Sunday’s Wisdom #88: Bigger on the Inside

“Look at my girl! Look at her go! Bigger on the inside! See, House, that’s your problem. You’re the size of a planet, but inside you are just so small!
– The Doctor, Doctor Who
Series 6, Episode 4, “The Doctor’s Wife”

The new Doctor Who has so many great scenes, and this is one of my all-time favorites.

The Tardis is the Doctor’s ship, a living ship that can travel through time and space with ease. On the outside, it’s about the size of a telephone booth. But inside, there is a huge pocket dimension. Almost everyone says it, the first time they enter its doors, “It’s bigger on the inside!” And while the Tardis has no grandeur whatsoever, being a blue box instead of an elegant cruiser, it has gone places and done things that would make normal ships shine green with envy. For one thing, it, or “she,” can be absolutely nonchalant about escaping black holes. Not a small thing, that!

In this episode, the Doctor and his friends are yanked out of the normal universe into a pocket universe that rubs up against theirs without actually being part of it. They find themselves on a small planet, or, rather, a planet-sized organism. This is the body of an entity, called House because he is the house for whatever lives on his surface. Unfortunately, House is old, hungry, and malicious, cruel and sadistic and inventive. He’s pulled dozens, even hundreds, of Tardis ships from the main universe, eating their power, consuming them, and murdering their crews.

When he learns that, by all appearances, he just captured the last surviving Tardis, he realizes he’s about to be out of food. Instead of simply eating the power, as he has with so many others, he possesses the ship, leaving his old body and former servants behind to die, so he can get into the main universe and find a new source of food. As it happens, this is easier said than done, and takes time, so to pass the time between his departure from his pocket universe and his arrival into the main universe, he torments the Doctor’s friends, Amy and Rory. He is creative, he is relentless, and he delights in their near-mad agony. Their pain, to him, is just something to stave off boredom.

So, House, for all his power, his size and girth and intimidating influence, is so petty that he can only entertain himself by hurting those who are smaller and less powerful than himself. He is “small” on the inside.

But then the Doctor and the soul of his Tardis return to the ship, return to her body. Hers. Not House’s. And she’s able to take it back, an enormous, overwhelming energy, a power that dwarfs mere planets, dwarfs even stars themselves, moving back in, burning out the infection, burning the entity called House out of existence. In those moments, House knows fear and panic, and he quickly begs the Doctor to stop her, to spare him, to not do this. He took such delight earlier, seeing Amy and Rory scream and cry, and they took time and cleverness to break. He breaks so much more quickly than that, begging for mercy that is so richly undeserved. All his cunning, all his savagery, all his evil… and it all comes to nothing, in the end. Just as soon as one Tardis is able to take him head-on, House is, at last, helpless before her wrath.

That’s when the Doctor delivers this line, as he cheers his Tardis on, avenging herself, her sister ships that House has devoured, all of the Time Lords he has murdered, all of the people he has tormented and killed. For all that House has done, he’s just an overgrown leech, a tiny, bloated creature long overdue for being stepped on. And for all that the Tardis has, throughout this entire series, largely been a set piece, easily overlooked, she is special indeed. For all her service and her modest frame, she is huge, and grand, and beautiful, and powerful.

I’m sure you can see why that has always stayed with me in the years since I first saw this episode.

I look around right now, and I see people with great power, money, and influence who aren’t worth the dirt on my shoes. I also see people of more limited means who are magnificent examples of humanity, a credit to the entire species. The differences between the one and the other aren’t really so staggering, really. We tend to focus on what one has, but when we learn to look past that, they’re both only human. They have similar human bodies, but the souls carried within those bodies could not be more different. One can hold the soul of a giant, and the other, that of a gnat.

I know which one I would rather associate with.

Which means I know which one I would rather be.

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