Sunday, 7 September 2014

Am I a Good Man?

CLARA: You're scared.
DOCTOR: I'm terrified.
CLARA: Of what?
DOCTOR: The answer to my next question, which must be honest and cold and considered, without kindness or restraint. Clara, be my pal and tell me, am I a good man?
CLARA: I don't know.
DOCTOR: Neither do I.
A change of Doctor always requires some getting used to, but I'm warming to Peter Capaldi. Unlike the more godlike presence of David Tennant (as time went on), and Matt Smith, Peter Capalidi's Doctor is more of a flawed hero.
Am I a good man, he asks Clara. I don't know, she replies, but you are trying to be, and I think that is what matters.
CLARA: I don't know.
DOCTOR: I'm sorry?
CLARA: You asked me if you're a good man and the answer is, I don't know. But I think you try to be and I think that's probably the point.
Likewise, in the most recent episode, which explored the nature of legends and fame, the important thing about the hero is that he is trying to do what is best.
It is something which we can all relate to. Are we trying to be better people than we are? Are we reflecting on our failings, and trying to improve matters? Are we trying to do good, not for personal self-satisfaction, but because being good, doing good, is something worth aspiring to.
My friend Leon, whom I discuss Dr Who with, can see this is very much at the heart: "Am I a good man?" Whatever other story arc there is, and there is one about a place called heaven, this is the theme of Capaldi's Doctor: self-questioning, aware of mistakes, trying to do good.
The Protestant Reformation looked at ideas of faith and works, and split the two asunder. It states that human beings cannot find salvation from doing good works, however much they try. It is by faith alone that comes salvation.
I think that was an extremely dangerous idea. The urge to do good, to be kind and generous, to think about other people, is as much part of our nature as the urge to dominate and destroy. These is nothing to do with what we do, it is how we respond to those "inner voices" - the call for compassion, or the anger against the unlike. It is from these that proceeds the desire to do good works, or equally, the dark side which leads to people beheading others with the slightest qualm from conscience.
If we heed the voices within, the call of conscience, the call for compassion, for kindness, we will do good, and we will change; we will become better people. It is our response that makes those feelings and sensibilities even more acute.
But equally, if we decide to shut those voices out, in silencing those voices, we become less able to hear them; if we stifle them, eventually we will lose touch with that side of our humanity. We will dehumanise ourselves.
That's something which it will be interesting to see come out of the new Doctor Who. There is a teacher called Danny Pink, who was a soldier, and yet we discover him weeping, after being asked about killing people. In that episode, we also had a Dalek who is damaged, and has decided that Daleks must be destroyed because they destroy others. The Dalek, nicknamed "Rusty" by the Doctor, has become a good Dalek. But after being repaired, it reverts to being a Dalek whose aim is to destroy human beings.
The Doctor manages to show it a star being born, which made it change, and then links himself with it.
But what it picks up is both the star birth, and the Doctor's own hatred of the Daleks. It defeats the Daleks who have invaded the space ship, saves the humans, but the Doctor is unhappy.
RUSTY: I must go with them.
DOCTOR: Of course you must. You've unfinished work, haven't you?
RUSTY: Victory is yours, but it does not please you.
DOCTOR: You looked inside me and you saw hatred. That's not victory. Victory would have been a good Dalek.
There is so much hatred in the world, and the troubled times in which we live see the effects of it on ordinary people, destroying lives. Like the Doctor, we must aspire to do better.

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