Doctor Who : Bad Wolf / The Parting of Ways III

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The unfolding message of the Bible; the harmony and unity of the Scriptures.

Here is my third and final article reviewing the final adventure of the Ninth Doctor. Goodbye Christopher Eccleston! You are myDoctor and you have been missed! Hello to David Tennant! (And hello to the inevitable new fangirl readers who clicked here only because of the ‘David Tennant’ tag!)

Bad Wolf in their hearts

Rose has written her story across the whole of time and space. The Doctor sees this message, “Bad Wolf” in every adventure he has with her. At first it seems like a coy Easter egg for discerning fans to hit ‘pause’ and shout to their friends that they “knew that ‘Bad Wolf’ thing was in all the episodes!” But its ubiquity demands an explanation more satisfying than an in-joke between the production team (which is what I presumed it was in its first two or three appearances).

So what the heck is ‘Bad Wolf?’ Why does it seem to haunt these two adventurers? As Rose is grappling with her mother and Mickey, who are trying to convince her to accept her new dull life and to just forget the Doctor, she sees another Bad Wolf message.

And another.

And another.

They’re all around her! Spray-painted on walls, replacing the print on signs, scrawled across a basketball court’s floor. These are not threats or warnings – they’re a message of hope, scattered throughout the universe. Rose listened to that message and then joined with the great Spirit of the TARDIS and became part of the sharing of that message. Bad Wolf is a message of hope in the Doctor Who universe.

But it has a real-life counterpart too! In our world there is a message of hope that resounds through all cultures and all times. Its echoes are heard in all of these stories that we tell to each other. We hear the message of hope most clearly in the Gospels themselves.

If we are careful and discerning, we can hear the message of hope in the Old Testament too. Even though He’s not mentioned by name, the Old Testament is really about Jesus. The ancient mythologies also contain this message of hope. The message is corrupted and the names and events are wrong, but at the heart of these stories is a world in trouble and a big hero who comes to rescue it.

All of these Doctor Who shows and Star Treks and super hero comics that I comment on all repeat this message – whether they mean to or not. (That’s the point of this whole blog actually!) There is a better world. And there is a way to get there. It is not our own power or work or ingenuity that gets us there. There is a great Hero that does it, and He can do what no one before Him can do – He can die and come back to life.

The Geeks of Christ method reviewed

So let’s review. The better worlds of these fantasy stories are all versions of the real better world, that New Jerusalem that Jesus promised. The people that make the stories below are mostly trying to avoid Jesus Christ, but they can’t. The very concept of a better world to come was His idea! You can’t really say you want a better world that’s got nothing to do with Jesus! That’s nonsense. It’d be like saying you want to eat a couple burgers tonight but you don’t want meat. Like, I guess you could have a tofu-burger, but all that’s doing is pretending to be something it’s not and not being as good.

Each of these fantasies show the gateway to the better world. While the gateways are different from the True Gateway to the True Better World, the very presence of such gateways admits that, like Jesus Christ, the way is narrow etc. And the power to get through those gateways is never up to us! If you were to ask the people that made these stories where power comes from, they’d probably have a personal belief that individuals have power within them or something like that. But the stories they write demonstrate that being saved by a hero, by a power that is not ourselves, is the way through. We are the people of Metropolis being saved by Superman. We are the companions to the Doctor, being saved by him.

So let’s have a quick review of my thesis, using a couple popular examples.

Star Trek: Better world: the future. Gateway: tolerance. The power that gets us there: the fruit of unity. The hero: Take your pick. Captain Kirk, Picard, Data, Janeway, Archer. They all die and come back to life every week! Maybe their characters don’t actually die, but they get to their most hopeless moment and rebound every single time.

Oz: Better world: Oz. Gateway: Survive a twister. The power that gets us there: Dorothy is helped by Glinda (Oz’s version of the Holy Spirit). The hero: Dorothy, who is apparently in a coma for the whole movie (the book’s a little different) and who returns with love and joy from the better world.

Superman: Better world: Metropolis. Why? Here, we’re protected by a great man. Gateway: a simple childless couple raises an impossible baby in Podunk-town. The power that gets us there: Superman does the work while Metropolitans enjoy the benefits of living under his protection. The hero: Visitor from the sky takes an obnoxious, ungrateful bride; fought Doomsday, died, and rose again.

Pinocchio: A weird one for Geeks of Christ. But wait… Better world: To have a loving father. Gateway: Pure magic. A boy is formed out of the stuff of the earth (in this case wood), has life breathed into him by a magic fairy. The power that gets us there: The boy disobeyed his father and went away into self indulgence and independence. Sin? Well, it’s Pinocchio’s need that reveals the hero of this story. The hero: Gepetto, the story’s hero (didja know that?), leaves the kingdom of his workshop and enters into Pinocchio’s terrible and dangerous world to rescue him. He descends into the belly of a whale and emerges. His saved son is then restored to a state even better than where he started from: he’s even more human than he was before.

