Valerie Estelle Frankel explores the latest manifestation, specifically the ninth series reincarnation, of Doctor Who—the long running British pop-culture sci-fi television drama. If you don’t recall, the Doctor travels time and space in the TARDIS which is disguised as a common, red British phone booth. Frankel’s discussion centers around a basic story/literary structure called the Hero’s Journey, as applied to the Doctor and a collection of female companions. Episodes often centered around what the companions accomplish, while the Doctor functions as a mentor. This books reads like an academic research paper on the subject (and might actually be a published thesis), which may be of interest to earnest Doctor Who fans.
Introduction: Hero’s and Heroine’s Journey
The Hero’s Journey
Joseph Campbell’s monomyth, also called the hero’s journey, is a basic pattern found in epics around the world. It’s also known as the Chosen One plot. This pattern was described by Campbell in The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949): “A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man” (23). This “monomyth” is a metaphor for facing the dark side of the self and gaining self-knowledge from the struggle. It’s a staple of modern fantasy, appearing in Harry Potter, Star Wars, and The Wizard of Oz.
Step one is known as the Call to Adventure: there’s a summons to travel to a strange place and undergo a mission. Campbell scholar Christopher Vogler explains, “The hero is presented with a problem, challenge, or adventure to undertake. Once presented with a Call to Adventure, she can no longer remain indefinitely in the comfort of the Ordinary World” (15). Traditionally, the call signals “the awakening of the self,” an eagerness to cross over into the realm of magic or deeper thought (Campbell 51). The Doctor has many of these calls: He receives distress calls on psychic paper in shadowy bars and even on his TARDIS telephone. Sometimes the TARDIS independently takes him to the place of crisis. He sometimes refuses these calls, speculating that the summons in “The Impossible Astronaut” for instance is a trap.
Following this, the Doctor accepts the call and crosses over. In fiction, this stage involves entering the magical world of Hogwarts, Narnia, or Oz. As Campbell notes:
This fateful region of both treasure and danger may be variously represented: as a distant land, a forest, a kingdom underground, beneath the waves, or above the sky, a secret island, lofty mountaintop, or profound dream state; but it is always a place of strangely fluid and polymorphous beings, unimaginable torments, superhuman deeds, and impossible delight. The hero can go forth of his own volition to accomplish the adventure…or he may be carried or sent abroad by some benign or malignant agent….The adventure may begin as a mere blunder…or still again, one may be only casually strolling when some passing phenomenon catches the wandering eye and lures one away from the frequented paths of man. (58)
For the Doctor, each story is an adventure in a new place: history, alien worlds, even alternate realities and dimensions. He enters the strange space, has an adventure, and then eventually returns home. The alien space represents the subconscious, a world of dreams and fears beyond ordinary reality. Thus descending into the dark realm is a metaphor for facing one’s fears or sublimated desires. To Jung, the unconscious is “everything of which I know, but of which I am not at the moment thinking; everything of which I was once conscious but have now forgotten; everything perceived by my senses, but not noted by my conscious mind” (401).
Often this involves an additional descent into the alien belly of “The Beast Below” or the junkyard of “The Doctor Dances.” The ultimate descent is to the realm of death itself. This the Doctor enters each time he sacrifices his life and regenerates. “Instead of passing outward, beyond the confines of the visible world, the hero goes inward, to be born again” (Campbell 91). There are also brushes with death, graveyard visits, and shadowy catacombs under the earth. These represent transition into the realm of death and then beyond to a new rebirth.
In the darkest place of all, the center of the Dalek mothership or his own gravesite, the Doctor must face the Shadow. The hero’s or heroine’s journey is all about facing one’s Shadow, the repressed nature that’s been rejected from the conscious self – the rage, hatred, fear and other primitive emotions. Sometimes the hero meets a character who embodies all he or she has dismissed from consciousness, and thus must face these qualities in the other person or in himself. Other times, a form of shadow-possession occurs and the hero discovers the life of the shadow firsthand. The shadow, in psychology, is “aspects of oneself which are considered by the ego to be undesirable or not useful and are therefore relegated to the dark” (Estés 85).
