The Beginnings of Doctor Who – and of Christianity

The sci-fi website IO9 had an article on Doctor Who’s scandalous and troubled beginnings. It seems that the show was not expected to do very well. As the article says early on,

The show had a tiny studio and huge cameras, and a shoestring budget. But the people who were making the show were outsiders, who were anathema to the entrenched BBC culture.

At the Gallifrey One convention in Los Angeles, we were thrilled to hear from Waris Hussein, who directed the very first Doctor Who episode, about how an East Indian teamed up with a Canadian and a young woman to revolutionize television science fiction.

While those looking back on the longest-running sci-fi show in history may find it incredible that the BBC had so little faith in the concept, and even later on didn’t mind about wiping recordings. What we see with hindsight was not yet visible with foresight. There were also interesting challenges related to prejudice against women and people who were not English, as well as the more familiar budgetary constraints.

I found myself thinking of the beginnings of Christianity, and indeed of most major world religions. Notice by their contemporaries and near contemporaries are relatively few for some of the greatest names, from Siddhartha Gautama to Socrates to John the Baptist to Jesus to Muhammad and many others besides. Of course, each of the above is different, and so the extent to which they made noticeable ripples in their own time differs. But given my interest in the history of religion in general and the history of early Christianity in particular, I couldn’t help but notice a similarity. Many people find it incomprehensible that people could look back to Jesus as the central point of history in later times, and yet his contemporaries could for the most part have been unimpressed. Yet that is not only the story as historians in later times have come to know it – even in some early Christian writings, such as the Acts of the Apostles, the rabbi Gamaliel is depicted as anticipating that the whole Christian thing might blow over, like so many other movements that seemed similar (Acts 5).

It is typical for the significance of something or someone to only be visible with hindsight. I suspect that is one reason for the penchant of the ancients for creating stories of miraculous births and childhoods for their important people. By the time someone’s significance began to be recognized, who remembered any longer anything much about their childhood? In much the same way, entire religions, works of literature, and television programs have not been recognized in the time of their origin as likely to have lasting significance.

Also related to Doctor Who and ancient religion, see Jim Davila’s post responding to one of mine that mentioned similarities between the Watchers and the Faceless Ones.

 


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