Saturday, February 21, 2009

Trying my hand at a review: the BBC series Doctor Who

Trying my hand at a review: the BBC series Doctor Who

“…So I’m going to go upstairs and blow it up…and I might well die in the process. But don’t worry about me, no. You go on…go on! Go have your lovely beans on toast. Don’t tell anyone about this because if you do you’ll get them killed. I’m the Doctor by the way. What’s your name?”


“Nice to meet you, Rose. Run for your life!”

So it goes with the Doctor, an alien by that simple name who travels the galaxies and universes in the TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimension In Space), his time machine disguised as a ‘50s police box that is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. The last of his race, the Time Lords, the Doctor finds human friends to carry
on his world and universe saving escapades but always seems to end up alone.

Doctor Who is bigger in the UK than Lost ever has been in the United States—and for much longer too. The Doctor and some of his nemeses such as the Daleks, pepper shaker shaped ruthless creatures with their
signature “Exterminate!” battle cry, are household names, engrained in the UK’s pop culture.

The sci-fi show started in the early 1960s in black and white and quickly caught on, lasting almost 30 years (the Doctor can regenerate when he is mortally wounded, allowing for new Doctors) before being canceled. While the saga continued in merchandise and other such memorabilia, the region eagerly awaited the day when Doctor Who would come back to its Saturday nights. The show was taken up again in 2005 with the 9th Doctor (now number 10) to the glee of Who fans.

The lonely Doctor and his human friends in the TARDIS encounter various crises with the likes of Shakespeare,
Charles Dickens, and other future figures we have yet to meet. The show has an entertaining blend of comedy, suspense, and tragedy—with great special effects.

However, being so much a part of pop culture has a reverse effect—the culture is also part of you. The godless culture of the UK most definitely shows through in the show. Random homosexual characters are not uncommon while religion and Christianity are often treated satirically.

In addition, a show about time travel in a culture dominated by minds such as Richard Dawkins inevitably leads to some interesting episodes. The script writer gets to imagine the beginning of the universe and its end—gets to dream about the potential of the human race and everything that it could become. All of this is obviously not from a Biblical standpoint.

However, apart from these flaws, the show gives plenty of food for thought for critical thinkers out there. The writers weave many interesting story lines and moral decisions into the script. In one disturbing episode, the Doctor meets the Satan and the Beast (imprisoned at the core of a planet that is anchored at the mouth of a black hole…), challenging everything that he has ever believed. A popular nemesis, the robot Cybermen, believe themselves perfected (they’ve eliminated emotions) and attempt to force “conversion” on humanity, “deleting” those who do not comply. In addition, the Doctor often has to make risky decisions that can affect the future or make decisions between one life and another.

As the viewer gets pulled by the decision along with the Doctor, the Christian can give an added dimension. He can look at the decision from our Great “Doctor” (i.e. Physician), Jesus Christ, through a Biblical lens (to a point since the destruction of alien races and parallel universes doesn’t come up often in the Bible). He can also raise the old question of whether there can be right and wrong in a naturalistic universe.

Despite obvious flaws, traveling with the Doctor is always an interesting experience filled with laughter and often sadness. The Doctor, his partners, and his enemies will very likely find fans among sci-fi fanatics and even casual viewers. In addition, those critical thinkers who enjoy analyzing what they watch will also be gratified as they encounter morality, the meaning and purpose of life, and other such questions from a naturalistic viewpoint.

1 comment:

Alex Johnson said...

Hey Andrew,

Long time no see! I had no idea you had a blog. Cool stuff. :) Nice review of Doctor Who.