JULY / AUG 2011: BY CHARITY BISHOP
Ever since the first issue of Captain America came out showing the hero punching Hitler in the jaw, sci-fi and WWII have been linked. From Doctor Who saving a Blitz-torn London from Daleks to the exploits of Indiana Jones, many heroes have been face to face with history’s most evil force. My two favorite encounters are those in Sanctuary and Doctor Who, but there are many, many more.
Magneto, from the X-Men franchise, was raised in a Polish concentration camp and later hunts those responsible, which brings him to Charles Xavier, a telepath who teaches him to expand and control his abilities. At first they are inseparable but their different beliefs pull them apart. Charles believes in humanity and its goodness while Erik has seen it at its worst and dislikes humans. Eric chooses a darker path than Charles and becomes no better than his enemies, yet he invokes sympathy since we understand his fear.
Spock and Captain Kirk meet futuristic Nazis in the original Star Trek series. They try and pass for SS officers on a recon mission but are caught, imprisoned, and tortured. A resistance movement has formed to challenge the government and the socialist leader is eventually assassinated.
The team from Fringe encounter a Nazi scientist who appears unchanged from his photograph from 1943 and attempts to pull off a daring assassination. His research is turned against him and he perishes at last for his war crimes.
The X-Files encounter German spies on a cruise ship caught in the Bermuda Triangle. Mulder discovers the ship is in a time warp and becomes involved in a daring plot to protect a brilliant scientist from the Nazis on board.
Then there’s Sanctuary. Helen Magnus is 158 years old, fell in love with Jack the Ripper when he was called John Druitt, is acquainted with inventor Nikola Tesla, friends with Invisible Man, and knows John Watson, inspiration for Sherlock Holmes. The Five experimented with pure vampire blood in the 1880’s and each developed methods of long life. Helen is leader of the Sanctuary Network, which provides a safe haven for creatures with genetic abnormalities.
During WWI, The Five are recruited by the British government to serve in the war effort; their unique talents continue to come in handy into the second war. Helen, Watson, and Nigel travel behind enemy lines into enemy-occupied France to learn what the Nazis intend to do with a powerful abnormal. Their means of contact with the home front is a wireless machine invented by Tesla, who is in London helping coordinate an invasion with General Eisenhower. They also encounter John Druitt, who seems to be working with the Nazis. Or is he? Meanwhile, Tesla reveals a spy in the Admiralty.
The reason I like this episode so much is it is one of our few chances to see The Five in action, as friends (and enemies), in service to their nation, and is our only opportunity to see them best the Nazis. It stands apart from the rest of the series in that it is not told in flashbacks but as an individual adventure. It also permits us to meet an ancestor of another character, a brave soldier who perished in the war.
Then there’s the Doctor, a Time Lord who travels the universe through space and time in the TARDIS. He has encountered WWII numerous times (and will again when season six continues in the autumn) but one of the episodes in the 5th season takes place during the Blitz. It opens with a summons from Winston Churchill to London. When Amy and the Doctor arrive the cigar-chomping leader is proud to show them the latest invention against the Nazis, a robotic force he calls “Ironsides.” They are actually the oldest enemy of the Time Lords, the Daleks, a race known for its desire to obliterate all life. The Doctor’s wild accusations at first go unheeded but finally he prompts them to a confession and discovers it has been part of their plan all along that he will identify them, so they can unlock a brand new kind of Dalek. As a diversion to permit their escape, they switch on the lights of the city in a blackout, leaving it vulnerable to the Blitz. Fortunately, there is more than one scientist capable of rigging spitfires for space flight and England’s bravest help the Doctor to shut down the Dalek space craft’s electrical beam. But they escape while the Doctor is saving the world from destruction… again.
He does that a lot.
Some find this episode a tad mundane but I am very fond of it. I think it is both a charming interpretation of Churchill and contains some interesting parallels. Never has it been more obvious that Daleks are a futuristic interpretation of Nazis: a “superior” race using advanced technology (Nazis had u-boats, enigma machines, and aircraft) to exterminate enemies. One reason they continue to strike fear into our hearts is because of their lack of humanity; they believed their enemies (all different from themselves) should perish and pursued that with total abandonment of all sense of compassion or the sanctity of life.
Placing the Doctor into the midst of WWII is risky because he has the power to change time. He could prevent it from happening. He could put an end to it. But he doesn’t. He fights evil where he finds it as he permits history to unfold. One could argue for all his repeated claims of love for humans that it is cruel not to intervene when they need him most, but the Doctor is outside time. He sees the past, present, and future. He knows that although dark times may descend, they also reveal the best in humanity and unmask its true heroes. He could change history but doesn’t because he knows the end of the story as well as the beginning; he lets temporary evil transpire for a greater good.
The Doctor reminds me of another Lord of Time who can also see the end result. His love surpasses the Doctor’s because as hard as he tries the Doctor cannot save us. He is a mere reflection of a Being much more powerful, far more dangerous, and with an even bigger love for us. Unlike the Doctor He is not the last of His kind but the first and only of His kind.
Many people struggle with this war and its death toll. It was so awful we cannot bear to think about it. It is impossible for us to understand why or how it was allowed to happen. Some use it to prove their belief that God does not exist, because He did not stop it. These are legit questions. God behaves a lot like a Time Lord. He loves us but because of free will allows us to deal with the consequences of sin and our actions. The war was not stopped until good men took a stand, but His intervention is evident in the lives of those who served Him. Miracles are apparent, from those who escaped to those who found Him in the midst of their suffering. God never promised us a perfect life on this earth. He can see the bigger picture.
Maybe the Doctor doesn’t remind you of the same things it does me, but whenever I smile over his antics and feel grateful for his help, I am reminded of another Lord of Time. ■
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Charity Bishop would dearly love to spend all her free time mulling over, theorizing, and philosophizing on the vast spiritual / moral lessons of cinema and Victorian literature, but alas, she must make a living, so her days are spent doing editorial work. She devotes her free time to babysitting her bipolar cat, writing books, blogging, and searching for spiritual truth in all aspects of life… when she isn’t editing Femnista!