Mercy For A Time Like This

DOCTOR: You want justice, you deserve justice, but this isn’t the way. We can put him on trial 
GUNSLINGER: When he starts killing your people, you can use your justice

Saffie Rose Roussos, was a beautiful 8 year old girl. The head teacher of the primary school she attended described her as, “a beautiful little girl in every aspect of the word. She was loved by everyone and her warmth and kindness will be remembered fondly. Saffie was quiet and unassuming with a creative flair.” She was attending an Ariana Grande on May 29th when she was killed by a suicide bomber. She was a victim of a terrorist attack.

Nawar al Awlaki, 8 years old. She is the daughter of notorious Anwar al-Awlaki, a supporter and recruiter for al Qaeda. But Nawar? At 8 years old, was she a terrorist? The photo reproduced throughout the media in the wake of the botched January 2017 Special Forces raid shows a beautiful girl with a red bow in her hair and a wide smile I wonder, what were her favorite games? Did she like to draw? What hopes did she have for the future? She was shot in the neck at close range and probably left to bleed to death for over two hours. Was she killed by US Special Forces? Or by the militants the US was after? Who knows? Either way, she died in a terrorist attack.

Olivia Campbell was 15 years old. After the Manchester attack, Olivia Campbell’s mother went on social media and talked to the news media begging for information on her daughter. Sobs wrecked her body as she begged for her daughter to return home to her. Unfortunately, Olivia was killed. Olivia Campbell loved singing. Her voice has been silenced.

Asma Fahad Ali al Ameri died at the young age of 3 months years in the January 2017 raid by US Special Forces. 3 months old.  At 3 months old babies are just beginning to recognize people, including parents. At 3 months old they start to actively searching for their parents when they are in the room, they wave their arms excitedly at the sight of their parents. They begin reaching for and swatting at toys.  At this age they love touching and feeling different material. This explains why babies often prefer the wrapping paper or box that a gift is in, rather than the gift itself! I wonder if little Asma was scared by the sounds of screams and bullets? I wonder if Asma started to cry? Was Asma wrapped in the arms of her parents when she died?

 Georgina Bethany Callander was 18 years old. She loved Ariana Grande as the press’s most widely shared photograph of her attests to. In the picture from 2015, Callander is standing next to Ariana Grande beaming with happiness. Before the concert, she sent a tweet to Grande expressing how excited she was to see her idol once again.

Tariq Aziz was 16 years old when he was killed in a CIA drone strike in Pakistan in 2011. Days before his death he attended an anti-drone rally. His uncle described him as, “just a normal boy who loved football.” He had lost a cousin in an earlier drone strike and was interested in helping document the aftermath of strikes.

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In the after math of the Manchester attack, many of us are left wondering, “What type of person kills innocent children?” The media and popular response to that is predictable: a monster, someone without a conscious, a murder, a subhuman. The terrorist who committed such a horrific act, as well as those who helped him or inspired him are rightly viewed with disdain. Yet, what about those who kill innocent children in the name of winning the “War on Terror?” How do we describe men and women who join the military, go to war, and kill children? The conversation immediately shifts. Those killed in war by western military forces are dismissed as collateral. Their deaths are described as unintentional. But, people argue “unlike evil terrorists, our service members don’t intentionally target civilians and children.” Well except when they think a children is threatening them with a grenade or some sort of improvised bomb. The fact that the children are fighting an occupying force isn’t considered when it is our forces doing the occupying. Or if they are living with suspected or confirmed militants then their deaths are also justified.  When it comes to children in other nations who are killed by western bombs or soldiers, their lives are unimportant. Try finding the names of children killed during the “War on Terror” by coalition forces: it can be difficult. And even if one can find names, very little information is available. The deaths instead are reduced to numbers. Individual lives as well as the hopes and dreams they embedded are erased.

The deaths of innocents, particularly of children, justifiably sends people into a rage and in the quest for justice, people often advocate for violence. In the wake of the Manchester attack, there are renewed calls for deportations and the banning of Muslim immigrants or those from Muslim majority countries. There are of course calls for renewed military actions. There is a demand for more drone strikes, which yes will kill terrorists, but will inevitably kill civilians. More dead children. Only in this case, we consider those deaths justified. For those left behind, those deaths are the result of state sanctioned terrorism.  In our quest to stop terrorism, we simply commit more actions of terror that eventually comes back and kills our own children.

DOCTOR: We can end this right now. We could save everyone right now. 
AMY: This is not how we roll, and you know it. What happened to you, Doctor? When did killing someone become an option? 
DOCTOR: Jex has to answer for his crimes. 
AMY: And what then? Are you going to hunt down everyone who’s made a gun or a bullet or a bomb? 