This is Luke rejecting Vader’s Dark Side or Frodo repulsed by Gollum, yet each secretly admitting that he could easily become the other character. Harry Potter realizes that he could have become Voldemort if he’d made different choices: both are half-blood orphans raised by Muggles, who cling to Hogwarts as a sanctuary. Nonetheless, the “good” characters grow through facing this rejected self and understanding him, at least a little. As he travels, the Doctor must face his own dark side on a similar quest.
A different sort of villain was touched upon: the Doctor himself as villain, either by a well-meaning but ill-judged mistake (as in The Long Game and Bad Wolf, or driven by his own rage at the Daleks). This wasn’t new. We’d seen it as far back, most notably, as Tom Baker’s The Face of Evil, and a couple of times since, but the theme was darker and clearer now, and would be revisited to great effect in later seasons. And perhaps - and most wonderfully - the Doctor’s oldest foe: human greed, human stupidity, human callousness. For every monster, there was the awareness that equal monstrousness lurks in the human head and human heart. Sometimes including his own. (Hambly, Kindle Locations 268-272).
The shadow is strong, aggressive, sexual, primitive, cruel, intuitive, emotional – all the rational hero is not. Thus he can learn from the shadow and ultimately incorporate shadow traits into his consciousness. Campbell describes facing this Shadow as “destruction of the world that we have built and in which we live, and of ourselves within it; but then a wonderful reconstruction, of the bolder, cleaner, more spacious, and fully human life” (8). This constant death and rebirth of the self, acknowledgment of the Shadow within is the process of living.
The show offers many shadows: old episodes offered cruel and self-serving Time Lords like the Master, Omega, and the Rani. The Cybermen are a force of anti-emotion as are the Sontarans, both casting aside humanity to become perfect warriors, as the Doctor rejects guns and violence to become a loving protector of earth. In new episodes, the Doctor faces shadows as primal terror in “The Doctor Dances and Blink, as well as literal shadows in the Vashta Nerada. He confronts the greed that’s alien to his nature in the Slitheen episodes and “The Lazarus Experiment,” and the aliens who bully earth with their arrogance and technological superiority in “The Christmas Invasion” and “The Eleventh Hour.” The doctor faces the shadow as primitive primal survival in “Midnight,” “42,” and “The Waters of Mars.” When the Doctor is weary and battle-scarred, he meets youth and enthusiasm personified in his companions and also in the Doctors that reflect his lost idealism: his “daughter” Jenny or Jackson Lake. He faces his own loneliness in the despairing Face of Boe or the Isolus child. Finally, there is the rage of total destruction – the creature in “The Satan Pit” or the infamous Daleks. Though the Dream Lord and the mysterious John Hurt Doctor suggest the Doctor has such a capacity for annihilation within.
Friends aid him on his quest, with each of them representing an aspect of his personality: older, intellectual Doctors have active companions. Distant Doctors have more grounded friends. In other series, Dorothy quests with brains, heart, and courage, or Buffy adventures with the heart, spirit, and wisdom (she represents the Hand, physical action). The Doctor learns from these friends as he learns from facing his dark side and grows into a wiser leader of humanity.
The Companion’s Heroine’s Journey
Very often in Doctor Who, the companion is the main character. Not the hero, not the one with all the cool lines and not the one with all the cool moments, but is the person who has this experience, and we get to see how it changes them. We never see how the Doctor began his journey, we’ll probably never see how he ends it, and we’ll probably never know why he embarked on it, but we know all those companions, who they were before they met the Doctor, why they ran away from him, and roughly where they ended up. Those stories are complete. The Doctor is the enigma that enters their lives and changes them. The story is always about the person that changes the most, rather than necessarily being about the person who affects those changes. (Radish)
As Steven Moffat notes above, the companion is the one to grow and change, Luke Skywalker or Frodo Baggins to the Doctor’s Obi-Wan or Gandalf. Companions, the human element of the story, go on conventional hero’s journeys, or more often, heroine’s journeys. In myth, folklore, and fantasy, the heroine’s most typical quest is rescue of family members, especially the little sibling that represents her child.
