January 14, 2015

Why didn't The Doctor interfere?

Growing up, if you had asked my parents what kind of family we were, they wouldn’t have hesitated. They would have responded with “Christian” or even, “God-fearing”.

Me, I am not quite as able to make blanket statements regarding my family. We are not an atheist family (I mean, my spouse doesn’t even identify as an atheist—he’s an agnostic). We’re a family of individuals. The closest that I can typically come to statements similar to my parents’ is to say, “We encourage free-thinking.”

There is, however, one label that I can freely and comfortably apply to our family.

We are unabashedly, unashamedly, committed Whovians.

That’s right. Whovians. As such, we have a wide variety of conversations that are sparked by the Doctor and his companions. It amazes me sometimes the sheer variety of topics that we can introduce using the Doctor.

Recently, the spouse and I revisited Torchwood: Miracle. The fifth season of the spinoff aired shortly after we got satellite service, and it holds a special place in our Doctor nostalgia—it was the show that actually introduced us to Doctor Who to begin with.

During the course of the show, my dearly beloved spouse made an observation. At the time, it didn’t really stick with me, but it was one of those statements that, in the course of our further conversations, or perhaps while reading some blog or passage of a book, recurred to me. He simply said: “This really seems like a great time for The Doctor to show up.”

It was simple and profound.

The Doc is by no means omnipotent or omniscient—I’d say that a major part of the concept hinges on his very lack of those characteristics. He wanders into harrowing situations and often escapes by only the skin of his teeth. He’s the ultimate triumph of reason over circumstance.

Why, then, in all of time and space, did he fail to see this situation unfolding?

If you’re familiar with the lore, you’ll probably agree that this situation is at least partly the Doctor’s fault. After all, many of his decisions made Jack immortal.

Because of my deep love for the Doctor, I began to suggest reasons why he couldn’t attend to the needs of earth at that moment.

Perhaps there was some other crisis at the other end of the universe, or in a different time. And my husband: But he’s a time traveller. If anyone can be in two places at once…it’s the Doctor. He’s everywhere at once (except Manhattan in the 1930s!).

Perhaps the Doc already knew how it would turn out and didn’t feel the need to interfere. But then, why did so many people have to suffer and die?

By this point, you may be asking yourself, what is the point of this post? And why here, and not say, Tumblr, if I’m going to rail on and on about the significance of the minutiae of the Doctor’s noninterference? Isn’t this a blog that usually deals with atheism, feminism and the like?

To which I would say: Patience…is a virtue, my friends. In a very somber voice.

I vehemently defended what was arguably an irrational position because of my love of the Doctor, and it truly reminded me of discussions my spouse and I had so many times before I left my faith—only, in those discussions, I was defending God.

It amazes me how we defend ideas that we cherish, sometimes at the expense of obvious flaws in our reasoning.

This discussion, though, did differ in one truly marked way.

When I admitted, finally, that this probably would truly have been a good time for the Doctor to intervene, the Doctor wasn’t diminished. I already knew that he was a flawed individual. He is often impulsive. He may disappear for long periods of time with no explanation. He has difficulty focusing. He is not perfect, he is not omnipotent. He is not omniscient or omnipresent. He’s not all good or all just. These are characteristics that we know from following him through the seasons of his life (see what I did there? Ha!).

This is significantly different from God. When I was defending God, I was defending his innate characteristics.

In the face of something like Darfur—a conversation that my husband and I had at one point—how do I maintain that God is all-good, all-just, compassionate, omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent? God is diminished by that argument. He is not a flawed being. He should be moved—by compassion alone—to work on behalf of justice.

The only way to defend the behavior is to make leaps of logic—like my defenses of the Doctor. And yet, as I made those leaps of logic, it wasn’t even as well-grounded as my defenses of an arguably fictional character. My fictional character, at least, contains acknowledged faults.

What leaps of logic are you willing to make? For me, the answer is: not many.

For the Doctor, perhaps. But for the image of God that I was raised with? I simply can’t justify the concept of a flawed deity with the concept that I was raised to believe in. It’s not a deity that I can give my unquestioning fealty.

It’s simply not possible, not for me.

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