Doctor Who Movie Review (or should it be TV review??)

Congratulate me. In the minds of some people, my life officially began about twenty hours ago. I watched a Doctor Who episode.

(*curtsies at enormous applause*) Thank you, thank you! Now let me tell you what I thought of it.

First of all, a quick run-down of Doctor Who. This British television series is the longest-running science fiction show, the first episode airing the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963 (they ended up replaying it the week after because they were worried the ratings had been affected by the day’s more momentous…umm…event.)

It’s the story of a 900-year-old Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey who travels through time and space, meeting historical personages and/or fighting evil aliens, depending on the episode. He has various companions who join him on all these adventures. The Doctor (who is known only by that title, “The Doctor”) has been played by eleven different actors throughout the years. This is cleverly woven into the plot: Time Lords, when they’re wounded, are able to “regenerate” into a different body. So when, say, Christopher Eccleston decides he’s played the Doctor long enough, the writers find a new actor, make a tragic scene wherein the Doctor gets hurt and has to regenerate, and voila, the awesome David Tennant!

(I couldn’t resist posting this video–I CANNOT get enough of this scene.)

Only he’s not played by David Tennant anymore, he’s now played by Matt Smith. And at our local library, all TJ could find were really really old episodes from the 60’s and last year’s Christmas special starring Matt Smith–the latter of which we finished watching last night.

The 2011 Christmas special was called The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe and I thoroughly enjoyed it. If you haven’t read the Narnia books, I’m not sure how much you’d get out of it. As you might guess from the title, this episode was a clear tribute to the book The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. It was set in World War II–it was about a family who has to evacuate from London during the Blitzkrieg. They find themselves in a wintry fairyland and the Doctor even uses the famed line, “What do they teach in schools these days?!”

The Doctor, Mrs. Arwell, and her two children Lily and Cyril have to save the endangered Treeple (a clever mix of Tolkien’s Ents and Lewis’ dryads) from acid rain that’s going to destroy their forest. In the process Mrs. Arwell has to face the dread of informing her children that their father was (supposedly) killed flying across the English Channel. The lovable, madcap Doctor has to guide them through the dangers and then back through the time vortex to England, just in time for Christmas.

All in all, it was a sweet episode. Clean (except for one use of the word “hell”) and funny. The Doctor showed genuine affection and care for these needy children–Mrs. Arwell was fantastic as a woman prepared to die defending her family–Mr. Arwell was a dutiful soldier and loving father.  My dad got all choked up during two of the last scenes (out-of-this-world evidence of the heartfelt nature of both scenes!) and we Narnia fans felt like we were in on all the inside jokes.

HOWEVER, we then watched a documentary called “The Best of the Doctor” on the special features. We got a better idea of the TV show as a whole from this 45 minute feature than we did from the actual Christmas special.

Let me make it very clear that this documentary dealt only with the past two seasons (the ones featuring Matt Smith), NOT the past 40-50 years of Doctor Who. So the issues that I’m about to talk about here might not apply to the previous seasons–I don’t really know, so maybe my readers can clue me in.

Firstly, the universe of Doctor Who is a little chaotic. No, not just a little. It’s VERY chaotic. At least in these newer series, there’s a lot of “time manipulation” going on. People going back and forth altering events in one era to affect the events in another era–what appears to be one character being face-to-face with herself as a child–and even the Doctor’s “future version” from 200 years into the future being killed on a beach, in the present time. Sounds complicated, no?

As a Christian I believe that time is linear, heading towards one triumphant goal. The Bible teaches that God is sovereign over history, and that He has foreordained everything that happens. No one can “alter” history. To do so would be to take on the role of God.

Secondly, it appears to me (correct me if I’m wrong!) that the Doctor is autonomous, a law unto himself. Who does he answer to? Well…no one, it seems. And what is it that makes him “the good guy?” Apparently there’s one episode where the bad guys (who have ALWAYS been bad guys, like the Daleks) join together to defeat the Doctor, and the viewer discovers that they (the bad guys) see the Doctor as the bad guy, and consider him a hypocrite because he’s killed their people and now wants to stop them from killing humans. So the viewer is left wondering if maybe the bad guys are really the good guys. Maybe the Doctor is the villain?

Because there’s really no clearly-defined basis of right or wrong (to my knowledge) in the Doctor’s universe, that question is never answered.

