Doctor Who satire-timelordcheats-hp3

Published on September 13th, 2013 | by Rebecca Crockett

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Religion and Doctor Who Day

Some could argue that any fandom is a religion of sorts.

We worship at the feet of the supreme being or entity in which ever universe we adore – the Jedi, Starfleet, the Time Lords.

We have our god or gods and saints, both fictional – Luke Skywalker, Spock, Picard, the Doctor, Rassilon, and real – George Lucas, Gene Roddenberry, Tom Baker, David Tennant, Russell T Davies, Steven Moffat.

We all have our devils or demons or evils – Darth Vader, Khan, the Klingons, the Master, Steven Moffat.

We all have those tenets every fan believes in – using the Force, that the Prime Directive should always be questioned, the Wibbly-Wobbly Timey-Wimey Big Ball of Stuff-ness that is Time itself.

So then does that mean we are all part of a religion, despite what other faith we may or may not ascribe to?

Religion?

The University of Manchester will be discussing the role religion plays in the universe of Doctor Who at their upcoming Religion and Doctor Who Day.
Over the show’s long history on television religion and religious themes have consistently been a subject of interest. From early depictions of Buddhism and paganism to recent years in which the show has been accused of being both messianic and overtly Atheistic, religion has always played an important role on Doctor Who. Topics discussed will range from the show’s treatment of demons to its portrayal of Buddhism and its use a tool in teaching Religious Studies in school and universities.
The event at the University’s John Rylands Library will be held 2nd November and is open to the public. The event is free but registration is required as space is limited. For more information, visit the University’s Events website.

(via Patheos)

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About the Author

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Rebecca is new to the Who world, having only recently watched the entire new series in a span of 8 days. She is no stranger to sci-fi though, being a life long Trekkie and has vague memories of seeing the 4th Doctor on US television as a child. When not watching, reading, blogging, or talking about Doctor Who, she is a fan of pop culture and loves movies and books so much she has to keep a list of both so she doesn't forget any of them. She also likes to make attempts at various forms of art including photography and painting. Rebecca is currently working her way through as many classic serials and as many books related to the show that she can find and wishes she could have been with the Doctor and Amy when they met Van Gogh.




26 Responses to Religion and Doctor Who Day

  1. avatar TonyS says:

    Excellent article Rebecca :) And I am going to be such a pedant in just a few words now… Articles of faith or belief are “tenets” rather than “tenants”. Apart from that, great stuff.


    • KILL THE EDITOR!!!

      Oh wait…

    • avatar Rebecca Crockett says:

      D’oh! And I knew that. Kill the editor, indeed. ;)

      Thanks

  2. avatar vortexter says:

    As a religious man, I don’t think of following Doctor Who in any shape or form as a religious experience. I view it for what it is: A rollicking good programme with excellent plots and thrilling adventures in Time and Space. The Doctor should never be viewed as a deity figure. He is fallible and prone to errors like the rest of us.
    The show itself has always struck me as being rather athiestic in tone with certain stories piling on the anti-religious themes in abundance, (Face of evil/Meglos/Planet of Fire) but I put that aside as a certain type of storytelling which although it doesn’t appeal or I necesarily agree with, it doesn’t detract from the main thrust of the narrative: A good man is trying his best to help those who need help against bad things. It’s not religion, it’s entertainment.

    • avatar Bob James says:

      Very well put. And good morality plays need not be religion centric or, more appropriately in my view, faith specific, to be effective or compelling. I think the varied references to the Doctor as a “lonely god” speak more to his powers than his character as a person. He is far from perfect for one so powerful, and that, in my opinion, makes him all the more compelling.

  3. avatar FrancoPabloDiablo says:

    Steven Moffat – devil, demon, evil???

    Are you f***ing serious?

    Comparing him to Darth Vader, Klingons and The Master?!?! A bit harsh perhaps, don’t you think? Why not just state you are not a particular fan of his.

