On reflection, Doctor Who, gallivanting across all of space and time in his sentient spatio-temporal singularity-powered magical mystery tour vessel of the TARDIS may not, under analysis, be quite the cosmic hero he at first seems to be. Blowing his platonic companions minds’ with weird science, Ken Kesey-like and aboard his own infinite improbability-driven spaceship, the cavalier heroism of the Doctor carries with it an unacknowledged narrative burden of culpability. It is perhaps an inevitably invisible feature of introspection that there exists such a necessary blind-spot of intellectual failure in this particular mythological entity. It is also likely something deeply and reflexively indicative of that constitutive essence of psychology and communication also apparent in such non-fictional entities and artefacts as we understand to actually exist; nominatively, ourselves and our diverse and revelatory stories of self.
Fictional constraints notwithstanding, our common understanding of this particular hero is that he mischievously and miraculously materialises during times of crisis, orients himself to whichever enigmatic peculiarity and context he is encountering, and then proceeds to heroically disentangle problems in a hybrid solutions-vocabulary on an oscillating spectrum somewhere between MacGyver and Dr. Spock. The mystery of his endlessly convenient arrival at critical inflection points in history is quite probably the simplest key with which to recursively, i.e. through problem-space application to its own mysterious existence, unlock an unacknowledged narrative center of gravity in the story of The Doctor.
The key is that Doctor Who actually causes all the mysteries, all the enigmas, all the impossibilities and peculiar paradoxes within which he invariably finds himself ensconced. Every single time he finds himself embedded within some strange and unlikely scenario, the unacknowledged (perhaps – unacknowledgeable) elephant in the room is that The Doctor himself and by virtue of his own existence and enigmatic reality as an embodied immortal, time-travelling paradox has generated this anomaly and enigma. The Doctor’s peripatetic arrival into veritable Twilight Zones that only he or his companions are curiously and uniquely able to successfully engage and resolve may be just the symptom; the cause is perhaps his accompanying spacetime singularity-powered vessel but even that may be secondary in narrative analysis to the enigma and cosmic discontinuity that he, himself, represents. His existence in the Universe is itself the sole cause that generates the paradoxes that he himself seeks to navigate, resolve or negate.
We attribute to The Doctor that heroic, but flawed, sensibility and trope of ultimate problem solver and intelligent solution to every problem. It is perhaps only through the construction and cultural narrative-space projection of such assertive ego-centers that we can reflexively, retrospectively justify the belief systems and consensus realities we all share concerning the significance, utility, meaning and purpose (perhaps even – teleology) of our own selves.
A flawed hero is that archetype through which, not dissimilar to the thoroughly neurotic Greek Gods working their entropic way through celestial soap operas and multi-threaded histrionics, we find our own selves, our lives and our own enigmatic inconsistencies and unresolvable blind-spots mirrored back. The reflexive psychological (and arguably inevitable) necessity for dynamic, open-ended mental models, communications and cultural systems indicates that this constitutive self-definition through projective, reflexive mirroring in narrative or complex symbol-strings and sequences is an essentially incomplete logical system; reflecting back a essentially incomplete interior psychological, individual and consensus cultural, self-representation and mental model.
A shorter, somewhat less polysyllabic or mystifyingly complicated, render of this is that the essential reason for any mystery, contextual problem or repetitive personality failure is very likely too obvious to be observed, usually hiding in plain sight. Human minds and narratives, like our most compelling mythological fabrications, possess intrinsic discontinuities which exhibit those same mischievous recursive logical enigmas as do our sciences, variously-interpreted intelligible consensus realities and our logics and diverse, sophisticated mathematical descriptions and models. That we are often unable to acknowledge or identify the key components and supporting axioms of our own fallibility or species-specific accident prone-ness is only partially a matter of wilful, volitional self-deception. There also exist endemic and intrinsic logical principles and consequences of (and to) our existence which generate their own necessary blind-spots of recursively and reflexively problematic epistemological and cultural-narrative entanglement.
Doctor Who is one instance of a character and personality in whom (and as an example of the necessary inconsistency of all sufficiently sophisticated logical, explanatory or other such narrative information-communication systems) we find that our culture generates truths about itself, about ourselves – through displacing, misdirecting and disassociating the realities of deep, real enigma and inconsistency into a fictional (or at least personal and consensus insight-sanitised narrative) problem-space. The truth is that, among other things, we are responsible for our own destinies, that we ourselves generate our own intricately entangled enigmas and seemingly unresolvable problem-sets, and that ultimately – to paraphrase William Ernest Henley’s “Invictus” – we are the masters of our own fates, the captains of our own souls. Fez hat and bowtie are uniquely optional extras.