“Doctor Who” and Theology

“Doctor Who” is a British Sci-fi television show on the BBC. The show started back in 1963 and ran until 1989 (aka Classic Who), and was revived in 2005 and runs until today. The main character is a mysterious alien from the planet of Gallifrey, who calls himself “The Doctor”. He can travel anywhere in time and space in his TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimensions In Space), which appears to be a blue Police Call Box on the outside, however, it’s bigger on the inside. We know very little about The Doctor, in fact, we don’t even know his name, which is the eternal question, “Doctor Who?” He travels with a Sonic Screwdriver which opens locked doors, scans computers, polarizes stuff, and various other tasks. The most well-known villains are the heartless Daleks who exclaim, “Exterminate”. They are the most wicked and scary to The Doctor (but to us, they look like giant expresso machines with a toilet plunger and a whisk). It is stereotyped as the television show kids watched from behind the couch while growing up. And those who are avid fans are known as “Whovians”, and the population of Whovians is growing greatly and vastly all over the world!

Although this show isn’t what some might label, “Christian”, I do believe it can validate some Christian theology. How so? Well, I was hoping you would ask…. Here’s my Top Ten…

10. We can go anywhere in time and space, where do you want to go first?

The Doctor can travel through all of time and space, but very rarely does he travel alone. He has companions who may stick with him for a series or more, and others that only show up for an episode or two. If The Doctor spends too much time alone, he becomes overwhelmed with loneliness and his choices suddenly become self-centered and unwise. He needs company. He needs fellow helpers. He is interdependent.

Doctor Companion

In our American culture we proclaim independence as though it is a good thing, but really it’s not. We all need friends in life. We all need people to help us through. On our own we are incomplete. I often tell my church members we are to be interdependent and in laymen’s terms that means, “Scratch my back and I’ll scratch your’s”. Scripture supports this as we look at a chord of three chords is not easily broken (Ecc. 4:9-12). When we read about The Body of Christ, we are reading about interdependency (I Cor. 12:12-30).

9. I don’t talk about him… the War Doctor…

The Doctor participated in The Time War where he had to destroy his home planet in order to save the universe (and to all those Whovians out there about to correct me—yes, I am aware of what happened in “The Day of The Doctor”).   He was stuck at a place in time where he had to choose the lesser of two evils. It has haunted him since. However, that pain has changed him. He revives as a pacifist and sees death as a very, very, very, end, end, end resort!

We all have things that haunt us in life.   It’s those haunting things that keep us humble and realistic. It’s those things we can use to make us better. It’s those things that give us conviction to fight for what we fight for. It’s those things that build our character. It reminds me of Paul’s thorn in the flesh (II Cor. 12:1-10).

8. That’s him. That’s the Doctor.

In order to keep the show running for several years, they wrote in the plot that The Doctor can regenerate, or in other words, welcome a new actor to play the role. When the Doctor regenerates, he has the same memories and the same knowledge; however, he has a new body and a new personality. Each actor has brought a new aspect to the Doctor which is highly entertaining, and exciting when it comes time for a new Doctor to be announced to play the role.

Doctor Who Tigger

As Christians, we believe the Holy Spirit regenerates us. There is some poor theology that circulates around. It’s the concept of, “Come to Jesus, get saved, and everything will be okay.” Uh, false! We still deal with the problems we had before, however, our perspectives changes a bit. “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a person made new.” Right a person made new not a new person entirely. (II Cor. 5:17)

7. I’m The Doctor.

Like I mentioned above, we don’t know his real name. All we are told is that he gave himself the title, “The Doctor” because it was a commitment of what he wanted to do: heal.  And it’s not usually physical but rather emotional, mental, and/or societal healing. (This is related to my number 9 above as well). My favorite episodes are “The Sound of the Drums” and “Last of the Time Lords”, because the three words The Doctor uses to destroy The Master is probably one of the best sermon illustrations of all time!

Christ is the ultimate healer and that is His mission. He doesn’t come to condemn, He comes to save. (John 3:16-17)  He came not to be helping those who were healthy but to be the doctor to the sick. (Matthew 9:9-13)  From the cross, Christ looks down at the unrepentant guards casting lots for His garments and says, “Father forgive them.  They know not what they do.” (Luke 23:32-43)  Christ healed the sick and raised the dead. His mission is to heal not to destroy.

