You are reading a post in the series “Facing the Raven,” which is itself part of our larger “Science Fiction & Biblical Reality” series that can also be read in Finding Faith Inside the Big Blue Box: A Whovian’s 30 Day Devotional. You will absolutely want to read the first post before you read this one.
When Steven Moffat took over Doctor Who from Russell T. Davies in Season 5, he added a new motif to the show: stories. The theme of stories or fairy tales or the adventures one has with an imaginary friend remained an undercurrent throughout the Eleventh Doctor’s tenure. In fact, the opening of the show was extended, to the ire of traditionalists, to incorporate the specific motif of The Doctor as Amy Pond’s imaginary friend.
Within this motif of stories, there emerged a poignant theme of story endings. There was a glimpse of this with the Tenth Doctor and the Ood, where he was told that his “song must end soon.” Later, when this prophecy was coming to pass, Ood Sigma appeared to Ten, saying, “The song is ending, but the story never ends.” Thus, The Doctor continues his adventures without ending, without break.
But this isn’t true for his companion.
They come and go. They leave him behind. They die. Their stories end, and this is something The Doctor cannot abide: he hates endings.
“I always rip out the last page of a book. Then it doesn’t have to end. I hate endings!”
The Doctor, “The Angels Take Manhattan”
To prevent the loss of a companion, especially to the permanence of death, The Doctor will leave no stone unturned, no law unbroken. Think of all that he did to save Clara, breaking all manner of rules, killing another Time Lord, and even traveling to the end of the Universe, all to prevent one human’s death.
All to keep one story from ending because that’s how much he hates endings, but are Christians any different?
I ask that question seriously, and I think I have an equally serious answer to offer. Yet before we get there, let’s be clear that I don’t want to be insensitive, though I fear I will be.
Christians speak longingly of Heaven, declaring it to be a paradise without equal, but we often speak of it incompletely and without much conviction. We talk about Heaven as a distant, ethereal place, and yet, the Bible speaks of it as an ever-approaching real locale that will be the crowning achievement of the newly created Earth after the old one, broken by centuries of sin, is done away with. Furthermore, whatever we might say of Heaven that is true or encouraging is undercut by immense fear of death.
Christians, it seems, hate endings, too.
We pray for the aged, the terminally ill, the comatose to be healed and “restored to us,” and we think ourselves right and faithful for praying such. Yet, if we truly believe that to “to die is gain,” then we have a funny way of showing it. We beg and plead with God to prevent death from taking a loved one from us, but if they are a Christian, then this prayer seems misdirected and even selfish. “Lord, don’t take my mother from me. Preserver her life! Sure, she’s 95 and can barely function on her own, but I can’t bear the thought of losing her to the incomparable riches of the glory of your presence.” That’s a bit overly dramatized, but my point, I think, is clear: we hate endings because we don’t really trust what the Bible says about them.
Meanwhile, The Doctor hates endings because even he, with his practically inexhaustible knowledge and incredibly long lifespan, cannot escape the fact that endings will come. People will die. Stories will end, bringing a permanent separation in their wake. The realm of the dead is the one place that the TARDIS cannot take him.
For all his bluster, for all the times he has tried to be the “Time Lord Victorious,” he has yet to find a real solution to the problem of death.
Thus, he hates endings. They are the one foe that he has never defeated. Despite the resiliency of the Daleks and the Cybermen, it’s death that has truly earned The Doctor’s ire. Though he rails against one genocidal monster after another, it’s his powerlessness to undo the damage they have wrought, to turn endings into beginnings, that truly enrages him.
Here is a man who wants to be able to write his own story. He picks the supporting characters and changes the setting whenever he wants. And yet, he cannot control so much of what happens in his story. He couldn’t bring Rose back from Pete’s World. He couldn’t keep The Doctor Donna from burning up. He couldn’t account for the love that would cause Amy to sacrifice herself just to be with Rory. Even his master plan of storming Gallifrey from the “long way round” just to save Clara fell short.
Eventually, we all have to face the raven, and that is a fact that The Doctor does his best to ignore.