Doctor Who: Warriors’ Gate

Doctor Who: Warriors’ Gate September 9, 2020

Warriors’ Gate is the final episode in the E-space trilogy. It is also the one which saw Romana depart, preferring to do so and remain in e-space than to return to Gallifrey.

The Doctor mentions the I Ching, suggesting that random sampling accesses fundamental aspect of universe. Romana calls it superstition. I was surprised to discover that the episode is not penned by Douglas Adams, who authored a number of them during this era, since the idea of using randomness to get at the fundamental workings of the universe comes up in his famous Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, in the scene where they figure out how to find out the question of life, the universe, and everything, to which the answer is famously “42.” Even for those who may not (like me) teach a course that explores Chinese thought and philosophy, the question of whether there might be things that (as K-9 puts it) “casts doubt on the value of normal causalistic procedures” will be of interest. A little later Adric flips a coin and pushes a button on the console, leading K-9 to comment “Hexagram nine. Hsiao Ch’u.”

In this story there is another ship also stuck in E-space and trying to escape, and the narrative focuses on what unfolds as their situation and that of the Doctor, Romana, and K-9 intersect. The navigator Biroc runs from that other ship to the TARDIS. The fact that sensors register “zero coordinates” means they are at the intersection between E-space and N-space. There is a cobwebbed castle hall there.

Biroc is a Thoril, one who dwells naturally in the place they now find themselves and who thus transcends time and space in at least some respects. He recognizes the Doctor as different from those who enslaved him. Biroc says that “the weak enslave themselves” and says of humans that they are “only people.” Once upon a time, the universe was the Thorils’ “garden.” The slavers’ ship is able to hold Thorils as prisoners and force them to serve as navigators because it is made of dwarf star alloy. Romana has been looking for a way to avoid going back to Gallifrey throughout the episode. She stays behind to give the Thorils time technology and help free them from slavery.

Towards the end of the episode the Doctor states that “One solid hope’s worth a cartload of certainties.” He has now left Romana behind in a universe not her own, and taken Adric to a universe not his own. 

For those interested in religion, discussions of human beliefs and characterizations of them as “superstition” are always relevant. But more substantively, the question of what it might be like to be a being that transcends our universe, our inability to envisage such existence in anything other than at least loosely personal and anthropomorphic terms, and the addition of animal-like features to denote the difference (as also seen in particular in ancient Egypt on Earth) all merit exploration and reflection.

For fans of the music of Doctor Who, I discovered that there is a channel on YouTube dedicated to providing the complete soundtracks from classic Doctor Who episodes!

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