Monday, September 17, 2007

The Church of the Good Doctor

By Mitchell

We've noted before our long-time affection for the Brit sci-fi classic Doctor Who. Now comes a story from Cardiff, where an Anglican church announces a special Doctor Who-themed service. According to the story, "Teenagers and young people in their early 20s are being targeted for the "cafe-style" Communion service, with music and video clips from the hit series, at St Paul's Church in Grangetown, Cardiff." Fr. Dean Atkins, youth officer for the Diocese, says, "

"The figure of Doctor Who is somebody who comes to save the world, almost a Messiah figure. In the series there are lots of references to salvation and the Doctor being almost immortal. We are using the figure of Doctor Who as a parable of Christ."

Now, if this were a Catholic liturgy, we might be discussing some serious problems. As it is, considering the condition of the Anglican communion, using Doctor Who as inspiration might actually be an improvement. But seriously, outside of a liturgical setting, this becomes quite an interesting question, and one that has not been lost on this site. In fact, our friend Badda-Blogger wrote a special piece for us back in 2005 on the very topic of "Doctor Who and Symbols of Christ." (Please do go back and read this excellent essay.)

Throughout the series' nearly 45-year history, the writers have been somewhat ambivalent on the idea of organized religion, which is par for the course for most science fiction. However, religious symbolism such as that mentioned by Badda have often come to the fore - particularly in last season's episode "New Earth," which contains one of the most eloquent defenses of life by the Doctor that you're ever apt to hear on television, whether in a religious or secular context.

And so I think it's most worthwhile to continue this discussion, to examine the relationship between religion and popular culture (the science fiction series Firefly has also been noted for its many religions overtones). Just as this can aid our understanding of religion, it can also give depth and meaning to popular fiction, and provide an environment for serious discussion. (It can also introduce people to terrific TV series.) Just leave it out of the liturgical setting. . .

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