A surprise arrived for me in the mail this morning: a complimentary copy of Time and Relative Dimensions in Faith, a new anthology which explores the role of religion in Doctor Who, coedited by Andrew Crome and James McGrath, newly released by Darton, Longman & Todd.
The copy came courtesy of one of the book's contributors, Joel Dark, whose essay "Doctoring the Doctor: Midrashic Adventures in Text and Space" draws on my 2012 essay for Religion & Literature, Transformative Work: Midrash & Fanfiction. He sent it to me as a sort of thank-you for having written that article in the first place, which was awfully kind of him. It's neat to see how Joel uses my essay to support his thinking about Doctor Who.
A second happy accident for Doctor Who's midrashic future was the almost impossible contradictory complexity of its twenty-six year narrative. This was actually a long series of accidents. If 'surface irregularities of the text,' in the words of the biblical scholar James Kugel, are 'the grain of sand which so irritates the midrashic oyster that he constructs a pearl around it,' the original Doctor Who series was a beach.
That last sentence made me laugh out loud. A beach indeed. And, Kugel's point about midrash is a delightful one to bring to bear on Doctor Who -- and on any imperfect source-text which accrues a dedicated fandom in part because its irregularities give fans hooks on which to hang ideas and interpretations.
I've only had the chance to read two other essays in the book so far. One is Brigid Cherry's "'You're this Doctor's companion. What exactly do you do for him? Why does he need you?': Doctor Who, Liminality, and Martha the Apostle." I like her analysis of Martha (the companion) as an apostle, and she makes good points about the show's treatment of apocalypse and of spreading the good news.
And the other is Kristine Larsen's "Karma, Conditionality and Clinging to Self: the Tennant Years as Seen Through a Tibetan Buddhist Lens." I like her Buddhist reading of the show, and particularly her analysis of David Tennant's final episodes. (His Doctor really wasn't ready to accept his impermanence, was he?)
Reading Cherry's Christian analysis of the show, and Larsen's Buddhist analysis of the show, I find myself wondering what a specifically Jewish analysis of Doctor Who would look like. Of course, this being the internet, someone else has had that thought before I did, and has posted about it, too: Liel Liebovitz's Doctor Who? Doctor Jew: Doctor Who is the Greatest Jew on Television, in Tablet. Also, apparently 2011 brought us Naomi Alderman's Borrowed Time, the first Doctor Who tie-in novel written by a Jewish woman -- you can read about it in the Forward, and/or in this interview Doctor Who / Is A Jew?, which explores the Doctor's talmudic reasoning and features a charming visual of Matt Smith's Doctor wearing a kippah.
I'm looking forward to dipping further into the book as time permits. (And receiving it reminded me to put Chicks Dig Time Lords on my Amazon wishlist...)