Following on from my recent blog post Echoes of Christ: Sacrificial Love in Our Favourite Stories, where I had fun talking about Harry Potter and Christian imagery, I thought I’d turn to another story that I particularly enjoyed spending my time in when I was younger, Doctor Who.
In case you missed the last blog post, here’s a quick recap of what I mean when I talk about Christian imagery and sacrificial love. If you did read my last blog, thank you for spending some time listening to ramblings, and do feel free to go on to the next section.
In the Bible we see a grand narrative in which a loving and powerful God creates everything in creation. In which he creates humankind and yet humankind rejects him. In which we have turned away from him and so are rightly worthy of his rejection too. A narrative in which, even in our sin, God the Father sent his Son Jesus into the world. In which the Son, who lived a life without sin, gave his life so that we could be restored to our relationship with our Heavenly King. In which Jesus died on the cross, taking the punishment that we deserve for turning away from our Creator, yet was raised to life, triumphing over death. A narrative in which we are given the same hope that death will not defeat us if we place our trust in Christ. In which God’s people look to a future when there will be no more pain, or suffering, or death. A future with him.
A central part of this story, a story I believe to be true and life changing, is the self-sacrificial love of Christ, and his act of laying down his life for us. This sacrificial love is echoed throughout the pages of literature, across the scenes of film and television, in the stories that speak to us and shape our lives.
Today I thought it’d be good to have a very quick look at Doctor Who, and as I’m very tempted to watch through my favourite seasons again, maybe I’ll have some more reflections in the weeks to come.
One quick note: As sacrificial love can so often play such a key role in the development of a story’s narrative, you may want to skip over the books, films or TV shows that you haven’t seen yet – I really don’t want to spoil these for you! Just in case your scanning this blog post quickly, I’ll put this in bold capitals too:
Perhaps Doctor Who isn’t quite as obvious story as Narnia or Lord of the Rings would be to include, and I’ll admit, I don’t keep track of the series as much these days (which explains the dated logo) and so cannot reflect on more recent episodes. However, when my obsession with Doctor Who was at its height, I saw self-sacrificial love reflected again and again throughout the series. The Doctor, human in appearance, but in reality a Time Lord, often takes the role of a saviour and protector in the series. He loves the human race, and over and over again, steps in to protect and rescue humanity from various alien forces that seek to do harm. The Doctor can also regenerate, which allows the series to continue seamlessly as new actors step into this central role. But to regenerate does mean in a way that the Doctor must, in one sense, die. And again and again, the Doctor lays down his life for others, sacrificing himself for the earth, for the universe.
The Ninth Doctor sacrifices himself for his companion and the women he loves, Rose. Rose had opened the heart of the TARDIS and absorbed the time vortex, which enabled her to rescue Doctor from the Daleks, wipe the entire Dalek fleet out and even raise others life. But the power was too much and it would have killed her. The Doctor kisses her and in doing so absorbs the entire power of the vortex into his own body to save her life.
The Tenth Doctor lays down his life for Wilfred, his companion Donna’s grandad. It is a heartbreaking and beautiful episode, and also quite a complex one. Basically, if I remember correctly, the Doctor prevents time from ending by preventing the Time Lords from returning. He rescues the universe, without even dying in doing so. And then he hears four knocks, and turns to see that Wilfred, who has come to help him, is trapped in one of two isolated control rooms, and it is about to be flooded by a lethal dose of radiation. The only way to rescue Wilfred from this control room is for an individual to enter other control room, and to face the lethal radiation in his place. The Doctor gives up his life to free Wilfred. In these two acts we see striking images of Christ-like love, as the Doctor sacrifices himself for the lives of ordinary humans, laying down his life in their place.