Monday, August 22, 2011


The Tardis
I love my ringtone. If I were near you and my cell phone were to ring, you might think that the Tardis — Doctor Who’s spaceship/time travel machine — was landing. ( Having that raspy, grating sound as a ringer is a silly prank, but it amuses me. Of course, it’s a joke with a limited audience... Not everyone is down with The Doctor. But I am. 

Doctor Who is a British TV show that has been around since the early sixties, and for British people, it’s like... the Andy Griffith Show. Or Star Wars. It’s a huge part of British culture. Its main character is, of course, The Doctor – a “Time Lord” from the late planet Gallifrey, who spends his time in a blue phone booth traveling through time and space. He might look an awful lot like a human earthling, but there are two hearts beating inside that chest, my friend. One of other the features of a “Time Lord” is that he doesn’t die, he “regenerates,” which is a sciency-wiency way of saying, “We have a new actor.”

The annoying Tom Baker
They used to show Doctor Who on PBS when I was a teenager but I didn’t watch it then. I found it vaguely annoying with that kind of nutty/nerdy curly headed guy with the stripey scarf. I have to say that I just didn’t get it. Of course now, that Doctor, played by Tom Baker, has a sort of geek-hip cachet, but... I still find him annoying.

In the early part of this decade, though, they revived the show... and these are the shows I love. There have been three Doctors so far in this series, all of them awesome. It’s still kind of a nutty, nerdy show, but it sometimes wrestles with themes like time, choices, duty, and humanity.

The first Doctor in this new series was played by Christopher Eccleston, a really top drawer actor... He was goofy and fun, but only signed on for a year of shows. Then David Tennant took over – he is slight and cute... and his version of the Doctor was energetic and a ton of fun, but could also show a very heavy side – rage and loneliness. 

David Tennant, my
favourite Doctor
The latest Doctor is ... well, he’s a child – just 27 years old. His name is Matt Smith, and while I love the joy he brings to the role, it is hard for me to accept him as a 900-something-year-old Time Lord who constantly saves the Universe. I was trying to figure out why, and I think it just might be because, during the David Tennant years, I began to imagine that the Doctor was a little bit like Jesus. Not in a sacrilegious way, but... more that he’s very old, completely brilliant, and comes to earth to save humanity.

Other aliens often question the Doctor’s fondness for humanity... why does he so often return to earth to save and defend its creatures? The Doctor often praises our species for its indomitable spirit... and for him, I think it is often more personal – he chooses humans to go with him on his travels, and though he pretends to be detached, he does “fall in love” with them.
Likewise, Jesus came to earth to save the crazy human race – became one of us, made specific friends with some... and did what he came to do – save the universe. Only the Doctor does it over and over. 

Jesus, of course, saved us one and for all, but ... could they make a series out of it if Doctor Who saved the world and sat down and took a load off? This is TV, right? That's more of a Christmas special than a series... Jesus’s personality was also described in the Bible as quite a bit more subdued than the Doctor’s. The Doctor is what the British might call “cheeky.”

When confronting a gassy race of ruthless aliens:
The Doctor: Would you mind not farting when I’m saving the world?”

On a trip back in time to 18th century France:
King Louis: What the hell is going on? 
Reinette Poisson: Oh. This is my lover, the king of France. 
The Doctor: Yeah? Well I’m the Lord of Time.

When asked, “Who do you think you are?:”
The Doctor: I’m the Doctor. I’m a Time Lord. I’m from the planet Gallifrey in the Constellation of Kasterborous. I’m 903 years old and I’m the man who is gonna save your lives and all 6 billion people on the planet below. You got a problem with that? 
Rickston Slade: No. 
The Doctor: In that case, allons-y.

I can’t imagine Jesus giving answers like this, but he was pretty “cheeky” or he might not have ticked off the authorities quite so much. And even though his answers were always calmly delivered, Jesus did speak with confidence and authority, much like our Doctor. (Although I would have loved to hear Jesus corralling his disciples with the Doctor’s enthusiastic, “Allons-y!”)

Matt Smith: Too young to save the world?
While we’re comparing, they even had this one episode where the Doctor was acting as a human – and then had to choose whether he was going to remain human and have a normal life, get married, have children, etc., or be who he was and save the world. They had a little series of alternate reality scenes of him marrying and growing old as a human... just like in the Last Temptation of Christ! Of course, like Jesus, the Doctor chooses to save the world instead...

A new series starts on BBCAmerica pretty soon, and I for one, can’t wait. Even though Matt Smith seems a little young to save the world, the writing is always good, and it always manages to take the viewer somewhere unexpected. It’s a wild ride... hmm... sort of like following Jesus...


  1. I stumbled across your blog post after questioning myself whether or not The Doctor was a Christlike figure. One reason this crossed my mind was because he has godlike powers but is ostensibly humanoid. Moreover, he often serves to redeem humanity and steer them away from taking a "sinful" path--not sinful in the Christian sense, but he often prevents them from causing an event that would, for example, blow up the planet and eradicate the entire human race. The topological figure of Christ in the medieval tradition of York's Corpus Christi plays further reminds of Doctor Who because the idea of Christ transcends time through the Christlike prefigurations of Moses, Isaac, etc. Also, Christ's fate and the fate of man are visible to him at all times, outside their own chronology, which is a sight also shared by The Doctor.