One of my friends told me this episode played to her worst nightmare: the inability to research history with accuracy. Historical research is already inaccurate, because unless you’re dealing with sources with proven facts and not eyewitness accounts, hearsay, historian hypothesis, or personal letters, whatever perspective you receive is slanted by someone’s bias.
History is written by the winners, in the case of the Monks in this episode, literally. Bill sacrificing her planet’s freedom to restore the Doctor’s eyes and save his life backfired, big time: everyone on earth is brainwashed into believing the “benevolent” monks have always been among them, protecting them, that taking people away who remember too much of their former life is a service to humanity, really. The poor brainwashed humans even embrace the “pain-free” sudden death the Monks offer to the resistance. I mean, who can’t get behind that?
Perhaps what makes this episode so harrowing is how realistic it is; this has happened before and it will happen again. There’s never even been any mass-projected brainwashing involved, even though Goebbels found propaganda useful in altering German perspectives during the war. Most common people just went along with just about everything that has ever happened in human history.
So what does this tell me?
Individual thought is good. God thinks so, too.
God turns up in scripture to form bonds with “peoples,” yes (such as Israel) but far more often, shows up to forge relationships with individuals. He promises Abraham he will be the “father of many nations.” He speaks to Samuel in the dead of night. Even though Church tradition has inaccurately cast Jesus as a carpenter (more recent studies agree he was a rabbi, which allowed him to gather followers and address the temple), we can assume Jesus chose each of the twelve men in his inner circle, personally, since we witness him “calling” to a few (Hey you, drop that net and come here! And because being chosen by a rabbi was an important thing in that culture, they did!). And, he chose Peter to carry his message forward: “You are my rock, and upon you, I shall build my church.”
Whether Jesus spoke metaphorically (often the case), referenced a known saying at the time (lost to our modern ears, kind of like I hope future generations won’t know what LMAO means), or intended it literally, scripture singles out his relationship with Peter, to highlight Peter’s fallibility and Christ’s patience with him. Peter denied Christ three times; Christ asked Peter three times if he loved him. That was it. No punishment, no condemnation, just a question—asked thrice, for Peter to redeem himself in his eyes. “Yes, Lord. I love you. You know I love you.”
Peter goes through the greatest transformation in scripture; the man who fled, who was afraid, who let his mouth run away with him… became the foremost figurehead in the early Church, of equal value to Paul, perhaps greater, because he met and walked with Jesus. Peter changed others due to an inner transformation; because his relationship with Christ changed him. He went from being a straight up Jew to sharing the gospel with anyone.
And that, strangely, is what I drew from this episode of Doctor Who.
The masses will never choose goodness, morality, compassion, or kindness; when they try, the inevitable result is to “force” these values onto everyone else (often through terror, threats, violence, shame, or bullying), which undermines their message of tolerance, acceptance, or equality.
The collective mind is never great, but in the individual mind is often excellent.
If each person lived as they thought they should, to their highest ideal, if they were willing to self-sacrifice enough to leave pettiness, childishness, revenge, and meanness behind, imagine our world.
Imagine what planet earth might be like if all 7 billion people on it were like Bill, but in their own unique way: committed to doing the right thing, even if it is hard, even if it means going against common perception, even if it means you might die because of it.
Imagine what our world would look like, if everyone who called themselves a Christian, from the fundamentalists to the Easter and Christmas church attendees actually lived the life Jesus modeled for us — one of tolerance, forgiveness, compassion, and unlimited desire to stand with the downtrodden and oppressed.
Imagine what your family and friends might be like, if you lived that way.
Remember, change begins with you.