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!”

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 : New Earth. Guide for Parental Units of Geeks


The sick people look a little icky – but that’s the point! They look scary at first, but they are not monsters. They are people who need to be cared for!

Rose has her body taken over by a woman with looser morals than she has. So she unbuttons her top button, revealing a bit of cleavage. This lasts for about half the episode.

Conversation starters:

Who is the hero? A visitor from another world. And, like Christ, the Doctor has a bizarre and inexplicable interest in the welfare of the humans of earth.

What is the problem he has to solve? People are sick and dying and their masters cover that fact up. The cat nurses are a type of devil in this story, convincing their slaves that everything is the way it should be. 

How does he solve the problem? He cures them. The transmission of this cure is by touching, so each sick person much touch another to spread healing. Kinda like Christianity! It spreads by lives touching.

What is the product of the hero’s work? A New Earth.

Doctor Who : The Christmas Invasion. Guide for Parental Units of Geeks


The alien is pretty creepy looking in this one. He looks as if his head were inside out. His skull sort of rests on muscle, or something. Have a look.

Spoiler. Highlight this section to read the content advisory. From here * The Sycorax chops off the Doctor’s hand during the climactic sword fight. This is no worse than when Luke gets his hand cut off. But it is surprising here, which upset young kids. * To here.

It’s pretty clean otherwise. I think they might tidy up the Christmas specials, anticipating a family audience.

Conversation starters:

Christmas is a super-easy time to introduce kids to Bible-y stuff. If they’re already watching Doctor Who, watching one or two of the Christmas specials with them could lead to some very fruitful discussions.

Why is so exciting when the Doctor wakes up at the end? (Something about the fact that all seemed lost until the Doctor woke up.)

Was there ever a time when it seemed like God, the True Hero, was not present? Either a time in history or in your own life?

After the Doctor woke up, he freed the people that the Sycorax were mind-controlling. How did he do that?

(He revealed that they were under a spell and could only be set free through him.) How is this similar to something Christ has done?

Doctor Who : School Reunion

“Hello, Sarah Jane…”

Here is the Guide for Parental Units of Geeks for this episode!

School Reunion

It’s so sweet. Just so so so sweet.

I didn’t watch a ton of Doctor Who when I was a kid. The PBS station at home showed it when I was really little, but not when I was old enough to understand it. So I have a few vague images floating around, along with a few vague recollections of characters’ names and some basics about how the world worked. I was just too little to really get it.

One thing I was certain of was the importance of Sarah Jane Smith.

What would Doctor Who be without her? He’d had cute companions before. And intelligent ones. And even a couple special ones. What the Doctor did not have yet was the companion. None of them were Sarah-Jane-y enough.

She has a quality that cannot be simplified into a list of characteristics.

By my count, Sarah Jane is the twenty-third companion. And she’s the one that just really got it right.

(Rose was the 34th. Or 31st if you count Romana I and II and K-9 1 and II as one companion each, and if you remove Grace [never-travelled-in-the-TARDIS] Holloway.)

So having her revisit the TV show was just a fan’s delight.

“I thought I was special!”

Maybe you’ve seen this floating around:

Who wants to live forever?

The Doctor drops people off when they get a little mortal-y. He left Sarah Jane while he was in his fourth life. He was called back to Gallifrey on some business. And that was that.

We learn here that he never retrieved her again because he just couldn’t bear to watch her grow old and die. After all, he’ll live for a very very long time. And, as a human, Sarah Jane, will not.

He’s acting like the Highlander, isn’t he? He doesn’t want to fall in love, or experience any other major life-changing relationship with a person he will massively outlive. Friendship and love are huge investments. If the relationship will only last for a fraction (maybe 1/15th or so) of our life, it’s a little hard to really dig in and commit to it.

I invest a massive amount time in my wife. I spend most evenings, and most weekends with her. The time expended on her does not end when she is absent. I think about her and about ways to help her or please her or make he r happy. The point is, I am a great husband.

Wait. No. The point is that we invest in relationships we expect will last. You’re more likely to share your deep stuff with a spouse, sibling, or close friend than you are with the guy that sat next to you on the bus this morning. You may share stuff with that guy on the bus, but it’s not for relationship-building. If you share your deep feelings about life with him, that is entirely for your benefit. You want to practice expressing something, so you say it at someone who will not judge you. Now, he won’t skip judging you because he loves you. He won’t judge you because he doesn’t care about you.

So there are some people with whom you may share a lot of yourself in terms of data. You’ll tell a stranger some deep things exactly because there will be no repercussions. Typically though, you’ll be sharing the data and the time with someone you expect to have in your life for a long time.

Besides many other obvious reasons, this is one other reason we don’t tend to marry very far outside of our age range. We’ll invest our deepest stuff and expect to be invested in a similar way, only to have the union snapped when one of us has a lot more years left.

That’s why it is so stinking sad – devastating – when a young married person dies. The widowed is left with all this investment. The investment of time already spent, the investment of time planned ahead, the emotional investment, the scheduled emotional investment of the next several decades.

Now imagine that there is a person who looks just like us and is able to marry or have deep friendships just like us. The big difference is that he will live to be thousands of years old.

Who can he be with?

It is wrong for him to invest in Sarah Jane or Rose. And it is wrong for him to expect an investment from them.

Offering the chance to see the universe and have a few adventures is really the most he should be offering. Otherwise, he’s toying with hearts (even the hearts of friends), encouraging a relationship to a certain depth that the two parties could never really satisfy in each other.

The Doctor’s abandonment of Sarah Jane may have been jerky because it came without warning. But it was the right thing to do.

This is how Christ is different: He lives forever and when you become His friend, you live forever too.

See how many problems that solves!

Jesus doesn’t have to say goodbye. Jesus doesn’t have to grow old apart from His friends. Jesus invites people to go on amazing adventures with Him and He can keep them around.