    • avatar TonyS says:

      He appears on the hero list too Franco. I think Rebecca is trying to reflect all views here.

      • avatar FrancoPabloDiablo says:

        You are completely correct. My oversight. I retract my original comment.

        • avatar Rebecca Crockett says:

          It was supposed to be a joke…
          Personally, both he and RTD have their pros and their cons in how they’ve done their showrunning job.

          • avatar FrancoPabloDiablo says:

            Rebecca, I have already retracted my comment and admitted my mistake. I was at work and just quickly skimmed through your article. Having now read the article fully and having been made aware of my faux pas I once again would like to retract my original comment.

  4. avatar Colin says:

    I wonder if they’ll include the Hartnell era, where The Aztecs is certainly relevant, and stories like The Crusade, and The Romans reference Christianity (and, I must say, fairly positively, too).

  5. avatar David F says:

    Doctor Who fans have much in common with theologists.

    Both devote much of their lives to discussing and reconciling continuity errors in sprawling texts that were written without an overall plan over many years by many different writers. The main difference is that the Doctor Who fans (on the whole) are aware they’re arguing about fiction.

    • avatar FrancoPabloDiablo says:

      What? You mean Time Lords don’t exist??? What have I spent my whole life believing in???

      Seriously though, I’d sooner live by and have faith in the rules and mantra that Doctor Who has shown and taught me over the years before I’d believe in anything as ridiculous as religion.

      Religion is a myth, a story that has gotten way out of control. It has been a major factor in all the bloodiest wars and upheaval in the world (modern times mixes this with monetary profit through things such as oil reserves etc…).

      I can’t recall any wars due to Doctor Who’s influence. The show teaches us to be better people. To appreciate the littlest of things as well as the universe as a whole. If the Doctor was real and saw the state of the world now, he’d turn his back, hang his head in shame and regret ever having had a soft spot for our pathetic self-destructing species.

      • avatar vortexter says:

        Dr Who doesn’t seem to have taught you to be respectful of people who do follow a religion…

        • avatar David F says:

          We are under no obligation to respect religion. Respect cannot be an obligation by its definition. Just as you can’t say, “You are obliged to love me” or “You are obliged to trust me”. If the respect isn’t there, it isn’t, and you can’t insist that people feel it. Sorry. It’s nothing personal. It’s just the the respect hasn’t been earned.

          I don’t want to turn this Doctor Who thread into the same-old atheist defence you can find on every other internet forum, but it needed to be said. I promise not to respond further!

  6. avatar TimeChaser says:

    I think of Nyssa’s line from Primeval, talking about ancient Traken – “There was religion, so it wasn’t a true paradise.” Its true that Doctor Who, like Star Trek at times, has held the attitude that religion is somethig that holds civilization back (an opinion I share). But the re are lots of other times whe re faith of a personal level, in something greater than yourself, is seen as positive.


  7. I attended an event in Sheffield a few years ago with Barry Letts as guest, not long before he passed away (Spirituality and Doctor Who http://www.kasterborous.com/2008/02/doctor-who-and-religion/) and had a fascinating day. There is a heck of a lot of relevance and connections to Doctor Who, from Letts’ own philosophy to things like The Aztecs, Gridlock, Last of the Time Lords, the Time Lord titles and culture and much more.

    While I think using the term “religion” in the title of this event might be misleading or even exclude some interested parties from attending (using “faith” or “spirituality” again might have been a better option), it is an aspect of Doctor Who that should not be overlooked – it’s something that adds a considerable layer of subtext to much of the series.

  8. avatar Bob James says:

    “I love humans. Always finding patterns in things that aren’t there.” – The Eighth Doctor

    • avatar Edwardian Cricketer says:

      Absolutely! We even still play connect-the-dots-with-stars and call it astrology. I think it’s true that if one looks hard enough, one can see whatever one wants in any situation. We sometimes call it reading-between-the-lines.

