The Dangers of Seeking Security over Freedom

Season 10, Episode 8: The Lie of the Land

BILL: They’re doing something to us. The Monks. I can’t think straight.  It’s like they’re saying they’ve been here forever, and I know they haven’t, but part of me is starting to think that it’s real. Every day I have to, I have to remind myself that everything that you, me and the Doctor did actually happened, and it wasn’t just a dream. Why do it? That’s what I don’t get. They invade somewhere, take control. Why go to the trouble of changing the past? 
NARDOLE: However bad a situation is, if people think that’s how it’s always been, they’ll put up with it. That’s ninety percent of the job done.

In the episode, The Lie of the Land, we see the consequences of Bill’s decision to ask for the Monk’s help in order to save the Doctor. Not only have the monks turned the world into a dictatorship where freedom is limited and the monks are worshipped as heroes, but they have managed to change history to such an extent, that their presence is viewed as being a permanent part of the landscape. They have managed to trick humanity into believing that they saved humanity numerous times from disasters and that their dictatorship has been going on for decades, if not centuries. As Nardole points out, people will put up with a situation if they believe that the situation is just how things are. Bill, however, manages to hold on to the truth: the Monks are lying; they are ruthless  totalitarians who claim to have provided security and safety to humanity when in reality they only bought back widespread bondage and slavery.

The most shocking part for Bill, is the fact that the Doctor seems to have decided that the monks were correct after all:

Bill, is rightly incredulous at such thinking, especially coming from the Doctor. And as viewers, we are supposed to side with Bill. We of course, just like Bill, have an inkling that either the Doctor is faking or something must have happened for him to spew Monk propaganda. No one in their right mind, if they had a choice, would believe that authoritarianism amid the violation of human rights would bring security and safety. Of course, history proves that people fall for that lie again and again.

Both Hitler and Stalin rose to power during periods of incredibly upheaval. Their respective countries had just been devastated by war: World War I (1914-1918) and the Bolshevik Revolution (1917). Hitler took power in a context where Germany suffered not only the loss of millions of its citizens, but their defeat was one of utter humiliation. The Treaty of Versailles created new boundaries for Germany while giving away some land to the victorious allies,  the Germany military was defanged: their numbers drastically reduced and limitations imposed on the types of weapons they were allowed to have, (though the allies, were also supposed to eventually disarm) and Germany lost all its colonies.   However, the most humiliating clause forced Germany to accept full responsibility for World War I, making them responsible for all material damages aka they were forced to pay reparations.  The economic situation worsened with the onset of the great depression.

The time period before the Russian Revolution was one of oppression.  In the 1890s Russians were suffering under exploitation and severe famine. The advancement of Nicholas II to the throne did nothing to initially appease the growing pains of industrialization that Russia was undergoing. The ill fated 1904-1905 war with Japan did not improve matters and the Russian intervention in World War I left an already exhausted citizenship even more on edge. However, the 1917 Revolution, which saw the overthrow of the tsar dynasty, did not lead to peace and prosperity. In the immediate aftermath, Russia pledged into a devastating civil war.

Both Hitler and Stalin solidified their support and their power by claiming that security for the people would come only under Hitler and Stalin’s authority and the implementation of their ideals. The two dictators became the physical manifestation of all the hopes and dreams that Germany and the Soviet Union hoped to achieve. Of course, there was pockets of opposition, however, those who opposed Hitler and Stalin had to reckon with an extremely powerful personality cult. While viewers look at the worship of the monks in The Lie of the Land as ridiculous, it parallels the cults that surround real life dictators.

Dictators promise to provide strength and security in response to total obedience. The Doctor, although, he is still pulling Bill’s leg in this scene, makes some very good points about the nature of free will and humanity’s inability or unwillingness to learn from history:


The Doctor slams humanity’s ill use of free will while also regurgitating the argument made by the monks and totalitarians/state governments everywhere: “things were going downhill and a strong, authoritarian figure needed to take control.”

