I believe… I believe I haven’t seen everything, I don’t know… it’s funny, isn’t it? The
    things you make up – the rules. If that thing had said it came from BEYOND the universe,
    I’d believe it, but BEFORE the universe…impossible. Doesn’t fit my rule. Still, that’s why I
    keep travelling. To be proved wrong…
    – The Doctor, “Satan’s Pit”

Among the series 1 and series 2 episodes that I’ve watched, “Satan’s Pit” must have made the biggest impression because its narrative was built on man’s roots – faith. This was combined with the simplest of concepts—curiosity, faith, love, fear and deception – to build on the anticipation of the devil. I particularly like the scenes where the Doctor and Ida talk about their urge to jump. He said that this situation was “where angels fear to tread” because of the uncertainty that it held. Its mystery goes beyond their bafflement with the “Empty Child”, their frustration with the utopian facade in “New Earth” or the odd possibility of a fireplace in “The Girl in the Fireplace”. Its mystery hits the core of every human being, the faith that he/she upholds. Moreover, it veers away from the abstract struggle from the Devil by immersing us into its nature.

The episode focuses on the basic juxtapositions—good and evil, hope and despair, faith and disbelief – which all lead to one universal discussion. Faith. This is the discussion about the things you believe in and the things that you don’t. Hence, it’s impossible to talk of faith without diving into a discussion of evil. But the episode deals with faith beyond the shared belief of a religion. It discusses one’s personal faith on the people he/she loves. After finding the key to destroying the Beast, the Doctor was left to choose between Rose and mankind, another reference to his decision during the Time War. If he smashes the vase, he sacrifices Rose. If he doesn’t, he sacrifices mankind. But his faith in Rose allowed him to choose the right path. He freed the Beast thus killing an idea that was meant to live forever. For the Doctor to trust her at such lengths, it shows the depth of their relationship, a detail of this sequential narrative that spreads across the episodes. In the same way, his love for mankind strengthened his resolve to defeat the Beast even if it placed him at risk. Because he believed in their goodness, admired their curiosity (ex. probed the planet for its power source) and respected their capabilities, the Doctor continues to live his life as he does.

Throughout the episode, the characters have asked the age old question “To be or not to be”. Does the Devil exist or is he just a projection from our consciousness? Does it exist in a concrete form or remain as an idea that haunts us all? I’d have to admit that if the latter is true, then the obvious use of a green screen in portraying the Beast was an appropriate story-telling technique. Likewise, it’s a question of whether we’ll live as firm believers of our faith or succumb to the pressure and accept whatever is given. Whoever stands firm on his/her faith wins the psychological battle. For example, the Beast talks to the crew for the first time. He steps on their ego and calls out their fears. Only the Doctor chose to stand his ground and believe in the goodness of humanity.

    The Voice of the Beast: You know nothing. All of you. So small. The Captain, so scared of
    command. The soldier, haunted by the eyes of his wife. The scientist, still running from
    daddy. The little boy who lied…The virgin…And the lost girl, so far away from home. The
    valiant child who will die in battle so very soon.
    Rose: Doctor, what does it mean?
    The Doctor: Rose, don’t listen.
    Rose: What does it mean?
    The Voice of the Beast: You will die…And I will live.
    (Rose, Zach, Danny, Toby, Jefferson and Ida all talk at once until the Doctor finally gets
    their attention. He begins to speak of his optimism for their race.)
    The Doctor: Okay, but what makes his version of the truth any better than mine? Hmm?
    ‘Cos I’ll tell you what I can see: humans. Brilliant humans. Humans who travel all the
    way across space. Flying in a tiny little rocket into the orbit of a black hole! Just for the
    sake of discovery, that’s amazing! Do you hear me? Amazing. All of you…The Beast is
    alone. We are not…

The Devil used his knowledge on these characters to wear them down; proving that knowledge is power. Likewise, he established himself to be “the truth behind the myth” as the episode extends itself to include a pre-mythic evil. The fear that emerges from these causes the characters to regress back to a state of fatalism. Fear begins to overpower their faith; causing them to return to fatalism. But the Doctor’s words empowered them to feed off each other’s fear to motivate them to change the fate that the Beast wrongly gave. In effect, Rose, the “child who will die in battle”, takes charge until the Doctor returns.

As a side note, I like that Rose began to think like the Doctor so that they could find a way to beat the Beast. This showed the development in her character as danger has grown to become a familiar environment, one that she became quite adept in.

Going back to the topic, I found a correlation between the Doctor and the Beast. First, both establish their identity yet no one fully grasps it. The Beast is the “truth behind the myth” while the Doctor is “The stuff of legend”. Second, both purely acts according to their nature; no pretentions. The Doctor smashes the vase which causes the planet to fall into the Black Hole. Despite the danger it posed on him, he didn’t regret his actions because he only protected the planet that he came to love. The Beast, on the other hand, possessed Toby’s body and deceived everyone in the spaceship. In effect, he used a body of an innocent man to reach Earth so that the mind of the Beast lives forever. However, I don’t understand why he chose to possess Toby.
Could it be based on Toby’s profession as an archaeologist? Perhaps, the Beast wanted a mind that appreciated history because he represents the past, present and future (if he wasn’t stopped) of mankind. Likewise, I’m not certain why the transmitter failed to cause a brainstorm on the Beast’s mind yet harmed the Oods. Could it have been scared because it has possessed a human body?

In line with this, I think the pit symbolizes the faith of man. First, the Doctor took the leap of faith by falling into the pit and eventually detaching the cable from himself. The Doctor fell into nothingness, a world filled with uncertainty. Second, the captors of the Beast had faith in the Doctor to stop the Beast from escaping which explains the oxygen provided for him.

In this regard, I like the episode’s well-thought plot that played with the convenient escape of deception but balanced it with the Doctor’s fight for what is good. I just don’t like two details of this narrative. First, I didn’t like the abusive use of the deux ex machina. Although I was expecting that the TARDIS fell in the pit, the timing and convenience of its appearance didn’t fit the mode of story-telling for the episode. Second, it was frustrating to see the Doctor, of all times, to be at a lost for words when talking about his feelings for Rose. Instead of taking the leap of faith, he turns to his convenient faith in Rose (“Ah. She knows.”) which he (at least in this episode) abuses. Be it his fear of rejection, intimidation in his recognition or the unfamiliarity of the effects of the “slow path”, the Doctor chooses to instead hope for the best. Throughout this scene, I had to remind myself to not scream “Just say it” in class.

I watched an interview of Billie Piper and David Tennant a few weeks ago where they compared Rose and the Doctor’s relationship with Ross and Rachel’s from “Friends”. It’s a relationship that they wish to see but hope not to push through because they found pleasure in the suspense. I think quite the opposite. I’d rather see their characters together because their chemistry is undeniable. But I can let this instance slide because their reunion brought a big smile to my face.

By the end of the episode, Ida asks the Doctor about their identity. As I’ve grown to have a stable viewer-TV show relationship with “Doctor Who”, I found myself laughing at the age old question; completely aware that it will never be directly answered. But I found it interesting that Ida recognized Rose as more than a human who travelled with him. She asked for her identity as well; showing that Rose is no longer the girl who just woke up, went to work, ate chips and went to bed.

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