Doctor Who first aired on the 23 of November 1963. With 26 seasons in its original run and just ending its 6th season with the reboot, it is currently the longest Sci-Fi show in television history (Glenday). Eleven different actors have played its main character of the Doctor. There have been around 40 different companions along his journey of over 212 storylines.
Doctor Who from the beginning has been a family friendly show. It was specifically created for all ages 6 through 60. It has some of the most inventive and frightening villains in television history. It is also a show that makes you think about the world around you. It asks questions of ethics and philosophy. It also asks questions of morals and religion.
History of the Doctor
Doctor Who tells the story of a traveling alien Time Lord called the Doctor. He travels in a spaceship called a TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimension in Space). It can travel both forwards and backwards in time and all over the universe. Anywhere you want to go and the TARDIS can take you there, as long as it is not in your own, direct timeline. Even more, wherever you happen to land, the TARDIS translates all languages both ways.
Originally played my William Hartnell, the Doctor was depicted as an eccentric, sinister Grandfather. Over the years his image wouldlighten and become more of a playful figure. The great brilliance behind the show is the ability for the Doctor to “regenerate.” This means that when the Doctor’s body dies, he can create a new one. Not only does this mean that the Doctor is practically invincible, this also means that the Doctor can be played by more than one actor easily without destroying continuity. With each regeneration the Doctor keeps his memories but gains a new personality. This leaves the new actor and writers full ability to do what they would like with the Doctor’s character.
The newest season, season six, depicts the youngest ever Doctor played by Matt Smith. Seven different actors played the Doctor in its original run (which ran from 1963-1989):William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, John Pertwee, Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Collin Baker, and Sylvester McCoy. Paul McGann played the Doctor in 1996 as part of a made-for-television movie. In 2005, producer Russell T. Davies rebooted the series with Christopher Eccleston taking on the role of the nomadic Time Lord. With the new series came a darker and more playful Doctor than ever before.
Russell T. Davies, a notorious atheist, rebooted the series in 2005. In an interview with a British publication, Telegraph, Davies is quoted as saying:
“If we’re filming something vital in Cardiff, and it’s raining, my first instinct is to look at the sky and ask ‘Why? Why today?’ I’m fascinated by that instinct – we’re not an agnostic society, we’re still driven powerfully by religion… That instinct to look up and blame something or worship something is fundamental to us, and I’m fascinated by that – because I think it’s absolutely wrong” (Colvile).
Davies has always been outspoken about his atheism and his detest for organized religion comes out in some of the episodes. For instance, the episode titled Unquiet Dead. The Doctor and his Companion, Rose, travel back in time to the time of Charles Dickens. We learn that people are not staying dead. Moments after they die, mysteriously they start to get up and walk again. An undertaker and his assistant, Gwyneth, are trying to coverit up and keep the public from finding out about the incidents.
Gwyneth is a God-fearing Christian. She is depicted as simple and naïve. She is also depicted as trusting to a fault. The bodies at the funeral home are coming back to life because alien spirit races inhabit them.Gwyneth is able to communicate with them. They claim that they are almost extinct and need energy to keep staying alive. They are using the left over energy in dead bodies to gain strength. At the end of the episode Gwyneth is convinced by spirits that are entering the dead bodies to open up a gateway between their world and the human world. She feels a call to help them, after all they are spirits from God. The spirits betray her though, and kill her. Her faith was ultimately her death.
The 2005 series, while being a reboot, is not a continuation. There has been little mention of previous seasons and it starts off in a completely new chapter for the Time Lord. The new series brings back favorite villains from the original and gives them a new twist. Villains like the Sontarans and Cybermen. Probably the most feared is the Daleks; a metal covered creature that resembles a trashcan but is actually very deadly.
When we meet the Doctor in 2005, we see a very lonely and dark man. His home planet of Gallifrey is no more and he is the only Time Lord left; a result of a great war between his people and their greatest enemy, the Daleks, where the Doctor was forced to kill all his race in order to save the universe.
Then Doctor meets Rose in the first episode of the new series entitled Rose. She is 19and is just trying to figure out her life. She lives with her widowed mother, has a boyfriend named Mickey, and works at a department store. This is where the Doctor and Rose meet. Rose is closing up the shop. Down in the basement she is looking for the maintenance man when she is suddenly attacked by some of the store’s display mannequins. The Doctor rescues her just in time.
Throughout the first season the Doctor and Rose grow close together as they go through many adventures. The first season ends with Rose trying to rescue the Doctor, Captain Jack (a time agent they meet along the way), and ultimately the universe. Rose was in her own time period with the TARDIS while the Doctor was stuck in the future. In an attempt to get the TARDIS to travel in time, Rose accidentally absorbs the heart of the TARDIS giving her the ability to control all of time and space. With this power she goes into the future to find the Doctor. There she uses her God-like powers to heal Captain Jack who had died in an attempt to rescue the Doctor, making it so that Captain Jack could never die again. Unfortunately, because she is human, Rose cannot handle the newfound power and is quickly dying. Not wanting to see her die, the Doctor embraces her in a passionate kiss to absorbs all the power from Rose; leading to the first regeneration of the new series.
