If Lost is turning out to be all about romantic love, then last night's Doctor Who episode made a powerful case that the long-running time travel series is all about compassion. That's why he's the Doctor. Minor spoilers ahead.

We'll have a proper recap of "The Beast Below" in a couple weeks, when it airs on BBC America, but for now we were struck by how much the episode recast the character of the Doctor. Or, really, threw the Doctor's character into focus. Turns out the Doctor really is adhering to the old rule of the Time Lords about only observing other races and never interfering — unless there are crying children, at which point the rules go out the window.


You have to love the solemnity with which the Doctor explains his rule of non-intervention to his new companion, Amy, and the casualness with which he immediately tosses it aside. And the rule of compassion seems to be the one rule the Doctor really can't break — we learn later that if he kills or mistreats an innocent creature in pain, then he'll have to find a new name because he won't be the Doctor any more.

It's something that ties together many of the Doctor's best moments from past episodes — his outrage at the mistreatment of innocents, and his inability to stand by and watch injustice happening. It's definitely auspicious that Matt Smith's Doctor (who's mesmerizing to watch, by the way) is being introduced with such a strong focus on this core motivation. It also makes the relationship between the Doctor and his companion more interesting than romantic love, because she sees that aspect of him and admires it in him, even as she aspires to it herself.


Plus it's not a bad mission statement for an ongoing TV show about someone who travels around solving problems, really. Here's hoping the upcoming episodes explore and deepen this theme.

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