Thirdly, there’s the question of what constitutes true reality. In this documentary they talked about an episode in which these aliens (called “The Silence”) are only perceived while being viewed; they are instantly forgotten once a viewer looks away. In the course of the episode, Earth’s populace is conditioned to kill all Silents during the Apollo 11 landing on the moon, though they afterwards forget doing so.

Well, that brings up the question: is reality what we think it is, or is it all a dream? When you wake up in the morning and you look back on the memories of the previous day, what’s not to say that those memories weren’t just something you dreamed in the middle of the night? Maybe today is all there is; yesterday was only a dream. Maybe you killed someone and forgot about it. Maybe your grandmother killed a Silent while she was watching Neil Armstrong land on the moon!

Now I can look at this (and I’m sure most of my Whovian friends are the same way) and recognize it as fiction and…well…weirdness. The scary thing was that the people who were being interviewed on this documentary–adults!–took it way too seriously. They were literally asking those same rhetorical questions I just wrote in the previous paragraph. I didn’t make them up! Postmodern views of reality are often unconsciously embraced by people who don’t have a Biblical foundation for morality, reality, and Providence. My concern is that we’ve got that going on here with Doctor Whoat least in the most recent seasons.

And yet I groan in frustration because it’s so engaging! You have in this series the various battles between one David (no pun intended) against numerous Goliaths, with time travel and some of the wittiest dialogue in the history of Western Civilization. Why oh why oh WHY do they have to stick all that postmodern hullabaloo in it?

Well, what if you had a Christian Doctor Who?

Ah. Ever thought about that, my young Christian friends? Why should the pagans have all the awesome television series? What if someone wrote an original plot that, while imaginative enough, didn’t violate God’s principles for morality and reality and still kept the basic plot device of time travel?

Listen, time travel is not inherently bad. See the very popular Christian film Time Changer. (*imitates Matt Smith*) “Time machine falls out of sky, man falls into 21st century America, man eats hot dog.” The difference between Doctor Who and Time Changer was that Dr. Russell couldn’t alter history. At all. He wasn’t even allowed to see the date of his own death because “It’s not for us to know.” He could only be a prophet warning modern America to, ironically enough, turn from her postmodern views of morality.

A Doctor with a Christian worldview could still travel through time (and space, if you’re into the whole alien thing) in his TARDIS, but 1) he couldn’t alter historical events, because all of history is foreordained 2) God must be sovereign over everything, including Gallifrey and the Time Lords and 3) the Doctor himself must be subject to God’s standards for good and evil, following the good, forsaking the evil, and encouraging others to do the same, because that’s the only way he can truly be the archetypal Good Guy.

I’d write it if I could, but I’m gonna let you all in on a little secret. I don’t have the time to put together a Doctor Who-inspired novel because I’m too busy shaking my fist at George Lucas. Y’know that novel I’m always talking about? Well, it’s a Star Wars-inspired space opera with a distinctly Christian worldview. And no, I’m not copycatting! I have an original plot with a few (a very few) basic similarities–and then several radical differences, the biggest of which is that there is no Force. There is only the God of the Bible–with a different identity, of course, but He’s still the same Person. Nor is there any of Obi-Wan Kenobi’s “Well, it’s true–from a certain point of view” rubbish. There is instead a clearly-defined code of right and wrong, and by that code the characters and readers can determine who is good and who is evil.

I tell you all that to say, “Reclaiming engaging stories and genres can be done,” and I know it can be done because I’ve been doing it, and it must be done by others! We young Christians need to get to work reclaiming the culture for Christ, and that culture includes not just politics and business, but film and books of every lawful genre. I believe that science fiction, when handled correctly, is a lawful genre. Somebody needs to get on out there and snatch the Doctor (or whatever character you make up) from the jaws of postmodernism and stick him right where I think he’d be far happier: in an orderly universe ruled over by a Providential Being who’s leading history towards a resounding Kingdom-victory.

I’ve given my generation this challenge. Now somebody get to writing or filming, and while you’re at it give a hearty shout of “ALLONS-Y!”

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6 thoughts on “Doctor Who Movie Review (or should it be TV review??)

