I love Doctor Who. I’m also poor, so my investment in the fandom of a renegade alien with a penchant for finding EVERY problem just in the time to fix it with the resources at hand and a clever way for us to remember that people matter is somewhat limited. Every episode I watch gets scrutinized as to value and whether or not I should own it. Hence there are episodes that I enjoy that I don’t buy because there was another episode that I loved.
But then came the 50th anniversary of this beloved show.
They introduced a Doctor that from what I’ve read nobody really likes and questions as to whether or not he should be canon. We don’t give him a name or a number, like the others. He’s just the War Doctor, played by John Hurt. Even his name doesn’t make us want to remember it, not when there’s David Tennant or Chris Eccleston. In for one episode, then forgotten in the wake of Peter Capaldi taking the reins as the 12th Doctor.
I love the War Doctor. He represents the trauma and people we used to be that we wish we could erase. In that way, we are more like him than any of the other Doctors. We all have those people we used to be. Addiction, anger, hatred, poor choices, even attempts to understand our own mental illness drive us to choose between the pain we are currently dealing with versus the pain of healing. He points out to us that healing can be painful, that wanting to become better and escape can leave its scar just as easily as if we had cut them in ourselves.
The War Doctor becomes great when we understand that he did what he had to do, regardless of what it required of him. 10 and 11 both questioned themselves and the value of what it was they were doing (Human Nature/Family of Blood being one example). But for the War Doctor, we see him square his shoulders and accept where he is and what he is capable of doing:
Great men are forged in fire.
It is the privilege of lesser men to light the flame
As soon as we heard that, we knew that he understood that he was one of those lesser men sent to light the flame by which 9, 10, and 11 were forged. He lifted where he stood, regardless of how much that would be seen. Everyone has those ambitions to be in the spotlight, to be that hero who makes the big decisions that makes an impact across the whole of time and space, but there has been only one Doctor who chose to make an impact on himself, which created the men who made the big impact that people remember.
This wasn’t him merely accepting his place in the universe, or simpering about how unfair life is. Here was a man who saw the resources available to him and understood this truth taught by former LDS church leader Neil A. Maxwell who said:
Endurance is more than pacing up and down within the cell of our circumstance;
it is not only acceptance of the things allotted to us, it is to “act for ourselves”
by magnifying what is allotted to us.
(For the full discourse, entitled Endure It Well, click here)
Given the choice, few would take the privilege of lighting the flame by which great men could be forged. Especially when presented with the choice of being a great man. But the War Doctor shows us that being the person who does the quiet work behind the scenes is as necessary as the hero, if not more. If it weren’t for the War Doctor, there would be no Ten, who taught us that there are monsters in the world, but it has nothing to do with shape, and no Eleven, who taught us that everyone is important, no matter how little they think of themselves or how much esteem the world gives them.