Doctor Who Is Inherently Jewish, So Why Haven’t They Had A Jewish Storyline?

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Graham Balanoff

Image by Graham Balanoff

In 1963, Sydney Newman, a man born to Russian Jewish immigrants, created “Doctor Who.” Since then, it has been on and off television screens for nearly 60 years. Based off of the Jews and the Nazis, “Doctor Who” was, and still is, a massive hit. The main character, The Doctor, survives a genocide of his people by an alien race called the Daleks. These creatures have only one emotion, hate, and they want to destroy everything that is not Dalek. Their catchphrase is “exterminate.” With their lack of Jewish characters and storylines, this leaves a bad taste in my mouth. How can a show base their main character’s trauma and history off of the Holocaust and not have a Jewish storyline or main character?

The show has included some Jewish cast and crew members, including the series’ first producer and the first companion’s actress. However, their Jewish characters are severely lacking. In the classic “Doctor Who” series (1963-1989) there was a grand total of ten minor Jewish characters, appearing for a couple episodes at most. They garnered books or Big Finish audio series about them at a later date.

In the new series (2005-current), there haven’t been any Jewish characters despite hundreds of new characters being introduced alongside two spinoffs (Torchwood – 2006-2011) and the Sarah-Jane Adventures (2007-2011). Image by Graham Balanoff.

Modern day “Doctor Who” is constantly praised for being inclusive of many different minorities including LGBTQ+ representation with fan-favorites such as Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie), Jack Harkness (John Barrowman), Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman), and even The Doctor themselves to name a few. And they have also shown multiple people of color (POC) such as Bill Potts, Yazmin Khan (Mandip Gill), Mickey Smith (Noel Clarke) and the ‘Fugitive Doctor’ (Jo Martin).

However, despite the show’s Jewish roots, they have a yearly Christmas special and never mention Jewish traditions. Image by Graham Balanoff.

The only mention of Judaism was in the 2006 episode “The Satan Pit” where the Devil says that he belongs to “New Judaism” despite the fact that Judaism has a limited concept of the Devil in the first place. In a later series, Murray Gold, the composer of the “Doctor Who” soundtracks, wrote “The Daleks,” a song that includes Hebrew lyrics even though the characters are based on the Nazis. This just seems like a strange choice, why have the Doctor’s greatest enemies speak in a language used by the people the Doctor is based on? 

I feel that The Doctor sould strongly relate to Judaism over any other religion, and it shocks me that the show hasn’t addressed this. The Doctor has a strong love of discovering other cultures, religions, and places throughout the universe. His main ‘schtick’ is traveling through time and space to help ‘repair the world’ and help those who are pushed down with the help of a companion who asks all the right questions without the use of weapons. This feels awfully similar to the idea of ‘tikkun olam’ and the idea that Jews should question everything, including the Torah and those who know more than them. With The Doctor’s love for learning, questions, and helping others, he just feels Jewish. There’s not a better way to describe it. 

The most ‘Jewish’ incarnation of The Doctor, in my opinion, is the 12th Doctor (Peter Capaldi). He invokes the feeling of that crazy uncle or the impulsive and curious rabbi. Although he may appear to be a grumpy old man at first, he is actually the regeneration that cares the most about others. He’s willing to give people second chances while still holding them accountable for their actions. The 12th Doctor is a teacher above all else, lecturing at a college on everything he can possibly come up with, hoping to help his students gain a better understanding of the world around them, just as rabbis do for their communities.