Jan 10, 2010

Doctor Who and Grandmother Spider

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

(The following is my attempt to shamelessly ape the stylings of Christopher Knowles. It is my first such attempt. Developing...)

An interesting article on how the forming Earth avoided falling into the sun caught my eye this morning. I read it with avid interest to see if, perhaps, it pointed to a giant arachnid queen organizing the particles of the developing planet, a la Doctor Who's "The Runaway Bride" (Season 3, Episode 0).

I fully admit to having been stuck to my leather couch during the two day Doctor Who marathon on BBC America -- the lead in to David Tennant's swan song.  It kept sending my husband screaming from the living room, so I recorded a few to watch later. I was that engrossed by it. Something to do with the paucity of new Doctor Who content this year, although the specials have been quite special.

So, "The Runaway Bride," which introduced the delightful Catherine Tate to Doctor Who's pantheon of sidekicks, also introduced the Racnoss, an alien species of giant spider-humanoid chimeras.

As the episode moves to its climax, we learn that it was the Racnoss who coalesced, into its current form, this giant rock we sit upon, and, presumably, kept it from falling into the sun.

The Doctor takes the TARDIS back in time to the creation of the Earth to discover the final piece of the puzzle: the planet actually formed around a Racnoss spaceship which is still in its core. The Empress's goal is to use the Huon particles to reawaken those still on board and devour the human race.

Okay, so she's not very nice.

What follows is a sequence very similar to that described in our MSNBC article.

Planets like the Earth are thought to form from condensing clouds of gas and dust surrounding stars. The material in these disks gradually clumps together, eventually forming planetesimals – the asteroid-sized building blocks that eventually collide to form full-fledged planets.

Except that in our Doctor Who episode, sitting smack dab in the middle of the coalescing space junk is a giant Racnoss space ship.

In watching this episode for the third or fourth time, I considered anew the possibility that this was the Doctor's nod to indigenous creation mythology, even though this Grandmother Spider isn't very nice. As I wrote in my exploration of the spider totem, I always have a bit of ambivalence about spider.

Depending on how one feels about the physical world, spider can be a benevolent or a more ambivalent construct. When I was deep in my ponderings about why spider was such a constant reflection, one friend suggested that it might be a warning about not becoming entangled in human dramas. There could be some truth in that. But the drama in which we are all entangled is manifest creation itself; maya. Or, what Morpheus calls, "the world that has been pulled over your eyes."

Consciously or unconsciously the writers of Doctor Who have tapped into one of the most universal creation myths and had a bit of fun with it.

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