Her goal is to become the all-powerful mother. Thus, many heroines set out on missions to rescue their shattered families: Meg Murray of A Wrinkle in Time quests to save her father then her little brother. Coraline tries to save her parents, Meggie of Inkheart and Clary of The Mortal Instruments, their mothers. Tim Burton’s Alice tries to rescue the Mad Hatter. Scores of young women in folklore rescue their lovers from fairies, demons, and ogres. Demeter forces herself into the realm of the dead to reclaim her daughter, while Isis scours the world for her husband‘s broken body. Katniss, of course, spends the series protecting Prim and her growing adoptive family, from Peeta to the children of Panem. (Frankel, Many Faces of Katniss 113-114)
If the hero’s test is to defeat the Dark Lord and the heroine’s is to rescue loved ones, patterns begin to emerge. Amy quests to choose a mate, then to protect her daughter through time and space. The Doctor too becomes her family. Rose forces open the heart of the TARDIS and flies it to save the Doctor (and Jack) from certain death. Martha walks the world to save her friends and family trapped by the Master. Donna likewise saves Davros’s prisoners and returns the earth to safety. For these women, the villains aren’t personal foes – only saving loved ones matters. Davros, the Supreme Dalek, and the Master are all more closely entwined with the Doctor’s life. Similarly, Sarah Jane is generally on a quest to protect her family, friends, and planet, in that order. For Jack and the Torchwood team, solving mysteries and catching criminals is top priority, though he must face his dark side as Grey, his brother.
The companions each enter the Other World when they meet the Doctor and follow him into the TARDIS or battle aliens at his side. This is an entrance into a secret reality, as they discover Autons, Judoon, and the Bane sneaking through the world. Stepping into Torchwood: Cardiff, Sarah Jane’s attic, or the TARDIS represents a more dramatic and concrete crossover.
The doctor is mentor on the companion’s adventure, supplementing her human intuition and compassion with wisdom of the galaxy and technical knowledge. “For those who have not refused the call, the first encounter of the hero-journey is with a protective figure (often a little old crone or old man) who provides the adventurer with amulets against the dragon forces he is about to pass” (Campbell 69). For the companion this amulet is a TARDIS key or upgraded cellphone, the bio-damp ring the Doctor gives Donna, the protection he offers Rose. “The Doctor expresses this trust for them by granting unlimited access to the TARDIS via a key of their own, and by giving their cell phones the universal upgrade, technically termed by the 9th Doctor as a ‘bit of jiggery-pokery’” (Burke 157). He even offers Clara an umbrella in “The Snowmen” so she can reach his hidden world in the sky.
The human heroine may also have a male companion to offer skills and personality traits she doesn’t possess: Mickey the computer hacker, Jack Harkness the action hero, Rory the supportive nurse. The heroine faces shadows, but as she is mostly powerless, she confronts figures of female power like the Empress of the Racnoss; traitorous Lucy Saxon; or vicious Madame Kovarian. Martha and Donna also face the other companions and face the qualities that made the Doctor leave them behind.
At last, the heroine saves the world with feminine qualities like faith and compassion and becomes a transcendent goddess. Thus she receives her rewards of wisdom, power, and experience, along with the lives of her loved ones.
The new spirit-heroine has ultimate power: She can guide the mortals needing her counsel, especially children or the downtrodden. She can traverse the world in an eyeblink. She can intercede with God for the sake of mortals, like Mary, or bring Cinderella a glittering ballgown to make her dreams come true. She has reached an expanded consciousness, an understanding of how nature and the spirit, earth and air, are the same. The difference between death and life, fairy godmother and infant, is an imperceptible one, offering a barrier as tenuous as a breath. In her enlightened state, she understands how the cycle must continue and she can descend to earth to be reborn and claim her place in the unending ring of nature once again. With this, the heroine truly masters both worlds: mortal and goddess, corporeal and spiritual, enlightened one and guardian of others. This is the truest apotheosis. (Frankel, Girl to Goddess 315)
Rose becomes a dimension hopper, as do Mickey and Jackie. Martha gains a high rank in UNIT. Empowered by their quests, they have the freedom of the universe. Donna and Rose become goddesslike in their season finales, with the power to control the universe. Unfortunately, this is too much power for the human body to bear.