“A Town Called Mercy,” is one of my favorite Doctor Who episodes.  Yes I’ve written about it before and I wouldn’t be surprised if I write about it again. The episode manages to touch on the understandable yet toxic desire to confuse violence with justice. Jex committed horrific actions in the name of saving millions. He tortured people in the attempt to create human weapons. He succeeded, but at a terrible cost.  Jex is responsible for numerous deaths and for putting a town of innocent people, including children in danger.  Why not stop put a stop to all the death and suffering by allowing the gunslinger to kill Jex? Or better yet, why not just kill Jex oneself (or allow the townspeople to do so) Moreover, Jex deserves it, right?

That notion of confusing violence with justice undergirds both war and terrorism. Those who are calling out for more bombs and military action in the Middle East echo the sentiments of ISIS and al Qaeda, who often justify their own acts of terror by listing the many people, including children, killed as a result of both direct and indirect action by western governments and armed forces. One act of injustice, fuels even more acts. Later on, after the Doctor regains his cool, he recognizes that killing Jex or allowing him to die, won’t do much to atone for those killed before. When 18 year old Walter threatens to kill the Doctor in order to get to Jex, the Doctor states:

DOCTOR: …how all this started. Jex turned someone into a weapon. Now that same story’s going to make you a killer, too. Don’t you see? Violence doesn’t end violence, it extends it, and I don’t think you want to do this. I don’t think you want to become that man. 

The “War on Terror” isn’t stopping terrorism. It is fueling more death and destruction while encouraging more people to turn themselves into human weapons. We aren’t stopping terrorism by becoming terrorists ourselves. I’m not saying that we simply forget about what happened. In this case, I am not calling for cheap mercy-a mercy that popular Christianity and pop culture has bastardized. Cheap mercy and cheap forgiveness often become a way of silencing the oppressed that is in and of itself its own form of violence. But the type of mercy I am calling for is a comprehensive one. A mercy that acknowledges the role our own governments have played in sponsoring, supporting, and fostering terrorism. In the “War on Terror”, except for the children and many adults caught in the cross hairs, there are no “good people.” Our service members aren’t heroic saviors while the terrorists are horrible subhuman beasts. The terrorists aren’t heroic martyrs fighting in the name of Allah, and western service members aren’t unthinking uncaring imperialists. The reality is that war and terrorism are the result of a long slew of injustices committed-both by those with incredible power-(nation states and their agents) and those with less power (non-state terrorist groups)  but who still have a commitment towards doing whatever they believe is necessary to achieve what they believe is worth dying and killing for.

I am calling for a whole new way of thinking and responding to terrorism. A response that isn’t primarily reliant on violence. This isn’t easy. I know. On an individual level, I struggle with preferring nonviolent actions and yet believing that the oppressed have the right to fight back. I struggle with acknowledging that oppressors, especially state oppressors react to various tactics, including violence. But I also recognize that violence has the tendency to quickly spin out of control.  But I firmly believe, that those with more power, are ultimately more responsible for any violence that ensues. As a Christian, I struggle with wanting to believe that a better way of living and of seeking justice exists and with the reality of a broken and hurting world. I know there are no easy answers. But I am pleading, begging, for a recognition that terrorism will not end if nation-states continue to terrorize others in the name of fighting terrorism. We aren’t going to protect our own children, by killing children in the Middle East.

We think that by fighting back with more bombs, more weapons, more raids that we are honoring the victims of those killed by terrorist attacks in the west. But in reality all we are doing is terrorizing and killing children in other nations. We are asking for the lives of our children to be honored, while disregarding the lives of children in Yemen, Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. In the face of the Manchester attack we have a choice: are we going to keep repeating the cycle of war and terrorism or are we going to stop it? Bombing terrorist groups to bits isn’t working. So what are we going to do? Act like terrorists in order to kill terrorists or will we finally say enough is enough?

DOCTOR: But they coming back, don’t you see? Every time I negotiate, I try to understand. Well, not today. No. Today, I honour the victims first. His, the Master’s, the Dalek’s, all the people who died because of my mercy! 
AMY: You see, this is what happens when you travel alone for too long. Well, listen to me, Doctor. We can’t be like him. We have to be better than him. 

 

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Depression, suicide, and hope

Robin Williams was found dead on August 11th, 2014 and initial reports are speculating that it was a suicide.  No, I was not a hardcore Robin Williams fan though I have seen some of his movies. I also am not one to report on celebrity deaths beyond sharing an article or two on my personal facebook page. But when it comes to suicide, I always pause a bit. I’ve been honest with my struggles with depression and suicidal thoughts, even though there continues to be a stigma attached to mental illness. (Depression, touted as a treatable disease, is often dismissed as not serious or as a pity party. Treatable does not mean curable and many people, including me, battle depression on a daily basis with the help of medication, a therapist, and the support of friends, families, and colleagues.)