6. Do you have a plan?

It’s a well-known fact that in the heat of the battle, The Doctor never has a plan. His only plan is to do something clever, which is vague. Sometimes it’s his companions who know how to solve the problem. Sometimes, it takes multiple attempts. But as for a plan, The Doctor rarely has one.

Doctor Who no plan

I am an open theist.  An open theist says, “God does not have every single second of the future planned. The future hasn’t happened yet, so it’s void. God only knows what can be known about the future.” My personal belief is that anyone can work within what they can control or what one has perfectly planned (even me!). It takes more power and more greatness for one to be able to work through something without utter control or a plan. To me, that’s one of the ways God is bigger than me.

5. What do you want?

When faced with a villain, the Doctor doesn’t beat them up on the spot… typically. Rather, he asks, “What do you want?” and then he tries to figure out how the villain can get what they want without destruction or causing pain. The Doctor is constantly asking questions and searching for clarification.

Doctor no better than dalek

I know we have all heard, “Communication is key”, but it really is. Rather than teaching that violence solves problems, The Doctor teaches conflict/resolution. He teaches peaceful means to reach the goal of peace.

4. We can’t change it. It’s a fixed point in time

There are fixed points in time The Doctor cannot mess with and he must live within those restraints.

One of my personal mottos, which is extremely hard to live up to, is, “It is what it is.” There are things we can’t fix. Things we cannot change. We must figure out how to live in these places without bitterness and resentment even though we would do anything within our power (if we had any) to fix the problem. In the end, it’s just a part of life.

3. That’s brilliant!

The Doctor travels from planet to planet, place to place. He meets some weird looking creatures and aliens that are very different from him. Never does he ostracize them. Never does he segregate himself from them. Instead, he finds wisdom and beauty in them.

Doctor Who not scared

We spend so much time segregating ourselves from the unfamiliar instead of running towards it to learn more about it. Perhaps if we did, we would learn there are a lot of brilliant things in this world that we have missed by our own prejudices. I think we’d also learn, we really aren’t different from whoever we consider to be ‘the others’. We’re all humans trying to make it in this world.

2. The Moff has no heart!

One of the key writers of the series, Steven Moffat (also known as ‘The Moff’), is joked to have no heart because he kills characters. But in all seriousness, The Moff, as well as other writers of the show, are remarkable storytellers! Our culture misses the significance of storytelling so much. We like ‘preaching’ and discourse so much better now. But there’s something to be said of the fact that when I watch an episode, I am constantly left on the edge of my seat, two inches from the screen, spewing out loud to absolutely no one, “Noooooooooooo!” or “WHAT?  WHERE DID THAT COME FROM” or “WHOA!  AWESOME!” And throughout the entire season there’s this thread that crescendos the story until the final blast in the season finale. This makes me the theorist, the studier, the questionier, the curious one, the anticipater. I can’t look away! What can this mean? Oh my gosh! I don’t know what this means, it’s driving me insane!

Some fight that The Bible is literal and we must read it that way. However, for a story to be powerful, to capture our attention, and in order to teach us, it does not require it to be non-fiction. In other words, the creation story is not required to be a literal 7 day event in order to have power and to display God as almighty. Jonah doesn’t have to literally be in a whale in order for it to be a powerful story of God’s grace.  In fact, Jesus was a powerful storyteller using such techniques of parables. Fiction storytelling is powerful!

1. Two hearts

The Moff once said this of “Doctor Who”: When they made this particular hero, they didn’t give him a gun, they gave him a screwdriver to fix things. They didn’t give him a tank or a warship or an x-wing fighter, they gave him a call box from which you can call for help. And they didn’t give him a super power or pointy ears or a heat ray, they gave him an extra heart. They gave him two hearts! And that’s an extraordinary thing; there will never come a time when we don’t need a hero like the Doctor.”

Doctor Who  Compassion

I think one of the greatest things I have learned from The Doctor, and what makes me truly appreaciate it, is that this alien is motivated by love. The Doctor can do some pretty amazing things out of love, but it absolutely no comparison to what God and Jesus can and will do out of love!  There is so much depth when we say God is love. And Christ has called us to love God and love others. I think it’s pretty amazing that an extremely popular television superhero show is teaching kids what it means to act out of love for your fellow men, fellow women… fellow aliens :-).  So when you stop to think about it, we can all be the hero of our everyday story.  We don’t need a superpower, we just need love.

Doctor Who stories

In conclusion, I just need to clarify one thing… I am not a Whovian! ;-)

Doctor Who wins

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