What's all the fuss about Baby Reindeer, Netflix and Piers Morgan?

Baby Reindeer has come under scrutiny once again, after the 'real life' Martha from the Netflix show was interviewed by Piers Morgan

Baby Reindeer (Netflix)
Baby Reindeer (Netflix)

The hit Netflix show Baby Reindeer has come under scrutiny once again, after the 'real life' Martha from the show was interviewed by journalist Piers Morgan.

Fiona Muir Harvey, 58, was initially tracked down by internet sleuths who identified her as the 'real' Martha from Richard Gadd's autobiographical Baby Reindeer - she later identified herself as the character, giving interviews to the Scottish Sun and to Morgan.

Harvey's identification, as well as police involvement after a man was falsely accused of being Gadd's 'real' abuser, have led to questions over Netflix's safeguarding policy. The show has remained in the spotlight after a Scottish MP raised questions over Netflix's claim that 'Martha' was convicted and jailed in real life.

A senior Netflix boss gave evidence to the Commons Committee last week about the show's safeguarding - but the SNP's John Nicolson said their statement may be contempt of Parliament if it cannot be proved that Harvey was actually convicted and jailed.

Yahoo News explains the story behind Baby Reindeer and why the show has been so controversial.

The autobiographical Baby Reindeer was originally written by comedian Richard Gadd for the Edinburgh Festival.

The show, which debuted on Netflix on 11 April, details Gadd's claims that he was stalked by a woman, receiving more than 40,000 emails and hours of voice messages. The show also depicts her showing up at his stand-up gigs, home and workplace.

In the show, Gadd portrays his stalker as someone who appears to have complex mental health issues, and who has previously been convicted for stalking an MP and his family.

The show also sees Martha admit to stalking Gadd in court, later being convicted of the offence and sentenced to nine months in prison.

“Stalking on television tends to be very sexed-up. It has a mystique. It’s somebody in a dark alleyway. It’s somebody who’s really sexy, who’s very normal, but then they go strange bit by bit,” Gadd explained in press for Baby Reindeer.

“But stalking is a mental illness. I really wanted to show the layers of stalking with a human quality I hadn’t seen on television before. It’s a stalker story turned on its head. It takes a trope and turns it on its head.”

As well as addressing the issue of stalking, Gadd's story also tackles his experience as a victim of sexual assault by an older TV writer in the industry (written as the character "Darrien", played by actor Tom Goodman-Hill).

Baby Reindeer (Netflix)
Baby Reindeer tells Richard Gadd's story of being stalked by a woman he met in a pub. (Netflix)

Read more: Richard Gadd says writing Baby Reindeer was 'lifesaver' after stalking ordeal (Yahoo Entertainment)

Was Netflix right to make the show as a 'true' story?

Following the success of the show - which is firmly wedged in Netflix's number 1 most watched slot - Netflix did face questions over the morality of making the show as a "true" story, particularly after internet sleuths uncovered the "real" Martha's identity in a hot minute.

Viewers have raised questions over whether the streaming giant did enough to disguise the identity of someone who is portrayed as both having caused extreme distress to Gadd, and having her own set of complex mental health issues.

Speaking to Parliament’s Culture, Media and Sport Committee on 8 May, Netflix senior director of public policy in the UK and Ireland, Benjamin King, said the company had taken "every reasonable precaution" to disguise the real identities of characters in the show.

"Baby Reindeer is an extraordinary story, and it is obviously a true story of the horrific abuse that the writer and protagonist, Richard Gadd, suffered at the hands of a convicted stalker," King said.

"We did take every reasonable precaution in disguising the real-life identities of the people involved in that story in the making of the show while also striking a balance of veracity and authenticity of Richard's story, because we didn't want to anonymise that or make it generic to the point where it was no longer his story, because that would undermine the intent behind the show."

This week, the SNP's Jon Nicolson said he's written to Netflix, asking the entertainment giant to substantiate its claims that the stalker who inspired the fictional character was convicted. Mr Nicolson told the BBC: “It’s clear that the evidence given by Netflix to the select committee is disputed. The charge made – of a conviction – is very important. Journalists can find no evidence to back up the Netflix claim."

Yahoo News has reached out to Netflix for comment.

Read: The true story behind Netflix series Baby Reindeer (Yahoo Entertainment)

Harvey's first-ever onscreen interview, with Piers Morgan on his TalkTV show Piers Morgan Uncensored, saw her deny that Gadd's depiction of her was true.

She claimed she had sent Gadd a "couple of emails", suggesting that there were fewer than 10 email exchanges between the pair, and had never called him on the phone. She also denied assaulting his girlfriend or attending multiple comedy shows of his.

