25 November 2023

Doctor Who and Christianity: Exploring the wonder of God's plan

Simon Hope

A photo shows David Tennant's 14th Doctor stepping out of the Tardis. Picture: BBC Studios, Bad Wolf, Disney, © BBC Studios 2023
Picture: BBC Studios, Bad Wolf, Disney © BBC Studios 2023

As Doctor Who celebrates its 60th anniversary, Simon Hope wonders at the extent of God’s bigger-on-the-inside plan for us.

You might not know your Adipose from your Zygon, but it’s hard to deny the impact that Doctor Who has had on the British cultural zeitgeist. Ahead of a new season in 2024, the long-running sci-fi series rematerialises on BBC One tonight for three weekly specials celebrating the show’s 60th anniversary, and I – a diehard Whovian – am excited.

Key to the show is a constant state of flux, as the titular Doctor periodically regenerates and brings new companions aboard. One thing that has remained relatively unchanged, however, is the Doctor’s time-travelling spaceship, the Tardis, which whisks the characters from one story to the next.

Nowadays, the iconic blue police box stands out, although its original aim was to appear ordinary in 1960s London. Objectively speaking, it does look rather unremarkable. Perhaps that’s why so many companions are left stunned when they discover that it’s bigger on the inside. What takes 30 seconds to circumnavigate on the outside couldn’t be internally explored in a lifetime.

And that’s before the timey-wimey adventures have even begun. On their travels the crew often don’t know where they’re going to end up – a running joke is that the Doctor isn’t particularly good at controlling the Tardis. As it happens, that may not be entirely their fault. When confronted with its unreliability, the ship once asserted: ‘I always took you where you needed to go.’

Disciples of Jesus may not be fighting potato-headed soldiers or plunger-wielding pepper pots on the regular, but there are echoes of our day-to-day battles as Christians in this silly sci-fi show.

For a start, we often like to think of ourselves as the pilots of our lives, fully in control of our destination. Yet how often we look up from the console and realise we’re not where we thought we should be. It can be unclear why God’s plan has brought us to this place and we can be left frustrated and wrestling with our own monster of the week. Still, God reminds us not to lean on our understanding but to take heart that the True Pilot knows the plans laid out for us (see Proverbs 3:5 and Jeremiah 29:11).

That’s reassuring – and it’s only the beginning. What’s more exciting is that these plans have nothing to do with fitting into an unremarkable box. Just as with the Doctor’s old blue police box, we might be tempted to look at God’s plan from the outside and label it mundane without realising the extent of the worlds contained within. Even if we never own a swimming pool in a library, spiritually we have ‘immeasurably more’ (Ephesians 3:20) than we can imagine ahead of us.

When companions first step into the Tardis, it’s not uncommon for them to stop – or even back out – in shock. It’s an overwhelming experience and they need to muster courage to take those second, third and fourth steps. So it can be with God’s plan.

The difference for us? We are God’s timeless children; we know Jesus’ promise of fullness of life! It’s with such hope that we can boldly take those next steps. All we need do is knock on the door (see Matthew 7:7) and let God’s plan take us further than we’ve ever gone before.

Reflect and respond

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A photo of Stevie Hope.

Simon Hope

Editorial Assistant

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