When I first started this blog, I was in the midst of a major depressive episode. I felt like I had hit rock bottom. I had been kicked out of an internship program in California and had to have treatment for my depression, I was back home in an the home of my emotionally abusive mother, and I was trying to help get my grandmother into a nursing home while my mother throw hissy fits like a toddler on a daily basis. And God-don’t get me started on God-I wasn’t sure what I believed and after being betrayed by a “progressive church” I was not a fan of Christianity at the moment.  Suicidal thoughts were a daily plague. It felt as if depression had infected the core of my physical and spiritual body. I was looking for something-any little thing to hold onto.  I was lucky that a friend introduced me to the daft old man traveling through space and time in a blue box. Of course, the show isn’t a cure for depression nor did it change my circumstances, but it provided me with relief from suicidal thoughts for just a few hours every day. And then of course, I saw the episode, “Vincent and the Doctor,” and was moved to tears. Here was an episode that viewed mental illness through a compassionate lens and didn’t end with the cheery note that everything will be ok. As we know, through personal experiences, and now through the death of Robin Williams, sometimes things do not turn out ok. Sometimes the darkness is just too overpowering, especially when mental illness is stigmatized and adequate treatment is not available.  But even when someone does have access to the best medical treatment available sometimes depression can become so debilitating that death is viewed as the only option.

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Even though I am in a much better place than I was a year ago, depression is still a daily battle.  Getting adequate medical treatment, having friends and professors that care and support me, and re-evaluating my theological notions about God (letting go of the manipulative, domineering God of my childhood) has helped, but I would be lying if I said depression still isn’t a struggle. I would be lying if I said that there aren’t days when I look out at this dark world filled with hatred, violence, genocide, and poverty and wonder if it is worth it. Is life in general worth it,  does my life in particular make a difference in a world filled with hurting people?  The answer I hold onto, especially during the days and nights I feel shattered is-yes. Somehow life, in the end does matter. Somehow my life, as a small insignificant individual does matter. It is that yes, which sometimes comes out as nothing more than a whisper that keeps me going. Depression means that I have to say yes to life on a daily basis. And I know the temptation to say no is strong.

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If you struggle with depression or any other mental illness, I pray that you are receiving help and are able to say yes to life on a daily basis or even on a minute by minute basis. For those, like Robin Williams who lost their battle yet fought so valiantly, their lives and their deaths matter. They aren’t selfish cowards who couldn’t hack life, but wounded people who fought with all their strengths, but some wars can’t be won.

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The Silent Stars Go By and Biblical Literalism.

Contains some spoilers for the book: The Silent Stars Go By Dan Abnett

Rory, Amy, and the Doctor find themselves on an earth-like planet. Of course the Doctor had originally promised to take Amy and Rory back to Leadworth for Christmas, but as we all know, the TARDIS rarely takes the Doctor and his companions where they want to go, but instead takes them where they are needed. And the inhabitants of this planet, known as the Morphans, desperately need the Doctor. The Morphans have spent generation after generation trying to make the planet hospitable for human life by trying to trying to turn this planet into a replica of earth. And for years everything was proceeding as scheduled, until the temperature inexplicably gets colder and colder. The complicated machines used to equalize and stabilize the planet’s atmosphere have been tampered with, bringing the planet to the brink of an ice age. Without going into too much detail, suffice to say that aliens are responsible for tampering with earth’s conditions and the Doctor tries to set things right with a minimal amount of death and destruction.

For generations the Morphans have based their way of life on what they call, “The Guide.” The Guide has provided the people with detailed instructions on how to maintain the world and keep it running and as a result when an issue arises, leaders turn to the Guide for advice. When life is proceeding as expected turning to the Guide for advice has served the group well. But when things begin to fall apart in unexpected ways, the people struggle with how to apply the Guide is to their current situation. In one scene, Bill, the leader of the community and Winnowner Copper, a well-respected elder go back and forth about their next course of action. Bill wonders if the giants members of the community have claimed to have seen might actually exist and are responsible for the changing weather, while Winnowner argues that the Guide mentions nothing about giants and therefore they do not exist.

Bill: There was nothing about strangers either, but today strangers came.

Winnowner: They were unguidely, and they brought conjury with them.

Bill: I understand that…I do. But just because something is unguidely, just because it is not part of Guide’s law, it doesn’t mean we can ignore it. It could be killing us Winnower, do we let it?

Winnowner: Of course not. Survival is the greatest doctrine of all. What is happening to us may be exceptional, and therefore not covered in specifics in Guide’s words, but Guide will not fail us. We must look again. Study the passages. Guide will instruct us in ways we have not yet imagine. (133)

In addition, the community is very protective of the Guide. When the Doctor figures out that the Guide is most likely some sort of manual that can enable them to control the various complicated machines on the planet, the community is reluctant to allow the Doctor to have access to the Guide  until they finally realize that they are up against creatures and situations that they cannot defeat on their own. They are so intent on protecting their interpretation of the Guide that their refusal to allow an outsider to access and interpret it almost destroys them.

