‘Doctor Who’ Was Allegedly a Sexual Harassment Mess

Actors John Barrowman and Noel Clarke have been accused of sexual misconduct.
May 7, 2021, 5:10pm
On the left, John Barrowman. On the right, ​Noel Clarke.
On the left, John Barrowman (Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images) On the right, Noel Clarke (Photo by Tristan Fewings/Getty Images)

Two of the actors who helped bring back the iconic British TV staple “Doctor Who,” the BBC’s flagship show, have now been accused of sexual misconduct on set in the early aughts, the Guardian reported Friday.

John Barrowman, who played the Doctor’s sometime-companion Captain Jack Harkness, has been accused of repeatedly exposing his penis while working on “Doctor Who” in the mid-2000s, and repeating that behavior when he worked on its spinoff “Torchwood,” according to the Guardian. 

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Barrowman told the Guardian that he didn’t recall the incidents described by the outlet’s sources, but he apologized for what he called his “exuberant behavior.”

Another prominent actor who worked on “Doctor Who” around the same time, Noel Clarke, has been accused of sexually harassing or inappropriately touching multiple crew members, the Guardian reported.

Clarke has denied all of those allegations. His lawyer told the Guardian that they were too vague and lacking in evidence to provide a more specific response.

Clarke, who played the mechanic Mickey, has been the subject of multiple recent reports of sexual misconduct: Last week, the Guardian published a bombshell exposé reporting that 20 women had accused Clarke—now a huge star in British film and TV—of sexual harassment, bullying, groping, and sharing sexually explicit videos and pictures, among other misconduct.

Shortly after the exposé was published, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) suspended Clarke’s membership and his recent prize for Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema. BAFTA had been aware of the allegations against Clarke but awarded him the prize anyway, according to the Guardian.

Clarke has denied previous allegations of sexual misconduct. 

“I vehemently deny any sexual misconduct or criminal wrongdoing,” he said in a statement released after the Guardian’s first story.

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“Recent reports however have made it clear to me that some of my actions have affected people in ways I did not intend or realise. To those individuals, I am deeply sorry. I will be seeking professional help to educate myself and change for the better.”

One costume assistant, Joanne Hayes, told the Guardian that Clarke sexually harassed her in his trailer in 2004, during the first season of the revived “Doctor Who.” Hayes said Clarke told her that he “liked girls with long hair, as it gave him something to hold on to when doing them from behind.” He repeated the comment again to Hayes, who had long hair at the time.

Another woman who worked as a runner and driver during the production of early “Doctor Who” seasons told the Guardian that Clarke touched her inappropriately, repeatedly asked her to go back to his hotel room for sex, and repeatedly made comments about sex.

“Constantly the conversation was about sex,” the woman recalled. She asked to no longer drive Clarke, and was taken off of that duty. When Clarke found out, he bullied the woman, according to a separate source.

Three other women who worked on “Doctor Who” also told the Guardian that Clarke had made advances towards them. When they turned him down, they say that Clarke retaliated—badmouthing them and spreading false and unflattering rumors about them. 

Although Barrowman has said he does not recall instances, described by two crew members to the Guardian, in which he allegedly exposed himself, Clarke joked, on camera at a 2015 convention, about his co-star’s tendency to expose himself. 

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“Barrowman was there taking his dick out every five seconds,” he said. “Every five seconds, just hitting it on everything.” He proceeded to use his microphone as a prop for his penis, hitting it back and forth.

Sources told the Guardian that Barrowman’s tendency to take his penis out on set didn’t come off as sexually predatory. Instead, it came off like joking—which, one woman said, wasn’t funny or appreciated, but didn’t make her feel unsafe.

One of the executive producers of “Doctor Who” at the time confirmed to the Guardian that she’d received a complaint about Barrowman in 2008, when he was starring on “Torchwood.” He was reprimanded and, to the producer’s knowledge, Barrowman stopped exposing himself soon afterward. Barrowman, who has continued to return to “Doctor Who” as Harkness as recently as January 2021, also apologized for pulling down his pants during a 2008 radio interview.

“With the benefit of hindsight, I understand that upset may have been caused by my exuberant behaviour and I have apologised for this previously,” Barrowman told the Guardian, adding that he didn’t know about any complaints against Clarke. “Since my apology in November 2008, my understanding and behaviour have also changed.”

The BBC has said that it would investigate allegations related to the set and atmosphere of “Doctor Who.”