[The above image is from the BBC website, http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06phcqv]
This week I watched the latest episode of Dr Who. It was an episode called “The Zygon Inversion”, written by Steven Moffat and Peter Harness. The climactic scene was thought-provoking, and I am quoting it here. Dr Who is a science fiction series, so it is loosely connected to the science theme of this blog, and I will explain the connection to faith at the end.
The scene is very well played by Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman. Capaldi is in the role of the Doctor, trying to persuade the alien (Zygon) called “Bonnie” (played by Jenna Coleman) not to launch on all-out attack on the human population. In the middle we hear briefly from a human character called Kate (Jemma Redgrave).
Here is the script, picking up with the Doctor speaking:
-You just want cruelty to beget cruelty! You’re not superior to people who are cruel to you. You’re just a whole bunch of new cruel people! A whole bunch of new cruel people being cruel to some other people who’ll end up being cruel to you. The only way anyone can live in peace is if they’re prepared to forgive! Why don’t you break the cycle?
-Why should we?
-What is it that you actually want?
-Ah! Ah. And when this war is over, when you have a homeland free from humans, what do you think it is going to be like? Do you know? Have you thought about it? Have you given it any consideration? Because you are very close to getting what you want. What’s it going to be like? Paint me a picture. Are you going to live in houses? Do you want people to go to work? Will there be holidays? Will there be music? Do you think people will be allowed to play violins? Who’s going to make the violins? Well? Oh, you don’t actually know, do you? Because like every other tantruming child in history, Bonnie, you don’t actually know what you want. So let me ask you a question about this brave new world of yours. When you have killed all the bad guys; and when it’s all perfect and just and fair, when you have finally got it exactly the way you want it, what are you going to do with the people like you? The troublemakers? How are you going to protect your glorious revolution from the next one?
-Oh will you? Well maybe. Maybe you will win. But nobody wins for long. The wheel just keeps turning. So come on: break the cycle!
-Why are you still talking?
-Because I want to get you to see, and I’m almost there!
-Do you know what I see, doctor? A box. A box with everything I need. A fifty percent chance.
[Kate] -For us too.
[Doctor] -And we’re off! Fingers on buzzers! Are you feeling lucky? Are you ready to play the game? Who’s going to be quickest? Who’s going to be luckiest?
[Kate] – This is not a game!
[Doctor] -No, it’s not a game sweetheart and I mean that most sincerely.
[Bonnie] -Why are you doing this?
[Kate] -Yes, I’d quite like to know that too. You set this up. Why?
[Doctor] -Because it’s not a game, Kate. This is a scale model of war. Every war ever fought, right there in front of you. Because it’s always the same. When you fire that first shot, no matter how right you feel, you have no idea who’s going to die. You don’t know whose children are going to scream and burn. How many hearts will be broken, how many lives shattered, how much blood will spill until everybody does what they were always going to have to do from the very beginning: sit down and talk! Listen to me, listen: I just want you to think. Do you know what thinking is? It’s just a fancy word for changing your mind.
[Bonnie] -I will not change my mind.
-Then you will die stupid. Alternatively you can step away from that box. You can walk right out of that door and you can stand your revolution down.
-No! I’m not stopping this doctor. I started it, I will not stop it. You think they’ll let me go after what I’ve done?
-You’re all the same you screaming kids, you know that? “Look at me, I’m unforgivable.” Well here’s the unforeseeable: I forgive you! After all you’ve done. I forgive you.
-You don’t understand. You will never understand.
-I don’t understand? Are you kidding? Me? Of course I understand. I mean, do you call this a war, this funny little thing? This is not a war. I fought in a bigger war than you will ever know. I did worse things than you could ever imagine. When I close my eyes I hear more screams than anyone could ever be able to count. And do you know what you do with all that pain? Shall I tell you where you put it? You hold it tight, till it burns your hand. And you say this:
No one else will ever have to live like this. No one else will have to feel this pain. Not on my watch.
-It’s empty isn’t it? Both boxes. There’s nothing in them. Just buttons.
-Of course. But do you know how you know that? Because you have started to think like me. It’s hell isn’t it? No one should have to think like that. And no one will. Not on our watch.
[Extract from “Dr Who: The Zygon Inversion” by Steven Moffat and Peter Harness.]
I have quoted this because I find it interesting that it puts into a piece of everyday television drama a sequence of ideas that captures, approximately, several things at the heart of what happened in human history when the Christian movement began. This was when people began to think differently, in response to what they had learned from Christ. It is easy to think that that was just a religious movement, like so many others. But in fact its impact has been so great that it has shifted the very ground we live on, so we are no longer aware of it. Several ideas have now seeped so far into human culture that we take them for granted, and they just pop up in television dramas when the writer is thoughtful. One is the idea that forgiveness, pure and simple, is the only thing that can break a cycle of violence. That thought has been reached-for by many wise people, of course, but it took a truly radical, no-holding-back, expression of it to make it practical and real. And, connected to this, and a deep insight, is the idea that someone has the right to speak about this if they also have experienced the pain of it deep in themselves. There is also the notion that someone with a vast experience does not thereby get an easy existence. They become someone who takes the pain of the world deep into themselves. And, to receive forgiveness we need to be able to trust that the one offering it has seen us for who we are. And finally, what we then enter into is not an escape into ease and comfort, but a sharing of the job of reconciliation, which is difficult and yet joyful.