  1. BLESS. THIS. POST.

    😀

    I’ve still not seen any Doctor Who, but I’ve heard so much about it. One of my best friends absolutely loves the series but was quick to admit, “It is NOT a Christian show.” lol. Oh, and I LOVE the movie Time Changer!! Kayla and I have rewatched that movie so many times; it’s so entertaining but with a great Christian message!

    Anyway, great post, I absolutely agree Christians should be getting involved in creating God honoring science fiction; it can be such a powerful genre! 🙂

    ~Jamie

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    1. LOL!!! “Bless this post” made me really and truly laugh. I’ve been so eager to watch Doctor Who for a long time, and I DID enjoy the Christmas episode. There’s this one part where the Doctor is showing the children around the house; he’s filled it awesome stuff (showing them the kitchen sink: “Here’s the hot water, the cold water, and the lemonade!”) and he’s prepared a bedroom for them that’s filled with games and toys. When one of the kids says, “But where are the beds?” the Doctor looks at them with consternation and says, “Well, I couldn’t fit everything in–we all have to make sacrifices!”

      There ARE a few more I’d like to see, including the episode with the Lion King quote! It actually looks pretty good: he doesn’t go back into time but instead has a sword fight with aliens in his “jam-jams” (pajamas). It’s also a Christmas special. Due to my problems with the worldview, the show is definitely something I’d take in extreme moderation (like Star Wars–it all comes back around to Star Wars, doesn’t it?) but I think there are some episodes I could still enjoy 😀

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  2. Hmm…some very interesting thoughts and questions. Prepare for a long comment;D
    As I’ve not seen any of the 11th Doctor’s seasons yet, I don’t really have an opinion on them, so my answers relate to the previous seasons.

    lol. Um, yes – the Doctor’s universe is extremely chaotic. 😉

    As far as jumping about in time goes, in the early seasons with the 9th and 10th Doctors, they don’t go around changing “fixed points in time”. The Doctor is usually written into major events as if he had always been there, which I love. For example, in the episode ‘The Fires of Pompeii’, it turns out that the Doctor is responsible for the volcanic explosion with buried the city. He had to ‘set it off’ in order to save the rest of the world. Also, he spends a lot of time in the future (waaaayyy in the future) or present day, so there isn’t a whole lot of history to mess around with.
    I guess the whole changing history thing doesn’t really bother me because, as you said, it’s a fictional story. A TV series. The same with Star Wars – the force doesn’t bother me because it’s not real. It’s fictional. But, I can totally see where you’re coming from. I’ve been raised to examine everything from a Biblical point of view, and there are definitely some glaring faults in both shows. However in my opinion, the positives outweigh the negatives.

    Yes, the Doctor is a law unto himself. In one 10th Doctor episode he tells someone “it stops here”, as in he has the final, ultimate say so. I obviously don’t agree with that. But, again, fiction. 😉 At the same time, there have been many episodes in which the Doctor is powerless to do anything, and an ‘ordinary human being’ has to save the world. So, he may say he’s the ultimate authority…but he’s really not. lol.
    I personally automatically add God into Doctor Who (well, any show I’m watching). How could I not? He is the ultimate authority and power. He has all of time in His hands. He’s the true Lord of Time. And He’s my Savior, the reason for my very existence.

    The Doctor’s character goes through a lot of personal growth during the first 4 seasons of the rebooted series. He becomes more compassionate. He doesn’t kill unless he has to. He always gives those he’s fighting a chance to end it all and got back where they came from. His primary goal seems to be protecting the human race, which automatically makes all hostile alien forces his enemies.

    I love Doctor Who because it’s a great way to ‘escape’ from the real world for just a bit and get completely and wonderfully lost in all of space and time. The same with Star Wars:)

    Anyway, I hope all of that made sense somehow. It’s still the morning and I’m not fully awake yet. *grin*

    Have a lovely day!
    Love and blessings,
    ~Tasha~

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    1. LOL!! Oh goody, I love long comments. I guess you wouldn’t be fully awake yet…I think we’re two or three hours ahead of y’all!

