Doctor Who: The Husbands of River Song OR Who is your husband?

Spoilers for “The Husbands of River Song” obviously!

River Song has been a favorite character of mine since she first appeared in the 4th season episodes “Silence in the Library” and “Forest of the Dead”. From the beginning, she was a mystery. She appeared to know the Doctor intimately despite his never meeting her before. She gained his trust in those few first hours together by whispering his actual name in his ear. If you watch this show for more than a minute, you know that his name is something that is never given out, even to those he trusts very much.

She then explains that they never meet in the right order. It’s back to front. His first adventure with her is her last with him. She’s had many more adventures with his future self. She has to be careful not to reveal too much in any of their adventures together. Through the course of the series, it is revealed that River Song was born Melody Pond, a child of his companions and also of the TARDIS after a fashion. Her connection to the vortex is exploited in a plot to kill the Doctor. However, they end up falling in love instead and eventually marry.

Her story appeared to be over with “The Name of the Doctor”. Here, the Doctor and River say their goodbyes.  Before that, we see her in “The Angels Take Manhattan” where she witnesses the death of her parents. “Husbands” appears to take off from there as I get a sense that she’s mourning her parents in a way. Her parents loved each other very much. In “Husbands”, she appears to have lost faith in true love.

The Doctor himself is also mourning the loss of another companion. He also said goodbye to River in “The Name of the Doctor”. So when a knock on the TARDIS door lands him in front of his wife again, he is at first excited. However, his joy is short lived when he realizes that she doesn’t recognize him. She knows of his first twelve faces but does not recognize his thirteenth. If you didn’t know already, it had been established for quite some time that time lords only get 12 regenerations. And the Doctor had “wasted” one on his disembodied hand at the end of season four. It’s obvious she had been told this by the Doctor a long time ago.

The Doctor is even further surprised to know that she is married to a cyborg king, a diamond, and a handsome guy named Ramon. She has also had two wives. Eek!

Throughout the episode, we almost get the feeling that River was just playing with the Doctor’s feelings and was just using him for occasional access to the TARDIS.

However, we see later on that this is not at all the case. Towards the end of the episode, the cyborg king wants the Doctor’s head. He demands that River tell him where he is. She doesn’t know. The cyborg asks, “Don’t you love him?” River responds with, “When you love The Doctor, it’s like loving the stars themselves! You don’t expect a sunset to admire you back!”

How heartbreaking! We see now that River isn’t being cold to the Doctor. She genuinely believes that he is simply out of her reach. He’s larger than life. He’s thousands of years old to her two hundred. He comes from a long dead civilization. He saves millions of people at a time. And she has settled for watching from afar.

But then she realizes that the man she has been carrying on with for the whole episode is actually the Doctor and her face falls.

I have been pondering this Christmas about it’s true meaning. I’ve wrote about it before. One of the names given to Jesus is Immanuel which means “God with us”. It’s such a powerful statement. We tend to think of God as being “beyond”. He’s not “here” but “over there”. We think of him as being far off in some other dimension of existence, only peaking in once in a great while. God is too great and too glorious to bother with us, right? Surely, he has better things to do than think about me?

But what does the birth of Jesus tell us about this attitude? His name means, “God with us”. He joined himself to human existence. At the moment he was born and took his first human breath, the angelic host proclaimed, “Glory to God in the highest and on Earth peace, good will toward men.” The moment that God was most glorified was NOT when he was sitting on his golden throne and donning his crown of jewels. This didn’t ring out when he was traveling the golden streets of Heaven on his pure white horse with his large sword at his side. God’s most glorious moment up to that point was when he stretched his arms and legs in the physical world, when he felt the touch of cold air on his skin. His most glorious moment was when he became flesh and was born among animals and filth to two impoverished parents. There was no fanfare. There were no news reports. Only a few were invited to witness this event.

The lie from the beginning was that God was not near, that he wasn’t really interested in us, that he was holding back. This goes all the way back to Eve. The serpent told her that if she ate the forbidden fruit that she would be like God. The implication being that she wasn’t already like God which was inherently false. Adam and Eve were made in God’s image! We are made of the same stuff!

It’s also implied that there was an inequality in the relationship. How many times have we heard a pastor or church leader tell us not to be unequally yoked? Meaning that we should find friends and/or a spouse with similar personalities and beliefs. And yet God has no problem being “yoked” with us! “My yoke is easy and burden is light.” What should that tell us? And yet we question every bit of it.

Just like River questions the love the Doctor has for her, she also doesn’t see herself as equal to him. But it is obvious that they are. She may not have been born on Gallifrey, but she is a time lady. She can regenerate. She can pilot the TARDIS. She is just as clever as he is. However, she feels like a mere mortal compared to her husband.

