Doctor Who News The Master posed as Reverend Magister in The Daemons

Published on December 4th, 2012 | by Andrew Reynolds

Is Doctor Who A Religion?

Doctor Who isn’t real. I know, breathe in; it’s going to be okay. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t believe in it.

The Master posed as Reverend Magister in The Daemons

Attempting to make a messiah out of a very naughty boy PBS’ Mike Rugnetta of the Idea Channel (that’s a channel about ideas not a one idea channel; that’s ITV 2) argues that with the Doctors fervent following, consistent moral judgements and common symbolism there could be ground for considering Doctor Who as a religion.

It’s a tempting argument and one that blog Teen Skepchick are more than a happy to indulge.

Defining religion as an establishing system of ‘moods and motivations’ and a general order of existence, or cosmology in one guise or another Doctor Who, argues Rugnetta, connects through its own continuity and symbology.

Which in itself is a bit of a stretch; bearing familiar traits to a religion doth not maketh a religion and there’s no denying that the ideas and ideals promote by the show resemble those promoted across the world in the general orders of many religions; that doesn’t make the show something by which people can live their lives by.

We’ve all been affected emotionally by a particularly noble or heart-breaking episode but only as hypothetical examples of valour; not lessons by which we can draw upon when faced with similar emotional torment. And as examples of exploration, truth and community; they’re easy to swallow; sometimes someone’s beliefs can appear ugly to those who stand apart from them.

Ironically, for a show all about time travel, Teenskepchick argues Doctor Who is lacking a little history:

That is not to say that it won’t become a religion, truly believed by thousands. If DW becomes ingrained enough in our culture and its origins forgotten, it may become ‘fact’ in the eyes of the populace. No one was around for Jesus, but people still believe he existed because he was written about by several people.

Do you suppose DW might become a religion, even if it’s not at this point? I’m sure lots of people want the tales to be real, but we all know it’s just actors on a set. Perhaps someday that knowledge will be lost.

Perhaps the most obvious comparison with religious iconography in Doctor Who and indeed, the whole of religious pop culture allegories is that of Jesus Christ; the reluctant deity, weighed down by an impossible burden and tasked to meet an ancient prophecy; it’s certainly tempting to view the Doctor in a similar light:

Essentially, the Doctor is cast as a deity in this comparison. He collaborates with humanity and protects us, he has one of the strongest moral compasses and has a consistent philosophy. He dies and is, essentially, resurrected as a new man. However, the Doctor doesn’t want to be revered or recognized. He asks people not to salute him or give him more respect than others (then turns around and swaggers about, making whole armies turn tail). If we see him as a deity, he is definitely a reluctant deity who only directly exposes himself to individuals.

Perhaps the Doctor’s status as a deity says more about humanities propensity towards faith rather than any commentary upon the role of a reluctant deity; as in Series 3 overarching theme of belief overcoming impossible circumstances.

For more on the iconography of Doctor Who, the emotional sway of the Doctor and faith beyond belief head over to Teen Skepchick.

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About the Author

Everyone has a favourite Doctor and mine - just for his honesty, his fairness and his ability to not notice the Master's awful, awful disguises/anagrams (Sir Gilles Estram!?!) - has to be the Fifth Doctor, Peter Davison. The stories didn’t serve him as well as his acting served those stories.




2 Responses to Is Doctor Who A Religion?

  1. Shadowfather says:

    I think that religion is an obsession for Humanity. Most people go to church or believe in a god because that’s what their parents may have done and their parents before that; it’s expected of you and, in many countries, you can be arrested for openly sharing your views or ideals to not have respect or desire to worship them.

    Society has never liked a minority of a species saying no, particularly when religion is more an institutionalised sector of government, rather than a choice.

  2. James says:

    The Doctor always confronts erroneous belief systems. But, whilst it was a show underpinned by belief in science during the Letts/Hinchliff days for example, the Moffat era is more like arbitrary fantasy, don’t blink at an Angel, throw salt to fend off a Fendahl etc. The angels are more like myths brought to life than aliens from a planet.

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