There have long been rumors of a toxic atmosphere on the set of Doctor Who, particularly in the early seasons after it came back after 15 years away under showrunner Russell T. Davies. The retooled version of the show proved more popular than expected, although fans were devastated when Christopher Eccleston quit after less than a year in the lead role. Now, new revelations about the behavior of stars Noel Clarke and John Barrowman are beginning to lift the lid on a culture of misogyny and sexual abuse.
A landmark investigation by The Guardian revealed late on Thursday that Clarke, who starred as Mickey Smith between 2005 and 2010, has been accused of sexual harassment and bullying by 20 women. The accusations include unwanted sexual touching and groping, sexualized comments made on set, bullying of other women in the industry, and sharing sexual images and videos, some of which were from naked auditions.
Since his time on Doctor Who, Clarke has carved out a career in the British film industry, producing and directing numerous hit shows and movies such as Kidulthood, Bulletproof and Viewpoint, the latter of which was immediately dropped from TV schedules. His production company, Unstoppable Film & Television, has produced over 10 films.
Such is his position that not only is Clarke on BAFTA’s film committee, but just last month, the actor received an Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema award from the organization, one of the most prestigious accolades possible in UK TV and film. BAFTA has since suspended the award.
Attempting to control the fallout, the Doctor Who actor categorically denied every allegation in the Guardian report, but admitted in a statement that: “some of my actions have affected people in ways I did not intend or realize.” Clarke said that he was “deeply sorry” for what was alleged yet continued to deny any criminal wrongdoing.
While the original allegations against Clarke were from 20 women, that number had already risen to 26 by the time of writing and three reports of sex offenses had been made to the police. As the developing situation continue to rock the British TV and film industry, other individuals are also being named, including Doctor Who actor John Barrowman, who plays Captain Jack Harkness.
Allegations Against John Barrowman
As this story gained traction on social media, John Barrowman’s name began to trend as fans highlighted his well-known behavior on the set of Doctor Who, comparing it to the accusations against Clarke. Many also pointed out that Bruno Langley, who starred as Adam Mitchell during season 1, was found guilty of two sexual assaults in 2017 after groping two women at a music venue.
The allegations against Barrowman have been an open secret for years, although his antics have often been portrayed as humorous in the press. In 2008, Barrowman was criticized after exposing himself in the studio of BBC Radio One, having been encouraged to do so by hosts Nick Grimshaw and Annie Mac. The duo had heard that he was “famous” for exposing himself. In 2018, the UK’s Daily Mirror wrote that the actor was “famous for getting penis out in interviews,” describing the behavior as “a rather naughty habit,” with the behavior seemingly only becoming more widely known in the intervening 10 years.
Noel Clarke himself revealed just how bad Barrowman’s behavior on the Doctor Who set had been at a convention where he was onstage with actresses Annette Badland and Camille Coduri, guest stars during the first season. In the clip, Clarke is seen gesturing with a microphone to imitate Barrowman’s genitals, suggesting he had touched others with his penis.
Barrowman’s there taking his dick out every five seconds, just hitting it on everything like that… The guy is all the time laughing and smiling and taking it out. Do you remember the time he put it on your shoulder in the make-up room?
Clarke wasn’t the only one to talk about this. In a Doctor Who Magazine interview with the late Elizabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith), the actress was asked by Benjamin Cook if the actor had ever exposed himself. Sladen replied, “Not to me. To everyone else, but not to me.” Present for the interview, Barrowman added, “Actually, I did get it out quite a few times, but she was looking the other way.”
Freema Agyeman, who played Martha Jones during David Tennant’s run on the program, also confirmed the stories, telling Digital Spy back in 2008 that Barrowman’s behavior was treated as normal on the set.
John [Barrowman] will walk about with his [penis] hanging out, having conversations with people… everyone would just be talking to him normally, and it would only be the new people, such as myself, that would be freaked out.
Season 1 of Doctor Who was behind schedule and disorganized from the very beginning. Actors like Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), who was only making her first steps into the world of television, were terrified by the press interest and pressure of bringing back what was seen as a British television institution.
The new revelations surrounding the behavior of stars during the Russell T. Davies era only add credence to long-standing claims about a toxic atmosphere on the show. Lead actor Christopher Eccleston has previously gone on record to say the breakdown in his relationship with bosses led to him quitting the role of the Ninth Doctor.
Speaking back in 2018, Eccleston revealed that he had been blacklisted in the British film industry after the breakdown of his relationship with his “three immediate superiors – the showrunner, the producer and co-producer.” Those individuals were Russell T. Davies, Phil Collinson, and one of Julie Gardner or Mal Young. The relationship between Eccleston and the production team “broke down irreparably during the first block of filming, and it never recovered.”
While the causes of the fractured relationship are still unknown, Eccleston has said previously that he struggled with his mental health throughout his time as the Doctor. Eccleston suffered from anorexia nervosa during the season, his gaunt appearance in many scenes and photographs being a result of his illness. Coupled with his father being seriously ill during filming, Eccleston was described by Simon Pegg as “Old Misery Guts.”
Eccleston is a well-known defender of workers’ and actors’ rights. Some have ascribed the beginning of the breaking in his relationship with producers to an argument between Eccleston and director Keith Boak after Boak was verbally abusive to extras and minor members of the crew.
After leaving the role, Eccleston pledged that he wouldn’t do anything to harm the reputation of the show, has always stated how much he loved the part and the fans who have supported him. However, the actor rightly decided to speak out when his former supervisors took steps to harm his reputation in the industry, resulting in him losing work.
Opening up about his departure in 2010, Eccleston said that he “didn’t enjoy the environment and the culture that we, the cast and crew, had to work in…I thought if I stay in this job, I’m going to have to blind myself to certain things that I thought were wrong.”
Russell T. Davies had long been a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer before he ever brought back Doctor Who and the influence of Joss Whedon’s show is evident throughout the first few seasons. Sadly, as the revelations surrounding Doctor Who‘s first season grow, it seems that the similarities with Buffy may well have extended to behind the camera as well, the toxic environment on Whedon’s sets having being well-documented earlier this year.