The parallels between the community’s treatment of the Guide and fundamentalist Christianity’s understanding of the Bible is clear. Fundamentalists tend to interpret the Bible as the literal word of God. The Bible’s historical context is often ignored and the Bible is deemed the ultimate authority not just religiously but scientifically and politically. For instance, the Bible does not mention evolution. As a result, many fundamentalists are quick to try and discredit evolution and any scientific data that supports it. Yet many fundamentalists are not just content with disbelieving evolution, but they seek to ensure that at the bare minimum their religious interpretation about the origins of the earth are treated as a valid scientific alternative. In addition, the Bible is used to decide complex political issues. For instance same-sex marriage is often condemned based on a handful of Scripture verses. Yet the argument isn’t that same sex marriage is against their own personal religious beliefs, but that because the Bible supposedly states that same sex relationships are wrong, then it should be banned on a societal wide basis, so that even those who do not adhere to a fundamentalist world view are expected to legally conform to it.

When data does not support biblical literalism, theological and scientific gymnastics occur. For instance, some creationists argue that dinosaurs were on Noah’s ark. However, in order to believe this it requires that one disregard both scientific research and Biblical scholarship from the past two hundred years. Yet if dinosaurs and humans did not co-exist, then a literal interpretation of the creation story and the flood stories are called into question. Their whole worldview will begin to fall apart.

The Morphans are more willing to question their current reality then their interpretation of the Guide. Their interpretation not only says that the Guide has all the answers, but that only a select group of people are privy to said answers.

Bill-if our world is under attack, and our way of life also, and this is the only way to save it, then who are you to say that it cannot be?

Winnowner- Who are you trusting, Elect? Guide have mercy on us all, you’re trusting the world of these strangers! We have only their say that there are any of these menacing (creature) things! None of us have seen them! (215)

Winnowner then goes on to state that perhaps Amy, Rory and the Doctor are in fact the real creatures attacking their town and that they are simply seeking to gain access to the Guide.

Even though Amy, Rory, and the Doctor have done nothing but try to help them, Winnowner is so adamant that the Guide is something to be protected and followed uncritically, that she is willing to distort current reality to protect her interpretation of the Guide.

In fundamentalist Christianity the Bible isn’t a book that is to be sequestered away and studied by a few people. In fact, the belief is that the Bible should be freely read and available to everyone. The catch, however, is that any interpretation that differs from a literal reading is to be rejected. Those who do not agree to a certain set of theological ideas are to be distrusted. They aren’t real Christians. The Morphans reacted by panic and attempted to keep the Guide away from the strangers for fear that it would be used to destroy their way of living, while in fundamentalist Christianity it is ideas that are deemed “strange” or not in line with the status quo that are to be feared and distrusted. Ideas that contradict their narrow view of the Bible stand as a threat to their whole faith system and as a result, they are to be ridiculed, mocked, ignored and rebutted.

The Morphans’ blind allegiance to the Guide and their refusal to listen to those not part of their inner groups threatens to eradicate what is left of humanity. In the “real world,” especially when religious interpretation is elevated to divine status, the consequences might be less drastic but still troubling. The Bible has become a tool of the privileged; only certain types of people can make claim to the Bible and what it says-if others dare to reach a different conclusion-if the poor, if members of the LGBTQ community, if women, seek to make a claim to the Bible, their voices tend to at best be ignored and at worst trivialized and mocked. Yet in a western world that is increasingly becoming secularized, Christians cannot afford to close ranks and state that there is only one correct interpretation-an interpretation that seems to correlate with the political wishes of the powerful. It is only when the Morphans let go of their rigid insistence that they have all the answers did they gain the information they needed to survive. Likewise, a Christianity that insists on a singular interpretation that is catered to the whims of a specific privileged demographic will not last long. The center of Christianity is shifting from the west and the world is fast becoming more globalized and interconnected. In order for Christianity to survive, diverse voices need to be welcomed and heard. A Christianity that fails to take into account the diversity of human experience is aiding in its own destruction.