While this type of thinking is not as extreme in modern western countries, the reality is, that the notion that security comes at the cost of liberty is alive and well in so called democratic countries. The “War on Terror” and the domestic and foreign policies implemented in its name, are the direct result of this twisted belief that prioritize security over all else. We see this in the so called “material support for terrorism” cases that the FBI brings which, instead of catching high ranking, powerful terrorists, often nets the mentally ill, mentally disabled, and/or poor.   (For an in-depth look at this travesty of justice check out the series, Trial and Terror by the Intercept). The language of security is being used to go after undocumented immigrants,  those applying for asylum,  and now legal residents.

It is natural for humans to want a measure of safety and security. Especially in the light of terrorism, natural disasters, war, and other forms of violence. But the problem arises when people think that dehumanizing others, creating a false history, and slowly curtailing individual rights will lead to security. No, it only leads to even more death and destruction. We might not be worshiping powerful dictatorship like aliens-but the devastating consequences of believing in the myth that “national security” can be guaranteed is all too real. We see it in the shoddy FBI terror cases and the brutal Gestapo like tactics of ICE.


10:7 It Begins with a Whimper

Season 10, episode 7: The Pyramid at the End of the World

DOCTOR: The end of your life has already begun. There is a last place you will ever go, a last door you will ever walk through, a last sight you will ever see, and every step you ever take is moving you closer. The end of the world is a billion, billion tiny moments. And somewhere, unnoticed, in silence or in darkness It has already begun.

When our little worlds that we have constructed come crashing down, we often assume it is the result one major event. We begin to divide our life into two distinct phases: the “before” phase and “after” phase.  We look fondly at the “before” stage-where everything seemed perfectly normal. Life was good or at least stable and predictable.  we had certain beliefs and relationships that we were so sure about, and we understood our world. The larger world is tough and unpredictable but we each have our own little worlds where we go for comfort. But the “after” phase is filled with pain, uncertainty, chaos. Our little worlds are ripped apart and the compass we used to guide us no longer works.  We wish we could turn back time and stop that one major event from occurring. But the reality is, major events are the cumulation of thousands of smaller events.   Catastrophes rarely come out of nowhere-instead they accumulate over the months and years.


At first the Doctor assumes that the end of the world that the Monks foretold is going to come via a break out of World War III. After all, he monks placed a pyramid right smack dab in the middle of a hotspot where Russian, Chinese, and American soldiers are stationed. The assumption, not entirely invalid, is that somehow an event will be triggered that will cause infighting amongst the countries with the three greatest armies. Moreover, all three countries are nuclear powers (out of the three, China supposedly as the least. Though when it comes to nuclear war, you don’t need many cause to global disaster) . Additionally, the US, Russia, and China are allied with other countries that have access to nuclear weapons. This is the type of war that would make the previous global wars look like small skirmishes in comparison.

MONK: The human race is about to end. The chain of events is already in motion. Life on Earth will cease by humanity’s own hand. Observe. 

But of course, such an event is almost a bit too obvious. I mean, most of us, if we know that a major catastrophic event is going to happen, will try to do whatever we can to avoid it. If I see a car heading towards me and I have time to step out of the way, that is exactly what I am going to do. But if it is dark, foggy, or storming outside and I can barely see two feet in front of me or hear the sound of an approaching car, chances are I won’t see the vehicle until seconds before impact. In a similar way, the Doctor points out that the monks are using misdirection.  They want humanity to focus on the obvious threats while allowing smaller threats to go unnoticed until it is too late to stop them. What the Doctor and the others need to look out for is something small that has the potential to snowball into a global event.

In real life, we often focus on the major life catastrophes that can come out of nowhere: freak accidents, major illnesses, terrorist attacks, mass shootings. Yet even those major events are composed of thousands of smaller incidents that went unnoticed. Safety instructions that were discarded, misread medical reports, individuals who are acting a bit off. Yet we don’t pay attention until the event is so beyond our control that there is nothing we can do to stop it.