      I agree that using religious themes in Doctor Who is a great idea for discussion and/or debate. I wonder, though, if there is intentional placement of direct religious context or commentary in Doctor Who. Or is it more the appearance of context in the way in stories like Last of the Time Lords is told? Religion is certainly central to storytelling in stories like The Aztecs but is there actually commentary or, again, is it the appearance of commentary? Am I making sense?

  9. avatar SteveF says:

    Sounds like Manchester University is a bit desperate, using a popular piece of media, Dr Who, to generate interest in it’s debate. DW doesn’t really have much to do with religion, it crops up occasionally as an oblique reference, (headless monks, religious soldiers), but the scripts have to be non-controversial about religion, or at least unbiased, to accord with the BBC’s charter. I think the ‘atheist’ charge is incorrect also, there is largely an absence of religion, and when it is included it’s usually to the effect that current world faiths have, in the future, further diversified or evolved.

    Of course, DW also includes the supernatural that’s part of western superstition/religion. So for example, we have ghosts, the devil, daemons, angels (or references to), witches and werewolves. In other words DW borrows from real world mythology as you would expect.


    • DW doesn’t really have much to do with religion, it crops up occasionally as an oblique reference, (headless monks, religious soldiers

      You should try watching more closely. Or before 2005. Or reading novels. Or comic strips. Or listening to audios.. or just experiencing more Doctor Who. It’s a valid topic for discussion.

      • avatar SteveF says:

        I was referring specifically to televised DW. I agree that other media, (particularly NA novels, and audios) have given the subject more treatment. Stories that have figured in BBC family viewing have been much more conservative.

        For your later point below, so what that everyone in Gridlock sings ‘Abide with me’? That’s a passing spiritual reference, not integral to the plot, not explored as a theme, simply a comment that some form of christian based spirituality still exists in the time of New New York.

        Btw – I remember the Troughton years, have read some NA novels, and listened to plenty of Big Finish audios.

        (I still think Manchester are using the DW bandwagon to stoke interest)


        • In Gridlock, the choice of song wasn’t a passing reference. The camera work/CGI echoes it. It’s key to the plot as it is part of the denuement. It’s not “simply a comment that some form of christian based spirituality still exists in the time of New New York”, it is a direct consequence of the Doctor’s actions, a strong, not passing, reference to the light bringing of Christ and the freeing from darkness that the citizens of New New York experience. Russell T Davies is one of the most unusual writers as an atheist who completely understands religion and faith and symbolism while maintaining a sensible line on the subject.

          Although I suspect some of this may be beyond your appreciation, I suggest you take a closer look at the people involved with this event and who they’re married to ;)

          • avatar Bob James says:

            Like Joss Whedon, RTD declares himself an Atheist. But also like Joss Whedon (who by his own admission concurs with this in regards to his own writing) one can find in RTD’s writing the themes of faith, redemption, forgiveness, and an the existence, of some sort, of life after this one. There has also come into play, on more than one occasion, a sort of messianic theme, in the Doctor sacrificing his life, or rising to life to save others. It’s there, no doubt about it. But I don’t agree that this use of thematic content qualifies Doctor Who as a religion.

  10. avatar SteveF says:

    Historical screenplays, such as those set at the time of the Aztecs or Romans, etc. only discuss ‘religion’ in it’s broadest terms because that’s what the people of those times ruled their lives by. There is often an ‘alien’ explanation for plot aspects of the story also, eg: Fires of Pompeii. That in my opionion means DW isn’t discussing or commenting on religion at all.


    • I don’t understand how anyone who has seen, read or listened to the audiobook of The Aztecs could possibly come to that conclusion.

      What about the spiritual moment in Gridlock, or the Christ pose and ascension in Voyage of the Damned? The “cult of Doctor” in the final episode of Series 3 that resulted in the Doctor’s restoration?

      This is only in nuWho; there is much more in the classic series.

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