THE TAKE AWAY
The Christian and the Doctor
By Kersley Fitzgerald
Doctor Who is a British science fiction television show. It first aired in 1963, ran more or less consistently until 1989, added a TV movie in 1996, and then started up again in earnest in 2005. "The Doctor" is an alien from the planet Gallifrey. His people are time travelers, and when he was young, he stole a time travel machine, the TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimension In Space), which looks like a 1960s London police call box, and ran away to discover the universe. He has travelled with a series of humans, usually women, who act as a liaison for the viewer. When the Doctor is killed, his body regenerates, and both his appearance and personality change. Because of this regeneration process and his naturally long lifespan, he is currently nearly 3000 years old. (It also helps the longevity of the show as there have been thirteen actors to play the Doctor. Yes, I count John Hurt.)
Many of the Doctor's adventures include saving the human race or specific individuals — human and alien. Because of his knowledge, lifespan, and tendency to come to the rescue, some fans consider him an imperfect allegory for Jesus.
Personally, I think this is misguided and inappropriate.
Way back in the day, when I was just beginning to appreciate the glories of sci-fi, my father would turn the fragile TV cart with the monstrosity of a TV so that we could watch Doctor Who while we ate dinner. It was the only TV show we watched during dinner unless we had pizza in the living room. Or dinner was late and M*A*S*H was on.
It was the time of the fourth Doctor — Tom Baker of the long scarf. He traveled with Sarah Jane and Leela and K-9, fighting off the monsters of the week with their incredibly bad costumes. One of which, if memory served, looked exactly like my grandmother's ivy-encompassed bird feeder pole.
I lost track of the Doctor during the next incarnation, and didn't return until Christopher Eccleston picked up the sonic screwdriver in 2005. Dev was still traumatized by his limited exposure back in the 70s and 80s (not the monsters, but the horrible special effects), but I dragged him with me, and by the end of the first new season, he was hooked.
I am not so fanatical as to catch all the cross-references in every show, but I have faithfully followed through the following three incarnations and argued over the merits of Rose vs. Martha vs. Donna vs. Clara. I was ecstatic to see Sarah Jane and K-9 again in "School Reunion."And found great amusement knowing that before Peter Capaldi was Doctor Who, he was a W.H.O. Doctor in World War Z. As for personal life, I don't have the scarf. But Dev commissioned a friend to carve me two of those hard-foam pumpkins with whovian icons, and JT has a Tardis bathrobe.
I reveal all this in an attempt to establish my credentials so that you understand I am a true and lasting whovian when I say:
Doctor Who is not a Christian show. Don't try to make it one.
It is a British science fiction/horror/comedy television show. It is entertaining. Sometimes it is heartbreaking, and sometimes it reveals spiritual truths. But it isn't a Christian show, and I think it's inappropriate to consider the Doctor as a Christ figure.
For a while, there, so many women were dying for the Doctor it was getting creepy.
Some episodes include downright unbiblical content. In "The Impossible Planet" and "The Satan Pit," Satan's body is apparently chained in a deep cavern of a planet headed toward a black hole, while his soul has escaped to possess a group of psychic servants called the Ood. In "Last of the Time Lords," the only way to save the Doctor (and the earth) is for everyone on the planet to send psychic energy to the Doctor — a bit too much like praying for my taste. And in "The Eleventh Hour," we are introduced to the young Amelia Pond, who is praying. To Santa.
Much has been written about the Doctor and similarities to Jesus, but the biggest difference is their motivation. The show Doctor Who is totally and completely humanistic. Whenever an alien race threatens to blow up the earth, the Doctor's argument includes how young humans are and how much potential they have. Humans are his pets that he protects and coddles because he knows what they will grow up to be.
Humanism is not unusual in sci-fi (see: Star Trek), but it's a false belief. Jesus didn't come down and sacrifice Himself because we have potential. There is nothing about us that is worth it. He did it out of obedience to God and love for us. A love that was chosen and decided on despite who we are, not earned because of who we are.
As much as the writers play around with the idea that the Doctor is a god-figure, it's also clear they know he is not. In "The Waters of Mars," the Doctor decides he's tired of observing the fixed points of time that bring tragedy. He wants to win, even if it means cheating. And he does win, for about a minute. But then he realizes he cannot do whatever he wants. There are boundaries he must abide by. He is powerful, but not all-powerful. He can see time and space, but he is not all-knowing.
Doctor Who is a secular, humanistic, entertaining television show. The Doctor is a smart, sometimes wise, brash alien who travels through time and space trying to protect humanity from going extinct. It is possible to find biblical truths in the stories, but that's because the eternity God has written in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11) inevitably comes out through our work and our art. Watch it if you like. Dress up as a fairy princess Dalek if you wish. Or do as I've done and name your blue Forester Idris. But don't make more of it than is there.
Image Credit: NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center; "Brazil at Night"; Creative Commons
Tags: Biblical-Truth | Christian-Life | False-Teaching | Personal-Life | Reviews-Critiques
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