The lesbian kiss in the season eight premiere of “Doctor Who” has been cut for Asian audiences. The brief life-saving liplock between married couple Madame Vastra (Neve McIntosh) and Jenny Flint (Catrin Stewart) was edited out for airing in Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia, Hong Kong, South Korea, Thailand and Indonesia.
In the climactic scene in the episode titled “Deep Breath,” Vastra, Jenny, their Sontaran butler Strax (Dan Starkey) and the Doctor’s companion Clara (Jenna Coleman) are losing their battle against cyborgs. The only way to trick them into thinking that they are cyborgs as well is to stop breathing. Jenny, being a human, has trouble doing holding her breath, so reptile-like alien Vastra locked lips with her to share her oxygen.
Vastra and Jenny have been a couple since their first appearance in 2011, but the episode in August was the first time that they shared a kiss onscreen.
The kiss was barely a second long, but it is still deemed too risqué for Asian audiences, particularly in Singapore where the show’s feed for Asian territories come from.
Singapore has strict guidelines for presentation of same-sex acts on screen. Its code states, “Information, themes or subplots on lifestyles such as homosexuality, lesbianism, bisexualism, transsexualism, transvestism, paedophilia and incest should be treated with utmost caution. Their treatment should not in any way promote, justify or glamorise such lifestyles. Explicit dialogue or information concerning the above topics should not be broadcast.”
Had BBC Worldwide decided to leave the scene as is, it would be liable for a fine.
And since there is only one version of the show broadcast to the region, the lesbian kiss was also cut from broadcast in Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan, Hong Kong and South Korea.
The episode was Peter Capaldi’s official full episode debut as the 12th Doctor.
“In order to comply with broadcast regulations in Asia where our BBC Entertainment channel airs, BBC Worldwide made a brief edit to the first episode of Doctor Who series eight, but did so without detracting from the storyline,” a spokesperson of BBC Worldwide said.
In the UK, the scene was generally received favourably, although there had been six complaints made to the watchdog Ofcom.
According to the complainants, the scene was “gratuitious” and inappropriate for a children’s program.
Ofcom decided to dismiss the complaints, saying it does not warrant further investigation.
“Having assessed the complaints, we can confirm that they do not raise issues warranting further investigation,” a rep told The Independent. “Our rules do not discriminate between scenes involving opposite and same sex couples.”