      Thank you thank you thank you for all your points, Tasha. I was so glad I was able to point out, “OK, guys, I’ve only seen stuff from the very latest season!” because it’s obvious that the past seasons are different. And I’m glad you were able to say, with me, that you have your own “caveats” with it 🙂 Here at our house we’re always asking ourselves, “What are the screenwriters trying to communicate? What’s their view of life, and how do they slip it into their stories?” With five siblings under the age of eleven, we’re also careful about what we show them before they’re grounded in a Biblical worldview, so that plays a big part in the way we think and watch movies, too 😉

      I’ve learned enough through writing my own novel that inserting my worldview into it is inescapable, even if I’m not doing it consciously. George Lucas has described himself as “a Buddhist Methodist.” Well, that would explain your, umm, Zen-weirdness with some of the things Yoda says, or Obi-Wan’s “Only a Sith deals in absolutes.” But it would also explain why and how Lucas borrowed from the Christian worldview (Luke’s forgiveness, Obi-Wan’s self-sacrifice, male characters’ respect and defense of women, resistance to tyrants, etc etc etc). I can see how Doctor Who is the same way. The personal autonomy of the Doctor would definitely be Humanism, but his compassion and self-sacrifice stem from Christianity. Anything that’s good and true and beautiful in a story–and any hero worthy of praise–is only good because of its/his source! And that’s exciting to me because even the unbelievers can’t get away from the positive influence of Christianity.

      All that said, I’d really REALLY like to see some David Tennant episodes. “The Christmas Invasion” is still at the tip-top of my list, and the one about Pompeii makes a close second. Oh, and the two episodes with Joan. But I could be perfectly happy just watching David Tennant’s “funniest moments” on YouTube. He cracks me up:

      Shakespeare: To be or not to be… Ooh. That’s quite good.
      The Doctor: You should write that down.
      Shakespeare: Maybe not. Bit pretentious?
      The Doctor: Meh.

      If I’m ever taken to the ER for the negative effects of uncontrollable laughter, I’m laying it all at David Tennant’s door.

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      1. Haha – I am now 95% awake. Feeding animals, moving sprinklers, and rescuing a lamb (it was completely snarled up in the fence – yikes!) greatly aid the ‘waking up’ process. I’m so not a morning person;) Anyway…

        Yeah, I’m starting to get the feeling that the latest seasons are a bit different. A new screenwriter helps a lot!

        Yes! With younger siblings I TOTALLY understand where you’re coming from!! I’m not as used to that since my brother and I are both over 20. 🙂 My parents were very careful about what we watched and read when we were younger. We only ever watched Star Wars if they were right there with us.

        Oh, and something else I’d like to point out, is special features interviews. Some of them, are just rubbish. For example, on our Prince Caspian DVD, some of the people in the interviews who worked on the film were putting their own interpretations into C.S. Lewis’ works that I’m sure he never even thought of. All I see when watching or reading Narnia is it pointing to Christ, but non-Christians see something completely different. So…anyway. Interviews are very often rubbish, in my experience.

        Very, very good point here – “…even the unbelievers can’t get away from the positive influence of Christianity.” So, so true. At church, our pastor shared about a young lady who was an atheist, who read Richard Dawkin’s book The God Delusion, and ended up believing in God and coming to salvation because the arguments in his book were so stupid. Not exactly the same thing, but I thought that was a pretty awesome story, and it’s been running through my head all week. Man meant it for evil, but God turned it into good. =)

        YES!! You should definitely watch The Christmas Invasion!! So, so good. Fires of Pompeii was good, but very weird, too, just so you know. And the two episodes with Joan are absolutely beautiful. Just as a heads up, at the very, very end there is what appears to be a woman “pastor” giving a short speech/sermon. One of those “why did they have to do that?” moments. Ugh. But otherwise, totally beautiful episodes well worth watching.
        David Tennant is such an amazing actor. Such depth. And so good at comedy!!
        Haha! “Yep, I’m in the hospital because of David Tennant’s ability to make me laugh…” ;D

        I’m really glad you asked all those questions – thinking is good:)

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      2. Oh, the poor lamb!!! I had a baby goat get her legs all snarled up in a leash once…it scared me to death because she was lying there bawling her head off and my attempts to untangle her only made her legs hurt worse. Praise the Lord, I was able to rescue her and she was no worse for the wear after walking around for a bit 🙂

        And by the way, tell your brother for me that your interview together regarding publishing was very helpful for me! I’m not nearly to that point yet but it’s certainly something that’s in the back of my mind.

        It was great talking with you, Tasha! You’re right, thinking is good. Sometimes my brother tells me I’m “over-thinking it” but I reckon it’s far better to “over-think” than not think at all, LOL!

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