David Tennant now takes over as the Doctor. Up until this time, Tennant was the youngest Doctor the series had ever seen. Rose is not sure what to think of the new Doctor at first. She had grown greatly attached to Eccleston’s Doctor and she knows that there has been a big change. This Doctor is more of a risk-taker. He scares and excites her all at once.
The Impossible Planet and Satan Pit
For the sake of this paper, I will go over just one story from the long running series. It is from the season two of the reboot. David Tennant plays the Doctor and his companion is Rose. It is a two-part story entitled The Impossible Planet and Satan Pit. Rose, by this time, has gotten use to the new personality of the Doctor and is starting to form feelings for him.Just a few episodes before this one, School Reunion, we see Rose start to become possessive and jealous when one of the Doctor’s old companions drops by for a visit. This older companion, Sarah Jane, had her first appearance in The Time War as a companion when John Pertwee played the doctor. She also carried on through a regeneration to be the companion when Tom Baker played the Doctor. Sarah and Rose have something in common in that they have both been through a regeneration of the Doctor. Sarah has some history with the Doctor and you can tell that there is deep affection there. This leads Rose to feel like she needs to show that she is the companion now. This is one of the first times you see her true feelings for the Doctor.
The Doctor and Rose have also beaten the Cyberman, an old dangerous enemy of the Doctor, in the two-part story Riseof the Cyberman and Age of Steel. This is also the episode where the Doctor finally wins over Rose’s affections from Mickey, Rose’s boyfriend.The Doctor has also almost lost Rose in the episode Idiot’s Lantern where all of Britain face danger after an alien seeks to gain energy through taking away people’s identities as they watch the television.
Now Rose and the Doctor have landed on a human spaceship, in the distant future, mining for energy. Little did the two of them know that the spaceship is currently orbiting a black hole. This is something that should be impossible. And, to top it off, there is writing on the wall that even the TARDIS cannot translate. This immediately concerns the Doctor.
There is something that can get them out of their predicament. The planet they are on has a power source that could have enough energy to propel them off of the black hole orbit. That means going down to the planet to find it. During an earthquake the section that was holding the TARDIS goes crashing it into the heart of the planet. In order to get to the TARDIS, they will have to go into the heart of the planet.
The spaceship if full of crewmembers that are running out of food and supplies. They don’t know why they are orbiting a black hole so the crew is also on edge wondering when their luck is going to run out. Along with the crew on the ship, there is an army of Ood; a gentle creature whose soul purpose is to serve. They have octopus-like tentacles on their face and a round ball that they use to talk with. They operate off of telepathy and are a very ancient creature.
The Ood have started to act funny. Their eyes are glowing red. While waiting in line to receive some food the Ood tells her “The beast and his armies, shall rise from the pit to make war against God,” then hits his ball as if it was just a glitch and says “I’m sorry I meant, please enjoy your meal” (Impossible Planet).
Now, something is funny is happening crewmember Toby. He is already upset with the fact that he has to perform outside of his duties due to the lack of crew on the ship. He starts hearing a voice. He asks who the voice is. Then, as soon as he turns to lookat it, there is nothing there. He then looks down at his hands to see markings all over them, the same markings he drew on the wall. He grabs a mirror and realizes that hey are all over his face too. He collapses from shock. At the same time, while she is conversing with the Doctor, Rose gets a mysterious phone call that says “he is awake.”
The first person to die on the crew is the minister. She is on her way to find Toby she realizes that the airlock is open and someone has gone out of the spaceship without a spacesuit. When she tries to investigate, her communicator quits working and the telecom starts saying “He is awake. He is awake. He bathes in the black sun.” She looks out a window to see Toby standing outside, covered in the mysterious markings.Toby beckons her to come towards him. She reaches out her hand towards him before realizing that he shouldn’t be out there. Her window starts to crack and break and she is sucked out of the ship. They find Tony unconscious outside the room that the minister had just been in with no memory of anything.
The first episode, The Impossible Planet, ends with the Doctor and crewmember Ida Scott down on the planet to rescue the TARDIS, the captain stuck in the control room, and Rose and the rest of the crew members fending off Ood who have now become homicidal.
Now starts Satan Pit. Rose and the crewmembers are on the ship trying to get to the rocket with hopes that it will have enough power to launch them off the ship and to safety. Everyone is scared, wondering what this beast is. The Doctor and Ida Scott are on the planet and preparing for the Doctor to go into the pit, for the first time, the Doctor suggests that they don’t explore it. It must be something big for the Doctor to not want to go after it.
Back on the ship, Toby is awaking out of a trance. He feels like he is being possessed by the devil. As the crewmembers prepare to lift Ida and the Doctor up all power shuts down and they hear a voice again. We find out beast is the “truth behind the myth” and that it was created “before time” (Satan Pit). Then the beast starts playing off of their fears:
“The captain, so scared of command. The soldier, haunted by the eyes of his wife. The scientist, still running from daddy. The little boy who lied. The virgin. And the lost girl, so far away from home. The valiant child, who will die in battle, so very soon.” (Satan Pit)
This successfully shakes up the entire crew. He knows their basic fears. Just as the Doctor is calming them down, the lift that he and Ida are on collapses and they
loose all contact with the ship. Now its is Rose’s duty to be the strength and encourage the crewmembers to use their brains.
