Thursday, 8 May 2008

Guardian Comment: The Doctor [Who] goes to church

[...] For the Doctor, everything is explainable by recourse to reason, with religious sentimentality rejected everywhere it rears its ugly head. The idea of dead relatives coming back to life (later revealed to be an army of Cybermen) is dismissed by the Doctor: "I think it's horrific," he argues. "Travelling with you, I don't know the difference between right and wrong any more," worries Donna, before receiving the Doctor's consolation: "It's better that way," a far cry from the moral Manichaeism dominant in religious circles. In series two, the Doctor even meets the Devil itself, but is soon able to explain the origin of its existence, in what turns out to be a clever deconstruction of mythical accounts of purest evil. One might even call it biblical criticism.

Of course there are religious tropes in the episode: religion provides us with such a rich tapestry of magical stories that it would be hard to avoid them. So there are visions and resurrections and the occasional angel. But this does not make it a religious programme, or a very useful source for the church. Russell T Davies, who "resurrected" the programme after its 15-year disappearance from television screens, is quoted as describing religion as a "very primal instinct within humans, a very good one, part of our imagination," but this seems to be diplomatic (Doctor Who is still very family oriented). The guest star of this series will be Richard Dawkins himself; a man Davies describes having "brought atheism proudly out of the closet". Superstition is rejected at every stage, scientific knowledge is held up as the only supreme being in the universe. Read more
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