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posting on the wrong end of the week, but it's done at last!
by wingedflight21 (wingedflight21)
at August 13th, 2011 (12:11 am)

Title: Mythical Man in a Big Blue Box: A Study of the Doctor in lizzie_marie_23s “Mythos”
Author: WingedFlight21
Summary: A study in how lizzie_marie_23's "Mythos" uses mythology as a representation of the Doctor and in the process, uses the Doctor to represent mythology. 
Recipient and Original Fic: lizzie_marie_23 and her fic, "Mythos"
A/N: I can not express how very sorry I am for being late with this and I feel like the essay should be better than this to make up for it. So so so sorry!


Mythology and the Doctor: while at first these two topics don’t quite seem to mesh - one is usually associated with ancient cultures, the other with modern science fiction – lizzie_marie_23 weaves them together in the short, yet beautifully concise “Mythos.” A number of parallels are drawn between the Doctor and three commonly-known mythical creatures: phoenix, dragon, and sphinx. Yet, just as the three creatures of “Mythos” represent the Doctor, he, in turn, represents the timeless aspect of mythology.

The first creature mentioned is the phoenix, a legendary bird believed to be immortal due to its ability to die in a burst of flames only to be reborn in the ashes. Known in several different cultures – Hebrew, Chinese, and Russian, to name a few – the phoenix can live for five hundred year intervals between rebirths.1 In the way the bird is reborn, the Doctor rises “from the ashes of the war that killed his race and destroyed his planet.” This is no ordinary regeneration lizzie_marie_23 refers to, but the only change never shown on screen: this is the moment the Doctor takes on his ninth persona in the aftermath of the Time War. And, as lizzie_marie_23 writes, “with his rebirth he changed,” not only in body and personality, but in the circumstances that define him. No longer is the Doctor a renegade Time Lord, dodging the rules to the chagrin of his race; now, he is the only one left to uphold these very laws.

The dragon is the second creature described in "Mythos." A popular feature of most
fantasy-genre tales in modern culture, the dragon has long been a part of myth, most commonly in Europe and China.2 Here is another creature associated with fire and death, although unlike the phoenix, no second chance comes to those who fall beneath the dragon’s rampage. Again, the dragon is an apt representation of the Doctor – “No second chances; I’m that sort of a man”3– who can be terrifying when his anger is let loose.

lizzie_marie_23 writes that the Doctor is a “lonely dragon who lashes out until the fearless villager reaches out to him.” This villager is typically the companion and it is only when we reach episodes such as “The Runaway Bride” and “The Waters of Mars” that we learn just how frightening the Doctor can be when left unchecked. With no one to stop him, he is willing to stand among flames and flood to watch the Arachnos die; with none to oppose him, he will save the crew of Bowie Base One from fire and water even if it means changing a fixed point in time. And yet, there are other moments when a different side of the companion-less Doctor is seen: in “Midnight” he becomes a “small vulnerable creature who wears protective armour to hide his feelings.” When the passengers of the transport vehicle turn on him, the audience is shown a glimpse of the terror beneath the Doctor’s stoic shell. He needs a “fearless villager” to serve as a connection between time lord and humanity. It is the role of the companion to unearth these feelings and ease the anger, to make the Doctor relatable to the citizens he meets in his travels.

Last of the mythical creatures is the sphinx, known best for its habit of posing travellers with a riddle and devouring those who answer incorrectly. While the sphinx was a large part of ancient Egyptian architecture, Greek lore places the woman-lion hybrid as originally from Ethiopia, come to Greece as a guardian of the city Thebes.4 Riddles and mystery are a key component to the myth, and like the sphinx, the Doctor “knows all but won’t tell anything.” The Doctor is tight-lipped, not only about plans but also his origins, only ever letting out bits and pieces to allow his companions to “figure out the rest.” At other times, the Doctor can be seen as very chatty while not saying anything of consequence; his way with words is quite similar to the sphinx’s riddles.
Interestingly, even the two riddles commonly associated with the sphinx can apply to the Doctor. The first: “Which creature in the morning goes on four legs, at midday on two, and in the evening upon three, and the more legs it has, the weaker it be?” The answer to this is man, and while the Doctor does not quite fit the description of the riddle – a man he may be, but Man he is not, and growing weaker he certainly isn’t – the truth is that he is growing older and it often shows. The second riddle – “There are two sisters: one gives birth to the other and she, in turn, gives birth to the first” – is answered with “day and night”. Again, this works for the Doctor, who “can feel the earth turn” and “knows how it ended and how it will all begin.” The progression of night to day to night is something of which the Doctor is constantly aware.

Now, the parallels between each of these creatures help to define parts of the Doctor’s character but, beyond that, also serve to identify the Doctor as a myth. At the beginning of each paragraph, the first statement is not that the Doctor is “like” a sphinx, but rather that he “is a Sphinx” (emphasis my own). The capitalization of Sphinx, Dragon, and Phoenix turn the creatures from labels to identities. The Doctor “was a Phoenix,” “was a Dragon,” “is a Sphinx,” and therefore, is, always has been, and will continue to become myth.

The Doctor is represented by myth, creates myth, and is myth himself. Inversely, the Doctor is also a representative of mythology and its longevity. Just as the ideas of the phoenix, dragon, and sphinx have carried from ancient cultures, the Doctor is not constrained to one society, people, or time. Instead, he travels everywhere and everywhen, carrying his quirks, morals, and lessons with him. “Mythos” describes a mythical man but lizzie_marie_23 exposes myth’s ambassador.

1 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phoenix_(mythology)
2 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dragon
3 “The Christmas Invasion,” Doctor Who (2005)
4 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sphinx


Posted by: lizzie_marie_23 (lizzie_marie_23)
Posted at: August 13th, 2011 03:15 pm (UTC)
Ninth Doctor

Thank you, thank you, thank you! This was so worth the wait! "Mythos" was my very first fanfic ever and you analyzed it beautifully. I love how you picked up on "is" instead of "is like" and the lovely integration of the sphinx's riddles. I'll give you a longer even happier review when I get back from ComicCon.

Posted by: animus_wyrmis (animus_wyrmis)
Posted at: August 17th, 2011 01:04 am (UTC)

I really enjoyed this! I've only just finished watching DW and I like how you flesh out the role of the companions, in canon and in Liz's work.

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