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.