If you google (does anyone capitalize Google as a verb anymore?) “paradox definition,” here is the third one.
“A situation, person, or thing that combines contradictory features or qualities.”
I just finished the third season of Doctor Who.
First of all let me just explain to you how incredibly tense and knotted up I am and how much havoc the last three episodes wreaked on my person. Like ouch. I was a ball of nerves. When David Tennant got zapped into an old man – yikes. I was in bad shape. I love that man an awful lot for never having met him. Same with Christopher Eccleston. And so it goes.
ANYWAY! This post has a much bigger point than how adorable David Tennant is (though that could be a blog post all its own). Here’s the deal, and warning for any Who beginners out there, there are MAJOR spoilers ahead. So if it has ever even POKED your mind to possibly begin watching the series, DO NOT CONTINUE TO READ.
In the final of the three episodes, the situation is this: At the very edge of the Universe the Doctor, Martha and stowaway Captain Jack Harkness from the first series (a Time Agent, whatever that means) have discovered – GASP! – another Time Lord, temporarily disguised as a human with a very special watch containing his Time Lord DNA should he ever have the chance/be needed to come out of hiding. How they arrive at this is all SO COOL, but it’s not part of the point I’m trying to make. The problem with this Time Lord is that he has a major God-complex. He even calls himself the Master. During the second episode he managed to get himself elected Prime Minister of Britain, set up a network of fifteen satellites all around the earth to create a telepathic field, infiltrate the government, spy on and/or imprison every human on earth, bring a large army of knife-equipped spheres on board with all his schemes, convert the TARDIS into a paradox machine to hold in place a certain paradox, assassinate the President of the United States, marry a human woman and get the drumbeats consistently in his head also into everyone else’s. It’s not unlike a Big Brother sort of situation. Everywhere you go, there he is. Listening. Watching. Observing. Remembering.
Oh yeah, and he took a Laser Screwdriver (not a Sonic, the bastard) and pointed it at the Doctor, aging him by, well, I don’t know, but quite a lot. It broke my heart to see David Tennant’s big brown eyes staring out from that patchy, sagging face. Shudder. And to hear his voice all scratchy with age. I hurt for the man. I see why everyone loves this show so much. It takes over your entire being.
Anyway, this guy is in control, people.
We see Martha, returning from what was apparently a yearlong trip all over the world, though we don’t know quite what she was doing. Long story short, she has found a way to defeat the Master. And it’s not even what you’d expect, either.
In the final scene, when they finally do in fact find a way to zap Tennant back to his usual form (I was so happy) and convince the Master to unhook the Paradox Machine he’s made out of the TARDIS. The fighting army of spheres (to whom there is a whole other story) disappear, and the events of the last year under the control of the Master as Prime Minister are all erased. And the Master runs for the door, but stops, cowering, terrified of what a glowing Doctor is going to do to him, when David Tennant crouches down in his pinstripe suit, wraps his arms around the man and says, “I forgive you.”
I cried. Okay, almost.
Remember when I blogged about the ontological Dalek and the Doctor’s rage and pain and loneliness blinding him to mercy, even for the Daleks who had destroyed everyone he’d ever loved (up to that point)?
And here we are going right back the other way. I forgive you. You tried to obliterate the world I’ve been closest to since ours blew up and I forgive you. You insulted me, you turned me into a small hunched big-eyed toad of a creature with your laser screwdriver, you tried to break me, and I forgive you. There might be slight nationalistic influence at work here, but that seems to slip everyone’s mind.
Then, in a final plot twist, the human woman he married shoots him in the stomach, and being a Time Lord, he now has the option to regenerate. The Doctor picks him up again and begs, threatens him to do so. But he refuses. And as the Doctor continues to protest – “It’s just one little bullet! Come on, you can do it!” – you see, again, that pain and loneliness get in the way. The Doctor, having newly discovered that he was not, in fact, all alone in the Universe, does not want to face that harsh reality again.
Being an eighteen-year-old girl, I am reminded of relationships. Having just gotten used to the fact that you are not romantically alone, the thought of going back to singletonhood sounds agonizing, no matter how used to it you were before.
But the Master persists. He dies. He lets go. And the Doctor can do nothing, which is probably better for him.
The point is, human emotion gets in the way all the damn time. I suppose there’s not much we can do. But love, real, forgiving, Hannah-John-Green-L’Engle-Jesus-on-the-cross love, is not an emotion. In fact that’s what emotion gets in the way of.
So I guess the idea is to never let anything impede your love. Not your own motives. Not the greater good, even. Just love that person, or that Time Lord, or whatever species you happen to be dealing with. Love who they are.
One of the things Doctor Who has really made me think about is – and you’ll have to excuse my completely intentional and totally inexcusable pun – what is and is not universal.
The Doctor travels throughout space and time. He meets all kinds of beings in all kinds of settings. He deals with combinations of personalities and situations of all kinds. He has seen infinite possibility, all in the realm of what it means to be. Not be human, in the sense that those of us who live on Earth are human. That’s how ordinarily one would finish the sentence. But if we are human, and that is us, and that is our ontological name, what is everyone else, every other species the Doctor encounters? Why are we all capable of higher thought? Why do we all deserve a chance?
I am going to say that it is the possession of a soul.
One of the best C. S. Lewis quotes I ever found was “You do not have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.”
This seems to point a little bit towards theories of reincarnation and whatnot, but I’m going to skip over that for now. This points more generally to the idea that it does not matter one iota what that body looks like. You could be anything. A Dalek. A hobbit. A dwarf. A talking unicorn. A Weeping Angel. A Vulcan. An android. A Marsh-wiggle. A Gungan (God forbid). A Time Lord. A human.
That is what we all have in common. A soul. Something, perhaps, not unlike the dust Uncle Andrew uses in the Magician’s Nephew to create the (is it yellow?) rings. Something that is always trying to get back to where it came from. No wonder we humans like resolution so much. Tying up loose ends and all that. Books have to have an end. Souls have to have a place to go. “It’s very beautiful over there,” as Thomas Edison said on his deathbed (made known to millions of nerds via John Green’s Looking for Alaska). I bet you there is where our souls are all going.
And yet, in the very same book, we learn that Francois Rabelais said on his deathbed, “I go to seek a Great Perhaps.”
What if that is where we’re going? Into the Great Perhaps? Doesn’t sound very resolutionary to me. Nobody ties up loose ends with a Great Perhaps. Not even with a Lesser Perhaps.
So how can Great Perhaps and the specific ‘there’ be the same place? I don’t know, and perhaps that is the point.
Perhaps that is the paradox.
And if this post doesn’t show to you the philosophical significance of nerddom, particularly the area to which I belong, I don’t know what does.