Disclaimer: As a newbie whovian, I am still making my way through the Tennant era episodes available on Netflix. As a result, my opinions expressed here are subject to change, especially once I start watching Matt Smith’s portray lf the Doctor. The examples used and arguments made may not be relevant once I catch up. Nevertheless I wanted to express the thoughts swirling through my head thus far.
In my first blog post, I discussed why I am fascinated with, “Doctor Who” in a way that goes beyond the idea of traveling throughout various time periods and throughout the galaxy. I resonated with the Doctor’s deep sense of loneliness. Even when he is traveling with a companion, the loneliness is clear and as someone struggling with severe depression, I find myself able to connect and relate to Doctor’s sense of loneliness.
However, in addition, to being able to relate to the Doctor in certain respects, I also find myself viewing him as a Deity/Messiah figure; one that contrasts sharply with the Fundamentalist (and in some ways, Mainline Protestant Christian) picture of God and Jesus, but one that is not without Biblical basis. In a three part series, I will focus on varying points of comparison and contrast between the Doctor and the stereotypical view of God/Jesus I grew up with. Then in a separate post I will delve more deeply into how the alternative Deity/Messiah figure is not necessarily at odds with the Bible-or rather with certain aspects of the Bible. What many people forget is that the Biblical text is not a monolithic text and therefore it demonstrates various points of views.
God as an awe-inspiring figure to be feared
I grew up in a small Pentecostal church. Pentecostalism falls is related too but distinct from the Charismatic/Holiness movement, however, their theology relates closely to Fundamentalism (though there are some differences). Fundamentalism is known for its rigid set of beliefs and morality. One of the cornerstone beliefs in fundamentalist Christianity is that God is a Deity that is to be feared and who deserves our unwavering obedience. The first humans, Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, fruit that God had specifically told them to avoid. As a result of their disobedience humanity was cursed and estranged from God. As a consequence from “the fall” each and every person is in rebellion to God and we, therefore, deserve to burn in hell for our wickedness. God is so just and holy that He cannot tolerate sin in any form and consequently, if one does not accept Jesus Christ as their “Lord and Savior” and acknowledge that Jesus died for the sins of the individual and humanity as a whole-then one will spend an eternity in hell. This theology was justified by arguing that God has given each and every one of us an opportunity to repent and accept Christ’s sacrificial death-those who refuse are condemning themselves.
Furthermore, when God orders the deaths of innocent men, women, and children in the Hebrew Bible, Fundamentalist theology justifies the horrendous deaths by pointing to God’s holiness and strict sense of justice. Death-even the death of “pagan” babies was viewed as an example of God’s low tolerance for sin.
The Doctor a compassionate, quirky figure …with a potential darkside
On first blush, the Doctor seems to be the exact opposite of an angry wrathful Deity. The Doctor’s first impulse is to not kill. Time after time, he offers those who wish him, humanity, or the galaxy harm the chance to repent. Even willing to risk his own life in order to ensure they have the opportunity to accept his repentance.
In the “Poison sky” (episode 4:5)Donna and Martha beg the Doctor to simply destroy the Sontarans from afar.
The Doctor- I can’t
The Doctor- I’ve got to give them a choice
The Sontarans refuse and instead are happy to be destroyed if it means the Doctor will also die. However, the Doctor is saved at the last minute when Luke, who had originally been working with the Sontarans manages to switch places with the doctor.
In an earlier episode: “The Family of blood” (episode 3:9) Baines explicates:
“He never raised his voice. That was the worst thing. The fury of the Time Lord. And then we discovered why. Why this Doctor, who had fought with gods and demons, why he’d run away from us and hidden. He was being kind.”
Baines then goes on to describe the punishments he and his family received from the Doctor. The Doctor wrapped Baines’ father in unbreakable chains, tricked and imprisoned his mother in a collapsing galaxy, while Baines himself became a screw crow charged with protecting the fields of England. As for his sister, Baines elucidates: “He still visits my sister once a year, every year. I wonder if one day he might forgive her, but there she is. Can you see? He trapped her inside a mirror every mirror. If you ever look at your reflection and see something behind you, just for a second, that’s her. That’s always her.”
In contrast to the portray of God I grew up with, when the Doctor offers the choice to repent or be destroyed (or punished), He is not doing it out of some narcissistic need to be worshiped or because two people in the beginning of time supposedly disobeyed his instructions not to eat a piece of fruit but he is offering his enemies the choice to change; and sometimes offers them an even a better way of accomplishing their goals or getting what they need. He tries to understand what they want and need while letting them know they do not need to kill and destroy.
The God I grew up with was one who often killed arbitrarily. He was more concerned about being worshiped and viewed in a certain way than with justice.
I am currently still in season 4, however, I see glimpses of another side to the Doctor. An angry Doctor who needs to be kept in check.
In the episode: “Runaway Bride” (3:1) the Doctor offers the Empress of the Racnoss the opportunity to repent.
The Doctor: …I give you one last chance. I can find you a planet. I can find you and your children a place in the universes to co-exist. Take the offer and end this now.
When she refuses the Doctor floods the manhole where the Empress’ children are and drowns them. She cries in agony for her children, while her children scream as they drown. The look on the Doctor’s face as he watches the Empress scream in agony and as he hears the screams of her dying children remind me of the look I imagined the God I grew up fearing had as He watched the Israelites slaughter innocent men, women, and children. It was a look of pure anger and hatred. Donna yells at him, “Doctor you can stop now!” and the look quickly passes as he focuses on getting Donna and himself out of there.
At the end of the episode, Donna and the Doctor share the following conversation:
Donna: Just…promise me one thing, find someone
The Doctor: I don’t need anyone
Donna: yes, yes you do. Because sometimes, I think you need someone to stop you
From the episodes I have seen thus far, the Doctor contrasts sharply with the image of God I grew up fearing. The Judeo-Christian God was portrayed as wrathful and angry. His directives to slaughter whole nations and his threat to cast anyone who did not believe in Jesus Christ to hell was explained away by God’s supposedly “just nature.” The Doctor on the other hand, has shown hints of anger and wrath. But so far his actions have been marked by compassion and mercy. Before he kills or punishes he offers his enemies alternatives, and he only kills if he knows that his enemies will not stop causing massive amounts of pain, suffering, and destruction. However, hints of a darker more vengeful side exists.