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such a nasty woman | by maryann johanson

Doctor Who thing of the day: the Doctor as humanist hero

The other day I stumbled across a great essay by Paul F. Cockburn at The Freethinker about the Doctor as a standard bearer for humanism. A taste:

[T]he Doctor remains a hero who prizes knowledge and individuality in thought and action, who abhors despots, conformity and the external imposition of control – whether it’s on a planet, a people or a single mind. Such an innately liberal slant should hardly be surprising, given the similar cultural position of the institution that makes it – the British Broadcasting Corporation. From sun-worshipping cavemen in its first broadcast story (100,000 BC in1963) to the “fish people” of Atlantis (Enemy of the World, 1967); from the murderous religious wars in 16th century France (The Massacre of St Bartholomew’s Eve, 1966) to the Exxilons worshiping the sentient city built by their own space-travelling ancestors (Death to the Daleks, 1974), it’s arguable that religious belief has never been shown in a favourable light in Doctor Who.

At best, it’s presented as the misinterpretation of technology and science (for example, Face of Evil, 1977); at worst, faith is shown to be a potentially fatal weakness (The Curse of Fenric, 1989 and The God Complex, 2011) while dogma is frequently a source for brutal social oppression and control (Planet of Fire, 1984).

Not only that, but time and again, 20th century Doctor Who described the move from superstitious belief to rational science in positive terms of progress, growth and advancement. On those occasions when technologically superior aliens were misinterpreted by more “primitive” cultures as gods or demons, the Doctor usually inspired a conceptual breakthrough after which the advanced technology was recognised for what it really was.

There’s much more at The Freethinker.

What do you think? Is the Doctor a humanist hero, and/or an icon of atheism?

(If you stumble across a cool Doctor Who thing, feel free to email me with a link.)

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