But Morgan's interview with Harvey has prompted its own backlash over whether he should have offered a potentially vulnerable person such a high-profile interview.

Writing on social media, one viewer described the interview as "unethical", while Harvey has said she felt "a bit used" by the interview, for which she says she was paid £250.

Yahoo News has reached out to Piers Morgan and TalkTV for comment.

Harvey told the Daily Record: "There was a heavy emphasis from Piers Morgan on Gadd and the emails I am supposed to have sent.

"I have my own thoughts on it that I'd like to keep to myself but I wouldn't say I was happy. It was very rapid to try to trip me up. He did it fast-paced to catch me off guard.

"It seemed to me that I was set up. I feel a bit used."

In a later interview with the Daily Record, Harvey said she wanted to be paid more money for the Morgan interview - prompting him to shoot back in a tweet: "No, Fiona, you want an agent."

Read more: Baby Reindeer's real 'Martha' set to speak out in first TV interview (Yahoo Entertainment)

Morgan's interview saw Harvey deny that she had ever been charged or convicted of stalking offences - her account differs from that of Baby Reindeer, which shows Dunn (played by Gadd) discovering that "Martha" is a convicted stalker.

Harvey said: "It's completely untrue. Very, very defamatory to me, very career-damaging. And I wanted to rebut that completely on this show. I'm not a stalker. I've not been to jail, I've not got injunctions. And this is just complete nonsense."

Morgan reiterated in his own column for The Sun that he had not found any evidence that she had ever been charged or convicted of stalking offences, writing: "Fiona says she’s never been convicted of stalking Gadd, let alone shamefacedly admitted it in court as the show says.

"And no journalists have yet found any evidence that she has ever been charged or convicted of any crime."

There is currently no available evidence suggesting Harvey has been charged or convicted of stalking offences, however, lawyer Laura Wray told the Daily Record that she and her husband (the late MP for Glasgow Baillieston and Glasgow Provan Jimmy Wray) took legal action against her.

“We took an interim interdict. I don’t think she responded and I don’t think there was a full hearing after because it did the trick in stopping her coming near me," Wray told the Daily Record.

“It was a long time ago and I haven’t heard from her since. I’ve watched the Netflix show now and it’s quite uncanny, put it that way.”

The depiction of Gadd's reported abuser has also sparked its own real-life controversy.

Police launched an investigation after Sean Foley was falsely accused of being the abusive TV writer "Darrien" depicted in the show.

In a statement to ITV News, West Midlands Police said: "We're investigating after a man reported receiving threatening messages on social media. Enquiries are at an early stage and we are in the process of gathering information from the victim."

In a statement shared on Instagram, Gadd said: "People I love, have worked with, and admire (including Sean Foley) are unfairly getting caught up in speculation. Please don’t speculate on who any of the real life people could be. That’s not the point of our show."

Speaking about the accusations flying around social media, writer and presenter Richard Osman said the identity of the real Darrien was an open secret in the industry - and stressed it was not Foley.

"There’s a very, very serious thing that happens with a male comedy producer and Richard Gadd, who, as you say, did the show in Edinburgh and has been very open to people in the industry about who that person was, so people in the industry know who that person was," he said.

“Now it comes out now and a completely different person is identified, someone who has produced Richard Gadd before, but is definitively not the person in any way,” he continued.

“But the person they’ve cast in that role looks like this other guy, looks like the guy who’s been falsely accused. And it’s such a weird, bizarre thing to do because this poor guy has had death threats and he’s had to issue a statement to say it’s not me. And it is not him, but definitely not because people in the industry know who it is. And it definitely not him.”

Read more: Baby Reindeer sparks police probe after Netflix viewers falsely accuse man (Yahoo Entertainment)

Despite Netflix insisting that the "real" Martha's identity had been disguised, and Gadd's own plea to viewers not to attempt to track her down, internet sleuths posted the identity of Fiona Harvey online shortly after the show aired.

Harvey, from Aberdeenshire, was identified as the "real" Martha after social media users scoured the internet and found a social media account that had tweeted Gadd in 2014 - on one occasion using a line that appears in the show.

"These people are nutters. It's a cult thing like the Moonies. I've had to block people who say they are determined to stalk me the same way I am stalking them," Harvey told the Daily Record of being tracked down on the internet.

Additionally, key identifiers - such as her former legal career and Scottish accent - were left in the show.

Initially, Harvey denied that Martha was based on her, stating on social media that Gadd was not known to her. However, she later said she was the "real" Martha although she denies Gadd's version of events.