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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

Doctor Who thing: the Doctor is Jewish, no?

Doctor Who Matt Smith yarmulke

Liel Leibovitz at Tablet has decided that the Doctor is “the greatest Jewish character in the history of television.” Because he is

constantly wandering, never at home. His relation is not to space, a place to call his own, but to time, which makes him highly dependent on memory.

And because he is

surrounded by a host of belligerent warlike species who view him, alternatively and sometimes simultaneously, as both pesky and effete and oddly omnipotent. Most celebrated among these baddies are the Daleks, mollusk-like beings who encase themselves in an armored suit slightly resembling a salt shaker. Their creator, a writer named Terry Nation, grew up in wartime Wales and was never able to shake off the profound terror of observing Germany and witnessing an entire nation unite under a murderous maniac and seek to exterminate everyone whom it regarded as inferior. When Nation joined [Sydney] Newman at the BBC, he wasted no time introducing “the unhearing, unthinking, blanked-out face of authority that will destroy you because it wants to destroy you.” Armored, slow-moving, and infinitely menacing, the Daleks’ catchphrase is “Exterminate!”

And so Doctor Who has a

timeless conflict at its center—the canny Jew versus the canned Nazis…

Leibovitz goes on to mention that the latest series, concerning the Doctor’s name, resonates with Old Testament metaphor… which I noted too, twice, in that it reminded me of the classic SF story “The Nine Billion Names of God.”

How does a religious metaphor for the Doctor work for you?

Thanks to Lowell and Ype for the heads-up.

Image from Doctor Who Problems.

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

posted in:
daily doctor | easter eggs
  • Steve Gagen

    I love it! It reminds me of how good stories transcend and relate to all cultures. It also informs Terry Nation’s invention of the Daleks.

  • RogerBW

    He goes to a great deal of trouble not to visit his mother, but still wears the hats she sends him, and doesn’t even try to come up with a convincing explanation.

  • Matthew Kilburn

    Given the backgrounds of many key contributors – including his mothers – it would be surprising were he not!

  • Mara Katz

    Speaking as a Jew, I don’t think Jewishness informs Dalek = Nazi as much as Britishness does. “The Dalek Invasion of Earth” is basically what would have happened had the Nazis won the Battle of Britain; they didn’t decide to start exterminating whole species till much later. Unless the Thals count.

  • Mara Katz

    The deeper I get into Doctor Who, the more I think of the Doctor as a reluctant prophet in sort of the Jewish tradition. Sometimes he’s a Moses, sometimes he’s a Jonah; and sometimes, from the perspective of us on the ground, he becomes an Elijah.

  • RogerBW

    Indeed, anyone who thinks the show was consciously using anti-Nazism (rather than more general British wartime attitudes) really ought to rewatch The Daleks: the pretty blonde human people commit genocide on the ugly nasty non-human people, and everyone thinks that’s just fine and dandy.

  • Mara Katz

    Let’s go a little deeper into the text of The Daleks: it’s mentioned that the Thals spent some time as squiddy mutants, but were patient and philosophical about it and mutated back into beautiful elves. The Daleks were impatient and vindictive, and instead of allowing good things to happen to them, are overreaching themselves. Of course, all this was undone later by Genesis of the Daleks.

  • He’s more akin to the legends of the Wandering Jew…

  • Tonio Kruger

    Oy, vey! I could have sworn I made a comment to this effect back on the “Wedding of River Song” thread. :-(

  • Tonio Kruger

    “Doctor! Is there a proper blessing for the Daleks?”

    “Certainly. May God bless the Daleks and keep them far away from us!”

  • Gemmabeta

    We have a winner!

  • Gemmabeta

    Shouldn’t that be “The Doctor is Jewish, nu?”

    With nuWho, I got a bit of a Jews-in-exile “By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion” vibe, especially when the 10th Doctor was describing Gallifrey to Martha. LIke the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah, Gallifrey deserved it’s destruction, but you still feel sad about all that’s lost.

    But maybe it is because the Jews as a people have basically done everything. They wandered and settled, they ruled and were ruled, they were top dogs and bottom dogs and everything in between. And considering they wrote the most influential book in the history of Western Civilization, what isn’t a Jewish reference?

  • Alex Holden Sigsworth

    I think the Jewish context of the show is there, but I don’t think the actual character himself literally is.

  • alanbstardmp

    sadly the show re the history of Dr Who was spoilt by the characters playing Lambert and Newman shaking hands over their Jewishness at her appointment as producer. Who cares if they are Jews or not? All designed to make us further in debt to the chosen ones I suppose

    Why is there a Jewish context fir a non earthling who’s a time lord for God’s sake?

  • alanbstardmp

    If a religious metaphor did work it wouldn’t be Jewish I assure you. Christ I am sick of minorities forming the life of the majority

  • alanbstardmp

    oh yes, blame the blondes. A No dount a Jewish race hate thing thought up by Jews Lambert and Newman

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