When I reviewed Can You Hear Me? I didn’t cover the (very) awkward and odd scene between Graham and the Doctor. He’d had a nightmare about Grace and the return of his cancer. He opened up to the Doctor – she avoided conversation. I felt it very much out of character for a Doctor who’d made it clear she wanted company, but decided not to make a big point out of it. It turns out a lot of others didn’t like it and the BBC themselves have come back on it. The Radio Times has this: BBC responds to Doctor Who fans upset by “awkward” Doctor and Graham conversation. I’m not convinced.
You live long enough and your life will be touched directly or indirectly by cancer (or other major diseases). I know first hand how hard it is to find words when, in my twenties, someone I know shares their cancer experience. I’m older now, and even if people skills are not my forte, I like to think I would listen and say something sage about defeating it once, so it can be defeated if it comes back, if nothing else.
The Doctor is 1,000s of years old. If Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor was awkward around Clara, he knew it and would have said something profound, then asked afterwards if that was OK.
The Doctor has access to time travel and future medication (eg getting the best care for River Song). If it were real she could get Graham future cancer treatment. She could scan there and then with the sonic and belay his immediate fears.
The scene still feels wrong, and yes it get it’s a hard conversation to have, but the Doctor could, and should do better.