Doctor Who and religion: part 1 – Paradise…

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This is the first article in a regular weekly series of articles from planetzogblog on the topic of Doctor Who and religion.

(Note also the recent Doctor Who news story (link) on this subject.)

(That news link discovered via the Behind the Sofa blog.)

Although Doctor Who has featured religion in the past, and these articles will cover 1963 to 2008, the 2006 Season and the 2007 Season in particular have been quite philosophical on this subject.  So we will begin with the first half of the 2006 Season.  (Please note, if you haven’t seen this season, the plot is discussed.)

The 2006 Season, episodes 1 to 6.

My theory here is that, Russell T. Davies, with the intention to make Doctor Who a complex and multi-layered experience, planned these episodes to be full of allusions to the Old Testament story of Adam and Eve leaving Paradise.

Episodes 1 and 2: A Warning in Paradise.

Episodes: New Earth.  Tooth and Claw.

The planet New Earth is presented as an Eden for the Doctor and his companion Rose.  They are carefree and joyful.

In the creation story of the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve are forbidden to eat from the Tree of Knowledge.  The Serpent suggests to Eve that she eats the fruit from this tree.  In some interpretations, the “apple” is a metaphor for sexuality – to have “knowledge” of someone.

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The episode New Earth begins with the Doctor and Rose relaxing on the “applegrass”.  The story continues as they meet Cassandra, who possesses Rose.  As Cassandra says to Rose: “Ooh, he’s slim.  And a little bit foxy.  You’ve thought so too.  I’ve been inside your head… You’ve been looking… you like it!”

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So, clearly – the Serpent in this Eden is Cassandra.

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The allusions continue with Tooth and Claw.  Still carefree and joyful (which some fans interpreted as “smug”) the Doctor and Rose encounter Queen Victoria.  The episode ends with a warning from Queen Victoria, who banishes them from her Empire.

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Queen Victoria: “I have rewarded you, Sir Doctor, and now you are exiled from this empire never to return.  I don’t know who you are, the two of you, or where you’re from but I know that you consort with stars and magic and think it fun.  But your world is steeped in terror and blasphemy and death, and I will not allow it.  You will leave these shores and you will reflect, I hope, on how you came to stray so far from all that is good and how much longer you may survive this terrible life.  Now, leave my world and never return!”

But they are not quite banished from their Eden yet.

Episodes 3 and 4: Trouble in Paradise.

Episodes: School Reunion.  The Girl in the Fireplace.

Both these episodes present Rose with the reality that she is Not The Only One.  Trouble is brewing, as Eve meets Lilith(s).

Lilith – in some scriptural texts (which are part of the Jewish rather than Christian telling of the Garden of Eden story) is the first wife of Adam.   She left him before Eve appeared. (In other versions there are two women before Eve.)

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The episode School Reunion: The Doctor is reunited with a companion from his past – Sarah Jane – and Rose is, initially, really not happy about this.

The episode The Girl in the Fireplace:

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Rose: “Oh, look at what the cat dragged in! The Oncoming Storm!”

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Rose says this to the Doctor as he returns from – possibly – having “knowledge” of Madame Pompadour…

Episodes 5 and 6: Paradise Lost.

Episodes: the two-parter Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel.

After Adam and Eve have “knowledge” from the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, they are cast out of Eden.

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In this two-part Doctor Who story, the TARDIS is cast out of the universe, along with the Doctor and Rose.  (Is this just a coincidence that it follows the Doctor’s “knowledge” of Madame Pompadour?) Eden is lost as the Doctor’s and Rose’s relationship is in turmoil – she runs to her father.  After losing her father again though, and Mickey, who does she then run to?  Her mother.

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The Doctor and Rose are no longer so close, or so carefree and joyful. Part two of this series of articles will discuss the rest of the season – next Saturday…

(By the way – do you think Russell planned all this, or am I just reading too much into Doctor Who?  Feel free to comment.)

Update: Link to next part added here (click for part 2.)

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5 Responses to “Doctor Who and religion: part 1 – Paradise…”

  1. VHM Says:

    I know your emphasis is on religion, but I’m surprised you didn’t pick up on the Darwin quote from Origin of the Species: “Nature, red in tooth and claw”. There’s some interesting interplay between science and religion there!

  2. John Nor Says:

    VHM, very good point!

    To go into more detail – “Nature, red in tooth and claw” is very much associated with Darwin’s Origin of the Species. The phrase originally comes from a poem by Tennyson: In Memoriam A.H.H. (from the same decade as Darwin’s book.) This line from the poem was used extensively by both sides of the debate, and has been associated with Darwin’s theories ever since.

    (Queen Victoria’s line in the episode “…you consort with stars and magic and think it fun” conjured up for me the opposing ideas of science and realms-beyond-science too.)

    Note also the real-life Victoria said about this Tennyson poem: “Next to the Bible, In Memoriam is my comfort.”

    She found it a great solace after losing Albert, this poem, which also contains the lines:
    ” ‘Tis better to have loved and lost
    Than never to have loved at all.”

    (Lines applicable to the whole of this Doctor Who season perhaps?…)

  3. FrillyShirtBlogger Says:

    Well, I feel there’s a lot of foreboding little words in most of season 2 that hint to them getting separated. I really like that stuff on stories, dunno why.

  4. John Nor Says:

    FrillyShirt!

    Welcome to the blog.

    Yes indeed, there are lots of little hints of their coming separation.

    For example, the situations of various characters who are separated in some way, these situations add to this theme:
    Victoria/Albert,
    Doc/Sarah Jane,
    Doc/M.Pompadour,
    Jackie/Rose (temporarily…)
    Elton/Ursula (refer to part 3 of this series of articles for more thoughts on Love & Monsters.)

  5. RE Says:

    Brilliant! You know I’ve thought all these things myself , convinved.. unfortunately most people think im being delusional lol , this pots probably been here years, but really had to write something ! I’m so glad someone thinks the same!


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