What Netflix's Baby Reindeer Left Out About The True Story

It would be an understatement to say that the Netflix series "Baby Reindeer" has taken the streaming world by storm. The seven-episode series focuses on the real-life experiences of Scottish comedian Richard Gadd, who also plays the show's main character, Donny Dunn. Centered on events that took place around 2013, "Baby Reindeer" unabashedly tackles often-undiscussed, even taboo topics: men sexually abusing other men, and women stalking men. Before "Baby Reindeer" aired on Netflix, Gadd had written his experiences into a one-man stage show in 2016 called, "Monkey See Monkey Do" for Edinburgh Festival Fringe.   

While the plot details of Gadd's stalking tale can get complicated, the core story portrayed in "Baby Reindeer" is simple: Dunn is a stand-up comedian who works at a pub, a female patron starts obsessing over him, she gets ahold of his email address, she won't stop contacting him, Dunn tries talking to the rather useless police, and on it goes from there. In between it all Dunn gets groomed by a veteran TV industry writer who plies him with drugs and rapes him.

However, "Baby Reindeer" does omit some details from Gadd's real-life story. Whether out of practical issues related to television production, privacy reasons, or other concerns is unknown. Some of those details include the state of Gadd's career before the stalking began, other ways that his stalker contacted him, gifts she gave him, her identity, and her ultimate fate.  

Gadd's career was in a (slightly) better state

No item on this list greatly altered the narrative of "Baby Reindeer" because it's been omitted. Rather, omitted items help contextualize information better, flesh out certain facets of Richard Gadd's story, and help explain the true events behind its television version. To whit: Gadd's career when his stalking nightmare began around 2013.

In "Baby Reindeer," Donny Dunn is a struggling stand-up comedian with an odd sense of humor that audiences don't really get. However, come 2013 Gadd also had a few television credits to his name  in shows like "BBC Comedy Feeds." These aren't major roles, by any means, but Gadd had at least a bit more public prominence and career success than the Netflix show depicts. Since then, and before the 2024 release of "Baby Reindeer," Gadd continued to get a number of TV roles, most prominently in the still-ongoing time travel-meets-historical drama show, "Outlander."

The point is this: How large of a role did Gadd's career, if at all, play in the obsessions of his stalker? The target of a stalker need not be successful and famous to be stalked, but a stalker won't exactly be dissuaded by such things, either (see David Bowie's bunny stalker). We do know that the Camden, London pub where Gadd worked was a hotspot for celebrities like Amy Winehouse, Liam Gallagher, and Kate Moss. While we can't say for sure, it stands to reason that Gadd's celebrity-adjacent status might have played a role in his stalker's interest in him.

Pages upon pages of hand-written letters

As "Baby Reindeer" depicts, Richard Gadd was the target of a relentless bombardment of communiques from "Martha" (the show's pseudonym for his stalker). This behavior persisted for four full years, and along the way Gadd found out that he wasn't Martha's first and only target. But it's the number of communiques that really drives home the seriousness of Martha's behavior: 41,071 emails, 744 tweets, 46 Facebook messages across four different accounts, and an unbelievable 350 hours of voicemail messages. She signed her emails "Sent from my iPhone" (or just "iphon") despite not sending them from an iPhone.

That being said, Martha also stalked Gadd via non-digital means. We know that she visited him at work, as "Baby Reindeer" depicts, sitting across the bar from him for hours and sipping on a single Diet Coke. Gadd of course was helpless to intervene and couldn't kick her out. Martha also shows up while he's doing stand-up and throws his whole performance off, visits his house and peers through his window, contacts his ex-girlfriend, and more.

But, the one thing that "Baby Reindeer" leaves out is Martha's letters. She wrote a full 106 pages of letters to Gadd. While it's not totally clear whether these letters were handwritten, it would take quite a commitment to write so much by hand — much more than a mere tweet tapped out in seconds. The content of these letters remains undisclosed and unknown.

Boxer shorts, sleeping pills, a hat, and a stuffed reindeer

"Baby Reindeer" portrays Martha as disturbed, but also paints her as a fairly full, even sometimes sympathetic person. This was Richard Gadd's intention when he wrote the show. As he told Tudum, "Stalking on television tends to be very sexed-up. It has a mystique. ... 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." And out of all of Martha's disturbing yet humanizing behaviors in the show, it's her final voice message that stands out. In the message she talks about a stuffed reindeer toy she had as a kid, how it was the only good part of her childhood, and how Donny Dunn reminds her of the reindeer (hence the name of the show).   

The real-life Martha, however, also gave a stuffed reindeer to Gadd. She gave him other gifts, as well, including a wooly hat and the unsettling combination of boxer shorts and sleeping pills. It's unknown why she chose these gifts, or what she intended to accomplish — if such things crossed her mind. It's also unclear why this vignette was omitted from "Baby Reindeer," except perhaps to add to the effect of the final voice message described above. That being said, Martha's behavior as depicted in "Baby Reindeer" is distressing enough even without any of the gifts that her real-life counterpart gave Gadd. 

The stalker's true identity

Richard Gadd's stalker in "Baby Reindeer" is named Martha Scott, but it should come as no surprise that this isn't the stalker's real name. As we described earlier, Gadd wanted to reveal the humanity even in stalkers, and has described stalking as a mental illness. It stands to reason that he hasn't revealed the actual identity of his stalker out of a sense of protection or empathy. Back in 2019 he told The Guardian, "It would be unfair to say she was an awful person and I was a victim." More recently he told GQ, "We've gone to such great lengths to disguise her [the stalker] to the point that I don't think she would recognize herself. What's been borrowed is an emotional truth, not a fact-by-fact profile of someone."

But even though Gadd concealed the identity of the real-life Martha, his alleged stalker has anonymously stepped forward into the public sphere, anyway. As The Hollywood Reporter reports, Gadd's still-unnamed stalker watched "Baby Reindeer" and gave a very unfavorable opinion about the show, saying, "He's [Gadd] using 'Baby Reindeer' to stalk me now. I'm the victim. He's written a bloody show about me." She said that Gadd was "bullying an older woman on television for fame and fortune." She also claimed that, despite Gadd's attempts at keeping her identity secret, she'd already gotten "death threats and abuse from Richard Gadd supporters." She's apparently even considering suing Gadd for defamation.

The stalker's fate

Finally, "Baby Reindeer" leaves out the real-life Martha's fate. In the show, police finally take action and arrest Martha. She pleads guilty to three counts of stalking and harassment and is sentenced to nine months in prison. Richard Gadd's character Donny Dunn also takes out a five-year restraining order on her. The last time they see each other is during her plea hearing. 

In reality, though, Martha never faced any prison time — this is where "Baby Reindeer's" narrative differs the most from its real-life events. Gadd told The Times in 2024 that he "didn't want to throw someone who was that level of mentally unwell in prison." Before that in 2019, The Guardian wrote that Martha was "still at large, and until recently has been harassing his [Gadd's] friends and family." At the same time, she was "finally restrained" from getting into contact with Gadd. However this played out, and what exactly happened, is anyone's guess.

Back in 2019, Gadd also said that the release of "Monkey See Monkey Do" seemed to have deterred Martha's stalking. "Maybe seeing this in the press has made her think twice about her behavior," he told The Guardian. Judging by the real Martha's recent statements about "Baby Reindeer," however, she seems to have changed her mind about getting re-involved in Gadd's life. Only time will tell how things unfold from here.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.