What is Baby Reindeer and why is the U.K. government concerned?

Here’s what to know about the show that has got its creator in trouble and Netflix under scrutiny by the U.K. government

Article content

The hit Netflix series Baby Reindeer, based on creator Richard Gadd’s experience being stalked, has led to threats of multiple lawsuits and new stalking allegations after the alleged inspiration for one of the characters was revealed.

The series, adapted from the actor and comedian’s autobiographical one-man show of the same name, is currently the No. 1 show on Netflix, with nearly 19 million streams in the past four weeks.

Advertisement 2

Article content

Article content

The seven episode series follows bartender and comedian Donny Dunn and his relationship with a customer, Martha, who becomes obsessed with him. Martha returns to the bar each day to chat with Dunn, while also sending him tens of thousands of emails and leaving hundreds of hours of voice-mail messages.

Fans and internet sleuths quickly set out to discover the real-life Martha. The woman who was identified has come forward to the media and refuted the premise of the series, as well as her portrayal, in interviews with The Daily Mail and Piers Morgan. Here’s what to know.

Recommended from Editorial

Who is Baby Reindeer’s real-life Martha?

English television and theatre actress Jessica Gunning plays the character of Martha Scott, a former lawyer with a criminal past. The character is reportedly based on Fiona Harvey, who told Morgan she was forced to speak with media after receiving death threats online.

“I was forced into this situation,” she said during an appearance on Morgan’s YouTube show last Thursday. She was reportedly compensated £250 (about $430) for the interview.

Article content

Advertisement 3

Article content

We apologize, but this video has failed to load.

Harvey refuted much of the series premise and details during the hour-long sit down, though she also said she hasn’t watched any of it.

“No, I think I’d be sick,” she said, via Hollywood Reporter. “It’s taken over enough of my life. I find it quite obscene. I find it horrifying, misogynistic. Some of the death threats have been really terrible online. People phoning me up. You know, it’s been absolutely horrendous. I wouldn’t give credence to something like that, and it’s not really my kind of drama.”

Harvey also claimed Gadd propositioned her but she turned him down as she was in a relationship at the time.

As for the tens of thousands of emails that she allegedly sent, Harvey initially said she didn’t think she sent him anything but then said it was “less than 10.”

“There may have been a couple of emails exchanging, but that was it. Just jokey banter emails,” she said.

Harvey also claimed to maintain at least six different email accounts and four cellphones.

“I like to keep people on different phones and different emails,” she explained. “It’s just easier. It’s easier. So you have some for your utilities, some for close friends, whatever.”

Advertisement 4

Article content

She also claimed she never had Gadd’s phone number and never left him any voice mails.

What are the new stalking allegations in Baby Reindeer scandal?

Daily Mail journalist Neil Sears claimed earlier this month that he received a four-day “barrage of calls and voice mails” from Gadd’s “real life” stalker, though Sears did not name the woman.

Sears wrote that the “tsunami” of calls happened after he met with the woman for an in-person interview.

“On social media, she went on to denounce me as a fat liar, an ‘overgrown bipolar schoolboy’ and said she was considering charging £3,000 (about $5,150) an hour for the time she spent talking to me, which she claimed was her professional due,” he wrote, adding that he initially felt it was “perfectly legitimate for ‘Martha’ to call me,” before things spiralled out of control.

Sears claimed that within 10 minutes of the interview concluding, the calls began.

He said he received three calls on his short drive home, 10 the next day, 14 the day after that and 24 the following day, all from a ‘No Caller ID number.’

“When I failed to answer — as, I have to admit I began to do as that ‘No Caller ID’ message kept popping up — there were the rambling stream-of-consciousness messages — just like the ones the fictional Martha leaves in the TV show,” he wrote.

Advertisement 5

Article content

Sears added that the tone of the calls changed after his article was published, which was co-written with another journalist.

“I will call the police if you ever approach me,” Sears claims the woman said. “I am suing you and that newspaper, and the bimbo who wrote the article with you. I hope that’s clear even to a moron like you, and I will be demanding the newspaper sack you. I don’t like you, I’ve never liked you.”

Sears adds that the woman went on to post about him on her Facebook page for several days.

What are the past stalking allegations?

In addition to Gadd’s alleged experience, Laura Wray, widow of former Scottish Labour MP Jimmy Wray, said she was granted an interim restraining order against Fiona Harvey in 2002, when she went by Fiona Muir-Harvey.

Wray spoke with Scottish media after Morgan’s interview with Harvey, claiming she was worried she may be targeted again as their past incident resurfaced.

Wray claimed that she gave Harvey a two-week trial working at her Glasgow-based law firm in 1997 but she was fired after a week for alleged abuse.

Wray alleges Harvey then reported her to social services, claiming she was hitting her child.

Advertisement 6

Article content

Speaking with the Mirror, Wray said she had “forgotten” much of that ordeal but the interview was a “trigger.”

“Watching her last night (on Piers), how did I manage to cope with that for so long? My partner and I are concerned about what she might do next. Is she going to come after me? She is posting things on Facebook accusing me of all sorts, and of being abusive. You don’t know where it will end.”

Wray further alleged that Harvey made threats to her staff and clients. Harvey has denied the allegations and said she resigned on her own, a claim she also made on Morgan’s show.

What has the U.K. government said?

With Harvey’s identity revealed, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has emphasized that new streaming laws will soon place high standards on video-on-demand services like Netflix and allow for complaints regarding accuracy and harmful material.

The U.K Media Bill will align streaming services’ obligations with those of traditional broadcasters, reports Deadline, including focusing on audience and participant protections.

Netflix is reportedly facing scrutiny for not adequately communicating with Harvey prior to the release of Baby Reindeer, which she claims has led to personal backlash and even death threats.

Industry figures have criticized Netflix’s standards, comparing them unfavourably with traditional broadcasting standards, like those of the BBC.

Despite the controversy, the series is still the No. 1 ranked show on Netflix, per its latest figures.

Our website is the place for the latest breaking news, exclusive scoops, longreads and provocative commentary. Please bookmark nationalpost.com and sign up for our newsletters here.

Article content