The fiftieth anniversary celebration of BBC’s Doctor Who brought fans numerous gifts – from long sought after explanations to new unforeseen adventures.
But it brought the Doctor what he has longed for since the ninth iteration and the reappearance of the show in 1995. The Day of the Doctor gave him what deep down inside we all desire: forgiveness, a chance to make things right and, most of all, hope.
Since Christopher Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor, the Time War has been darkly hinted at, but never fully developed until The Day of the Doctor.
So much destruction has resulted for the entire universe from the battle between the Time Lords, the Doctor’s people, and the Daleks, the Doctor’s most powerful enemy, that the Doctor steals an unimaginable weapon to destroy the worlds of the Time Lords and the Daleks. Two entire civilizations will be wiped out of existence.
That moment of choosing to end billions of lives has haunted the Doctor, so much so that he has continually worked to push that version of himself, the War Doctor, out of his consciousness. It shaped who he was, causing him to feel immense guilt and loneliness, being the last of his people.
All of that changed in The Day of the Doctor. A second chance was given. Forgiveness was extended. Hope was born anew. The Doctor found what we all want.
That’s what good entertainment does, it reflects reality. The best fiction illuminates fact.
Obviously, that was at the forefront of our minds (and this blog) last week, as we celebrated the life and works of C.S. Lewis on the 50th anniversary of his death. Clearly, Narnia and J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth do that, but so can work from a non-Christian perspective.
Both Lewis and Tolkien saw all myths and religions as containing truth, in as much as they reflected the true Myth and real Religion. As Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity:
I have been asked to tell you what Christians believe, and I am going to begin by telling you one thing that Christians do not need to believe. If you are a Christian you do not have to believe that all the other religions are simply wrong all through. If you are an atheist you do have to believe that the main point in all the religions of the whole word is simply one huge mistake. If you are a Christian, you are free to think that all these religions, even the queerest one, contain at least some hint of the truth. When I was an atheist I had to try to persuade myself that most of the human race have always been wrong about the question that mattered to them most; when I became a Christian I was able to take a more liberal view. But, of course, being a Christian does mean thinking that where Christianity differs from other religions, Christianity is right and they are wrong. As in arithmetic – there is only one right answer to a sum, and all other answers are wrong: but some of the wrong answers are much nearer being right than others.
Even completely irreligious perspectives can communicate some truth. Joss Whedon is an avowed atheists, but storyline-wise, contradictorily to his worldview, he sees the value in self-sacrifice and gives hope to his characters in his works like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, Dollhouse, The Avengers and Agents of SHIELD.
Spanning half a century and scores of writers, directors and producers, Doctor Who has had a varied approach to God. Some episodes, like Father’s Day, draw heavily from Christian beliefs. Others seem to originate from an atheistic perspective.
But none of that changes that fact that humanity needs hope and entertainment that seeks to resonate with viewers will capture that longing.
The Day of the Doctor confronts us with the pain and guilt that come from past mistakes. We all wish there was a way to undo them, to rid us of the curse of regret, to put things back as they should be.
The Doctor finds this through the “wibbly-wobbly, timey, wimey … stuff” of time travel. We don’t have that option, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have an option. The fact that a fictional corrective is just that – fiction, it does not follow that a corrective does not exist at all.
Doctor Who reminds us, on a regular basis, of our need for hope. Every religion recognizes that things are not as they should be. But it is only through the sacrifice of Jesus that we find a way to set things right.
The Day of the Doctor points to our need for hope. The cross of Christ shows us that we do not hope in vain.