Doctor Who : The Idiot’s Lantern

The Doctor vworps into the scene. He and his companion explore a bit, they being cute and the aliens they encounter being weird. It is discovered that the people are enthralled, being lied to, or otherwise un-nicely dealt with by the powers-that-be. So the Doctor confidently, then faux-ineptly, then masterfully releases the people and hollers at the bad guy. This is the formula for many Doctor Who stories. It has been for many years and it works. It’s excellent. The formula is employed here, and reduced to its essence. There aren’t hours of needless chases down corridors or hints about the season-long story arc. This is the basic Doctor Who plot in demi-glaze.

Who better to write it than lifelong fan and hero of the DW universe Mark Gatiss? Of all the TV stories he’s written for the show, this is my favorite. So how does this episode follow that formula? The Doctor pops into town, this time, it’s a London suburb in 1953. He and Rose run around, acting cute in their period clothes and accoutrements. They discover that people are having their faces sucked off by an evil entity that grabs them through their TV sets. The Doctor is able to finally capture the bad guy, restore her victims, and all at great personal risk.

The formula works so well here for a few reasons.

1. It’s simply a great formula.

In other words, you’d have to really screw it up for this formula to not work.

2. This time it’s done by fans.

Gatiss & Tennant & Davies are Whovians to the core and their enthusiasm seeps out of every second of this episode.

3. It’s a fun setting.

The Satellite Five stuff from season one follows the basic Who structure, but it didn’t click with me as well as this one does. I think I prefer this one because the setting is fun, which Satellite Five was not. It was drab and cheerless. Rose dressed in a 50s outfit? The Doctor with 3D glasses? Rose and the Doctor on a scooter? It’s just fun. And it’s a wonderful aesthetic host for the tried and true formula.

4. Social commentary can scratch a little deeper into stories.

Faces are being sucked off by the TV sets. Okay, so it’s not the most subtle satire, but it’s still effective. Just because something is obvious doesn’t mean it’s not worth mentioning.

The story of Christ follows this basic outline. Christ shows up, says some things that more or less endear Him to people. Then he discovers (in His case, more like reveals or unveils) that the people are enthralled/being lied to/being un-nicely dealt with. And Christ confidently, then apparently ineptly, and finally masterfully expels the villain, restores his victims, and all at great personal loss. Not risk.

Doctor Who : The Girl in the Fireplace, 2.04

The Girl in the Fireplace

In you I saw someone I recognized.

Had no idea what was in your mind.

I met your eyes and I was hypnotized.

I let our lives become entwined.

So I’m a Who freak, right. Not just of the Doctor variety, but more so of the The variety, as in the greatest rock band in the world. The words above are from Pete Townshend’s ‘Now & Then,’ off his 1993 album Psychoderelict

You see someone in passing and your eyes lock. It’s so romantic. An instant and silent communication shared by two meandering humans, each on different paths that magically intersect long enough to miss them. Remember that scene in West Side Story, when the room fades into impressions and Maria and Tony first meet? It’s like that. We like stories where the two end up together and we like stories where the two just keep walking. We especially like the latter in TV commercials and when we’re on vacation.

I met the girl that would become my wife in one of those now and then interactions. Come to think of it…my parents met that way too! There are a ton of songs and movies covering that sort of thing. What we love about it as a culture, I don’t know. Maybe it’s the thought that love is bigger than our own plans that makes stories like this so appealing. There’s a security in knowing that the greatest emotion is mysterious. We can’t manage love. Or plan for it exactly. It just happens to us. I don’t totally believe that, but there is something exciting about the idea that love is beyond our understanding. And it’s true that love can grip us in surprising moments.

The success of this episode is sourced in our love of those now and then stories. Of course, it’s given that wonderful Doctor Who twist. He’s a time traveler, so the encounters he has with the girl are especially tragic. He stays the same age and she gets older, pushing him further and further out of her reach. We know how this one ends. No hand-in-hand stroll toward the sunset. No issuing of the TARDIS key to this girl who waited. This is a string of shared glances that do not lead to true love. “Now and then you see a face, and you fall in love, and you can’t do a thing about it.”

Why is it so sad though? They weren’t really invested in each other. Not in any way that a couple that actually marries is. So why is the loss so acutely felt? And why does it impact the viewer so effectively? Their interactions were so few and brief, so the loss can’t have been all that bad. But we’re made to believe that it really was that bad. And our reaction to it is to be sad. So we’re either being manipulated emotionally or the story is legitimately sad. It is sad. So why? Where is the emotional investment? The Doctor never fully engages with the girl. He hovers over her life, patiently knocking on her door. While there was no long-term investment, as in a marriage, there was the will for that. He was willing to give up his power and be stranded on her dull plane of existence. The sadness comes from the potential for their love.

Without getting too far into the predestination debate, I think we can all agree that Scripture does indeed admit that “He is willing that none should perish.” (II Peter 3:9) Whether Christ’s sacrifice is totally sufficient or whether it requires our faith to activate is an ancient debate that is better left to the likes of Calvin and Zwingli than this geek blogger. And since we know the Creator’s desire for all to come to repentance, we can attach that concept to the imagery of this Doctor Who story for a nice metaphor for God’s love without stepping on any theological toes.

