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Dr Who on Violence

Dr Who Theology

Dr Who on Violence

[Update: Image above has been changed after the Beirut-Paris events]

You don’t need a degree in archetypes to see Christ-like qualities in the Doctor Who Television programme. The Doctor loves humanity, cares for us, coming from outside our time and space to save us, and all without the usual whack-pow of superheroes, but by doing the unexpected.

And so here we are starting Season 9 with a two-part The Magician’s Apprentice and The Witch’s Familiar. Knowing that Jenna Coleman will be leaving the series there was a chilling moment when Missy tricks Clara into the dalek casing (remember how we first met her), ‘I am Clara Oswald’ came out as ‘I am a Dalek.’ Say ‘I love you’!’ and Missy squealed with delight, as it became ‘Exterminate !’

The wonderful conversation between The Doctor and Davros might be a key to understanding Christ:

Davros: “Compassion, then?”
The Doctor: “Always.”
Davros: “It grows strong and fierce in you like a cancer.”
The Doctor: “I hope so.”
Davros: “It will kill you in the end.”
The Doctor: “I wouldn’t die of anything else.”

Then the very reality: to kill the good (The Doctor), in fact is what wins the day against evil.

The next two episodes again had The Doctor prepared to die in order to save.

I found myself leaping from the episodes to the Rene Girard’s Mimetic Theory (People can desire anything, as long as other people seem to desire it, too) and the Scapegoat Mechanism (Societies unify themselves by focusing their imitative desires on the destruction of a scapegoat) that provide models not only for the way we relate as humans, but how Christ (like The Doctor) compassionately takes all this upon himself (especially in the passion and cross) and, quite the opposite of the usual power reactions, unexpectedly wins against evil by the very opposite.

If you want to read more on this approach, I recommend beginning with works by James Alison.

Doctor Who watchers, do add your insights in the comments below.

Ps. At traditional Evensong I cannot avoid being “distracted” by the thought of Doctor Who when we get to the prayer mentioning “…both our hearts…” [The Doctor, of course, has two hearts].

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15 thoughts on “Dr Who Theology”

  1. The Doctor: Who’s she?

    Kazran Sardick: Nobody important.

    The Doctor: Nobody important? Blimey, that’s amazing! You know that in nine hundred years of time and space, I’ve never met anybody who wasn’t important before.

    (Eleven in “A Christmas Carol”)

    As a minister, this is the quote that comes back to me, over and over, when I think of Christ’s response to the world.

  2. The other Doctor Who quote that speaks to the heart of my understanding of Christ is this:

    Clara: You’re going to help me?

    The Doctor: Well, why wouldn’t I help you?

    Clara: Because of what I just did, I just…

    The Doctor: You betrayed me. You betrayed our trust, you betrayed our friendship, you betrayed everything that I’ve ever stood for. You let me down!

    Clara: Then why are you helping me?

    The Doctor: Why? Do you think that I care for you so little that betraying me would make a difference?

    (Twelve in “Dark Water”)

  3. And lo, the Roman soldiers came up to Jesus in the Garden of Eden, and said, “you’re nicked” (or words to that effect in Latin). And Jesus spake unto them and said, “Fancy a jelly baby?”

    Different times, different Doctor. What I see of the current Doctor is an arrogant sociopath. Is that what Jesus is like?

  4. There’s at least one book on theological themes in Doctor Who: Time and Relative Dimensions in Faith: Religion in Doctor Who.

  5. There was a 2-parter in Season 3 where the 10th Doctor becomes human to save humanity. The transformation is so complete that he has only one heart (and no memory of being a Time Lord).

      1. That would be “Human Nature” with David Tennant and is based on a a novel. It was one of the better ones in that season.

  6. I am with you. I love Dr Who and now understand why… he loves me, (or Clara) unconditionally. However, aren’t we getting a bit Scientology with those later comments? Mind you, it could be a way to sell it to Hollywood who have always been disparaging. Tom Cruise, John Travolta playing the universe’s most famous timelord?
    If it happens I will blame you Bosco!

    1. Thanks, Peter. Being a Scientology anti-fan, I’m not sure about that connection. If it comes to the cinema – I’m happy to take all the blame credit. Blessings.

  7. Love the reflections.

    But please forgive me, I just can’t resist picking one nit: As I understand it, “Doctor Who” is the program title and an occasionally heard question. The character is “The Doctor”–as in “Hello. I’m The Doctor”, in response to which someone may ask, “Doctor who?”

    But seriously, I’ve lost count of the times I’ve wanted to use something from Doctor Who to illustrate a theological assertion. Thanks for your observations.

    1. Thanks, Penelope. I have made the changes in the post you suggest. Please forgive me for not using the spelling “program” – for us that is only used in relation to computers. Blessings.

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