Monday, January 9, 2012

Doctor Who and My Faith

My family is made up of late arrivals to the Doctor Who phenomenon.  We came to it backwards.  We saw the Torchwood: Miracle Day series on STARZ last year and then watched the earlier episodes of Torchwood through DVDs from Netflix.  That led us to try Doctor Who, the series from which Torchwood evolved.  So now we are seeing some of the earlier incarnations of Doctor Who – played by other actors from the previous ten evolutions of the series.  But we are obviously enamored with Matt Smith’s Doctor Who, since he is the first one we became acquainted with.

What I love about Doctor Who is the humor, the camp, the adventures, the mythology, the companions, the history lessons, The Doctor himself, and the Tardis.  I love that The Doctor and his companions can enter into their time travelling machine – the Tardis – and go on amazing adventures (and I love that it is bigger on the inside than it appears on the outside – isn’t that a great image?).  The Tardis is a Time and Relative Dimension in Space vehicle.  It is spacecraft and time machine.  It is healing station and information portal.  It is a place for reconnecting and for flights of fancy.  It is a place of hospitality and a place of community.  It is a place of salvation and a station for regeneration for The Doctor.  And it is oh so cool!

Theology may not be an active part of the writers’ process, but maybe they are thinking of their own understanding of faith as they write – I don’t know.  I sometimes hear it in the dialogue and sense it in the mythology.  And it makes me happy to watch the shows.

The Doctor is not a human but often must act humanely.  He is often arrogant, cheerfully fun, and completely goofy.  He struggles with what it actually means to “be human” and marvels at the capacity of those humans around him both for grace and for violence (in a recent episode humans are cloned and some of their “Gangers” are completely like the originals and others are not – so it begs the questions “what does it mean to be human?” “And what does it mean if the “Ganger” is more human than the original human?”).  There are some both inside and outside of the show who talk about the double meaning of the word “doctor” – one means healer and the other means warrior.  The Doctor certainly creates this sense of dichotomy.  He is an interesting character.

There is a constant struggle between good and evil on the show.  There is even an episode with angels – who are none too nice in the show.  And there is a clear import to the companionship between The Doctor and those who travel with him.  There is a community between The Doctor, Amy Pond, Rory Williams, and River Song – they are family and they care for each other, are devoted to one another, and protect each other (Rory even stands guard over Amy for 2,000 years in one episode).  The Doctor – an amazingly talented and powerful being with a fantastic “sonic screwdriver”– is constantly in need of the assistance of Amy and others.  The communal nature of the story appeals to many people – as does its sense of the need for others in our lives.

I am not saying that Doctor Who has deep spiritual meaning or that The Doctor represents any deity whatsoever – absolutely not.  What I am saying is that it speaks to my faith and my own struggles with being human, dealing with issues of good and evil, trying to make sane decisions in difficult situations, being part of a community/family, and remaining faithful to one’s true convictions despite the circumstances.  

So I’m gonna stay a Whovian for a long time.  I love it.  I love its seriousness and its silliness.  So I include the video below for fun.  Enjoy!


  1. So here's perhaps my favorite thing about the Doctor, he has traveled to a million different times and places and the only "weapon" he brings with him is a screwdriver. Reminds me of Paul who advised only weaponry that is defensive, with the exception of the Word.

  2. Yep - I love that about The Doctor, too.

  3. Really enjoy your blog, Karyn. My husband is English and has watched Dr. Who since he was a boy. I started watching Christopher Eccelston & David Tennant (and so love Catherine Tate as Donna)when I lived in England. I have found many times watching episodes where a deeper meaning/message begs questioning some of my beliefs in a different context. It can be quite thought provoking. On another topic - my husband works in Moorestown, NJ every few weeks; everytime I go with him I think "I need to try to meet Karyn for coffee" - so next time I go (early Feb) I'll check in with you. My daughter's exploring seminaries and I would love to talk to you about that! Blessings for 2012 for you and your family! DeeDee

  4. Okay, this is strange. Because of Rev. Muhlenberg, my previous comment was attributed to Henry. Ha! Heidi R-S

  5. You know, there is good stuff here. All this being said, I have always seen Captain Jack (Harkness) as a sort of Christ-like figure, in a purely literary way of course. He is immortal. Well, he dies but comes back from the dead. He sacrifices himself for the sake of his team--and while I don't like "team" language when talking about religions and faith, you know what I mean. Indeed, Captain is even found in the second season bound in a cruciform being tortured by someone who wants the worst for his team but bears the pain without betraying them. He is even, then, buried and after a wonky time period (how long was Jesus really in the tomb? how long was Captain Jack buried?), Captain Jack comes back to his team and while he cannot save some of them from dying a physical death, he comforts them in their dying. Just something to think about.