It’s Saturday which means I’m in for another new episode of Dr. Who. I’m the kind of Whovian that has her DVR scheduled to record it and my bestie is often over for dinners on Saturday nights to watch the newest episode with me (I’ve simply got to come up with a special dinner menu for the Christmas episode out of respect for the return of Professor River Song – it’s bad, I know). In the long list of heroes we humans are so creative at inventing, the Doctor provides a modern day model for unrequited compassion and a dedication to justice so perfect that he tortures his own soul for his own shortcomings.
I’ll give a bit of background before I explain. Working from the foundation of Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero With a Thousand Faces” beautiful book, the characters who have entertained and inspired over the millenniums all share similar traits. Consider our modern day heroes such as Luke Skywalker and Harry Potter: both come from meager beginnings yet they’re somehow tied and bound to the evil of their day. Their personal bond with evil begins with some twist of childhood fate so that the rest of their lives are spent conquering the dark elements of the universe, always, always to overcome (we don’t know how to write the story any other way than to make sure good wills out – I love that about us).
The Doctor follows a similar plot line. His beginnings were marked with uncertainty and fear, and his path is wrought with a parallel evil that persistently challenges his patience, wit, compassion, and even causes him to question his own goodness and worth – as any decent villain should. Yet. He manages to overcome evil while facing his own shortcomings. For a man who can nonchalantly say things such as “Time isn’t linear, it’s wibbly-wobbly, spacey waycey,” for a man who can hop in a machine and watch the moonrises of Jupiter, for a man who can feel all of time and space at once, The Doctor has made a decision to annhilate his own people, and this haunts him time and again. He knows he’s had to choose between the few and the many, and he carries the guilt of the choosing. But if there’s ever a chance to redeem himself, he seizes it without hesitation. That’s why the Doctor is my hero: in spite of his omniscience, he’s all too human in his failings. But even in the face of them, he chooses good over evil in the hopes that when balanced, the good is greater than the evil. Such is the story of most of us, we should have confidence in that ;).
When the twelfth Doctor made one of his first appearances, he asks his assistant if she thought he was a good man.
“I don’t know. But you try to be and I think that’s probably the whole point.” The Doctor tries, he demonstrates that horrendous failings don’t have to define us, there is still good within our souls with which we can redeem ourselves. That’s why he’s my hero.