5. The Angels Take Manhattan: Amelia’s Final Farewell

One of the recurring themes in Amy’s story arc is the tension between her choice to follow the Doctor and her relationship with Rory. At one point she seemed to have it all. She could travel with the Doctor alongside her husband. She could play house and still go off on exotic and amazing adventures.  When the Doctor drops her off in the 21st century with a new house and car, at the end of The God Complex, it  signified the end of her and Rory traveling with the Doctor 24/7 and the possibility that her travels with the Doctor would soon come to a permanent end. Though, in reality, that is a possibility that none of the main characters want to entertain for long. In the episode, The Power of Three, Amy and Rory are fully aware about how they are living two lives:

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Later on in that episode, Amy and the Doctor have a heart to heart:

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Traveling with the Doctor is of course dangerous, but incredibly exhilarating.  But the problem is, their second life, their “real life” is not given the same amount of devotion and attention. Even when they go months without seeing the Doctor, they live their lives as if they are in a holding pattern, simply going through the motions of their daily lives waiting for the Doctor to return. They can’t truly invest in their everyday life because they know that the Doctor will show up unannounced and they will drop everything to go away with him. But who could blame them? Who wouldn’t want to go traipsing throughout the universe for as long as possible? Amy and Rory are living two lives-and while it wears down on them both-I’m not sure either want to truly give up their lives with the Doctor. Brian points that out to the Doctor at the end of The Power of Three:

“… it’s you they can’t give up, Doctor. And I don’t think they should. Go with him. Go save every world you can find. Who else has that chance? Life will still be here.”

However, not surprisingly Amy is eventually forced to make a choice: stay with the Doctor and never see Rory again or stay with Rory, live a relatively normal life, and never see the Doctor again.

The first part of the episode can be described as a frantic attempt on the part of Amy and the Doctor to try and delay making such a final decision. Especially on the part of the Doctor. Amy isn’t the same person she was during the episode,  Amy’s Choice where she agonized right up until Rory is seemingly killed over who she wanted-Rory or the Doctor. It seems, at least to me, that from the get go she is pretty clear that she wants to do anything possible to get Rory back. Her focus has shifted. It’s the Doctor who can’t bear to permanently let her go.

The episode showcases Amy’s devotion to Rory, although there is one moment where it seems as if her devotion is called into question. When they enter Winter Quay, Amy, Rory, River and the Doctor see an aged Rory who just before he dies, sees Amy and reaches for her. The Doctor explains that the weeping angels are coming to get Rory and to zap him back into the same spot thirty-forty years earlier where he would live and die in that bed. Rory than wants to know about Amy:

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It appears as if Amy made a choice to stay with the Doctor. However, Amy and Rory refuse to accept that this is how Rory’s story would end-how their story would end. The Doctor is stubbornly insists that the future cannot be changed-even when we have seen the Doctor in earlier episodes blatantly disregard that whole notion and insist on doing the impossible. (Perhaps because in that version of the future Amy stays with him. If the future can be changed, then there is still a possibility he could lose Amy). But  Amy is adamant that if Rory has to run from the weeping angels forever then she would run with him. And on the rooftop when Rory realizes that the only way for him to create a paradox that would destroy the angels was to jump off the roof and face death, instead of pushing him off the roof like he asked her to do, she decides to jump with him.

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When River and the Doctor make their way to the roof, the look of panic on the Doctor’s face is palpable. He cares about Rory of course, but as he mentioned in a previous episode, Amy is the one who is seared onto his hearts. “The first face, this face saw,” he tells her. As a result he cannot bear the thought of losing her. Imagine the joy the Doctor feels when the paradox works and it seems as if everything would turn out OK. Rory and Amy are back and they can all go off on new adventures. But of course, it was never going to end like that.

One weeping angel survives the paradox and Rory gets zapped back in time. Amy, of course, chooses to follow him and live a life of relative normalcy (though of course the time period they were zapped back into, the 1930s, was a time of turmoil for the world…).

Amy in the beginning of her adventures with the Doctor was enamored with the man in the blue box and essentially afraid of settling down and growing up but this Amy was ready to let go of her raggedy man. She was ready to stop running away.  The Doctor, in contrast, is known for running away-he can never settle down. He cares about people-but he will leave them and move on with is life-he has too. His ability to vastly outlive all of his companions means that he can never stay with one person for a long period of time. As the Doctor admits at the beginning of the episode he hates endings and River Song tells Amy: “Never let him see the damage. And never, ever let him see you age. He doesn’t like endings.”

Whether they wanted to admit or not there was going to come a time when Amy would have to choose between the Doctor and Rory. And she was always going to choose Rory.

11. The Beast Below

10. Amy’s Choice

9. Vincent And The Doctor

8. The Girl Who Waited

7. The God Complex

6. A Town Called Mercy 

6. A Town Called Mercy: Defining Revenge, Justice, and Mercy

One of my problems with pop theology (theology that has infiltrated popular culture but contains little to no substance)* is that mercy and forgiveness are used as a way to ignore and excuse injustice. “Oh it does not matter if that person abused you, you have to forgive them, because that is what God would want you to do.” Mercy and forgiveness become an excuse to ignore issues of justice and morality. Pop theology has turned notions of forgiveness and mercy into a tool of oppression and those who speak out against personal or systematic injustice are portrayed as being “unforgiving” or “bitter.” Yet is forgiveness and mercy really a matter of pretending that an injustice did not occur or pretending that harmful actions have no consequences? Is mercy and forgiveness at odds with justice? Even as I continue my studies and am exposed to various and more nuanced theological understandings of mercy and justice and even as an agnostic, who does not believe that issues of mercy, justice, and forgiveness need to be tied with belief in a deity figure, I still find myself grappling with how to define mercy, justice, and forgiveness in ways that don’t white wash oppression and injustice.

