It’s begun. The filming of Series 5 of Doctor Who started in Cardiff yesterday, giving us the first view of Matt Smith's Eleventh Doctor in action.
The Doctor’s changed and so has the man in overall charge, but, hopefully, an air of atheism will remain. Executive producers Russell T Davies and Steven Moffat are both atheists, and both have incorporated nonreligious elements in their writings for the show since its return in 2005, culminating, in 2008, when Richard Dawkins played himself in The Stolen Earth.
That’s not to say that there aren’t religious elements, too. In Father’s Day, in 2005, it’s writer, Paul Cornell, had Christopher Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor seeking sanctuary from the Reapers in a church. Presumably, this was borne out of Cornell’s own Christian beliefs.
In Davies’s own scripts, the Doctor has often been portrayed as a Messiah-like character; notably in the 2007 Christmas Day special – Voyage of the Damned – complete with murdering angels, the Host, and, controversially, earlier in 2007, when David Tennant’s Gotham-like Tenth Doctor was “reborn” in Last of the Time Lords.
And it’s not confined to 21st-century Doctor Who. In the 1970s, in The Face of Evil, Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor was worshipped by the Sevateem tribe as their god in a story that, apparently, was originally called The Day God Went Mad.
However, in Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead, in 2008, Moffat resurrected the Doctor’s wife, River Song, in a computer programme, and, according to a piece on Noise to Signal, “[Moffat] was untroubled by the issue of her earlier death. The concept of a soul is simply not part of this worldview, and so was not present in the story.”
There’s an article – Doctor Who, Atheism, and God – on the blog, The Christian Scribbler, which discusses faith and the lack of it in the show. It’s an interesting read, although completely misses the point of why nonbelievers create Godlike figures to “fill the gap”, as it puts it. It’s not because there’s a God; the only reason God (and other gods) exist in the first place is because religionists create them!
Some Christians often complain of an “atheist agenda” in Doctor Who, much the same as others complain of the “gay agenda” in the show (for more on that, see my earlier blog entry Who’s gay?). In reality, however, there’s no more an atheist agenda under Davies or Moffat than there would be a religious one under Cornell. Just as there has been no more a gay agenda under Davies than there will be a straight one under Moffat. Simply put, a writer’s beliefs (or lack of them) will inform their writing in the same way as any of their other experiences in life.