The Lonely God: An Archetype in Doctor Who

on Saturday, September 8, 2012
An archetype, in essence, is a universally recognized and used symbol or figure that appears in stories throughout the entire world. These figures transcend cultural boundaries, and can be found virtually everywhere. Archetypes, contrary to how one might suppose, do not only appear in works of complicated literature. In fact, archetypes themselves are simple, and appear in even them most popular media of the current day. Carl Jung, a Swiss psychologist and psychiatrist, has suggested that archetypes come from the human subconscious, and that they are built into the minds of all mankind. This theory certainly explains the prevalence of nearly identical archetypes all over the world since ancient times.

The Self is one of the most common archetypal patterns, and according to Jung, is a God symbol. It represents the physical and the divine being as one, and exists everywhere. According to some, the Self is a spirit which descends to the mortal world to deliver a truth. In other instances, the success or failure to achieve a quest has been seen to be a metaphor for a success or failure to discover the Self.

The archetype of the Self is present in the British science fiction television show Doctor Who, in the character of the Doctor. The Doctor is a time traveler, and last remaining of an ancient race known as the Time Lords. He bears the burden of being the reason his entire species is dead, and he constantly wrestles with the question or whether or not he made the right decision in doing what caused their death. Similar to the actions of other representations the Self, the Doctor descends upon the Earth in his blue box of a time machine, saving humans from extraterrestrial peril, and then flying away. The Doctor, at times, could be – and in fact, is – accused of “playing God”. Funnily enough, he has even been referred to on the show as “the Lonely God,” perhaps a gibe at the symbol he embodies.

This embodiment of the Self in the Doctor is central to several parts of the show. Without the darker aspects of his personality, the Doctor would be merely a silly alien with access to a highly advanced time machine. What makes Doctor Who such a spectacular television show is not just its mind-mangling plots, but also its emotive main character. Simultaneously, the Doctor is a fun-loving, internally tortured, and mentally hardened soul. He embodies the Self, but not in the most expected way. The Doctor is a god with faults, for which he consistently pays the prices.


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