I guess my whole ambivalence about this subject is why A Town Called Mercy is one of my favorite episodes from Matt Smith’s time as the Doctor.  As a family show, the episode has funny bits (ex. When the Doctor walks into a bar and tells the bartender-“Tea. But the strong stuff. Leave the bag in,” as he proceeds to struggle with the tooth pick in his mouth) but it does not mince away from some darker stuff.

The Doctor is known throughout the series as a hero generally adverse to violence (especially after his experience in the Time War) yet he does not shy away from using violence when necessary. He, however, almost always seeks to solve problems without having to resort to killing. But at the end of the previous episode, Dinosaurs on a Spaceship we see the Doctor ignore Solomon’s pleas for mercy. Now one could argue, well Solomon deserved his fate. He massacred a ship filled with Silurians:

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Not to mention Solomon had no qualms about implying that he would rape Nefertiti. Solomon was a brutal and cruel and as the Doctor told Solomon in response to his cries for mercy: “Did the Silurians beg you to stop? Look, Solomon. The missiles. See them shine? See how valuable they are. And they’re all yours.”

But the vital questions are not: does Solomon (or in A Town Called Mercy, Jex) deserve to die, but is killing them in a similarly brutal way akin to justice or is it simply revenge? And what does it say about the Doctor when he conflates violence with justice? What does it say about us as a society when we do the same?

The Doctor’s anguish over whether or not to hand Jex over to the gunslinger is only partially tied to Jex’s involvement in a brutal war:

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But the Doctor’s anger and hatred of Jex is related to his own guilt for his actions in the time war and his inability throughout the centuries to save all those who have turned to him for help.

I’ve read in articles, blog posts, and facebook comments, and heard a speaker at a convention: deride the Doctor for trying to reason with his enemies and give them a chance to change instead of instantly blasting them to bits. Their reasoning was that Immediately destroying his enemies or launching into a violent frenzy would have saved more lives. But would it? In a tv show, the answer is perhaps. The writers can control the actions of any character as well as the consequences of said actions.

But, it seems as if some of those who advocate for the Doctor to use violence as a first resort see no qualms about such actions being used in the “real world.”  While I am not in anyway a pacifist and I do believe that violence and war will occasionally be necessary, but I am weary of how violence and war is viewed as the first and best solution towards injustice. The impulse towards violence can, in the long one, increase the death toll.

Yet I also understand and sympathize with the violent impulse. Violence has an immediate effect-no need to wait for tricky negations or placing one’s faith in a corrupt justice system.

Even while cringing when the Doctor pointed a gun at Jex,  I also understood his anger and frustration at Jex and at himself.  The Doctor was not only disgusted at Jex’s actions, but as Jex points out, there is a similarity between him and the Doctor

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The Doctor’s actions in the Time War, no matter how necessary, is arguably worse than Jex’s actions. The Doctor destroyed his own people in an attempt to avert even more deaths and destruction throughout the universe, yet he still feels overwhelming guilt towards his actions and to see someone like Jex, who ran away to avoid the consequences of his actions and who discusses what he has done so nonchalantly, reminds the Doctor of his guilt, of his past actions.  Ever since the Time War the Doctor has been running away in an attempt to forget what he has done.  Yet his guilt and he takes out his anger and hatred towards himself on Jex. The Doctor cannot forgive himself nor show mercy to himself, why would he extend it to Jex?

Furthermore, the Doctor also questions whether or not his mercy towards his enemies has truly benefited anyone. His acts of mercy do not involve an erasing or ignoring of horrible actions or consequences, but provides his enemies an opportunity to recognize what they have done wrong, stop their evil actions and perhaps try to rectify them. Yet his inability to instantly kill has resulted in the deaths of others, and he understandably questions his past actions. Perhaps by killing Jex or handing him over to the gunslinger to be killed the Doctor can atone for his actions in the Time War and all the instances in which he failed to save others.

But the reality of violence is never so simple and justice and violence are not necessarily one and the same. In this episode, Amy reminds the Doctor of who he is. Amy questions his impulse for violence and she challenges him to think-to provide a different solution. The Doctor has tried violence before and look where he has ended up…

I believe when the Doctor remembers he who he is-when he refuses to give into his violent impulses, he encourages Jex to take responsibility for his actions and to end all the death and destruction.

