Christology of Who: The Girl in the Fireplace
A look at a few of the spiritual themes in Doctor Who, episode “The Girl in the Fireplace” by Stephen Moffat.
SPOILER ALERT: I will be giving away parts of the episode.
Episode bits pulled from Who Transcripts.
In philosophy, there is a concept referred to as “the problem of evil.” It is an ongoing debate about whether there can be an omnipresent, benevolent deity and at the same time the existence of evil.
Akin to this is what C.S. Lewis referred to as “the Problem with Pain.” Why would suffering be tolerated by a loving G-d? Isn’t that a contradiction?
Certainly a challenge that comes naturally to the forefront in times of loss; the reality of pain hammers at the intellectual theorizing of religion. We ask, “Why me? Why must I bear this pain?”
Lewis himself felt this when losing his Joy (see “A Grief Observed”).
One of the minor themes of “The Girl in the Fireplace” deals with this question – not by addressing the debate, but rather putting a spin on how to approach the issue.
The episode involves a woman named Reinette. Throughout her life, from childhood to adult, she has been visited by – I’m not quite sure what to call them, so let’s go with freaky, scary creature things.
Fortunately for Reinette, each visit is interrupted by the Doctor, arriving in time to save the day.
And that is the rhythm of her life, monsters and Doctor; monsters and doctor. In the course of their encounters, she forms a bond with the Doctor. And he to her – she is, after all, quite beautiful of spirit, and intellectually a match for him.
Then one day Rose (the Doctor’s traveling companion) drops in on Reinette to pass on a warning – the creatures are coming for her (in five years time); but to hold on, the Doctor will be coming as well.
It’s the way it’s always been. The monsters and the Doctor. It seems you cannot have one without the other.
Tell me about it.
(pause) The thing is… you weren’t supposed to have either. Those creatures are messing with history. None of this was ever supposed to happen to you.
Supposed to happen? What does that mean? It happened, child. And I would not have it any other way. One may tolerate a world of demons for the sake of an angel.
See what she did there? Reinette was given the opening, the permission to engage in the problem of pain. To lament, “Why must I bear this pain?” To debate the goodness of a Doctor that allows monsters.
But rather than do that, she spins the question around and looks from the perspective of the good – not, “why is there evil in a good world” but “there is good even in a world with evil.”
Reinette understands that the there will be pain and there will be joy in this messy journey of life; debating the existence of one over the other is a moot exercise. The question is – which will determine our outlook, our bearing, our philosophy?
Will we be shaped by despair? Live carrying the dread of the persistence of evil?
Or will we be elevated by hope? Live in the knowledge that good will supersede pain?
Jesus warned his disciples that the monsters were coming. He put it this way:
In this world you will have tribulations. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
Here is how Reinette put it:
Are you okay?
No. I’m very afraid. But you and I both know, don’t we, Rose? The Doctor is worth the monsters.
Just my thoughts,
Next up: The Idiot’s Lantern
Bonus: from the artist Spune: