Faith & Fandom
Doctor Who: Cheap Imitations
As Doctor Who season 11 finally made its way into our lives,
we saw the Doctor go on a number of adventures exploring
time and space with a full squad of sidekicks. Notably, we also
saw the doctor finding ways to annoy Tim Shaw. The season
was filled with a lot of milestones. They met Rosa Parks. The
Doctor officiated a wedding, and her team battled a puppet
master like Dalek. The team ran around with giant spiders, and
The Doctor quoted scripture on occasion. That only scratches
the surface of everything that happened that season.
One of the least exciting episodes to me was the episode, “It
Takes You Away.” While it wasn’t the most entertaining, I
thought it did hold some of the best truths and spoke to me
deeply. The episode pits The Doctor against the Solitract, a
conscious independent universe that is incapable of
cohabitating with any other universe or creatures of any other
universe. Bottom line, it’s a living universe that is incredibly
lonely. The way that universe coped with loneliness was by
imitating people that other people miss. The Solitract would
seek out people as achingly lonely as it was, and mimic what
they needed to be fulfilled again.
For instance, it mimicked a man’s dead wife in hopes of
convincing him to stay. The Solitract’s plan worked. Its efforts
were enough to make a grown man abandon his blind
daughter in the middle of nowhere. While this dude was not
exactly parent of the year, he also wasn’t doing anything most
of us haven’t done ourselves. The circumstances may be
different, but oftentimes we trade something true for a cheap
substitute. It doesn’t matter how our reality is; sometimes we
just want something we’ve lost, something we want, or
something completely different.
All the way back to Moses and Israel, we see this. Moses had
led the people out of bondage and helped them cross the Red
Sea. He managed to corral hundreds of thousands of people
into a direction, lead them to freedom, and guide them safely.
Yet when he had to take one break to go hear from God, they
acted like they forgot who both Moses and God were.
“When the people saw that Moses was so long in
coming down from the mountain, they gathered around
Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods who will go before
us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of
Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.”
Aaron answered them, “Take off the gold earrings that
your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing,
and bring them to me.” So, all the people took off their
earrings and brought them to Aaron. He took what they
handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of
a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, “These
are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”
When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the
calf and announced, “Tomorrow there will be a festival
to the LORD.” So the next day the people rose early and
sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship
offerings. Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and
got up to indulge in revelry.
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go down, because your
people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have
become corrupt.” - Exodus 32:1-7.
They had an actual God, who was still present and active in
their lives. They had a dedicated leader who had constantly
put his life, peace, and sanity on the line. Yet they accepted the
cheap substitute of A people pleasing brother, and Mooby the
At least in Doctor Who, the substitutes were of people who
were gone. Israel was accepting substitutes for people who
were just out of eye sight. When the Doctor and squad travel
through the portal and ended up in the mirrored world the
Solitract had produced, they find Erik with a carbon copy of his
deceased wife Trine. He was so satisfied with his substitute
Trine that he had all but completely abandoned his daughter.
Once they arrived though, the Solitract fed off Graham’s loss
and heartache and manifested a copy of Grace as well.
Grace: I know this sounds daft but, am I real? That
creature on the crane. It killed me. But now, I'm here
with you. I don't understand.
Graham: No. Neither do I.
Grace: Why are you being so off with me?
Graham: Because this is isn't possible.
Grace: I know. But I'm here, love. I'm real.
As I re-watched this episode, it hit me that in one conversation
the Solitract goes from asking Graham if she is real to telling
him flat out that she is. The lies and cheap substitutes in our
lives will often tell us whatever we want to hear, or need to
here to just keep us in tow.
Graham: This isn't fair. This has to be a trick. You... you
can't be her.
Grace: I feel like me.
Graham: I'm lost, Grace. I miss you. All my life, I was
looking for you. Then I found you, and I was so happy.
Grace: That makes two of us.
Graham: And then I lost you.
Grace: I'm here.
Graham: Yeah. I miss you so much. I miss you so much,
Graham knew full well that this thing wasn’t Grace. He knew it
himself, and The Doctor told him, too. He didn’t want to hear
it. He wanted to believe the lie because the lie of a living Grace
was better than the truth of a dead one. The Doctor didn’t let
it continue though, because as she later stated in the episode,
“Friends help each other face up to their problems, not avoid
Doctor: Graham, we're off. Now.
Graham: Fine. Yeah. Come on, Grace.
Doctor: Yeah, sorry to be blunt. Hi, Grace. That's not
Grace. No offence, Grace.
Grace: None taken, love.
Doctor: She can't come, Graham. She's not real.
Graham: Oh, I think you're wrong.
Doctor: I'm not wrong.
Graham: She remembers everything.
Doctor: I know this is difficult.
Graham: I mean, all the crazy things you've seen, Doc, I
mean, you can't tell me that you know it's not her.
Doctor: This whole thing is a con. I don't think even
Grace knows it. I think this whole world is a trap, and
she's part of it. Listen to me. It's her or the real world.
You can't have both.
