Et al. presents: The Doctor


“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” - Hebrews 10:24-25thedoctoretal.png

[Warning: some mild episodic spoilers below.]

If you have even a rudimentary grasp of pop culture, the show "Doctor Who" should be familiar to you. Maybe it’s because you’re the kind of person who has encyclopedic knowledge of every episode, who scours the "Doctor Who" Wiki for insights and conspiracy theories, and who browses Craigslist every week for a reasonably-priced TARDIS replica (e.i. Dr. Greg Thornbury). Or maybe you’ve just witnessed the impassioned apologetics of one of its multitudinous fans, your attempts to enjoy browsing Tumblr are filled with references and gifs you don’t understand, and you roll your eyes every time you hear the words “TARDIS” or “Allons-y!”

Of course, I sincerely hope you land somewhere closer to the former end of the spectrum than the latter. But even if "Doctor Who" never piqued your fancy, grant me a moment to present a compelling message of community embedded throughout the show’s narrative.

To provide some context for those who might be unfamiliar with the show, the main character of "Doctor Who" is a mysterious, charismatic, near-immortal alien known only as the Doctor. He is part of a race called the Time Lords, and he travels space and time in his TARDIS, a somewhat temperamental time machine with the appearance of a blue London police box. During his travels, he regularly invites humans to join him in his adventures. Indeed, most of his life is spent with a companion or two close at hand. Even when he attempts to sally forth unaccompanied, he invariably finds himself back in the company of a soul or two brave enough to follow him into his police box.

And for good reason. The Doctor’s companions are more than just time tourists or pretty arm candy. On numerous occasions throughout the series, they serve as voices of wisdom that remind the Doctor about things like mercy and kindness that tend to fade from his mind after centuries of fighting evil. To wit: in The Runaway Bride, companion Donna Noble snaps the Doctor out of a justice-fueled delirium just in time to save them from the rushing waters that were drowning their enemies. In The Waters of Mars, we see the Doctor reach a point of potent hubris, declaring himself a “Time Lord victorious” who has complete authority over time. His delusion of grandeur is cut short in a jarring way by one of the humans he had met earlier. In The Fires of Pompeii, as the fires of Mount Vesuvius bear down upon the city of Pompeii, Donna Noble tearfully begs him to save the city. But the Doctor insists he cannot – the destruction of Pompeii is a “fixed point” in history. But Donna is insistent: if not the whole city, at least someone--just one person! The Doctor relents and saves the family that had helped them earlier, admitting to Donna: “Sometimes, I need someone.”

Which brings me to my point: the dynamic between humankind and this madman in a box provides a striking demonstration of interdependence at work. No matter how great we think we are (and none of us are probably as great as a sassy, time-traveling, very fashionable alien) we can all use a reality check once in a while. The Doctor shows us what can happen when we separate ourselves from others: we lose perspective.

Proverbs 27:17 counsels that “iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”  Community helps us stay sharp.

Everyone has an idea of the person they want to become, but getting there is often fraught with difficulties, distractions and appealing compromises. Community is a way we can stay accountable to the lifestyle we know we want to live. Our friends should be a source of fun, joy and fellowship. But they should also be a source of direction--beacons that draw us towards the person we want to become. "Doctor Who" makes the case that community isn’t just a fun party or a healing sanctuary; when well-formed, it’s also a source of directive wisdom for our lives.

Questions for further pondering:

1. Who in your life should you be keeping accountable?
2. What are some actionable ways we can keep each other accountable?