And what is her response to those feelings of inadequacy? She takes on other lovers. She takes them on without much regard to their feelings. As seen in the episode, she has no problem wiping Ramon’s memories when she’s mad at him. She’s also plotting to murder another husband. It kind of reminds me of the woman at the well. She meets Jesus who tells her she has had five husbands and the one she’s with now is not her husband. She runs into town to tell everybody about the man who told her everything she ever did. Which oddly enough, is similar to what River says in, “The Impossible Astronaut”. She tells her father, “When I first met the Doctor, a long, long time ago, he knew all about me. Think about that. An impressionable young girl, and suddenly this man just drops out of the sky, and he’s clever, and mad, and wonderful, and knows every last thing about her. Imagine what that does to a girl.”

So the real question is, “Who is your husband?” What are our true beliefs about God and how do they affect our lives? For me, the relationship between River Song and the Doctor has always been a mirror of the relationship between Christ and the church (as well as the relationship between the Doctor and the TARDIS). Jesus is a timelord in a sense. He can travel space and time at will. He can cheat death. He is very old. River, being conceived in the TARDIS, has a very different nature. She was no longer simply human, she was human+ (in the words of Madame Vastra). This change put her on equal footing with the Doctor.

From her beginning, her nature is questioned. Is she Melody Williams or Melody Pond? Is she just a geography teacher or is she a superhero?  Is she natural or supernatural? It appears that she struggles with this identity crisis until the very end of her life.

From the beginning, mankind’s nature has been questioned. Are we natural or supernatural? Are we like the animals? Or are we more? We question our own nature constantly. The Bible says that we are a new creation. New, in the sense of replacing your beat up Ford Taurus for the Starship Enterprise. We are truly human+.


A Prophetic Word For My New Pastor

Previously, I wrote about the Three Little Pigs. The straw house represented the unbeliever who put his hope in worldly things. The house of sticks represented the new believer who begins to build his identity on Christ but still has a foothold in the world. The brick house represented the mature believer whose identity is grounded and rooted in the finished work of Jesus Christ. What we had was a brick house. It was good and strong. It kept the enemy at hand away.

But a new thing is coming. What was once a brick house will become something much greater. What I saw was the starship USS Enterprise. The Enterprise D in fact with Captain Jean Luc-Picard.  What was their main foe? That’s right! The Borg!

Let’s examine this. The Borg represent a society of increasing sameness and control. Their catchphrase is, “We are the Borg. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile.” They go from world to world, assimilating individuals into one collective. Everyone is the same. Free thought is wiped out.

They come across the Federation which is made up of many different persons from many different planets. It is a vibrant community. There is no control. Free thought encouraged.

In a world that says, “Assimilate or cease to exist,” we will be a light in the dark. We will be a vibrant community made up of many different nations. We will go out and free people from the world system. We will strip off the artificial pieces of their identity. We will strip off the parts the world told them they needed to survive and belong. We will rebuild their identity based on the word of Jesus Christ.

I also felt this was for the family as well. The Enterprise name was a name to be praised and feared. The Enterprise name lasted for centuries. I felt like the family name would be famous for His name for centuries and it would begin today. Maybe not the name but the legacy would last for generations.

Twilight Zone – The Hunt

Copied from The Hunt (The Twilight Zone):

Hyder Simpson lives with his wife and his hound-dog Rip in the backwoods. Mrs. Simpson does not like having the dog indoors, but Rip saved Hyder’s life once, and Hyder won’t be parted from him. Mrs. Simpson has seen some bad omens recently, and warns Hyder not to go raccoon hunting that night. When Rip dives into a pond after a raccoon, Hyder jumps in after him, but only the raccoon comes up out of the water. Next morning, Hyder and Rip wake up next to the pond. When they return home, Hyder finds that neither his wife, the preacher, nor the neighbors can hear him or see him—they seem to think that he and Rip are dead.

Walking along the road, he encounters a fence he doesn’t recognize, and decides to follow it. Presently, both come to a gate tended by a man. Simpson asks him if he is Saint Peter. Explaining only that he is a gatekeeper, the man explains that Simpson can enter the Elysian Fields. Simpson is appreciative, but disheartened to hear that there is no raccoon hunting there, nor are there any of his other usual pleasures. When he is told that Rip can’t enter and will be taken elsewhere (“up the road”), he declines and angrily goes on down the “Eternity Road” rather than enter the gate without his beloved dog. Simpson states, “Any place that’s too high-falutin’ for Rip is too fancy for me.” Later, after stopping to rest, Simpson and Rip are met by a young angel whose job is to find and bring them to Heaven.

Simpson tells the angel about his experience at the first gate, commenting “Son, that’d be a helluva place without Rip!” The angel replies “Mr. Simpson, you ain’t far wrong – that is Hell! Heaven’s up yonder a piece,” pointing up Eternity Road. When asked by Simpson why the gatekeeper at the gate to Hades wouldn’t let him bring Rip inside with him, the angel explains that the reason Rip was not allowed in was because the dog would have been able to smell the brimstone and alert Simpson that something was wrong. The angel says, “You see, Mr. Simpson — a man, well, he’ll walk right into Hell with both eyes open. But even the Devil can’t fool a dog!”

