Monday, January 30, 2012

Doctor Who and Religion

This April I will be giving a lecture at the Chowan University interdisciplinary symposium.  The theme of the symposium is: "A Pop Culture Society."

I have chosen to do my lecture on the intersection of science fiction and religion, specifically, Doctor Who and religion (I refer you to James McGrath's blog, Exploring Our Matrix, for one who has been thinking of this intersection of Doctor Who and Religion far more than I have).  To that end, I am beginning a rewatch of the series, starting with the reboot in 2005.

I watched the first two episodes last night, and I have a couple of comments that I want to get down.  First, let me say, this, and following posts of the sort, will serve more as notes to me than as complete coherent essays.  Let my three readers be warned.

Episode 1, "Rose" is where we first meet the Doctor and form some impressions of him.  He is a mysterious character.  He appears out of nowhere, well, actually out of some sort of magical blue box called the Tardis (Time and Relative Dimension in Space).  This Doctor, who only goes by the name "The Doctor" appears to be an alien with advanced technology.  He has a "sonic screwdriver," which, up to this point, appears to do two things, unlock and lock doors, and to disrupt radio signals. His Tardis also is able to move through space and time to wherever and whenever the Doctor wills. His technology seems to be "magic" to the eyes of humans.  This seems to be an example of Arthur C. Clarke's third law, which states, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

The Doctor, besides having advanced "magical" technology, also appears to have further capabilities.  In an interesting conversation with Rose (his human companion) the Doctor states that he can feel the earth rotating on its axis, and revolving around the sun at 67,000 miles per hour, falling through space.  Though the Doctor is aware of such awesome realities, he is also a giddy, goofy, good humored person.

The Doctor is also quite condescending to humans.  At one point he points out how stupid and childish they are, yet also notes their tremendous potential.

In this first episode, the Doctor's task is to save the unwitting humans from an alien threat in the form of living plastic which seeks to "devour" the earth as dinner.  Of course, the brilliant and technologically advanced Doctor is more than up for the task, with a little help from Rose.

Episode 2, The end of the world.

Few more clues as to the Doctor's identity.  We find out in this episode that the Doctor is an alien called a "Time Lord."  We find out that his planet was destroyed in a war, his planet passed "before its time."  We also find out that the Doctor is the last of the Time Lords, the only survivor of a war which destroyed his race. 

Perhaps more interesting is the Doctor's self revelation, when pressed by Rose as to who he is, the Doctor says that he is what he does, right here and now.  His identity is wrapped up in his present actions and that should be enough.  I was reminded of Yahweh's self revelation in Exodus to Moses, "I am who I am" or "I will be whom I will be."  I don't know if this was a conscious choice on the part of the show writers, but knowing where the show is going, it might be a possibility.

One last note.  Sacrifice:  The tree creature in this episode sacrifices herself so that the Doctor can save the day.  This becomes a recurring motif as the show goes on.  Many sacrifice themselves to save the day, but it is rarely the Doctor.

More to follow.

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