The hero may have to be brought back from his supernatural adventure by assistance from without. That is to say, the world may have to come and get him. For the bliss of the deep abode is not lightly abandoned in favor of the self-scattering of the wakened state. …Society is jealous of those who remain away from it, and will come knocking at the door. (Campbell 207)
The greatest examples of this involve the Ninth Doctor taking the divine power away from Rose or Donna dragging the Doctor out of battle in “The Runaway Bride.” Without these acts of intercession, both heroes would die.
Chapter One: Ninth Doctor
The ninth Doctor has a unique arc. He is the Doctor after the Time War, grieving the loss of all his people. He’s filled with fury at the Daleks, as he shows in “Dalek” and “The Parting of the Ways.” And he’s struggling to find his place in the galaxy just as he’s struggling to bring back the series. “ Russell T Davies knew that the Doctor had to come in swinging. That the show had to hook its audience from its opening moments, or it was in danger of fizzling, of being (like the eighth Doctor’s brief tenure) a curiosity that didn’t work” (Hambly, Kindle Locations 292-293).
Little is known about the war – it’s mostly revealed in hints rumors and legends. The Doctor fought the Daleks, turned into a soldier, killed. The Sontarans tell legends of the Doctor leading Time Lords into battle. Great horrors were created by both sides: The Nightmare Child, the Skaro Degradations, the Army of Meanwhiles and Neverweres led by the Could’ve Been King, and the Horde of Travesties.
The Doctor was responsible for the war in several ways: In his fourth incarnation, the Time Lords sent him to Skaro to destroy the Daleks when they were first created…the Doctor faced Davros and understood his dark ideals but refused to commit genocide.
Finally, the Doctor fired the shot that ended the war. He later stated that all the combatants were “wiped out in one second” (“Dalek”). The device he used was called the Moment. “He still possesses the Moment, and he’ll use it to destroy Daleks and Time Lords alike,” a Time Lady notes in “The End of Time: Part Two.” As they escape in that episode, Rassilon has a second chance to implement his final plan. As he reveals it, the reason for the Doctor’s final strike becomes apparent:
RASSILON: We will initiate the Final Sanction. The end of time will come at my hand. The rupture will continue until it rips the Time Vortex apart.
MASTER: That’s suicide.
RASSILON: We will ascend to become creatures of consciousness alone. Free of these bodies, free of time, and cause and effect, while creation itself ceases to be.
DOCTOR: You see now? That’s what they were planning in the final days of the War. I had to stop them. (“The End of Time: Part Two”)
The war has turned his people into nihilists, willing to burn all the universe. Out of mercy, out of desperation, the Doctor ended it.
The Doctor was made president of Gallifrey once, in his fourth incarnation. At the time, he constructed a forbidden Time Lord weapon: the de-mat gun. This had the power to erase its victims from time itself. Using it requires the Great Key, an item of regalia presented to the president. As many fans extrapolated and the comics explain (The Forgotten, Don’t Step on the Grass, Sky Jacks), the Eighth Doctor modified a de-mat gun to eliminate many soldiers instead of one. With it, he fired the war’s final shot, vanishing and time locking the Daleks, Time Lords, and all of Gallifrey. His guilt is compounded when he discovers the Daleks have escaped his trap but the Time Lords have not. He no longer has a planet of authority figures to rebell against – he’s all alone. “He’d always had a curious relationship with the Time Lords - exile, fugitive, time agent, catspaw and President of the High Council - but Gallifrey was, after all, his home” (Hambly, Kindle Locations 218-219). Now, no longer.
In hero’s journey parlance, he has lost his parents and left his home forever. Like Luke Skywalker who sees his aunt, uncle, and childhood home burn, he can never go back, only forward. In “The Empty Child,” Dr. Constantine says to him, “Before the war, I was a father and a grandfather, and now I am neither,” and the Doctor replies quietly, “I know the feeling.” Who else was lost with Gallifrey? Was Susan there, or Romana? What of Leela and her family?
The Doctor, meanwhile, is consumed by his war. His pain and desperation to make amends show through. “Eccleston, though his Nine hunched inside that leather jacket as if it were a protective shells and projected a scarred wariness, is a warm actor, emotionally straightforward and accessible” (Rose 47). He tells the Nestene Consciousness, “I fought in the war. It wasn’t my fault. I couldn’t save your world! I couldn’t save any of them!” (“Rose”). The entire universe reflects his pain, as the death of the Time Lords left everything in disarray: The Nestene Consciousness’s planet was destroyed in the war as were the Gelth’s bodies, precipitating several conflicts in season one. The Slitheen even note that there’s a galactic recession.
