The Increasingly Blatant Symbolism of Doctor Who

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.




"There's no point in being grown up if you can't be childish sometimes." ~ Doctor Who


A while ago Stephen Fry made waves when he bemoaned the infantalizing nature of BBC programming and characterized Doctor Who as "not for adults." Perhaps Fry, for all his many talents and artistic sensibility, is one of those hardcore atheists who has no appreciation for the power of myth. Admittedly, I haven't spent a lot of time on the mythical underpinnings of the show, although I did explore one episode's point towards indigenous creation mythology here

I will also give Fry benefit of the doubt and assume his comments in 2010 pertained entirely to the pre-Matt Smith years. There is no question that with the massive production changes after David Tennant's departure, came a more interesting, and I dare say, more adult show. Smith, as an actor, has more depth and gravitas than Tennant. (Christopher Eccleston was also brilliant and I took his departure hard. I know. I know. David Tennant was the most beloved Doctor ever. Blah, blah, blah... whatever.)

Not only is the writing under Steven Moffat darker and edgier, there has been a peeling away of the veils that obscured the core mythos. It seems rather obvious in discussing a show that opens with a trip through a wormhole, that we're talking about alchemy/kundalini/stargate mythology. But with the recent Christmas episode, "The Snowmen," key archetypes were even more blatant than they were in the London Olympics. Even the advertising was provocative.






Note the Blue Pearl opening above the Doctor's head. William Henry explains a bit about the mystical experience of the Blue Pearl in Secret of Sion.

As I discussed in Starwalkers and the Dimension of the Blessed, traditional shamanic peoples around the world describe a Blue Pearl, an exquisite, enchanting blue light that is a mode of transport. It appears in a flash, without any provocation or thought, and opens like a lotus or a wormhole.

. . .

In fact, says Muktananda, it contains the whole universe It is the seed of the heart, the Supreme within us. It has been described as vibrant, electric blue, brilliant indigo, azure, cobalt, and cerulean.

. . .

Also known as the Pearl of Infinite Power, the Blue Pearl, Stone or Apple is actually how our soul travels to the inner realm and it is inside of a quantum egg or in an "interphasic state of existence" (it enables us to jump through time and cross great distances or even to use this skill locally.)

Hmmm... What does that sound like?




In "The Snowmen," the Doctor meets Clara, who susses out his hiding place... in the clouds. This she does by locating something akin to Jacob's ladder.




She ascends a spiral staircase.




And at the top she finds the TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimension In Space). So, she ascends a stairway to heaven where she encounters multidimensional awareness.




Later in the episode Clara is invited into the TARDIS and given the key -- the ritual by which the Doctor initiates his companions into the mysteries of time-space travel.




The TARDIS has been given a bit of a redesign for the new season. And I can't help noticing that the circumpunct imagery has also become more blatant.




So the connection between wormhole physics that was always implied in the show was underscored with alchemical imagery in "The Snowmen." Other mystical and kundalini themes are hinted at but they are subtler and require, to some extent, stripping the context from the archetype. For instance, we are introduced to the concept of a "memory worm" which wipes memory from all who touch it.

The plot also centers around the mystical idea of reflective reality. "The snow reflects." A strange, new, memory snow patterns itself on the people, personalities, thoughts, emotions, and objectives, its exposed to, and takes on form.

I can't help wondering if the plot line was influenced by the, albeit deeply flawed, water experiment made famous in What the Bleep Do We Know? I say flawed because the results have not proved to be replicable and Masaru Emoto has been less than transparent about his research methods. All of which leads us back to that fundamental question? Does the world reflect our thoughts or our consciousness? Because they are not the same thing. But I've discussed this little problem of new age reductionism at far too great a length already.

"The Snowman" explored the metaphysics of the TARDIS but the physics has long been a subject of discussion.





Something clicked for me a while ago when I was watching The Science of Doctor Who, which explored some of the theoretical physics of the show with prominent physicists. Michio Kaku's offered his explanation for why the TARDIS is bigger on the inside.

People forget that the phone booth is not the TARDIS at all. It's the door.




The humor of the cloaking mechanism that got stuck in police box mode back in the '60s, when they were ubiquitous in London, has provided writers with many challenges and opportunities through the years. But whether it was conscious or unconscious on the part of the show's creators, I've long thought the cubic form of this "door" implied a tesseract, or hypercube. It appears that I may be onto something.

The explanation is that a TARDIS is "dimensionally transcendental", meaning that its exterior and interior exist in separate dimensions. In "The Robots of Death" (1977), the Fourth Doctor tried to explain this to his companion Leela, using the analogy of how a larger cube can appear to be able to fit inside a smaller one if the larger cube is farther away, yet immediately accessible at the same time (see Tesseract).




There have been many indications since Steven Moffat took the helm that Doctor Who is taking us into the heart of the mysteries. I thought at the time that "The Impossible Astronaut" was playing with Gnostic themes. Specifically the Silence suggested, to me, the Archons.

Let's see... They're an ancient alien order who've been controlling human history from time immemorial but no one can remember seeing them. And like the Archons, there are allusions to both the greys (look at them) and the "men in black" (they erase your memory). Men in black were most notably associated with the Archons -- as Smith, et al. -- in The Matrix trilogy, where they also notably distorted memory and cognition. For a little more background on the elusive Archons of Gnostic lore, see here.




I have tried a few times to write something more in depth regarding the archontic symbolism of the Silence but my head goes all mushy. Not surprising, I guess, given the subject matter. Bloody Archons. Perhaps I should take to crosshatching my forearms every time I contemplate the deeper allusions of the Silence and get derailed.

It began to dawn on me over the past few seasons of Doctor Who that the Doctor should not simply be viewed as a frequent savior and protector of humanity. Rather, he can be seen as a symbol of our human potential.


Amy: But you look human.
The Doctor: No, you look Time Lord. We came first.
~ Doctor Who, "The Beast Below"


As we learned in "Human Nature," Time Lords have an ability to hide their expanded, Time Lord consciousness inside a fob watch and become human.  In so doing, they forget the bulk of their awareness. In that sense, we're all Time Lords.

Bear in mind that River Song, as we learned recently, is the child of two human parents but because she was conceived in the TARDIS she has many of the abilities of a Time Lord, including regeneration.

If we begin to look at the TARDIS, not as an alien space ship, but as a symbol for multidimensional awareness, we arrive at the essence of mystical thought. Each of us contains the universe. The microcosm contains the macrocosm. The inside is bigger than the outside.

1 comment:

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