The Doctor, though he doesn’t save Madame de Pompadour, does exile himself on her world, similar to Christ’s self-imposed thirty-year exile when He was in pursuit of His Bride. The Doctor was willing to be de-powered, at least for a time, maybe indefinitely, to save her. The Doctor’s hovering is similar to the Holy Spirit’s. I can look back over the years before I admitted Christ was lord and see the working of the Holy Spirit in my life. Meetings with people, interactions with media, obsessions with certain stories all contributed to that moment I surrendered to Christ. And it was all orchestrated and carried out by the Holy Spirit. When I was a kid reading Superman stories, I was being prepared for my own Strange Visitor who would descend from the sky, save the world through His death, and pursue His cruel and unlikely Bride. The Holy Spirit was visiting me as I obsessed over The Who. Initially fixated by their sonic supremacy, I quickly graduated to obsession over their questions of identity, never answering them until becoming a Christian. Madame de Pompadour’s visits from the Doctor were profound interactions with a being greater than herself, who wanted to know her, to save her, and to be with her.

One last thing. The Doctor crashing through the mirror on horseback – that worked for me. Christ the hero did the exact same thing for me. He told me who He was at various points in my life and then, finally, He crashed through the last barrier to get to me. Shattering my own perceptions of myself, He said, “The new creation has come. The old is gone and the new is here!”

Things I like that should become Christmas presents. For me, or your friend. COMICS

DC Earth One

DC’s Earth One series of graphic novels are very accessible to the new or mildly interested comic reader. I still haven’t read Superman Volume Two (it’s brand new!), but the first volumes of Superman and Batman were pretty cool. The Batman one is especially cool. It’s easy these days to dismiss the origin stories of the big superheroes. We’ve seen it all before. It seems like a new reboot comes out every other year in the comics and the movies. These comics are quite refreshing. The origin stories are retold refreshingly, changing just enough to edge these costumed weirdos that much closer to reality. Or, at least a comic book version of reality you don’t see in Superman and Batman comics very often.

And, I love origin stories. I don’t get tired of hearing the same story over and over. After all, aren’t all stories just reiterations of the same basic Jungian narrative anyway? The Pledge, the Turn, and the Prestige, etc.


The New 52

Star Trek: The Next Generation / Doctor Who


This was the comics event of the year. Star Trek and Doctor Who! Together!

I haven’t checked these out yet (I’m a wait-for-the-trade kind of guy), but they look amazing!


New Star Trek comics

Okay. These are super nerdy.
Episodes from the original series are retold as comic books using the countenances of the cast of the new movies.
I love stuff like this. Here are the first four bound collections. Four stories in each collection.


More New Star Trek comics

Here’s a smattering of other Star Trek comics that are now, or soon to be, available. I’ve read most of Byrne’s Trek comics and they are clearly put together by a man who loves the old show. The spirit of the show, especially that of the isolated first pilot episode, is well resurrected here.
And I just love the TNG comics put out by DC in the early 90s.


Wow. Phil Noto is a fantastic artist. I got this one for my birthday and it is a really great story to spend an evening with.

This is one that I’ve heard a lot about am anxious to get a copy!

I haven’t read any of these yet either, but they were recently recommended to me. My friend said they’re reality-bending, which is enough to sell me. That plus the gorgeous literary covers ensure I will have to at least give it a look.



These look cool!

Doctor Who : The Girl in the Fireplace. Guide for Parental Units of Geeks


The Doctor and Madame de Pompadour share a pretty intense kiss.

Conversation Starters:

The Doctor was willing to strand himself in 1758 so that he could save Madame de Pompadour’s life. Compare his sacrifice to Christ’s.

Did both Christ and the Doctor have a similar goal?

Did they have a similar way of reaching their respective goals?

Obviously, the Doctor failed in his mission. And Christ succeeded in His. What character differences do they have that might have led Christ to victory and the Doctor to failure?

Doctor Who : Tooth and Claw. Guide for Parental Units of Geeks


There are comments about Rose being ‘naked.’ This is less descriptive (she’s wearing overalls with a T-shirt underneath) and more a satirical poke at Victorian England’s supposedly outlandish moral standards.

Conversation starters:

Let’s imagine this story is a metaphor for spirituality. There is good spirituality, bad spirituality, and those that deny there is any spirituality.

  • The Doctor and Rose are good.
  • The werewolves are bad.
  • Queen Victoria denies.

Now, going from this point, mention that simply being spiritual is not necessarily good. The demons are spiritual and they are evil. The demons even believe that God is Lord of everything and they are still evil.

The werewolves acknowledge that Rose is part of some larger spiritual world. They mention that she has something of the wolf in her. They are referencing a time when she made contact with the time vortex. They assume that since she has had this alien contact, she is broadly alien. She is not. She is with the Doctor, the good guy. In the same way, when we assume that anyone who is speaking about spiritual things they are on the same side as Jesus. This is not true. Jesus is the one good spiritual guy, with whom we should ally ourselves. Anything that is spiritual that is not of Him should be rejected.

Mention the Queen’s hesitancy to believe. She appears foolish for denying the obvious presence of aliens – both good and bad aliens. That is what atheism is. A foolish insistence on a lifestyle and belief that cannot be reconciled with the facts of the universe. And, just like the Queen, this blatant refusal to believe in something so obvious is typically just an excuse to hold onto power.