Friday, April 29, 2011

Christian Symbolism in Doctor Who

Did anyone else spot the parallels between the Doctor’s death in The Impossible Astronaut and Jesus death on the cross? Of course there is nothing new with using Christian symbolism in science fiction. The idea of the hero dying or at least appearing to die and then coming back from the dead is a well known plot line. And given that ever since the revival of the series Doctor Who has started on or around Easter Saturday it shouldn’t be surprising. I just think there were so many references in this opening that it was worth commenting on.

In the first few minutes of the story the Doctor dies. Interestingly the date of the action in episode is clearly shown on scene to be Good Friday – the day before the story was transmitted. Before he dies the Doctor gathers his friends together for a meal, well actually a picnic, but I think the symbolism is getting a bit clearer here. This is the Doctor’s Last Supper with his companions. They even share some red wine. The fact they are by a lake even shows echoes of Sea of Galilee where Jesus ministered.

The Doctor appears to know that something important is about to happen. He tells them not to interfere as he his assailant appears – a mysterious space-suited figure. It reminded me how Jesus was anticipating his death and expected Judas to turn up in the garden and betray him.

A blast from an energy weapon and the doctor is fatally wounded. But of course in Doctor Who the Doctor doesn’t die he regenerates and takes on a new appearance. So, as he does in the new series, the Doctor stretches out his arms and begins to regenerate - light flashing from his face and hands. Isn’t it obvious now that this pose is supposed to remind us of Jesus death on the cross? The Doctor is then hit again by the energy weapon. He falls down and his companions look on his body. The regeneration is halted. He really is dead.

The gun shots at the space-suited figure as it walks back into the lake reminds me of Peter taking up his sword to defend Jesus. And then his companions burn the body on a boat on the lake in a Viking style funeral reminded me how Jesus' friends prepared his body for burial.

His companions in shock and mourning, despairing yet trying to understand what has happened just as Jesus disciples are portrayed between the death and resurrection. They go into a nearby diner and suddenly the Doctor appears out of the bathroom. The twist on this resurrection scene is that this is an earlier version of the Doctor. It is time travel science fiction after all. And off they go on an adventure. But perhaps it is leading up to some way in which the Doctor will be resurrected after his death later in the series.

Some interesting parallels?

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