Now that they are stuck on the planet, the Doctor and Ida have no choice but to explore the pit and see where the beast has come from. They have no idea how deep or shallow the pit is or what is even down there. While traveling down the pit, the Doctor and Ida start a conversation about religion:
Doctor: I didn’t ask. Do you have any sort of faith?
Ida Scott: Not really. I was brought up Neo-Classic, congregational, because of my mum she was… My old mum. But no, I never believed.
Doctor: Neo-Classics, they have a devil?
Ida Scott: No not as such, just, um, the things that men do.
Doctor: Same thing in the end.
Ida Scott: What about you?
Doctor: I believe… I believe I haven’t seen everything, I don’t know. Its funny, the things you make up, the rules. That thing said it came from beyond the universe I believe it, I’d believe it, but before the universe… Impossible. It doesn’t fit myrules. Still, that’s why I keep traveling, to be proved wrong.
This is the first time you really learn what the Doctor might believe. He has seen a lot in his lifetime and nothing that he could not explain away. That is what terrifies him the most about this beast: he cannot explain it.
Back on the ship the crewmember are traveling through the air vents towards the Ood control room so that they can block all telepathy to the Ood’s brain. The Ood are close behind and have become homicidal. The crew are not going to outrun them so crewmember Jefferson sacrifices himself to save the others. Down on the planet, the Doctor ran out of cable in the pit and fell the rest of the way. Here you really see where the Doctor’s faith lies. It lies in himself. The Doctor is so smart and can explain everything. He has seen and done some much, saved so many people. He also has faith in Rose. She has faith in the Doctor. When the crewmembers decide to get on the rocket and leave Ida and the Doctor, Rose refuses to go. They sedate her and drag her on board anyway.
The Doctor isn’t dead like everyone thinks. He has fallen down to the bottom of the pit and the helmet of his space suit has smashed; yet he is still able to breathe. He watches as the rocket on the spaceship is flying away, carrying Rose. The Doctor has no choice but to keep going. He finds the beast.
The beast looks like the Devil in old paintings; complete with red skin and horns. The Doctor immediately smells something fishy. On the rocket, so does Rose. The Doctor realizes that in order to destroy the beast, he will have to risk Rose’s life. By destroying the beast, they destroy all the power that is holding the planet in orbit. But the Doctor knows Rose better than the beast. The Doctor believes in Rose. Before he destroys the beast, the Doctor tells him:
“But that implies, in this big grand scheme of gods and devils, that she’s just a victim. Well, I’ve seen a lot of this universe. I’ve seen fake gods and bad gods and demi-gods and would-be gods. I’ve had the whole pantheon. But if I believe in one thing… just one thing… I believe in her!”
As soon as the doctor destroys the beast, the demon spirit inside Toby wakes up again. Rose, thinking fast, un-straps Toby’s seat, grabs a gun, and shoots out the window. Toby goes flying out but everyone else is strapped in. The captain then has time to activate emergency shields keeping everyone safe. Rose has come through, just like the Doctor had thought.
After killing the demon, the Doctor discovers his TARDIS. Just as the people think all is lost and that they are headed for the black hole, the doctor pulls them out with his TARDIS, Ida Scott on board. The only creatures not rescued were the Ood.
The Ood are constantly a source of moral uncertainty. They are a slave race that wants to be slaves. They are a very old creature that is very easily manipulated. We see them again in season four with the same Doctor and the companion Donna. Donna hates how the Ood are treated, sort of like Rose feels in Impossible Planet. They are frequently a creature that is taken advantage of because of the passiveness and kindness. It makes sense that the beast would use them first, they are the easiest to manipulate.
The Doctor is quick to trust what he can see. He is always weary of things he cannot explain and figure out. This is a main reason why he is hesitant to get near the beast. The Doctor is not one to turn from an adventure, but he was shaken when he realized that there are things that even he can’t fully comprehend.
For Rose, she believes in the Doctor. She has been through so much with him and he has saved her from so much. She has complete faith in the Doctor and his plans. She does not ask questions and definitely is not defiant. Part of this is her age, being just over 19. The Doctor also likes companions that idol him, making Rose and the Doctor a perfect match.
Colvile, Robert. “Russell T Davies Doctor Who Interview: Full Transcript – Telegraph Blogs.” Telegraph Blogs. The Telegraph Media Group, 11 Apr. 2009. Web. 06 Dec. 2011. .
Glenday, Craig. “Longest Running Science Fiction TV Series.” Guinness World Records 2012: Bursting with Amazing New Records. [London]: Guinness World Records, 2011. Print.
“Impossible Planet.” Doctor Who. BBC. 17 Nov. 2006. Television.
“Satan Pit.” Doctor Who. BBC. 1 Dec. 2006. Television