Every great fictional hero has an iconic villain, a villain that they are most identified with in the public imagination. A villain that the audience loves to hate.
Sherlock Holmes has Moriarty; King Arthur has Mordred; Batman has the Joker.
And the Doctor has the Daleks.
Ever since the early days of Doctor Who, the Doctor and his people, the Time Lords, have struggled against the Daleks, a race of mutants who have been genetically engineered to have no fear, pity, love, or compassion. They live their entire lives encased in powerful battle armor. Daleks believe in their absolute superiority over all other creatures; so much so, in fact, that they seek the extermination of everything non-Dalek. As the Doctor explains, they are “the ultimate in racial cleansing.”
In this episode, the Doctor discovers a Dalek imprisoned deep in billionaire’s museum of alien artifacts. Upon recognizing the Doctor, the Dalek, true to form, shouts “You are the enemy of the Daleks! You must be destroyed!”
However this Dalek is weak and powerless. His battle armor is so damaged that his weapons will not work. He can’t harm the Doctor at all. He is helpless.
And then the Doctor pounces.
Yes, there is the brief conversation, in which the Doctor explains that he and the Dalek are the last of their kind, the sole survivors of a great war between their peoples. The Dalek says “So, we are the same.” And the Doctor replies:
“We’re not the same! I’m not the… No, wait, maybe we are … Yeah, 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!”
That’s villain talk.
Villain talk backed up with action. The Doctor flips a lever, sending a massive electrical current through the Dalek’s armor. The Dalek screams for mercy.
Since when did the Doctor become a torturer?
Yet, there it is: the biblical touchpoint. The darkness that lurks within.
Theologically, we can talk about sin, depravity, rebellion against God. But these terms only scratch the surface of how we experience that darkness in life.
It is a shadow lurking in our hearts; a selfishness maneuvering its way into our minds. It is a beast desiring nothing but wrath and destruction, waiting to seize control of our lives. And it’s not just something in us.
It’s a part of us. It is us.
Paul, in his letter to the Romans, strings together quotes from the Old Testament as he reflects on this inner darkness:
“… their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive. The venom of asps is under their lips. Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood….” (Romans 3:13-15)
The Doctor’s inner darkness is brought out from the trauma he experienced in war. We see his rage grow and develop through the episode. At the same time, Rose Tyler has changed the Dalek, who is progressively experiencing more humane emotions. Through Rose’s influence, the Dalek shows mercy and discovers a yearning for freedom from the relentless drive to destroy.
In the climactic scene, the Doctor holds a powerful weapon, ready to shoot the Dalek. Rose stands in the middle:
The Doctor: Rose, get out of the way now!
Rose Tyler: No! Cause I won’t let you do this.
The Doctor: That thing killed hundreds of people.
Rose Tyler: It’s not the one pointing the gun at me.
Then Rose delivers the most important line in the episode:
“It couldn’t kill me. It’s changing. What about you, Doctor. What the hell are you changing into?”
The Doctor lowers his weapon. He sees that his great enemy isn’t the Dalek. His enemy is the darkness within himself. In this episode, the hero is Rose, who tells the truth to the Doctor, helping him confront the darkness.
The first step to healing is confronting the truth of the darkness within. As we honestly acknowledge the bad news about our inner darkness, we more fully appreciate and yearn for the good news of the mercy and grace and healing that come through Christ.
Watch: Doctor Who. Season 1. Episode 6: “Dalek”
Read: Romans 3:10-20, Ephesians 2:1-5, Proverbs 27:17
- In what ways have you experienced the darkness within? (You don’t have to share big ways – sometimes it is easier to start small).
- What have been some of the ways God has revealed the darkness to you?
- In what ways have friends confronted you with your darkness? In what ways have you confronted your friends in their darkness?
- The Bible teaches that our inner darkness leads us to a greater awareness of our need of Christ’s grace. In your life, how have you experienced this dynamic?
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