The Doctor’s Original Face: Watching Doctor Who Episodes as Buddhist Koans

  • Author(s): Ann Matsuuchi, Alexander Lozupone
  • When: 2015-12
  • Where: Implicit Religion
  • This article discusses the portrayal and usage of Buddhist themes in the classic era Doctor Who television series (1963–1996). Here we map out specific influences of Buddhism on the construction of Doctor Who’s characters, illustrating how popular culture participates in the religious dialogue contained within everyday life. We argue that an interpretive lens informed by an understanding of the interplay of different religious and philosophical influences contributes to a more productive conversation about the nature of the Doctor. A survey of serials that explicitly involve Buddhist settings such as the Jon Perwee era “Planet of the Spiders” is provided. One section of this essay will focus on how writer Christopher Bailey utilized his personal Buddhist beliefs to inform story elements of the Peter Davison era serials “Kinda” and its sequel “Snakedance.” We will then proceed to investigate particular Buddhist conceptions of impermanence, change and temporality, and relate these to the characterization of the Doctor and how his transformations illustrate the instability of identity, serving as a potential contrast to messianic readings of this science fiction television show.

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