Let me tell you something about the human race. You put a mysterious blue box slap-bang in the middle of town, what do they do? Walk past it. Now stop your nagging. Let’s go and explore.
– The Doctor, 1.11
Since the series was rebooted in 2005, plenty of commentary has been made over Doctor Who. It has become one of the world’s most valuable television shows, watched in almost 100 countries around the world. People have commented on the drama. People have commented on the special effects. People have commented on the science-fiction. But to my knowledge, very few people have commented on the ideas behind the stories themselves. Not deeply, anyway. I want to change that.
Doctor Who is overtly theological. The central premise of the main character is that of an outsider stepping into a foreign world to save people, often unnoticed or unrecognised by the very people he came to save. The messianic overtones are obvious, and well documented.
But there is much more depth to the Doctor Who universe. Almost every episode deals with pressing questions in philosophy or theology. There are ontological questions, like that of creation, re-creation, and alternative realities. There are metaphysical questions, like that of space and time, knowledge, and the origins and pursuit of of identity. There are ethical questions, like that of inalienable rights, just war, and pre-emptive assassination.
Sometimes these questions are placed front-and-centre as the hook to get the audience interested. More often, they lurk just beneath the surface adding intrigue and depth to the storylines. In both cases, it is the philosophical assumptions and ethical choices of the characters that power almost every plot.
This is the theology of Doctor Who. It is an episode-by-episode investigation of the theological ideas and themes that develop throughout the series. In this series of blog posts I will be looking at the questions that Doctor Who raises and critiquing the answers it gives.
I’m working through the rebooted series, from the 9th Doctor through to the most recent episodes. I can’t promise a regular output of posts, but I’ll aim for about once a week with the possibility of a bumper edition for two-part episodes.
Will you join me on my journey through the theology of Doctor Who? For too long we have walked past the mysterious blue box slap-bang in the middle of the street. It’s time that we started paying attention to what it has to teach us. Let’s go and explore.