Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 23 November 2014

Praise the time lord, says academic

Doctor Who has explored various religious themes, an academic said.
Doctor Who has explored various religious themes, an academic said.

Excommunicate! Excommunicate! Doctor Who should be recognised for its contribution to Britain's religious culture, according to an academic.

Dr Andrew Crome, from the University of Manchester, claims the time lord has given his millions of TV fans a much wider understanding of religious traditions.

The Daleks, he says, have been depicted as religious fundamentalists as they "Exterminate!" all before them, while recently sci-fi writer Steven Moffat has depicted the Church of England as a paramilitary Christian group in the show.

Dr Crome, a lecturer in the History of Modern Christianity, and Dr Who fan, claims Buddhism has been a strong theme, especially in the first 20 or so years of the show, which has regularly touched on religious themes.

Producer Barry Letts, a Buddhist who died in 2009, regularly referred to his religion, with the episode in which Jon Pertwee's Doctor regenerated into Tom Baker based in a Tibetan Buddhist meditation centre.

Writer Russell T. Davies, who revived the show in 2005, promotes atheism in his writing, says the lecturer, and the 2007 Christmas Special, Voyage of the Damned, caused some Christian groups to complain about overt messianic imagery.

But the episode Gridlock from the same year, was viewed by some as a Christian allegory, and nominated for an Evangelical award in the US.

There have also been depictions of paganism and Ancient Greek and Egyptian mythology.

Dr Crome, who has edited a book on the cultural legacy of the programme, Time and Relative Dimensions in Faith: Religion and Doctor Who, said: "As Doctor Who celebrates its 50th anniversary, we mark its importance as a cultural phenomenon in both the UK and the United States.

"In many ways, Doctor Who charts British attitudes to religion over the course of those 50 years and this is a way of recognising that.

"Religion has always had some role within the universes of Doctor Who and I would argue there is a good case for using Doctor Who to teach Religious Studies.

"Over the show's long history on television - and in various spin-off TV shows, audio adventures, novels and comic books - religion and religious themes have consistently been a subject of interest.

"The show has attracted everything from Church of England conferences dedicated to its use in preaching, to guest appearances by Richard Dawkins."

He added: "There's no single theme: in the 1970s, you might argue there was subversive element in that a number of Dr Who episodes were critical of religion.

"But other episodes have endorsed different beliefs in that believers see the show as a way to define themselves."

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