Blessed Be The Time Lord

Liel Leibovitz senses religious and distinctly Talmudic themes in the rebooted series of Doctor Who:

Without getting too theological—although the show has, casting [villainous species] The Silence as a religious order devoted to ancient prophecies—it is hard not to think of the whole affair as a meditation on God, a riff on that old Exodus chestnut in which the Creator insists that no man shall see his face and live. Learning the Doctor’s name—in 796 episodes, it is not mentioned once, and it is strongly suggested that he himself neither knows it nor wishes to know it—means unlocking all of the universe’s secrets, shedding light on its mysteries, closing the distance between mere mortals and other, higher beings whose job it is to watch over us humans and shower us with kindness and light.

And yet this is precisely what is going to happen next week. Steven Moffat, the creative force behind the series’ current reincarnation, has promised that the revelation will shake the show to its core, sending fans into fits of speculation: Once we know the Doctor’s name, does he cease to be the wondrous being that he is?

They’re naming the Doctor! Noooo!!! It ruins the irony of the very title of the show. I was almost going to say blasphemy, but that might have only proved Leibovitz’s point.

Leibovitz’s point is that Doctor Who is actually Doctor Jew – a wanderer, beset by enemies, with a strong dose of ethics. The Doctor is indeed a form of god – he is close to immortal – and he does adhere to some core ethics. But, although I can see Leibovitz’s point, he is essentially English, not Jewish. He is very far from devout, and always traveling (as the English always have done). He’s a passionate supporter of intelligence over superstition, of nonviolence over violence, and of doubt over faith. In his post-Tom-Baker incarnation (there I go again), he also has an almost unbearable lightness of spirit, capable of looking at pure evil in the eye … and chuckling. He disarms his foes; and outwits them; while remaining aloof from everyone. He is, after all, a non-human for whom the entire past and future is always present. And he has a sense of humor.

Such a god has no name. Just a scarf and a screwdriver and a police box. I can’t believe they’re going to mess with this. For some of us who are Whovians – the show was born the year I was – he will always be the hidden god, the Jesus of the Home Counties.