As the world falls into chaos, the Doctor grows dark – He stalks about in a vaguely militaristic or punk leather jacket, rather than whimsical colors and question marks. His northern accent indicates a new state of mind. He’s dismissive of humanity at times, displaying a truly alien morality or berating Rose for her stupidity in “Father’s Day.” This is the Doctor who coldly lets Cassandra perish in “The End of the World.” By contrast, Jade’s sacrifice emphasizes his own wounding and the many innocents he cannot save. While he condemns genocide, he was the one who wiped out his own people. As such, some part of him hates his past actions.
All this is a type of refusing the call – when he meets Rose, he dismisses her, rejecting his old life of traveling with a companion. Just after Amy tries to seduce him, the Doctor tells her he travels with companions to help him see wonders through fresh eyes. Yet he bypasses Rose, uninterested in trying that kind of life once more. He’s lost touch with the plight of innocents:
DOCTOR: Are you going to witter on all night?
ROSE: I’ll have to tell his mother. Mickey. I’ll have to tell his mother he’s dead, and you just went and forgot him, again! You were right, you are alien.
DOCTOR: Look, if I did forget some kid called Mickey
ROSE: Yeah, he’s not a kid.
DOCTOR: It’s because I’m trying to save the life of every stupid ape blundering on top of this planet, all right?
ROSE: All right.
DOCTOR: Yes, it is! (“Rose”)
When Rose discovers Mickey’s still alive, the Doctor is likewise dismissive of her emotions and suggests she “leave the domestics outside.” From her first appearance, Rose makes it her mission to remind him that individual human lives matter, not just the big picture.
The biggest difference you will see from the old Doctor Who is that this show has emotional content. Viewers used to be happy with mere adventure. I mean, The Prisoner was a brilliant show, but it never broke your heart, did it? Awe, wonder, darkness, danger - in our version, these things will be really felt.’ (Belam Kindle Locations 284)
Doctor takes Rose to end of the earth. There, she becomes the last living human, facing the destruction of her entire world. “Perhaps the Doctor is on some level seeking empathy for the loss of his own home, and out of sympathy for his loss, she agrees to travel with him” (Akers 153). There, after she has faced the same loss, he tells her the truth: “My planet’s gone. It’s dead. It burned like the Earth. It’s just rocks and dust before it’s time….I’m a Time Lord. I’m the last of the Time Lords. They’re all gone. I’m the only survivor. I’m left travelling on my own ‘cos there’s no one else” (“The End of the World”). By making this confession, he steps through to another life, not one of hero and gal-pal secretary, but a relationship of balance and trust.
Rose is sounding board and eager listener, counselor, sister, and best friend. Jung called this figure the “anima,” the female who echoes the feminine voice of compassion and empathy coming from within. “Later I came to see that this inner feminine figure plays a typical or archetypal role in the unconscious of a man,” he adds (186). The masculine voice of rationality and logic inside the woman is correspondingly called the “animus,” the inner male.
As he travels, the Doctor meets other characters who are the last of their race, like the Face of Boe, and pleads with them to continue existing. He’s faced the end of everyone he loved, and is filled with a desperation to preserve what’s around him.
BOE: I have seen so much. Perhaps too much. I am the last of my kind, as you are the last of yours, Doctor.
DOCTOR: That’s why we have to survive. Both of us. Don’t go. (“Gridlock”)
In “The Doctor Dances,” he’s filled with desperate glee upon finding an adventure where no one has to die. Eccleston “describes himself as ‘emotionally tied up with the central message of the programme, which is: seize life, it’s brief, enjoy it” (Belam, Kindle Locations 179).
At last, he confronts his old enemy in “Dalek.” The Doctor tortures a Dalek and demands that he kill himself, ending the Dalek race. The Fourth Doctor once refused to commit genocide and kill all the Daleks. But this one is filled with fury and guilt, all directed at himself and the creatures he once fought. As it begs for pity, he snaps:
“We’re not the same! I’m not – (here, he probably means to say ‘a killer,’ or ‘a mass murderer’ but must rethink his words) No, wait. Maybe we are. You’re right. Yeah, okay. You’ve got a point. ‘Cause I know what to do. I know what should happen. I know what you deserve. Exterminate” (“Dalek”).
