Christology of Who

Something that will not come as a shock to anyone who knows me: I am a huge fan of Doctor Who – more specifically, of the recent re-launch of the past seven years.
There are many, many things to like about the series, including the marvelous writing and the performances that rise above (and dig deeper) than standard television acting (David Tennant, I’m talking to you).
Another aspect of the show that has caught my fancy is it’s exploration of things spiritual – specifically (in my mind) the probing of G-d and the tenets of Christ’s teaching.
In viewing the series first go around, I was continually amazed by the way in which key aspects of my faith were being played out in the action – grace, faith, forgiveness, justice, and mercy to name a few.
I want to be clear here – I am in no way claiming that showrunner Russell T Davies and company set out to make a defense or proselytizing vehicle for the Church. In fact, Russell (I feel that I may call him Russell as we have met – I was about fifty-three rows back from the stage when he appeared at ComicCon) is an avowed atheist.
But he is a writer, and one with talent and a willingness to let the work speak; and he is in the sci-fi world. With those two aspects in the mix, it is only natural that the big themes would end up being explored.
And among the big themes of humanity are those oft left to the theologians and philosophers.
So I see G-d at every turn in the Doctor’s adventures.
I have recently started working my way through the series again, starting with “Rose” – with the intention of joyfully riding on through and into the eleventh Doctor’s exploits.
As I go, I plan on sharing the insights on faith and theology that I garner from the journey.
Before I do that, three more disclaimers:
Again out of respect for the creator’s beliefs, I am not pretending that Russell T Davies and his writing staff would agree with my conclusions – I am just saying that this is what the show says to me.
I imagine, like most works of art, there are things within it that are knowingly being said by the writers – such as the emptiness of the Holy Spirit and religion as seen in “Gridlock”; and also there are things that speak beyond the knowledge and intentions of the writers – such as the example of the power of the Holy Spirit and religion seen in “Gridlock.”
(There is a marvelous bit in the behind-the-scenes “Doctor Who: The Writer’s Tale” where Davies dishes on his swipe at the church in that episode, as well as his surprise at what he put into that show.)
I also want to make clear that I am not advocating that the Doctor is a “Christ figure.” I can already hear the arguments of why the Doctor would be flawed in that function.  I do not see the series as being that clean in its symbolism – nor wanting to be.
Rather, the big themes that are explored are an experiment episode to episode. Yes, there are chapters where the Doctor stands in for Christ (such as “Family of Blood”); just as there are times where the Doctor is just someone in search of the Way and the Truth (“Boomtown”).
The episodes that strike the deepest to me are those where Davies puts the Doctor to the test: what would it look like if someone tried to actually live by those teachings of the Nazarene – live by loving one’s enemy,and forgiveness, and justice and truth.
Okay, last caveat: I will be giving out spoilers like nobody’s business. You can’t see the full Christology of “Family of Blood”without knowing the ending – the shocking twist of that episode is to theme what the twist in “The Sixth Sense” is to plot.
So I will give you a warning a day or two (or six) before I write about an episode, in case you want to get caught up with me.
Sometime in the next week: I am going to skim along Series One by hitting on the notions of sacrifice and predestination in “Father’s Day.”
Just my thoughts,
Sean
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3 responses to “Christology of Who”

  1. Chris Hansen says :

    Very much looking forward to reading your thoughts, because I feel much the same way.

  2. Robert White says :

    I've been a Whovian for decades (starting with the John Pertwee/Tom Baker eras). There always seemed to be an element of faith involved in Doctor Who even if it wasn't an overtly Christian element.The Time Lords themselves always gave an air of the divine as beings outside the realms of time and space. The only difference was that the Doctor showed benevolence and acted when he felt it was needed to save people from themselves or the consequences of their actions.Looking forward to your thoughts,

  3. Jessica Snell says :

    I found this thanks to Lindsay, and I'm so glad I did! I got hooked – really hooked – on Doctor Who during the last episode of the first season, when the Daleks tell the Doctor to surrender, and he says "no" and "no" again, and then informs Rose he's going to come save her. And I thought, "that's just like Jesus." It was just this brilliant picture of Christ.And I know enough to know it probably wasn't meant to be, but I don't think you can write a really good hero and not have him end up looking (at least a little) like Christ.So I'm very much enjoying your series. Thanks for writing it!

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