Christology of Who: The Idiot’s Lantern

A look at a few of the spiritual themes in Doctor Who, episode The Idiot’s Lantern” by Mark Gatiss.

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

Episode bits pulled from Who Transcripts.

I am going to skip the plot of this episode, and focus on a little thirty second scene at the very end of the story.

Tommy, a boy that helps the Doctor, has a father that is verbally abusive to both him and his mother. The man is a tyrant, and nearly gets everyone killed through his ignorance.

At the end of the episode, after the villain is taken care of and everyone is celebrating, Tommy’s mom kicks dad out of the house. Tommy watches his dad walk away, suitcase in hand.

TOMMY
(looking over the Doctor’s shoulder)
Good riddance.

THE DOCTOR
Is that it then, Tommy? New monarch, new age, new world – no room for a man like Eddie Connelly.

TOMMY
That’s right. He deserves it.

Rose nudges his shoulder.

ROSE
Tommy, go after him.

TOMMY
What for?

ROSE
He’s your dad.

TOMMY
He’s an idiot.

ROSE
Course he is. Like I said, he’s your dad. But you’re clever. Clever enough to save the world so don’t stop there. Go on!

She smiles, giving him another nudge. Convinced, Tommy runs to join his dad. They walk side by side and Tommy takes his dad’s bag for him. They continue down the street together. Doctor and Rose watch them fondly from a distance. The Doctor hands Rose a glass of orange juice. They chink their glasses together, smiling.

 

A little moment, but chock full.

Tommy taking steps of reconciliation with his dad is a happy ending, one worth celebrating with a glass of orange juice.

But why?

Dad never apologized. He didn’t repent. He didn’t ask for forgiveness.

There’s even the possibility that he will reject Tommy’s offer of reunion.

This isn’t how forgiveness is supposed to happen. John the Baptist makes it clear that we must

Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near!

Jesus himself echoes that thought.

So how is Dad getting forgiveness without repentance a “happy” ending?

Because it isn’t about Dad. It’s about Tommy.

Yes, when we come to G-d requesting a forgiveness of our sins, repentance is a requirement. We must “go and sin no more.”

But not when we are forgiving others.

Jesus tells us that in our prayers, we are to acknowledge:

Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.

This is one of those hard truths – we know it to be true, but we don’t like it.

Like Tommy, when he sees a transgressor being punished, we want to revel in it, to say, “He deserves it.”

But Jesus says that this thinking is a downward spiral; there is no joy there.

Instead we are called to love our enemies, to honestly, actually, positively pray for those that persecute us.

In Christianity, there is no room for “he hit me first” or “I’m only doing to him what he did to me.”

There is no retaliation, no vengeance. G-d called dibs on that.

Not to say there shouldn’t be justice; Dad does get the boot, and Tommy is right – he does deserve it.

But there must also be mercy.

And only the one wronged can offer mercy.

Only the hurt can truly initiate healing.

Only Tommy can repair the years of bullying that separate him from his father.

I can only be open to a real happy ending, to forgiveness of my own trespasses, by offering forgiveness.

If only I’m clever enough.

Just my thoughts,

Sean

ps I love the echoes in Rose’s “Clever enough to save the world so don’t stop there,” and Jesus’ “For what does it profit a man if he gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?”

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