Over Thanksgiving break I went on a movie binge and could not help but relate many of the concepts from Democracy and the Foreigner to almost everything I saw. The myth of the foreign founder is so prevalent in film and television that it is impossible to have the sort of marathon I did without encountering it several times. In my “study,” I have found Kurosawa’s depiction of ronins (rogue samurai,) and in turn Sergio Leone’s character known as the “man with no name” (played by Clint Eastwood) to be ideal representations of the foreign founder myth.
While we can assume that both the man with no name and Kurosawa’s ronins went on in their respective journeys, doing good deeds and founding along the way, “foreign founder” is not their profession. A ronin, once finding a new source of employment (i.e. a feudal lord) will lose many of the qualities that made him an effective founder. Seeing as how my taste in entertainment is varied, I wanted to find a different foreign founder in a more modern, less folksy manifestation; a founder Who’s purpose in life was founding and did it again and again; a founder Who was not a samurai without a master or a gunfighter in a dispute between homesteaders and ranchers. I was looking for a foreign founder Who was just that and nothing more, and I found him in science fiction, in the form of The Doctor.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the show Doctor Who, it follows the adventures of a time-traveler known as The Doctor, who is the last of the Time Lords. In his travels he encounters different species, accumulates various companions, and basically solves problems along the way. I would like, mostly for my own benefit and amusement, to examine the Doctor and his foreignness in a few different lights, to determine if he could be the ideal embodiment of the foreign founder myth.
Being the last of his kind, the Doctor is essentially a foreigner to everyone he encounters. With that in mind, one might be inclined to ask, what can his foreignness do for me? Well, the Doctor is clever (“very clever” as he not-so-modestly states many times,) has an unimaginably detailed understanding of the past and future, and the majority of the Doctor’s incarnations are inherently good (I should mention that the Doctor, when on the verge of death, can regenerate and return in full health with a new body and personality. Some have not had the same self-restraint and patience as others…) He also has a profound interest in humans and I suppose the human condition itself. Whenever he finds the human race deviating from its successful course in the history of the universe (for the sake of the show, he does quite often,) he has no qualms in giving them a little nudge in the right direction.
Yet, like the Dorothy or Shane paradigm, the Doctor himself is a threat to the people he founds. He is capable of bringing down a regime with only six words, holds knowledge from the future that could be devastating if it fell into the wrong hands, and is just plain too powerful to fit in amongst humans. But with all of space and time at his fingertips, it is not too difficult to imagine compelling reasons for the Doctor to leave a society he founds, other than simply being a threat. If that is the case, what about him would make the Doctor the ultimate foreign founder? By that I mean, how could he be aware of his threat to those he helps and fly off into the stars solely because of that fact and not because there are simply more interesting things to do? I am afraid that the Doctor does typically leave out of simple boredom, yet I am still convinced that he is aware of his threat to those that he founds. In answer to this dilemma, we can look to the relationship between the Doctor and his companions.
When we take into account the Doctor’s age (it’s over nine hundred!!!) as well as dialogue from the show, we can assume that the Doctor has brought countless companions along with him on his adventures, and each one of them has gone through a sort of transfiguration/evolution. They typically begin as a regular every-day human, and after traveling with the Doctor, go on to do great things and serve a higher purpose. Even if they do not become influential figures in history, the Doctor at least imparts unto his companions a perspective that could not be obtained within the confines of an Earthly existence. This, in a way could be considered a type of (re)founding.
Putting his own loneliness and his companion’s desire for adventure aside, the Doctor has realized how much of a threat he is to his companions. He can show them the wonders of all of time and space and get them killed in the process. Therefore, he has begun cutting his co-adventurer’s contracts short of the “sorry, but you’re in a parallel universe and you can never come back” or the “sorry, but you’ve been displaced in time and I can’t find you” cutoff that existed for previous companions. For example, in the case of Amy and Rory Pond, the Doctor leaves them on Earth to live out their lives. He even does so by means of deception in order to forego the “please just one more trip” conversation.
Accepting that the types of founding the Doctor does are on the global scale as well as a more personal level, I seem to have found the ideal foreign founder. One who is foreign to everyone, rides off into the sunset for the right reasons (figuratively and literally,) and has no other purpose in life but to found. To leave the door open a little bit and not have this post simply be me blathering about a show I watch far too much, I will extract a question from my analysis for possible discussion: Can the Doctor’s relationship to his companions, if explored further, be successfully used at the base of another model of the foreign founder? Or another more general question: Is it acceptable to consider foundings on an individual level a possibility at all?