The angel also tells Hyder that there will be a raccoon hunt in Heaven that night, “right after the square dance,” and assures him that his wife, who will be coming shortly, will not be misled into entering Hell.

I remember watching The Twilight Zone as a child.  My parents were older and grew up watching the show themselves.  (That’s also how I got introduced to Star Trek.)  My dad used to talk about this episode a lot.  Now, I don’t know how much of the Gospel he believed but I like to think he believed more than he let on.  Why?  Because he loved this episode.  He didn’t like dogs (or cats) but he loved this episode.

I finally watched it the other day.  It almost brought me to tears.  There is so much it gets right.  Now, I am not a universalist.  However, I do think Hell and Death are defeated enemies.  The Bible says that Jesus came to take away the sin of the world.  I believe that He did that.  The only power Hell has is through manipulation and lies.  I love that this episode represents Hell and Satan as desperate entities.  They don’t quit until you’ve passed the gate.  The Gatekeeper in this episode is obviously a desperate man.  I wonder if he fears punishment if he doesn’t bring in Hyder Simpson.  Notice that the Gatekeeper doesn’t force Hyder to enter.  It’s all manipulation and lies.

It’s also interesting that the Gatekeeper insists that his domain is Heaven.  But it’s a white-washed Heaven.  No ‘coon hunting, no dogs.  None of life’s pleasures are allowed beyond the gate.  Also, why does Heaven need a gate?  Everyone should be welcome.  Why is there so much border control to this “Heaven”?  This seems like a legalist’s version of Heaven.  Can’t do this, can’t do that.  The legalist’s, or religious, person’s language is always NO.  Their language is always control.

Hyder, of course, doesn’t fall for any of this.  Rip doesn’t seem fond of the place either.  He insists on walking Eternity Road for all of time rather than spend that time without Rip.  A little while later, he comes across a young man who just happens to be looking for him.  He introduces himself as an angel.  He tells Hyder that the Gatekeeper had lied to him, that the Gatekeeper’s domain is actually Hell.  He invites Hyder into Heaven where there is square-dancing and coon hunting and that Rip can come along too.

As much as it gets right about Hell, it gets right about Heaven as well.  Heaven is all about relationship.  The reason Hyder didn’t walk straight into Hell is that he wouldn’t be separated from his dog, Rip, because the dog saved his life once.  In a sense, Rip was archetypal of Jesus Christ.  It was Hyder’s relationship with Rip that saved him from the Gatekeeper.  It was also the value that Hyder placed on that relationship.  Rip wasn’t just a dog but a loyal friend.

Here’s the problem with modern, mainstream Christianity.  We sell Heaven as a place where all our dreams come true.  We sell Christianity as a ticket to Heaven, a “Get out of Hell free.” card.  Now I’m not saying that Heaven isn’t a wonderful place but let’s put things in perspective.  The Bible says in John 17:3, “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”  Heaven is a continuously evolving relationship with the one who saved us from Death.  If we’re simply looking for all our dreams to come true or to just not end up in Hell, we may be deceived when our time comes.

Will we be able to discern Jesus’ voice from all the other voices calling for us on that day?  The Bible says in I John 4:1 to “test the spirits to see whether they are from God”.  How can we test them if we have no relationship with God’s true spirit?  The real question is not of discernment between other voices but are we looking, listening, for His voice?

We sell out God to get Heaven.  This was the basis of Satan’s temptation of Jesus in Matthew 4 and Luke 4.  Satan was offering Heaven devoid of any relationship with God.  Jesus never denied that he could turn stones into bread or survive falling from the height of the temple.  But what was his reason for denying Satan?  “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”  Jesus later said, “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.”  His source of life and direction was the Father.  As ours should be.  That’s where Heaven comes from.  But we have made Heaven simply a place where fun things happen.  Jesus could have had Heaven on Earth by turning stones into bread, commanding angels to save Him from every disaster.  But He knew this would be an empty experience apart from the Father.

In short, Hyder and Rip represent our relationship to Christ.  The Gatekeeper is Satan, offering “Heaven” devoid of relationship.  It’s his oldest trick.  Adam and Eve fell for it. They were offered a chance to be like God but without the relationship.  They soon realized how empty they were and how powerless they were without Him.  It is only when we trust in Jesus that we can discern between opposing forces that would lead us astray, just like Hyder listened to Rip in the story.  Rip was having none of that place.  True Heaven is a continuous relationship with the one who saved our life.  Will wondrous, miraculous, supernatural things happen?  The answer is a resounding YES.  But do they happen for their own sake?  No.  They will come from, and point to, an understanding of our relationship in Him and our identity in Him.