Moses dealt with the people of Israel accepting cheap
substitutes. It seems neither Israel or the rest of the world got
the message over all the years that followed all the way
through Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. The apostle Paul
was still explaining this same concept generations later to the
“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible
qualities—His eternal power and divine nature—have
been clearly seen, being understood from what has been
made, so that people are without excuse. For although
they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor
gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and
their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they
claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged
the glory of the immortal God for images made to look
like a mortal human being and birds and animals and
reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful
desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the
degrading of their bodies with one another. They
exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped
and served created things rather than the Creator—who
is forever praised. Amen.” - Romans 1:20-25.
Paul can come across as harsh sometimes, but the bottom line
is he is coming from a place of love and accountability. Paul,
Moses, and even The Doctor are coming from the
understanding that dictates you can’t let people accept cheap
substitutes for the truth. You can’t force people to accept that,
but if you love them, you have a responsibility to help them
Just a few hours before I started writing this chapter, I was
giving pre-marital counseling to a couple. I spent more than an
hour talking with them about unspoken expectations, false
assumptions, and that the reality of “for better or for worse”
usually means worse more than better. Before I marry this
couple in a few weeks, I'm going to continue to pour truth into
them and help them move past the lies and cheap substitutes
we accept in relationships because I know if that’s what they
build their relationship on, it’s doomed to fail. We need to be
proactive about not letting ourselves or others be conned into
accepting something less than truth. That goes for our lives,
our relationships, and our relationship with God.
The Doctor wasn’t willing to let Graham or Erik be taken in by
the lies the Solitract was offering.
The Doctor: You want the same thing you've always
wanted. To be with us. So you've built a world you
thought we'd like, and taken forms we won't reject.
Graham: What about Ryan? He's in trouble out there,
Grace: He'll be fine. He's a smart lad.
Doctor: This reality's collapsing, Graham!
Graham: So close. You were so close. You see, Grace
would never let me leave Ryan in danger. You're a fake. I
wish you weren't, but you are.
The Solitract’s actions were deceptive, but not malicious. It just
didn’t want to be alone. The cheap substitutes were just an
excuse to have company. Our cheap substitutes, all throughout
our lives, are clever devices from our enemy. It can be a job, a
relationship, a platform, a project, entertainment, our pride, or
literally anything. Satan can take anything seemingly good in
our lives and offer us a twisted substitute to get in the way of
our relationship with knowing God.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I
have come that they may have life, and have it to the
full. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays
down his life for the sheep.” - John 10:10-11.
Jesus tells us that Satan comes to steal, kill, and destroy. He
fills our lives with substitutes that aren’t meant to keep us
around. They are meant to wreck us and rob us of life. His
substitutes are meant to destroy all that God has planned for
us. Jesus tells us clearly that His plan for our life is to have life
to the fullest, and He was willing to lay down his own life to
prove it. We know that Jesus died for us. We know that He was
willing to sacrifice Himself to set us free from the lies and
substitutes that have held mankind captive since the garden.
The Doctor was also willing to sacrifice herself in order to make
this happen. When it’s down to just her and Erik with the
Solitract, she knows he isn’t strong enough to resist, so she
takes his place.
The Doctor: Just one thing. This world is falling apart. I
reckon you can only keep one of us. You sure he's your
best option? ‘Cause the Solitract doesn't want a
husband, you want a whole universe. Someone who has
seen it all, and that's me. I've lived longer, seen more,
loved more and lost more. I can share it all with you.
Anything you want to know about what you never had.
Cos he's an idiot with a daughter who needs him. So let
him go and I will give you everything.
She willingly took Erik’s place so that he could live, Hanne
could have a father, and Earth and her gang would survive.
However, once they were alone, things quickly escalated.
Doctor: I wouldn't be much of a friend to you if I didn't
point out you're not in control of this.
Solitract: You're wrong. This is my plane. I control
Doctor: So, you can see that it's still destabilizing? Me
being here is going to kill us both. You may want us to be
together, but it's not working. It can never work.
Solitract: You're lying to me because you want to leave.
Doctor: No. I'm your friend. But friends help each other
face up to their problems, not avoid them. This is... You
are the maddest, most beautiful thing I've ever
experienced, and I haven't even scratched the surface. I
wish I could stay. But if either of us are going to survive,
you're going to have to let me go and keep on being
brilliant by yourself.
The Doctor makes it clear to the Solitract that if they stay
together, it will mean destruction for them both. They can’t
continue living as long as they are in the same place. The same
is true for us. We can’t continue living the life God wants for us
if we continue to live accepting cheap substitutes over what
God actually desires for us.
“What agreement is there between the temple of God
and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As
God has said: “I will live with them and walk among
them, and I will be their God, and they will be my
people.” Therefore, “Come out from them and be
separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I
will receive you.” And, “I will be a Father to you, and you
will be my sons and daughters,
says the Lord Almighty.” - 2 Corinthians 6:16-18.
God tells us that He wants an intimate real relationship with
us, but it’s really hard for that relationship to be what it is
meant to be when we are accepting a substitute, instead of
Him. It’s not until we remove the substitutes in our lives that
He has the freedom and space to work. Imagine if you were
getting married and someone other than your fiancé was
standing at the altar. You wouldn’t go through with the
ceremony because that is not who you belong to. You would
get that other person out of your way so that you could carry
on with the marriage and life you have planned. Stop allowing
substitutes to take God’s place for His plans and purpose in
The title of this episode was, “It Takes You Away.” That is true
of any cheap substitute in our lives. Don’t let them.