I still don’t have an easy answer for how to define justice, forgiveness, and mercy and I’m not sure I ever will. But I appreciate it when the TV shows I watch wrestle with said issues and encourage its audience members-including children, to do the same.

A quick note: did anyone notice the limited role the preacher played in this episode? The preacher, who one would assume would take the lead in discussing issues of justice and mercy does not. He relies on others to do so. He will offer prayers but very little action…

*And yes even as an agnostic, I find pop theology to be harmful and believe that being knowledgeable about Christian theology is vital for Christians and non-Christians. While Christianity is influx in developed countries, it is booming in developing countries and will continue to be an important force in world events in years to come.

11. The Beast Below

10. Amy’s Choice

9. Vincent And The Doctor

8.The Girl Who Waited

7. The God Complex

 

 

Dallas Comic Con: Sci Fi Expo.

On Friday Feb 7th, the evening before the start of the convention I was extremely excited and nervous. Excited because I would have the chance to meet some Doctor Who guests: Tony Curran (He played Vincent Van Gogh in the episode, “Vincent and the Doctor”), the 7th Doctor Sylvester McCoy, and most excitedly, Karen Gillan. Throughout the day I had managed to get some homework done but at around 8:00 pm my mind was consumed with thoughts about meeting Karen. “I hope I don’t cry.” I told myself. “What if I trip?” I worried. I also had the privilege of giving Tony Curran and Karen Gillan, Doctor Who 50th anniversary medals that were made specifically for a virtual charity race. “Am I going to be allowed to give Karen the medal? What if she doesn’t like it? I will only have about a minute to speak to her, I hope I can explain to her a little bit about the medal and not just shove it in her face.”  I finally managed to fall asleep around 3:30am(I had a dream I lost my convention ticket…) only to wake up at 6:30 am. I headed to the convention center at around 8:00 am to start a day that would be filled with waiting, though to be honest, waiting in an hour in 34 degree weather was my least favorite part of the day.

After entering the building and being allowed to wait inside, those of us with VIP tickets were given free reign before the event opened up to those with general admission tickets. I spent the whole hour with other VIP ticket holders waiting for Karen to arrive. I have to admit I was a bit annoyed, until she finally arrived. She was so tall I could see the top of her head, even with a crowd around her! And she looked beautiful and she was rocking her short hair. Once she sat down, things started moving quickly. I swear I almost stopped breathing when she looked up at me and smiled. But I had a job to do so I quickly handed her the Doctor who medal and explained I participated in a virtual charity race and that the directors of the race wanted her to have a medal. I had my medal on so I showed her what it looked like and she graciously took the metal, as well as the letter, I had written her. (Yes, I wrote her a letter. I figured if she read it at all, she would probably throw it away, but at the same time, I figured this will probably be the only time I see her…). Obviously, I didn’t get to spend much time with her, but even just standing there for a few minutes talking with her and seeing her smile put me in a great mood. Logically I knew she was an actress-Amy Pond does not exist, but at the same time it felt so surreal, Amy Pond is just a fictional character, but obviously she has Karen’s face!

After getting Karen’s autograph, I went up to get Sylvester McCoy’s autograph and he was such a sweetie, however, embarrassingly, I could feel that my nose was beginning to get runny so I hightailed it out of there after getting his autograph. I did not think the Doctor would appreciate me getting boogers on him…

Finally I went to Tony Curran’s booth. I choose a picture of him dressed as Vincent Van Gogh from Doctor Who and he signed his real name of course, but at the bottom he signed, “Vincent.” When I gave him the medal, he immediately opened the bubble wrap that surrounded it and then asked me to place the medal on him! He was so excited that he shouted to his Defiance cast members, “I got a fucking medal.”

Afterwards, I tried to go and find some food, but the hamburger I ordered was inedible so I ended up having a snow cone for lunch…I then went back upstairs and talked with a kid dressed up as the Doctor and then a woman about our excitement and love of Doctor Who.  Even though I was VIP and would be guaranteed a seat to the Doctor Who Q and A portion, I decided to go into the Defiance Q and A, especially since I wanted to see what type of character Tony Curran was playing. I was surprised to see Tony walk into the Q and A proudly displaying the Doctor Who medal I gave him. I wish I had sat closer to the stage so I could have taken some pictures! In terms of the Q and A session and he the rest of his cast members were extremely funny. In fact, I think I need to check out the show Defiance…

Next was the Doctor Who Q and A with Sylvester McCoy and Karen Gillan. They were both fantastic.  Karen Gillan tried on McCoy’s hat and of course she looked absolutely adorable and then they couldn’t decide who should sit where so they flipped McCoy’s hat (I think she called tails…but I can’t remember) in order to decide where to sit. I have to say they got on so well together.  They were both so charming and funny. My favorite part though, had to be when little kids went to talk with Karen Gillan, some even managed to sneak in a picture with her, even the moderator could not say no to cute 7 and 8 year olds asking for a selfie or saying, “my friends don’t believe I am talking to you. So I need to prove to them I am here with you.” Even though I sat towards the front, I was still not close enough to get any decent pictures, especially since the lighting in the room was atrocious so I just sat back and enjoyed the show.

