Doctor Who: The Awakening

The Awakening” is another relatively short episode (by the classic series’ standards, not by today’s, when most episodes are roughly an hour long). In it, the Doctor, Tegan and Turlough go to visit Tegan’s grandfather, and in the village discover that elaborate war games reenacting the time of the English Civil War are underway.

The episode is entirely focused on the discovery, so typical in Doctor Who, that something which is thought to be superstition is entirely factual, but with an explanation in terms of aliens and “science” (a category into which the episode’s frequent references to “psychic energy” are in fact difficult to place).

The TARDIS materializes inside a church, and on the pulpit there is a unique depiction of man being pursued by the Devil. That image, it turns out, is of the Malus (sounds like “malice”), a creature from local legend. It feeds off of people’s fear and hatred, much as the entity in Star Trek’s “Day Of The Dove.” This being, which was created to be sent in advance of an alien invasion force to create turmoil and destruction, is in fact there behind the church wall.

By the end of the episode, one can say quite literally that “Malice (pun intended) destroys a church.” :-)

As in “The Daemons” and so many other episodes, the Doctor’s dismissive attitude to local superstition seems to be entirely wrong. The legends, far from being silly nonsense, reflect actual experiences precisely recounted. This is the paradox of the treatment of religion, superstition and the supernatural in Doctor Who. It seems to be at the same time saying that such things are nonsense and that they are literally true but with a particular sort of explanation.

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