The Who-manist Doctor
by Kory Stone/Business Manager
Upon entering Lake Land last semester, I kept hearing references to a show everyone was raving about, Doctor Who. Though I am not one to really watch TV, after hearing enough praise I decided to give it a go and check it out – I was hooked.
For those of you who are not already fans, the show Doctor Who is a sci-fi drama produced by Britain’s BBC which depicts the main character, “The Doctor,” a Time Lord – a humanoid alien who races through time and space – going on adventures with companions at his side, trying to keep everything in balance and harmony, armed only with his sonic screwdriver, his brilliance and. if necessary, an alternative for the would-be enemies of peace. You might be have already seen merchandise portraying the TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimension in Space), a living space ship that takes the shape of a blue police box on the outside, while maintaining a full fledge ship on the inside.
Though the show has garnered plenty of noteworthy awards including Best Drama Series from the British Academy Television Awards and the longest and most successful sci-fi show ever, what really drew me in is what it stood for.
As a humanist and practitioner of Buddhist philosophy (not to be confused with the religion) I could not help but notice the parallels that are exhibited. Aside from the occasional words or phrases that specifically hint to each philosophy the show really takes and incorporates the main messages of life, love, wonder and knowledge into the show.
A notable Buddhist philosophy is the concept of reincarnation. The 900-plus year old doctor, who is able to die and regenerate into a completely new person – who is also the same. That is given he is not fully killed in the process. Though the show makes no mention of life after death, his regeneration can be seen as symbolic for our own rebirth, which often comes at times of great struggle and pain. When watching you can notice the Doctors change comes during these trying times. It is always in midst of an attempt to give others a chance for life.
It is in the Doctor’s willingness to sacrifice his own life, both literally and in the sense of continual service, that bring to mind the concept of a bodhisattva – a being who reaches enlightenment yet gives up his life, passing up his own peace, to help others find theirs. “For as long as space endures, and for as long as living beings remain, until then may I too abide, to dispel the misery of the world.” That is the way of the bodhisattva.
It is part of the doctor’s brilliance, absolute love and admiration for all of life – even a life that must come to an end for the safety of others. As in both philosophies, the show highlights wisdom while downplaying violence as quoted here: “You want weapons? We’re in a library. Books are the best weapons in the world. This room is the greatest arsenal we could have. Arm yourself!” However, the show does occasionally demonstrate violence as unavoidable.
It is these overreaching philosophies that allow for our wonder and magnificence to shine bright as the stars in which we were created from, to venture forth, conquering not only distant galaxies, but more importantly ourselves so that we may abide within what little time we have in the graciousness of the best of each other. Like the doctor says, “There’s a lot of things you need to get across this universe. Warp drive… wormhole refractors… But the thing you need most of all is a hand to hold.”