Monday, June 12, 2006

Doctor Who and the Return to Form

Let me start this post by saying that I was a bit dubious about getting a new Doctor after a single series. Some sort of continuity seemed to be needed so early in the new series.

However, over the last few weeks I have grown quite attached to the new Doc - as has Rose, who, along with her friends and family, have provided that element of continuity. At times David Tennant gives the impression of having grown up watching Tom Baker as the Doctor (I've no idea whether this is the case, but it's quite possible) and has a similar other-wordly quality, manic moments here and there and no apparent desire to take the role at all seriously...

This week was the closing episode of a two-parter - which of course meant the return of the cliffhanger - and a brilliant mix of humour and (relatively) scary moments. If you haven't seen it, skip to the last paragraph to see what ideas it sparked in me.

Spoilers coming!

Hardened Whovians don't bat an eyelid when the TARDIS turns up in a cupboard, of course. And when, on leaving the cupboard, Rose and the Doctor are greeted by the words 'Welcome to Hell', scrawled on a wall it's still business as usual. Until we find that the symbols below those words are a language too ancient even for the TARDIS to translate, which is, apparently, unusual. Even by the Doctor's standards.

They lose the TARDIS, and Rose and the Doctor find themselves talking about settling down and getting a mortgage. It transpires that they have arrived on a planet held in orbit around a black hole. This is, of course, impossible, so Rose and the Doctor join the small team working on the planet, trying to figure out how it is done. The Doctor informs us that to generate a gravity field sufficient to hold the planet in place and provide a safe passage to and from it would need 'a power source with an inverted self extrapolating reflex of 6 to the power of 6 every 6 seconds'.

Which, of course, leads to this particular episode arriving on a blog about Christian science fiction, as we are told that ‘The armies of the beast shall rise from the pit and wage war on God’.

The Beast, in this instance, is in fact the evil of all ancient religions – the face behind the idea, if you like. (I guess it is easier for writers to throw in religion’s bad guys than to comment on the existence or otherwise of god, maybe because it is easier to accept the existence of an evil force than that of an omnipotent creator.)

Apart from the obvious references to the devil and its religious implications, there were a few other interesting pseudo-religious points of note in these episodes. Firstly, this is the first time in the new series that the Doctor had acknowledged an adversary as being actually evil. More importantly, the Doctor (naturally) takes it upon himself to destroy the Beast and save the universe. However, in order to consign the Beast to the eternal pit of the black hole, the Doctor must sacrifice himself and the inhabitants of the impossible planet to that same fate. Most importantly, in order to defeat Satan, the Doctor must allow Rose to die – he himself must set in motion the chain of events which will lead to their deaths.

End of Spoilers!

What intrigued me, as a writer, was the idea that Satan – in all his many guises – could be an idea, a kind of racial memory based on an actual entity who lived an unimaginably long time ago. The idea occurred to me of turning the idea on its head somewhat: What if it was God who had been consigned to racial memory? What if, in some impossibly far-future world, someone was to happen across ancient Christian writings? What if ‘God’ is nothing more than an idea, a philosophical talking point, until something brings these enlightened 42nd Century beings into contact with the reality of Him?


Mirtika said...

I'm so sorry I missed all but the last few minutes of this. I'm gonna have to rent the DVD of season one's finale.

I liked this Dr. Who a lot. Chris Eccleston has the edge of goofiness, the odd attractiveness, and the acting chops to carry off some SF that can get pretty darn silly. He and Rose were a cool pair. I'll miss him terribly. Sniff.

I never was a Who aficionado (not even when I'd watch a bit here and there back in the Tom Baker days). But I love Chris. E, so I tuned in for this. Didn't much like the pilot, but liked the episode of the Earth's last day (kinda funny) and the one with the killer broadcasting and its eerie levels, and the one with the lost child and the cool plague that gave everyone a gas mask. :)

Bye Chris.

The new Who (the actor that is) is familiar, but I can't remember where I've seen him.


Mirtika said...

Well, we're at that point for most "academic and enlightened" folks--God as a concept. Even the Jesus Seminar folks that Newsweek and some cable channels love to get to give "authority" to their Biblical shows or articles (never mind they're crap scholars) don't really believe in God as real, but as concept.

So, not so far-fetched.

I have this idea tht when the end DOES come--and only God knows when--faith will be an issue of ideas and concepts rather than "truth" to the vast majority of people, and Christ's intrusion into reality is going to really bust some assumptions. Whoo. That would fit in with the, "When the son of Man returns, will he find faith on the earth?"

Mir<--still believes that God is much, much more than any idea...

Elliot said...

Sounds like a good episode!

Satan as racial memory of alien foe = sounds alot like 'Quatermass and the Pit!'

UKSteve said...

Mir, I was dissappointed when Chris left the role, but now, about half-way into the second series, I've all but forgotten him.
As for the new one, well, he was the lead in the BBCs Casanova series last year, and had a passing role in the last Harry Potter film.
Apparently he was in the recent remake of Quatermass too. Spooky.

Mirtika said...

The POTTER FILM! That must be why he looks familiar!!!