Doctor Who: Better world: There is a hero who looks after us, who honors justice, joy, and peace above all other things. Gateway: Simply answer when he calls. The hero: It’s his desire and ability that saves people. And, for a show that’s typically been run by atheists, they really don’t let us forget that the hero has to die and return.

Reflections of the real Hero’s Journey

All of these stories repeat the same motif again and again. It’s a kind of a version of Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey. There are some stories and some elements of stories that we, as a species, lovingly repeat. I submit that it’s not as if we just like these stories so much and that’s what keeps us on narrative repeat.

We tell them because we have to.

We have “eternity in our hearts.” Deep inside we know there is some other world that’s better than this one. Some think it’s the next technological advancement. Or our expansion into space for others. I mean, have you ever listened to Kurzweil or de Grasse Tyson talk about this stuff? They go on about their respective fields and the hope for the better world with all the pomp and emotional manipulation of a tent revival!

Establishing a human presence in space thrills me personally but I have no hope whatsoever that we’ll suddenly be nice to each other once our feet hit the surface of Mars. As if earth is really our problem, not our inexplicable and irremovable selfishness. Neither will we become super compassionate and understanding once we start imprinting our mental patterns onto the circuits of robot brains. And even if we are nice to each other on Mars and becoming robots does make us kinder – there’s still the issue of death. And there’s still the issue of that bizarre desire inside of us to look up. And there’s still the issue of repeating stories.

An Old Hope

Hope is a Christian thing.

It’s origin is in the promises of the Christian god. I cannot find a logical source for hope outside of Christ. Things are pretty grim without Him. We just are born, disappoint our parents, make our child, are disappointed in them, stay with or don’t stay with the child’s other parent, our bodies get worse and worse at obeying at us. Then one day we just stop and finally, the minute we’re away, everybody says a bunch of nice stuff about us.

That’s life. There are some laughs in between, sure. But that’s the basic outline. I think that’s a pretty mysterious and frustrating sequence without having some clue about what goes in front and what goes in back of it. Without some concept of the first and last chapters, isn’t the rest of the novel kind of meaningless? Hope is one of those things that we have nonetheless, whether we’re Christian or not. It’s universal. And, as I tend to, I suggest the universality of this is because of a deeper yearning planted inside us. Written on our DNA is hope. Also encoded there is this repeating storyline. It’s the job of our lives (yes, those very lives in which we grow up and raise kids and pay the mortgage and get old) to discover the reason we have to hope. Why was that capacity for hope stuck inside my brain when I live on such a crummy world?

A Blaidd Drwg by any other name

And it is the job of our lives to find the real names to those stories. Like if you watch a movie and it says on the box, “based on a true story.” What do you do when the movie’s done? Start Googling to see what they really looked like. So back to stories then. Who is the real hero?

The Glasses in the Cupboard Illustration

Imagine a cupboard filled with drinking glasses. All the glasses have a red hue to them. Not all of the glasses are red though. They refract the light from a true source that’s in the back of the cupboard. The glasses up front are clearly clear (!).

You can tell just from a quick glance that they’re not the source of the red. These might represent modern mythology like superheroes and Star Wars and Doctor Who. As you remove those glasses, the next row are revealed to be just as falsely red. Out goes the old Greek stuff with Zeus and the old Norse stuff with Odin and Thor and any Native American stories and any Eastern stories.

The next row has stuff that a lot of people still believe. Buddhism, Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witness. These seem to have a lot more red but that’s only because they stand so much closer to the true source of the red. They stick a little as you wriggle them loose. So out they go. Now the last few glasses are just gleaming red. Maybe they really are just red? Islam, Judaism, Christianity. These are the big ones. These are the plausible ones. If you remove them each and examine, you’ll find that Christianity is the only truly red glass.

This is just an illustration for how I think the Christian story has infected all stories, even the religious stories that other people believe. But the question arises, “How do you know that Christianity if the ‘Bad Wolf’ of all the other religions?” In other words, what makes Christianity the red glass?

The fictional stories are easy to remove. Superman, for instance, is obviously clear. We know who made it up. Scientology, even though believed by some, is also easy to remove for the same reason. We know who made it up. But how do I remove the religions – the real ones like Islam and Buddhism? I need only compare them to each other and to Christianity. (Also, I looked at them long and hard and would recommend the same. This is, after all, just a blog about sci-fi.)

Comparing them all, there is a lot of similarity. They all agree the world is in a bad way. They all agree that there is a world beyond this one. Some of them even agree on who the hero is.

Where it all falls apart is the gateway.

All religions expect man to follow the rules. Get enlightened. Adhere to the Five Pillars. Go to this holy ground. Wear these clothes, say these words, hate some people, love some others, learn this language, whatever. Christianity is different. The Christian version of the Bad Wolf message scrawled across the universe and across all these stories is that Somebody is coming. And all He’s gonna do is pick you up and put you on His side. You don’t have to climb up or run across or build a bridge. He picks you up and says, “You’re with me.”

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