The photo op lines were extremely disorganized. There was only one room and one photographer taking pictures. It was a mess. But things finally got sorted. My first picture of the day was with Karen Gillan and Tony Curran. Tony saw me with my Doctor Who medal, and opened his jacket and pulled it out, Karen said, “Oh yeah” and it looked like she was looking for her medal, but because of the pace of the photo op (the process was like herding cattle) she had no chance to grab it. Next I had a photo op with Sylvester McCoy and of course I checked to make sure there was no danger of my nose leaking.  He has the biggest and sweetest smile.

Finally I had my solo op with Karen. It was a bit stressful since there were so many people wanting her picture. In fact she had been taking pictures earlier, but because of the interest people had to be turned away and told to come back in the evening. But I remember after getting the picture taken and as I was leaving, she shouted, “Thank you!” and immediately had to prepare for the next person…

All in all, I had a great time. I spent a good portion of the day waiting in lines and the photo op lines were extremely disorganized, but I still managed to see everyone I wanted to see.

Here are some tips for those who plan on going to conventions where there are well known guests in attendance: if you have the money, get VIP.  VIP allowed me to get in line for Karen’s signature before things got to hectic. Pre order your convention tickets and your photo ops! If you don’t, you will be waiting in line for hours and chances are the tickets might sell out. You can’t do everything, so make a decision about what you want to do. In my case, I was not interested in buying merchandise, if I had time I would buy some, but it was not a priority, as a result I decided to stay where the action was to ensure I was able to enter the Doctor Who Q and A. There were weaknesses to this convention: the venue was way too small and the photo op lines were a mess. But as an attendee, you cannot control the way the event is organized. I went in assuming things would be chaotic and as a result I had a game plan.

All in all I had a great time, and I hope that more Doctor Who guests will come to the Dallas area in the future!

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My Letter to Karen Gillan

I will be detailing my experience at the Dallas Comic Con Sci Fi expo later on this week, (and hope to continue counting down my favorite Matt Smith episodes next week). However, I decided to post the letter I wrote to Karen Gillan that I was able to give to her. Of course, while writing it, I knew there was no guarantee she would actually read it, since she gets so many letters and I even if she did read the letter, she might think I was weird and just throw it away, but I decided, this was once in a lifetime opportunity, so what the hell?

Dear Karen Gillan,

I know this is cheesy and awkward, but since those are two of my most defining characteristics I figured, hey what the hell? Why not just be true to who I am…anyway, I just wanted to say thank you. Thank you for portraying Amy Pond with such humor, passion, and of course sassiness. And thank you for being part of a show that, even though I’ve only started watching fairly recently, (about a year ago) has come to mean so much to me. 2013 was a tough year. I spent my 23 third birthday in the hospital for depression and as a result of said hospitalization I was kicked out of what was supposed to be a year long internship program and I was forced to return home to a not so great home environment in a low income neighborhood. During my childhood and into my teens, while I was living at home my  mother was at best neglectful and at worse emotionally abusive, so needless to say having to return to that house after I had thought I had permanently escaped was a bit of a letdown.

However, it was during that time of confusion and sadness that one of my friends introduced me to Doctor Who. “You need to watch this show.” She told me, and I just shrugged, at that point I didn’t care what we watched, I just needed a brief reprieve from the real world. Little did I know what an adventure I would be undertaking. I fell in love with Amy’s story. The girl whose life didn’t make sense-the girl who waited. I can’t speak for anyone else-but I can’t tell you how many times during my childhood I wanted to escape. I didn’t understand what was going on around me, I didn’t understand that the way my mom treated me wasn’t necessarily a measure of my self-worth and I wanted to escape. How I dreamed that someone-anyone would show up at my door and whisk me away. So I resonated a little bit with Amy’s story. Yet at some point she had to stop waiting, and at some point we all do. Even though I’m 24, I still find myself struggling to “grow up” and not be that scared little girl who only had her imagination and her hope of rescue to get through the day. Her story made me realize that I no longer need to wait for someone else to rescue me, I am strong enough and I am worthwhile.

Since that time I was introduced to the show, things have improved drastically, I left home and am now in grad school but I still continue to struggle with depression. But during my darkest moments, the show remains a source of comfort.

So thank you for being part of a show that has helped me and continues to help me through some tough times. Thank you for your kick ass portrayal of Amy Pond. I am excited to see your future work and I know that you will continue to bring you passion and dedication to your future roles and I know that you will continue touching lives.

So yeah sorry for this cheesy and awkward letter.

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