For context: This was in reply to speculation that an upcoming Big Finish announcement might involve the return of actor John Barrowman to the company’s Torchwood range after he was dropped, and a big anniversary story went unreleased, by the company in light of a pattern of repeated, open, and enthusiastic sexual misconduct. Wikipedia at this time calls them “allegations,” but Barrowman and his co-stars were openly talking about this behaviour in public on stage at conventions. It wasn’t a secret then, and it’s not a secret now.
If you’re a Doctor Who fan in the places where I’m a Doctor Who fan, you may have seen calls from other fans to bring him back in some way despite all this, because some people prioritise their fondness for a character over the safety and wellbeing of the cast and crew around the actor portraying that character.
This was my response to one such call, asking for Barrowman to be given a second chance.
I’m preserving it here mostly because I’ve got a feeling this will keep coming up, and I’ll want to be able to pull it back out to repost or reference.
John Barrowman has had his second chance. He behaved the way he did throughout the 00s until he was forced to apologise for it in 2008, both behind the scenes for how he was on set and publicly for doing it on Radio 1, and then… openly kept doing it, consistently, at least as late as his time on Arrow, where he was walking around his co-stars’ trailers naked and sending them pictures of, again, him naked, that he made a crew member take.
He claims in his 2021 apology that his behaviour has changed since 2008, but that’s clearly a lie, then, isn’t it. Perhaps it didn’t include crew members who might not have felt comfortable speaking up or saying no back in 2008 and that’s what’s changed? There’s “another chance,” and then there’s, why would you ever employ this walking liability again?
So, when I say, “RTD knows better,” what I mean is, RTD is a PR-savvy showrunner whose previous run on Doctor Who was mired in controversy that he has somehow managed to escape significant public scrutiny over. Even in the best possible scenario, after a thorough redemption tour for Barrowman — which could happen, but won’t start at Doctor Who — bringing him back, even just at Big Finish, would at the very least attach controversy to the show’s brand that, surely, RTD is sensibly trying to avoid. Why do that to yourself? Why do that to the show?
19 December 2023: Here’s a paragraph I think I might add in the future.
In general, I’m against the idea of permanent banishment as punishment for behaviour in different times, right, but there does come a point where I’m fine saying, actually, yeah, this person probably shouldn’t work in this industry ever again, and John Barrowman is on the wrong side of that line. Every opportunity given to him should instead be given to an up-and-coming queer person who’s not gonna commit sexual violence the second they get a chance.