Christology of Who: The Christmas Invasion

A look at a few of the spiritual themes in Doctor Who, episode “The Christmas Invasion” by Russell T. Davies.

SPOILER ALERT:  I will be giving away the end of the episode.

Episode bits pulled from Who Transcripts.

I’m going to jump to the end – although I highly recommend you don’t. There’s a lot of wicked cool stuff in between – deadly brass players, spinning buzz saw Christmas tree, a new doctor trying to figure out what kind of a man he is.

But I’m skipping ahead to the end.

The earth has been invaded by a hostile alien race called the Sycorax, and in a showdown for the planet, the Doctor goes mano a alieno with swords against their leader on the alien ship.

 

The Doctor gets the upper hand (which is a pun, for those who have seen the episode), puts his sword to the Leader’s throat, and makes an offer of grace:

THE DOCTOR
I win.

SYCORAX LEADER
(difficulty speaking)
Then kill me.

THE DOCTOR
I’ll spare your life if you’ll take this champion’s command: leave this planet, and never return. What do you say?

SYCORAX LEADER
Yes.

THE DOCTOR
(as angry and serious as we have yet seen him, jabbing the sword closer)
Swear on the blood of your species.

SYCORAX LEADER
(laboured)
I swear.

THE DOCTOR
(lightly)
There we are, then! Thanks for that! Cheers, big fella!

Lovely. But of course, the Leader isn’t going to take that lying down, so he stands up. And charges at the smiling Doctor while our hero walks away.

In a very cool move, without breaking stride or even turning to acknowledge the charging enemy, the good Doctor throws a piece of fruit at the ship controls, which retracts the floor out from under the Leader, and the hapless alien plummets to his death.

The Doctor’s smile has faded from his face.

THE DOCTOR (CONT’D)
No second chances. I’m that sort of a man.

This is a common scene among action shows: the good guy defeats the bad guy, decides not to kill him, but the bad guy takes advantage of the situation, and the good guy has to kill the bad guy in self defense.

There are a couple small, yet significant differences here.

First off, the Doctor is so dang cool (and scary) in how he offs the bad guy. That has nothing to do with our conversation on theme, but I bring it up because… well, because I like how cool (and scary) this incarnation of the Doctor is.

Second, the Doctor’s motivation for allowing the Leader to live is a tad different.

In the traditional actioner, the hero has won, and then decides whether to kill the villain or not. But here, the Doctor has not won yet.

He is about to win, and has two ways of winning, one of which is by killing the Leader.

But he chooses to win by offering grace – by securing the promise that the aliens will leave earth alone. He could have gotten the same result by killing the Leader; those were the terms of the duel.

Can you see the difference here? The Doctor is not saying, “I won, but I will not sink to your level by killing you.”

He is saying, “I choose to win in a way that allows you to live.”

Third, when the Doctor does kill the Leader, it can be argued that it isn’t in self-defense, but rather in judgment.

Yes, the Leader is attacking, and the Doctor prevents injury to himself by offing the offender.

But look at how cold his maneuver is, how easy and swift. The Doctor does not register fear or surprise. He doesn’t duck, or react in any way to the charge. He simply dispatches the wayward enemy.

The alien was offered grace; the alien refused grace – and that is that.

Thus the newly regenerated Doctor starts to learn what kind of man he is; and a major theme for the season begins.

Micah 6:8 says:

“He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your G-d.”

In a nutshell, that is what we are all called to  – both do justice and love mercy.

But what does that look like?

Doctor Who will spend much of season three trying to answer that very question.

Just my thoughts,

Sean

NEXT: Another theme from “The Christmas Invasion”

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