This weekend a part of my world shattered. A former mentor, someone I trusted, someone I cared deeply about, someone who had guided me through some of my difficult moments in grad school was recently arrested and charged with a crime. Without going into details-this crime, was not a “victimless” crime and from the little bit that has leaked out, it also doesn’t appear to have been a one-time thing. The behavior sees to have been repetitive and compulsive and something that this person kept well hidden, until eventually the actions came to light.

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I thought I knew this person. Yes we hadn’t really talked since I graduated, but still. I knew this person. I had worked with this person. I had long conversations, lunches, and even spent Christmas with their family. Yet I couldn’t see this coming. There are some people I know who it wouldn’t surprise me if they got in trouble with the law. It would be sad, but it would also be one of those, “I didn’t know this person would do this, but I’m not surprised.” Not so with this person. And I’m left wondering, how could this happen? This person has destroyed his life and shattered those of his loved ones. I can’t help but ask, “why” and “how could they let things get so bad?” I don’t have answers to those questions but I imagine that when the behavior started, it started off small. It started off as a mistake or as something that wasn’t a big deal, let alone illegal. And it probably didn’t impact this person too much. This person kept going to school, working, raising a family, etc. But somewhere along the line-things changed. It became a compulsive behavior that took over their life. It laid waste to everything that they had not just once but multiple times. Their career, their family, and future plans were destroyed. The fall seems so sudden to those of us who are watching from the outside, but I can imagine that for this person, the fall was a long time coming.

DOCTOR: And whatever it is will kill all life on Earth, not just humans. Plague discriminates. So this isn’t a plan, it’s a mistake. Somebody, somewhere, is doing something that’s about to blow up in everybody’s face. 

In this episode, the Doctor has to try and look beyond the obvious for what could spark a global disaster. The notion of a bio-chemical attack is obvious, but the Doctor rejects the notion that this would be an intentional action. The problem would not be in some lab where infectious disease are created or where top-secret military biological weapons are kept and/or tested. No, it would be the result of a small, almost indiscernible accident. This is how disasters often start. Small, unimportant incidences take on a life of their own. Mistakes become habits. Habits become addictions. And before anyone knows what it is happening the truth comes out and people’s worlds are shattered. It’s not a global catastrophe but for those involved, the world they once knew is obliterated. And the blast impacts numerous people from the center to the periphery.

I thought I knew this person. I thought my bullshit detector was pretty good. But the person who was arrested is a stranger.

Doctor: …Long story short, misplaced decimal point resulting in a bacteria that turns any living thing it touches into gunk. 
BRABBIT: So why is it going to end the world? Has it been dispersed already? 
DOCTOR: Ah, no, it’s still in the lab. I think I can contain it. 

In the episode, the only way to contain the bacteria was to destroy it. But even then, the Doctor’s previous actions-specifically his lying to Bill about being blind, has its own unintended consequences. Bill isn’t going to let the Doctor die so she gives the monks consent to rule the world.

Likewise, it is the little actions, the hidden actions, the little events that make up life that can quickly create a monster that unwittingly destroys your life and the lives of those you love. Little mistakes quickly add up. Things done in secret, often come to light.  And at a certain point, it becomes difficult if not impossible to stop what you have started. I still care about this person and always will. I pray that this person receives the help that they need. I pray for their family and friends who must be devastated. I believe in a God that loves everyone. I believe God loves this person, their victims, and their family and friends. I pray that this person knows how much God still loves them. I pray that their victims know that God never abandoned them. I pray that someway, somehow, all those involved will use what occurred to help others-particularly those in danger of being taken advantage of and abused.

As for me, picking up the pieces is not an option because that assumes that what was broken can be recreated in this case that is impossible. I’m left wondering, who can I trust now? (Yes yes, God, but let’s be real, we also need other humans). Can I trust myself and my judgments about other people? People have let me down so often, I’ve been abused, neglected, and abandoned by those who were supposed to care for me. And then this happens. And I wonder, where and when along the way could this have been stopped before things got so bad?