise the watching of a show like Doctor Who aimed at family viewing. There's absolutely nothing wrong with children being a little frightened. I was the same when I was little, as were countless others, while watching rubber monsters in the late seventies and early eighties. I'd say it's more terrifying watching Strictly Dance Fever or Ant and Dec. Pure Horror.
Anthony Dry, Liverpool UK

Parents should take more responsibility. The show's on in the evening for a reason - If you feel it's too scary for your children, then don't let them watch it!
Matt, Kingston, UK

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