Ethos Education

Doctor Who: The Name of the Doctor: Why did Jesus choose to face his death?

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Learning Objectives:

  • Consider key moments in the ministry of Jesus.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Reflect on a range of difficult choices.
  • Analyse a clip from Doctor Who: The Name of the Doctor to assess the Doctor’s reaction to his imminent death.
  • Analyse Bible passages to determine Jesus’ attitude to his imminent death and the reasons why he chose to die.
  • Synthesise learning by writing a newspaper report into Jesus’ attitude towards his death.


Ask the students to make a series of choices. Ask the following questions, either asking each to a different single student, or asking the whole class to raise their hands to show which option they would take in each case.

  • Would you rather lose the use of an arm or a leg?
  • Would you rather lose your sense of taste or your hearing?
  • Would you rather lie to your parents or your boyfriend or girlfriend?
  • Would you rather go hungry or eat food found in rubbish bins?
  • Would you rather live, or die so that someone you love can be kept alive?

Allow time for students to give the reasons for their decisions in each case. If students find the last question particularly hard to answer, spend a little time discussing why. Explain that in today’s lesson you are going to be considering Jesus’ death from his perspective: looking at what the Bible suggests about Jesus’ state of mind as he prepared to be executed.


Introduce the clip from the Doctor Who episode The Name of the Doctor, which is available in the box set Doctor Who Series 7: Part 2. (BBC DVD, 2013, Certificate PG). Click here to buy the DVD online. Explain that they are about to see some of the Doctor’s friends being given a message for the Doctor. Ask them to pay particular attention to the choice that this leaves the Doctor to make.

  • Start time: 0.06.29 (Beginning of chapter 6 of the DVD)
  • End time: 0.15.26
  • Clip length: 8 minutes and 57 seconds

The clip starts with Clara (Jenna Coleman) reading a letter. The first line is a voice over as she reads, starting with ‘My dearest Clara, the Doctor entrusted me with your contact details.’ It ends with the Doctor saying, ‘Apparently by breaking into my own tomb’ and the tardis dematerialising. If you want a shorter clip, you could start at 0.12.15, with Clara pouring tea and asking, ‘So who was she, the lady with the funny name and the space hair?’

Ask the students why they think the Doctor seems so troubled. If anyone is unsure why it is so bad for a time traveller to visit the site of their own grave, explain that knowing the details of how and where they die makes it impossible for those events to be changed, therefore sealing the time traveller’s death. Do the students think that the Doctor was right to seek to rescue his friends, even though doing so puts him in danger of certain death? Why would he choose to go to Trenzalore, even though he knows the implications of such an action.

Now ask the students to read one or more of the following Bible passages: Matthew 16:21-28; Mark 8:31-9:1; Luke 9:21-27. Please note that these are parallel passages, all describing the same event.

Working in pairs or small groups, ask them to identify significant parallels between Jesus’ conversation with his disciples and the Doctor’s dilemma, particularly River Song’s (Alex Kingston) protests that the Doctor must not go to Trenzalore. Allow some time for the students to feed their answers back for discussion as a whole class.

Draw out that Jesus’ disciples, particularly Peter if you used the Matthew or Mark accounts, were adamant that Jesus shouldn’t die; similarly River Song was opposed to the Doctor ever going to Trenzalore. By contrast, Jesus knew that his death was central to what he had come to do, and the Doctor recognised that there was a greater need – saving his friends – which made his going to Trenzalore necessary.

Ask the students to read one or more of the following parallel Bible passages, again in their pairs or small groups: Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-46. Ask them again to identify parallels or significant differences between the Doctor’s situation and Jesus’. Draw out that both Jesus and the Doctor would have preferred not to die. Nevertheless they both chose to face their own death. The Doctor did so to try to save his friends, while Jesus did so because he was submitting to God’s will for him, and because he knew that there was no other way for the world to be saved.


Ask the students to write a newspaper article telling the story of Jesus’ decision to go to his death. The article should focus on his awareness of what he was doing and his personal reaction to it. Students should refer to Bible passages used in the lesson as source material, and they can choose whether to set their account after Jesus’ crucifixion, after his resurrection, or before his trial and crucifixion (but after the second set of Bible passages used in the lesson).


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