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The Writer, the Box and the Time Lord

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There are two recurring themes in Doctor Who that are fully in line with Christian values

On Friday 22 November 1963 the writer CS Lewis passed away following two years of kidney problems. His death was overshadowed by two others the same day – Aldous Huxley and, of course, the assassination of JF Kennedy. CS Lewis

On a lighter note the next day, Saturday 23 November 1963 saw the first broadcast of Doctor Who. Apart from the near coincidence of dates, what other connections might there be between the creator of Narnia and the Time Lord?

For all his many academic achievements and serious writing CS Lewis will be forever known as the creator of the Narnia stories. To most people this means The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, the most recognised of the seven Narnia novels.

The wardrobe of the title which provides both the route to Narnia and the border between the everyday world of World War II England and the fantastical word of Eternal Winter, the White Witch and enchanted animals.

Turning to Doctor Who; he too has a magic cabinet, the TARDIS, which is of a size with a large wardrobe but is also bigger inside. It is also the means by which the Doctor and his companions travel to mystical

worlds and have their adventures. The first time a companion enters the TARDIS is also the point at which they leave their normal lives behind, much as Edmund and Lucy did when they first entered the wardrobe.

There was even a recent Christmas story (2011) called The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe which had many visual similarities to the classic Narnia story.

Apart from the most facile of comparisons is there a deeper resonance between the two stories? Could we consider the possibility that the Doctor is an Aslan (or Christ) figure? Are there any familiar Christian messages in Doctor Who?

It is certainly possible to view the Doctor, an alien from an advanced race, as something akin to an angel. In the 1970s he was brought face to face with a foe from his own kind, The Master. Visually there was more than a touch of the diabolic about The Master with a clichéd widow’s peak and neat, trimmed beard. He was forever wreaking evil and putting temptation in the Doctor’s path.

More recently in 2007 there was a two-part story (Sound of Drums/Last of the Time Lords) in which the Master trapped The Doctor as a wizened creature in a cage. The Doctor’s companion Martha spread the word on Earth that The Doctor needed their help. At a certain time all of humanity prayed for the Doctor and he was re-born back in his normal form and defeated his enemy. All visually compelling and almost too Messianic; if we look harder we can find a more subtle and powerful message.

There are two recurring themes in Doctor Who that are fully in line with Christian values: the power of faith to transform and the power of love. These are almost part of the bedrock of the programme. Taking faith first; a typical

Doctor Who story such as Rose — the first story in the 2005 revival — has a new companion meet the Doctor and become enamoured with his other worldly knowledge. They meet a crisis head-on and Rose has to save the day by reaching deep within herself and believing in her own abilities. The trigger is the faith the Doctor has in her to achieve which she trusts by taking a leap of faith in him.

This idea is very frequently used; in many stories a character makes a sacrifice after a moment of apotheosis and is transformed by their trust in the Doctor.

The power of love is also often used. There have been several stories where a parent has needed to save a child from a terrible fate by drawing on the love that they naturally feel for them. An example of many is the story Closing Time from 2011 in which Craig is captured and fed into an alien conversion machine. The Doctor encourages him to fight but he is unable until he hears his young son Alfie crying over the intercom. The power of his emotions is such that he recovers his humanity and in so doing destroys the alien machine.

In these and many other ways then the TV show does indeed remind us of the power of both faith and love.

November 2013 sees the 50th anniversary of both CS Lewis’s death and the first transmission of Doctor Who. The former will be marked by a memorial stone in Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey; the latter by the culmination of 11 months of exploration of the show’s past, new stories and a 3D TV special.

Both events will have cultural significance but it seems inevitable that the latter will dominate the media coverage. I, however, like to think that there will be those who see the connection between the two and look forward another 50 years when both will be remembered for their positive impact on society.

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  • APA 6th ed.: Jones, Tony (2013-11-22). The Writer, the Box and the Time Lord. Church of England Newspaper p. 9.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Jones, Tony. "The Writer, the Box and the Time Lord." Church of England Newspaper [add city] 2013-11-22, 9. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Jones, Tony. "The Writer, the Box and the Time Lord." Church of England Newspaper, edition, sec., 2013-11-22
  • Turabian: Jones, Tony. "The Writer, the Box and the Time Lord." Church of England Newspaper, 2013-11-22, section, 9 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=The Writer, the Box and the Time Lord | url=http://cuttingsarchive.org/index.php/The_Writer,_the_Box_and_the_Time_Lord | work=Church of England Newspaper | pages=9 | date=2013-11-22 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=25 October 2021 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=The Writer, the Box and the Time Lord | url=http://cuttingsarchive.org/index.php/The_Writer,_the_Box_and_the_Time_Lord | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=25 October 2021}}</ref>