Using the deadly words of his greatest foe, the Doctor pulls a lever and electricity courses through the Dalek.
The shadow, in psychology, is “aspects of oneself which are considered by the ego to be undesirable or not useful and are therefore relegated to the dark” (Estés 85). Thus the hero meets a monster or person who embodies all the qualities he rejects: the ugly, force of rage, destruction, cruelty. Jung explains that the shadow personifies everything a person refuses to acknowledge about himself. Though these qualities go largely unseen in the hero, he must face them in the monster and acknowledge their place in his life. Jung notes:
The individual who wishes to have an answer to the problem of evil, as it is posed today, has need, first and foremost of self-knowledge, that is, the utmost possible knowledge of his own wholeness. He must know relentlessly how much good he can do, and what crimes he is capable of, and must beware of regarding the one as real and the other as illusion. Both are elements within his nature, and both are bound to come to light in him, should he wish – as he ought – to live without self deception or self-delusion. (330).
Solving the motivation of the Daleks means solving the dark motivations within himself.
Much of what he says to the Dalek appears directed at himself as well: “If you can’t kill, then what are you good for, Dalek? What’s the point of you? You’re nothing,” he cries (“Dalek”). Yet the same could be said to the Time Lord who no longer can fight the Daleks or follow the commands of his superiors.
This discovery of one last live Dalek clearly has a strong impact on the Doctor. The man who steadily refuses to carry a weapon suddenly begins a frenzied search for the most powerful thing he can find in order to do what he is supposed to: kill the last Dalek and end the Time War. This is reflected in the second important point that is revealed in this dialog: the Doctor is the one responsible for the deaths of all of the Daleks. He was not just present when it happened – he boasts that he made it happen. (Green 117-118).
One thing is incontrovertible – in his first through eighth regenerations, the Doctor was very much a product of his culture – sometimes rebelling against them, sometimes doing missions for them, sometimes on trial for his life or even grounded on earth. But they were always a controlling force in his life. Now they are gone: “Bored with his home planet and something of a rebel among the Time Lords, the Doctor always seemed content with himself. Since the final Time War, however…the Doctor is now fully self-directed and painfully alone” (Akers 146).
For the first time, the Doctor confesses what he’s done – not to his friend Rose but to the enemy who understands him far better, the dark side who recognizes a fellow killer:
DALEK: I demand orders!
DOCTOR: They’re never going to come! Your race is dead! You all burnt, all of you. Ten million ships on fire. The entire Dalek race wiped out in one second.
DALEK: You lie!
DOCTOR: I watched it happen. I made it happen.
DALEK: You destroyed us?
DOCTOR: I had no choice. (“Dalek”)
Pain fills his face on the last line as he digests the consequences of his own words. As the episode continues, the Doctor becomes a hardened killer. Uncharacteristically, he sacrifices Rose to stop the Dalek, and then charges into battle with the largest alien gun he can find. This is a type of descent into the shadow, as he allows his suppressed rage to take over and metaphorically turns into a Dalek. By contrast, Rose (who represents his sympathy, compassion, and love), reaches out to the Dalek, and through her sympathetic touch, changes its genetic makeup. When the Doctor arrives, Rose and the Dalek have found commonality, and it has opened its metal shell to reveal a wizened, pain-filled alien. He points the gun at both of them and prepares to kill the last of its kind.
DOCTOR: Get out of the way. Rose, get out of the way now!
ROSE: No. I won’t let you do this.
DOCTOR: That thing killed hundreds of people.
ROSE: It’s not the one pointing the gun at me…It couldn’t kill Van Statten, it couldn’t kill me. It’s changing. What about you, Doctor? What the hell are you changing into? (“Dalek”)
Confronted thus, the Doctor realizes how he’s been acting. He breaks down. “I couldn’t…I wasn’t...Oh, Rose. They’re all dead!” She comforts him as she comforted the Dalek – by offering a gentle human sympathy. Both Dalek and Doctor are changed by meeting her, growing more emotional and compassionate in turn. The Dalek however refuses to live like that and destroys itself. It deliberately contains its explosion, careful not to harm Rose, acting as the Doctor acts on many occasions. Hero and villain have seen each other honestly, and realized they are the same.
