Doctor Who first appeared at 17:16:20 GMT on 23 November 1963, stepping, not quite fully formed, from the minds of his creators, Sydney Newman, Donald Wilson and Cecil Webber, assisted by Anthony Coburn, David Whitaker and Verity Lambert.
Fifty years on, the Doctor’s personal pantheon has grown beyond eighty (writers credited in episodes for television).
All these, his gods, determined his name and nature, his age and origins, his times and places, his friends and his enemies, even his regenerations; and they will determine his final passing too. I tend to forget that the Doctor is as much a subject of his gods as we are of ours; as much a prisoner in his time and space as we are in ours; even, ultimately, as limited by his mortality as we are by ours.
He is a creature of his gods. His TARDIS is not his temple; it will become his tomb.
My interest in time-travel began, as for many fans of a certain age I suspect, with the 1960 film of H.G.Wells’ novella, ‘The Time Machine’. Now, it seems to me that our fascination with ‘time’ is the fascination of any prisoner with the dimensions of his cell; of Robinson Crusoe with his island; of any exile with his unnatural home so that as C.S.Lewis suggested, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”
Occasionally, something of this sense of loss appears in the Doctor’s story. Certainly, there are elements of it in his grief over his separation from Gallifrey and his guilt at the extinction of his fellow Time Lords.
This works itself out in the lives of his companions as well, I think.
Remember River Song’s regretful revelation in ‘The Impossible Astronaut’….‘When I first met the Doctor…he knew all about me…Trouble is it’s all back to front. My past is his future. We’re travelling in opposite directions. Every time we meet I know him more, he knows me less. I live for the days when I see him. But I know that every time I do he’ll be one step further away. The day is coming when I’ll look into that man’s eyes—my Doctor—and he won’t have the faintest idea who I am. And I think it’s going to kill me.’
Is that dire separation a less hopeful echo of our experience as sinners exiled from Eden, separated from God but still (thank God) troubled by a haunting sense of guilt and lost destiny. Less hopeful because we have this advantage over Professor Song and in fact over all the inhabitants of the vortex; that our Lord will never forget us; that instead of our relationship with him becoming more distant, we grow ever closer.
When Jesus stepped from eternity into time and space, fully formed, God in 4D, he came for us, bringing forgiveness for our guilt and fulfilment for our destiny as beloved children of our Father God.
Created for eternity, dead in time, but now, through knowing him, alive, he draws us back to God so that we can say, ‘Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.’ 1 Corinthians 13:12
And, wonderfully, we will share this redemption with the rest of creation. This universe of time and space that presently shares our separation, our frustation and our ‘bondage to decay’ will one day share our ‘glorious freedom’.
Because, ‘…our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.’ Romans 8:19-25