The (Apparent) Death and Resurrection of the Doctor

A commenter pointed out to me that the date chosen for the death of the Doctor by Lake Silencio, April 22nd, 2011, was significant, advising me to Google it.

I did.

That date was Good Friday this year.

The same commenter also related the question about the Doctor’s identity to the classic one from the Gospels: “Who do you say that I am?” One could also compare the Doctor’s resolve to accept his own death after learning of the Brigadier’s to the relationship of John the Baptist and Jesus – although I admit at this point I am stretching.

Surely such a detail is unlikely to be accidental. And so I am grateful to have had this detail pointed out to me, and wondering what the show’s writers and producers had in mind when they chose it.

There has been intersection between religion and Doctor Who for as long as I can remember. But little details like this make me think that it is likely to be intentional. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone had the idea for, but shelved for fear of controversy, an episode in which the Doctor visits first century Galilee and Judaea, gets crucified, and is rescued from the tomb by the TARDIS after regenerating.

What do others think about the intersection of religion and Doctor Who? I’m interested professionally and not only as a fan, because I’m looking ahead to having my panel presentation at AAR in November focus on this topic.

(By the way, I am still waiting for an explanation about the Doctor’s tuxedo in “Let’s Kill Hitler”…)

It should be noted that this idea of a connection between Doctor Who, Jesus and the resurrection is not something that has been thought about only now or only in relation to the most recent episodes…

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  • Helena

    I notice you watched the first episode, so you must know there was nothing Christological about the Who. It wasn’t a question he asked but a misunderstanding. The assistant called him Dr. “Smith” (I forget the actual name now) by mistake, and the Doctor replied, Doctor who? 

    the Baker episodes were alright (probably because Douglas Adams was on the writing staff), but I can’t watch the politically correct drivel they show now. The few times I’ve watched, it might as well have been called, “Dr. All White People (esp. the Middle Aged who Speak with Posh Accents) are Evil Exploiters of Aliens who Stand in For Dark Skinned People from the 3rd World.” They ought to to have Naipaul write a burlesque of it.

  • James F. McGrath

    Ian called him “Doctor Foreman” and his reaction made him realize that wasn’t his name. Ian later asks Barbara “Who is he? Doctor who?” And so that question which has come to the fore once again has been with us since the beginning. 

    As I rewatch, I’ll be looking out for when the earliest clear intersection with religious themes and imagery is. But there certainly is an element of a powerful stranger from another world visiting ours – and to our dismay, not caring much! So at the very least we have an inversion of a traditional religious narrative from day one.

    The critique in terms of “all white people” certainly is fair, particularly in the classic series. In the more recent one Mickey didn’t initially come across too well, but worked out in the end, and Martha Jones does too – and don’t forget Mels! 

  • nom
  • Doug Chaplin

    Er, the date of the Doctor’s death couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the fact that the first episode of this series was broadcast on 23rd April, could it?

    How boringly prosaic.

  • James F. McGrath

    @Doug, it certainly is at least part of the picture. The question is whether it is the whole picture, and how we can tell, if at all.

  • David Coulter

    My wife and I were watching “The Fires of Pompeii” and as Donna was begging the Doctor to just go back and save *someone*, I turned to her and said, “Wait, is the Doctor God?” Then this scene happened:

    “Yeah, I guess so.”

  • nom

     One thing that struck me, about the Easter parallel…

     The story closely matches a stream of islamic thinking about Jesus’ crucifixion.  or “cruci-fiction” ?

    Another interesting point about the eye patches…

     In islamic eschatology, the second coming will be preceeded by a false messiah – the dajjal… who will be one-eyed.

     Coincidence… ?

  • James F. McGrath

    David, there is an even more direct reference to the Doctor as a “lonely god.”

    nom, I’m not sure whether the eyepatches make their wearers one-eyed. But presumably if one wished to explore parallels, Madame Kavorian wouldn’t be a bad place to start…

  • David Coulter

    Oh, yeah, the Face of Boh thing, right? I’d forgotten about that. And, of course, later on the Doctor is present at the Big Bang and creates the whole universe out of his memory, so it’s only gotten more explicit.

  • Whovian

    This is really interesting. It does seem to make sense, and it would explain why his name is such a big secret. However, I’m finding it really hard to believe that they would be willing to do something that would probably end up being a bit controversial and may even end up offending some people… Would Moffat, the BBC, and whoever else is in charge really be so bold? I gues we’ll see in Series 7.