Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Christology of Who: Dalek

A look at a few of the spiritual themes in Doctor Who, episode “Dalek” by Robert Shearman.

SPOILER ALERT:  I will be giving away the end of the episode.

Episode bits pulled from Who Transcripts.

One of the ongoing themes of Doctor Who is the question of “what does it mean to be human?”

(Before I go on, I realize that this line of thought might seem like a cheat – the blog series I am writing is supposed to be about Christology after all. But it does/will tie in, as the claim my faith makes is that Christ was fully human and fully G-d. So a study of “what does it mean to be human” plays to both The Humanism of Who and The Christology of Who.)

The Doctor has always been fascinated by humanity, bordering on an unhealthy obsession. He dithers on about how special they are.

How special are they?

The 21st Century reboot takes a long look at that question by starting with a race that is very, very much not human: the Daleks.

The Daleks are, well, here’s the Doctor to explain:

A nightmare. It's a mutation. The Dalek race was genetically engineered - every single emotion was removed except hate.

The Daleks have one function: to exterminate anything that is different, that is not a Dalek. They live to kill.

The Time Lords (the Doctor’s race) and the Daleks wiped each other out in the time war, with only the Doctor surviving. (That’s not quite true, but it was the common wisdom of the day.)

In the episode “Dalek,” it is discovered that one Dalek somehow survived, was thrown to earth, and is being held captive by a collector of such things.

Rose touches the weakened Dalek (out of sympathy), and the creature absorbs her DNA and uses that to regain its strength. Then the Dalek proceeds to break out of its prison, going on a killing spree along the way.

A problem arises though – the Dalek is no longer pure Dalek, but now has a slight case of the Roses: the absorbed human DNA is affecting the creature, as shown when it prepares to exterminate Rose:

And now what? What're you waiting for?

I feel your fear.

What do you expect?!

Daleks do not fear. Must not fear.
It shoots its death ray wildly at the wall either side of Rose.
(slightly hysterical, even scared)
You gave me life. What else have you given me? I am contaminated

The poor creature finds that it can not kill without feeling (killing now has a cost), knows fear, knows pity, knows compassion.

At the climatic moment of the episode, The Dalek, long held underground, blasts a hole in the ceiling, revealing the sun. Noticing that Rose longed for the sun, the Dalek exposes itself to the beams – to feel the warmth of sunshine.

That is a joy that the Dalek can not live with; such feelings are to be disdained – they are messy, uncontrollable, not pristine like the killing machine should be. 

The television series will continue to explore what it means to be human – but the first step was made here in this episode:

Humanity feels.

Just my thoughts,


Next up: The Parting of Ways

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