The series continues as Rose offers endless compassion to soothe the Doctor. “Nine, the very definition of the walking wounded, found solace in Rose, learned how to live again during his adventures with her. Eccleston and Piper were relaxed and amusing together; a good temperamental fit” (Rose 48).
At season end, he faces a great moral decision. He can destroy all the Daleks in the universe, but only by blowing up the Earth. “There are colonies out there. The Human Race would survive in some shape or form, but you’re the only Daleks in existence. The whole Universe is in danger,” he tells himself, rationalizing (“The Parting of the Ways”).
The pain and loss of the sacrificial victim remains and the cycle continues: the enemy always survives the sacrificial gesture, and so the sacrifice must occur again and again with the same outcome every time. The Doctor sums up the conflict between himself and the Daleks in “Daleks in Manhattan:” “They survived. They always survive when I lose everything.” (Green 114)
In science fiction and fantasy, heroes are tested by their dark sides – by all they reject in themselves. “The ‘villains’ of Doctor Who are nearly all ‘rigid’ disciples of death. They are single-minded, determined, self-centered, uncompassionate, and power-hungry” (Layton 184). The Dalek Emperor is the Doctor’s antithesis, but in this episode, they show disturbing parallels and the emperor represents another shadow figure. The Emperor names himself a god, leaving the Doctor to conclude he’s mad. But the Doctor too is called, “the man without a home: the lonely god” (“New Earth”).
In “Voyage of the Damned” he declares himself the one who will save all of the people in peril. Through the “prayer” of millions chanting his name in “The Last of the Time Lords” (2007), he saves the world from the threat of the Master, and in “The Doctor’s Daughter” (2008), he urges the people of Messaline to form a new society and found it in his image” (Deller 240)
Both can cheat death and live on through the centuries. Further, the Doctor plots to commit genocide and exterminate the earth as well – in battling the enemy, he’s become the enemy.
EMPEROR: You would destroy Daleks and Humans together. If I am God, the creator of all things, then what does that make you, Doctor?
EMPEROR: I want to see you become like me. Hail the Doctor, the Great Exterminator.
DOCTOR: I’ll do it!
EMPEROR: Then prove yourself, Doctor. What are you, coward or killer?
The Doctor tries, but he cannot throw the final switch.
DOCTOR: Coward. Any day. (“The Parting of the Ways”)
He faces this test without compassionate Rose to be his conscience – no one will ever know his choice and he need answer to no one. However, he is not a Dalek. Faced with the ultimate challenge, the ultimate descent into the pit (not only of his location but his despair and terrible choice), he chooses goodness. He is the man who refused to kill all the Daleks long ago and the man who will make that choice again. This is the hero’s journey – to be tempted by the dark side but prove stronger, to take on the dark power and feel it coursing through one’s veins but then to step back and choose the side of light once again, now older and wiser.
Ultimately, the Doctor passes his great test and proves himself better. With his choice, Rose returns and the forces of love and compassion set the world right. Rose of course is his conscience as well as his heart. “She’s savvy and courageous when confronting the Daleks who want to exterminate humanity and keep the Earth for themselves. Her relationship with the Doctor is what helps him to achieve this moral strength” (Smith 170).
Rose saves him, as the Heart of the TARDIS embodied and his perfect match, infused with Time Lord energy. He kisses her and takes it from her, giving his own life to save her. As such he redeems himself somewhat for the loss of the Time Lords. Death and rebirth is the heart of the hero’s journey, as mythic heroes across the world die to save mankind then return to life. This represents parting with an old agenda or lifestage, like childhood, and returning from the ordeal much wiser. The Doctor regenerates many times, each time entering a new era and state of being.
Eccleston reportedly revealed he left the show “because I could not get along with the senior people”. “I left because of politics. I did not see eye to eye with them. I didn’t agree with the way things were being run. I didn’t like the culture that had grown up around the series. So I left, I felt, over a principle.” (Kelly, Kindle Locations 507-510). With his exit, the show enters a new era.