19 June 2013

The Doctor Diaries III.4 & 5a: “Daleks in Manhattan” and “Evolution of the Daleks”

The Doctor Is Not Jesus!

I used to get really annoyed every time the Daleks appeared again. First of all, they're very silly. Their ridiculous computer-generated voices grate on my ears. Their pepper-pot shape drives me crazy. Their arbitrary decisions about when to exterminate and when to stand there like idiots for the convenience of the plot pushed me beyond endurance.

But then I realized why it is important that the same enemies come back over and over again and why the Doctor has to defeat them time and time again. After each encounter, he believes he has eradicated them for good. Each time, they come back and threaten humanity again.

The reason this matters is that each time they are threatening different humans.

Each human needs to be saved, each time. So he saved the earth from Daleks in 2005; well, he needs to save the world from them again in 2007, or in 5100, or in 300 B.C., because the earth contains different people every time. Some have been born and others have died in the intervening time, and he has to save them all, over and over and over.

I see two matters of thematic importance as a result. I'll post this theme today and another one tomorrow.

First, this is a major difference between the Doctor and Jesus. I blogged last time about how the Doctor is a “Christ-figure” in the literary sense. But Jesus only gave Himself once. The Doctor has to give himself over and over and over.

Now, there are a lot of things I could say about that.

I could talk about how the Doctor doesn't really die; he's always saved at the last minute. There are a few times that he does die, though, and then something wibbly-wobbly has to happen to reset time the way it was supposed to be.

That could lead me to talk about Predestination: the Way Things Were Meant To Be. Think back to Series One, the episode “Father's Day.” Pete Tyler was “supposed” to die that day, and when he didn't, the entire universe began to fall apart and everyone else was destroyed. But who said he was supposed to die that day? Did God ordain it? Did it have something to do with linear time, like a story—since he died the “first time” through that time, he had to the “second time” through that time? (we'll come back to that later).

Or I could talk about resurrection and regeneration; is every kind of regeneration/rebirth/return in literature always a symbol of resurrection? Or is resurrection just our longing for regeneration turned into a wish-fulfillment doctrine?

Or I could get into the symbolic ways in which Jesus' sacrifice is remembered over and over again, such as in baptism and the Lord's Supper. In Roman Catholic Christianity, of course, the sacrifice is literal in each celebration of the Mass: the elements become Christ's body and blood, thus enacting His death and resurrection over again for each believer. So maybe in that sense the Doctor's repetitive sacrifice is still a very accurate spiritual symbol.

Or I could talk about another important part of the Dying-and-rising-god conversation. In most other religions that have a Dying-and-rising-god (besides Christianity, I mean), the god's life cycle is tied to the cycle of the seasons: he or she dies and rises every year, and the resurrection is connected to the regeneration of plants in the springtime. So another argument against Christianity is that it is just another permutation of these seasonal cycle myths: after all, Easter is celebrated in the springtime. The opposite argument is possible, too: that all the other seasonal cycle myths are wish-fulfillment and Christianity is the real thing that happened just once, historically.

Which brings me back around to where I started. Jesus died just once, in an efficacious, substitutionary atonement with eternal consequences. In this piece of fiction, even within the fictional world (unlike, say, Aslan, whose sacrifice occurred only once), the Doctor's sacrifices do not stick. He has to do it over and over and over again.

Of course, that's also just necessary to keep the show going. If he went back to the beginning of time and did something so huge that it destroyed the Daleks, Cybermen, Carrionites, Sycorax, and Weeping Angels all in one go, there wouldn't be any story.

Come back tomorrow to read about the other theme this brings to mind!

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