I am not by nature a fan of science fiction, but I love C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy, and over the last several months I have come to appreciate the British science fiction television series, Dr. Who. The current BBC production is a revival of the original series from the last century. The plots are usually far-fetched, and the filming is decidedly low-tech. The Doctor travels freely (and often randomly) in time and space in a ship that looks on the outside like a British police call box. What the show lacks in sophistication, however, it offers in food for thought.
In one episode, The Dalek, the Doctor encounters a member of the evil Dalek race, held captive by an uber-wealthy collector of unusual beings. The Daleks are a robot-like warrior species, with no emotions, and dedicated to the destruction of all other creatures. The Doctor’s initial reaction to this face-to-face encounter is to attempt to kill the robot-like Dalek. He is prevented from doing so by the collector, who does not want to lose his prized specimen. In the drama that follows, the Dalek gets free and starts to hunt and kill everyone on the premises. Most of the Dalek’s “prey” find their way to a protected safe room, but the Doctor’s side-kick, Rose, is not so fortunate. Rose finds herself on the wrong side of the door, facing the Dalek and certain death. But then the unexpected happens. The Dalek has somehow absorbed a portion of Rose’s compassionate humanity. It doesn’t kill her, and in the end, it destroys itself rather than continuing to kill.
In another episode, A Town Called Mercy, the Doctor finds himself in an old “wild west” town in Texas that is being besieged by an alien bent on exacting well-deserved revenge on an alien war criminal who has taken refuge in the town and is seeking to atone for his past. The Doctor’s initial enthusiasm for seeing vigilante justice executed against the war criminal becomes tempered by the resident marshal’s commitment to mercy. As the plot unfolds, the viewer sees the larger picture of right and wrong, justice and forgiveness. The townspeople choose to act according to mercy; the targeted alien faces the wrongs of his past and destroys himself to save the town. The revenge-seeking alien is then left without a mission until the Doctor suggests a new calling; the alien remains at his post just outside the town, not to kill but to protect.
It seems to me that both of these secular television episodes have an important reminder for us: even in the most unlikely of circumstances, with the most unlikely of people, God gives us the opportunity to influence others in very subtle ways. We are God’s salt and light in this world, and we have the glorious privilege of offering others a quiet taste of heaven simply in the way we treat them and conduct our lives. And just like the characters in Dr. Who, we can change the course of history. As a matter of fact, as we partake in the nature of Christ and reflect Him, we cannot help but proclaim the Kingdom of God. May we encourage one another to do so faithfully and joyfully.