Faith & Fandom
The Doctor: Saving River, By Sunny Fullhart
Sunny Fullhart lives and works as a real estate agent in Central Florida. She leans on Jesus for every decision she makes. She takes pride in her work with the youth at her parish, and couldn't have done any of it without the partnership of her husband and the strength of their vocation given the them by God. Finding faith in fandoms is something that she has always done in her mind and these books have helped her realize, even more, that God is everywhere. Having Hector include her in this journey is a great honor. (Spoilers) It’s no surprise to any person of faith, who is super into their faith, that you can find God in just about anything. If you’re really looking, you find it. He shows himself to us in the way he knows we will best comprehend. In some things it’s easier than others. But, He’s there. He’s all around us.
I’m a HUGE Doctor Who fan. I have been since I saw the first episode with the 9th Doctor. I was hooked. I binge watched. I fell in love with Doctor Number 10. I was a bit hurt and eventually warmed up to and loved Number 11. I was super excited to find out who Number 12 was. And then, we find out he’s ACTUALLY 13?!?! Say it ain’t so!!! What drama! What flare! This was some good stuff! Companion after Companion. Having my favorites of the companions. Feeling justified when I wasn’t the only person who didn’t like a certain one. It’s been a journey, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I started the series as someone who wasn’t involved much in church. I started the series during a very tumultuous time in my faith journey. I started the series as I was eventually discerning joining the Catholic church. My love for the Doctor was surpassed by gaining a closeness with the Lord that I had never felt before in my life. It made me start to see things through a theological eye in my brain. It changed the world around me for the better. But, I digress. (Sort of.)
There’s one particular character in this series that steps forward as someone who needs The Doctor more than anyone. Someone who loves The Doctor. Someone whom The Doctor has pulled from the depths of despair and darkness. Someone who represents us, fully human persons. Her name is River Song. We first meet River with Number 10. She knows him instantly. She’s met him before. She’s his WIFE! She is, at this point, in a good place in her life. She knows she’s almost at her end. She’s made a sort of peace with it. She knows what she’s to do. We meet River when she is fully redeemed. Ephesians 1:7-10, "In him we have redemption by his blood, the forgiveness of transgressions, in accord with the
riches of his grace that he lavished upon us. In all wisdom and insight, he has made known to us the mystery* of his will in accord with his favor that he set forth in him as a plan for the fullness of times, to sum up all things in Christ, in heaven and on earth."
River’s physical life ends in the first episode we meet her. She is downloaded into a system where she can be with friends that she loved in the physical plain, forever. Sound familiar? Yep. Heaven. Coincidentally, now that I think about it, they’re all in white in the downloaded world too. Revelation 3:5 "The victor will thus be dressed in white,* and I will never erase his name from the book of life but will acknowledge his name in the presence of my Father and of his angels." That’s it. That’s all we get of River for a while. She doesn’t come back into our lives until later on with Number 11.
Her timeline with Number 11 is a bit jumpy. We meet her when she knows him. We meet her when she doesn’t know him. We meet her when she doesn’t look like the River we know. We see 3 faces of River with Number 11: Baby River, Child/Late Teen River, and adult River.
I’m fairly certain, River is a favorite character of MANY of us Whovians, and you can find more about her origins in the first 2 instalments of Faith and
Fandom. (Not to mention the plethora of information on the internet.) We get the River we know and love in “Let’s Kill Hitler.” From that point on, we get lots of fun, loving, wonderful, heartbreaking adventures with The Doctor and River. We see them fall in love. We see them get married. (Their marriage being a symbol of Christ and his church is a whole other diatribe.) We lose her again in Manhattan. We lose her, and the Ponds. We are back to just The Doctor and a New Companion named Clara. We think her story is over.
This year, we got our River back at Christmas. She comes with her own episode, AND the newest incarnation of The Doctor. She knows him, he knows her. She’s searching FOR him. She has been without him for years in her timeline. She doesn’t know what this new one looks like. She is still referencing her pictures of the first 11, with no idea of this new face.
She meets up with the new faced Doctor and has no idea it’s him. He’s very excited to see her. He expects her to know him, and she doesn’t. All the while, she’s married to this person, and to that person, and his reactions are priceless. He doesn’t baulk at her. He doesn’t really admonish her. He jokes with her. He just keeps saying, “you really don’t know, do you?” He’s playing along. He’s letter her do her own thing, all the while being right by her side.
In the episode, we see River in true danger. She ends up not being the only one looking for The Doctor. But, everyone knows who she is. She is “the woman who loves the Doctor.” They expect him to come save her. They know he loves her. She just doesn’t. She is insistent, “"The Doctor does not and has never loved me. I'm not lying... [I love him]. I’ve never denied it. But whoever said he loved me back? He’s the Doctor. He doesn’t go around falling in love with people. And if you think he’s that small or that ordinary, then you don’t have the first idea of what you’re dealing with...When you love the Doctor, it’s like loving the stars themselves. You don’t expect a sunset to admire you back. And if I happen to find myself in danger, let me tell you, the Doctor is not stupid enough, or sentimental enough, and he is certainly not in love enough to find himself standing in it with me!" This is her cry in the desert. This is her at her most vulnerable. This is her, in her own way, begging for The Doctor to come. And, he’s RIGHT THERE. He hears it all. And when she finally realizes he’s been there the whole time, her breath is taken away. She recognizes him. She knows it’s him. She’s relieved and FINALLY starts to see the love is returned.
Isn’t this how we all are with God? Don’t we go through these moments of thinking he doesn’t love us or he isn’t there? Isn’t this EXACTLY what the
disciples went through after Jesus’s crucifixion? They are even at one-point walking with him on the Road to Emmaus, and they don’t even know it. Just like River with The Doctor. Luke 24:13-31 "Now that very day two of them were going to a village seven miles* from Jerusalem called Emmaus, and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred. And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him. He asked them, “What are you discussing as you walk along?” They stopped, looking downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, said to him in reply, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know of the things that have taken place there in these days?” And he replied to them, “What sort of things?” They said to him, “The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, how our chief priests and rulers both handed him over to a sentence of death and crucified him. But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel; and besides all this, it is now the third day since this took place. Some women from our group, however, have astounded us: they were at the tomb early in the morning and did not find his body; they came back and reported that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who announced that he was alive. Then some of those with us went to the tomb and found
things just as the women had described, but him they did not see.” And he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer* these things and enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the scriptures. As they approached the village to which they were going, he gave the impression that he was going on farther. But they urged him, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight."
So often, we succumb to smallness of our humanness. We bring God to our level. Our relationship with God is so much more than surface level. Stories like this spark the memory that God IS always there. He’s by our side at all times. He is with us in the darkest of times. He holds our hand through rough times. He redeems us. He saves us. He never turns his back.
The episodes ends with The Doctor fulfilling a promise he made to River. He had always promised to take her to dinner at the Singing Towers of Darillium. This is their last night together. A night that is 24 years long. A night that will be River’s last adventure with The Doctor before being sent to when we FIRST met River. This is her concentrated time with him. A time when she fully realizes how invested he is in his love for her. A time to prepare. A time to finally know what it is she is supposed to know. Mark 4:22 "For there is nothing hidden except to be made visible; nothing is secret except to come to light. Anyone who has ears to hear ought to hear."
We’ve got to take our time to listen to the Lord. We’ve got to take our time to know that Lord. We’ve got to realize that the Lord is always near. We have to be ready for the time in which we will rest in the Lord’s promise made so many years ago. Psalms 62:2; "My soul rests in God alone, from whom comes my salvation."