On the 22nd of April, 2011, beside Lake Silencio the Doctor stood face to face with River Song; she was struggling against the urge to kill him ingrained by Madam Kovarian and The Silence and with the fact that he had arranged for her future self to be there to watch.
‘Why?’ she asked. ‘So that you know this is inevitable and you are forgiven; always and completely forgiven,’ he answered.
I have enjoyed the eleventh regeneration of the Doctor. Speculating about his adventures, especially his influence on his friends, has been great fun and this final episode (6:13) not the least. Still, as usual, one aspect caught my attention more than others.
This time it wasn’t the Doctor’s description of River to Winston Churchill (Hell in High Heels) or his dating advice to Rory (you should ask her out…for texting and scones) or even that incredible moment when Amelia Pond-Williams realised that of all things she might have been to her Raggedy Doctor, she has become, in one universe at least, his mother-in-law; it wasn’t even that ‘Wedding’ which is of questionable significance anyway, I think.
This time it is the Doctor’s promise to River even as she has her finger on the trigger, that he has already forgiven her, ‘always and completely’.
You see, for quite a while I struggled with this. It’s one of the charms of time travel (and of watching episodes many times in many different sequences, which is much the same) that we can relive certain events with new knowledge, again and again. It’s not quite ‘Groundhog Day’; there is the ‘time-wimey’ issue of crossing one’s own time-line; but still the advantages usually outweigh the disadvantages.
Until this time when I just had to ask, ‘What’s to forgive?’
This was the Doctor, safe inside the Teselecta version of himself, who would barely be ‘singed’ either by River’s deadly spacesuit or his own funeral pyre and he was letting her believe that she was about to kill him. Who should be forgiving Who?
Nevertheless I persevered; I remembered a conversation with a friend whose wife was recently booked for speeding. She complained that the margin of her error was so small. He reminded her, unwisely probably, of the many occasions when her margin of error had been far greater; she had just not been caught.
So I satisfied myself that in one time, in one universe, River must really have needed forgiving; certainly there was the matter of the toxic lipstick, the poison of the Judas Tree, and her cold hearted kiss that left the Doctor with ’32 minutes to live’ as she set off to enjoy Berlin on the eve of war. I know she eventually saved him by giving up all her own future regenerations; not the least she could do I suppose, but still….
Anyway, it’s the nature of the Doctor’s forgiveness that I like; ‘you are forgiven; always and completely forgiven’ he told River. In that, at least, I find a happy parallel between this Time Lord and the one true Time LORD of all.
- We are assured that with Him forgiveness is available to us;
‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness…if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense–Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.’ 1 John 1:9-12:2
- And we are assured that this forgiveness is of permanent effect;
‘For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.’ Hebrews 9:24-28