Midnight, an episode of Doctor Who, aired last night here in the US. It happens to contain some interesting bits from a religious perspective, and the episode was written by Russell T. Davies. I’ve discussed the overall themes of Doctor Who from a religious perspective here, and this episode provides more discussion opportunities from the Christian perspective. There are spoilers for Midnight abounding, so if you haven’t seen it yet and plan to, skip this post until you do.
First, this was a wonderful episode, one of my favourites of the new season; it was well written and wonderfully acted, especially by Tennant, and the woman who played Sky, Lesley Sharp. The story begins with The Doctor boarding a transport on an alien world to go to a tourist attraction, and the situation rapidly declines from there…of course through a series of events the transport breaks down in a never-before-explored section of the uninhabitable planet, leaving The Doctor stranded with the other passengers, a Hostess, the driver of the transport, and the mechanic. The ominous music soon begins and there comes a strange knocking on the hull of the transport.
Here the three main religious positions became symbolized; you had the atheists represented, “there’s nothing out there/there can’t be anything out there,” the agnostics, “how do we know if there is or not?” and the believers, “there is something out there.” Chalk one up to the believers, for there was indeed something out there, and it wants in. There was a line from one of the passengers reiterating that there literally cannot be anything out in that wasteland, and The Doctor replies, “I’m glad you’ve got an absolute definition of life in the universe, but perhaps the universe has ideas of its own,” which is, again, ironic to me, since the line was written by RTD, an atheist.
Of course we then have an alien version of a demon possession, quiet effectively pulled off and very creepy. It also pulled up childhood memories that everyone surely “possesses;” those lovely juvenile games of repeating everything your brother/sister says in order to drive them nuts…it works here too. The alien entity takes over Sky, a passenger, and begins “absorbing” knowledge (and apparently power) by mimicking every single thing everyone says. And, as it progresses it winds up just like it did in our own childhoods; with everyone screaming at the mimic to “STOP!” and threats of cold-blooded murder; this time in the form of, “let’s chuck her out the airlock.”
During the mimicking, Jethro, a teenage boy decked out in goth-like style, is joining in the yelling and pandemonium, getting the alien entity possessing Sky’s body to mimic back to him, “six six six.” Revelations 13:18 Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six. Yes, the majority of the time that someone writes something creepy and evil, 666 gets thrown in for good measure.
Back to the murdering part. This was interesting because it was a study of human (and apparently alien nature), as fear and panic takes over…surprisingly The Doctor is just as panicky and fearful as everyone else, although he’s got his sense of fascination with a new entity entirely intact…ordering everyone to banish thoughts of chucking the demon possessed, oops, I mean alien possessed passenger out the airlock…that is until the alien narrows down her next victim to The Doctor himself, and “takes his voice.” Freezing The Doctor in place, causing him to mimic Sky and causing the passengers to turn on the Doctor, now wishing to chuck him out the airlock instead. All of a sudden we, after The Doctor is saved by The Hostess (she realizes The Doctor has had his voice stolen, grabs a hold of the demon…alien possessed woman and sacrifices herself and saves the Doctor by ejecting herself out the airlock, possessed woman in tow),…we see that chucking her out the airlock wasn’t a stupid idea after all, but apparently was the right thing to do…I wonder if RTD really thought this one out…
Anywho, everyone is left sobered and shaken, including The Doctor, even after the survivors are rescued. Many people have been commenting on the Doctor’s rather inflated view of himself lately, and some even believe he has crossed the line recently by taking decisions out of the hands of others, and carrying out his own will. In this episode I thought it was interesting because, we get to see again, that The Doctor, though powerful, is not anywhere near the level of God, or an actual messiah. He says to the lot of them, near the beginning of the episode, “I guarantee everything is fine” and also, “We’re going to get out of here alive, I promise.” By the end of the episode, nothing is fine, and four humans are dead…so much for a limited being’s guarantee and promise… He also admits later to Donna that he has no clue what the thing was that did the possessing. Now, to me, this is a good thing, it shows that he is indeed fallible and capable of mistakes, and that he is actually much more human-like than alien-like, even in (or especially in) his pride, and cleverness.
Great episode. Touched on several themes that are important to mull over for us Christians (and everyone else); fear, pride, anger, the dark side of human nature, self sacrifice, and connecting with our fellow human beings. I would love to get other people’s thoughts on these themes, and on the Episode itself, if you feel like leaving a comment.