Doctor Who and the Major Arcana: The Emperor

NEVER Cruel Or Cowardly. NEVER Give Up. NEVER Give In.

On today’s stop in the journey through #22DoctorWhoTarotQuotes, the major arcana as framed by quotes from Doctor Who, we’ve reached the Emperor. The Emperor is our card of authority, of order, of leadership and structure. Did you know that we’re in the waning days of an Emperor year? It may have seemed a chaotic one, but think of the conflict around exertion of control through the rules and lockdowns put in place by governments, and (at least here in Canada) how the government has stepped in to also protect those most at risk. It has been a year exemplified by the struggle for societal order to contain the perils of the “natural” world – in this case, the spreading virus.

To illustrate the Emperor’s bold leadership style, I’ve selected a quote that was uttered by two Doctors, and echoed by a third. In the 50th anniversary special, David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor responds to Clara’s question about his name being a promise. He says, “Never cruel or cowardly.” The War Doctor adds, “Never give up. Never give in.” And then, several seasons later, the Twelfth Doctor echos the sentiment in the farewell speech I quoted last week: “Never be cruel, never be cowardly, and never ever eat pears!” I almost wanted to invert the posting of these two quotes, because I think the fuller one I chose to represent the Empress shows an evolution in the Doctor, as he goes from the patriarchal nature of the Tenth and War Doctors’ quote to the more nuanced consideration in the Twelfth Doctor’s speech.

In a lot of ways, the Doctor is like the Emperor. A natural and powerful leader, he encourages you, like the Emperor, to stand up for what is right, to assert leadership and respect order (as it applies to timelines, at least.) He is a defender to those without power, asking loyalty in return. Of course, the Doctor has a wildly chaotic side – the Emperor would probably not condone stealing a TARDIS for a joyride that lasts for millennia. And the later Doctors, in particular Twelve and Thirteen, have stepped away from the bombastic universe-leading president-of-the-world style to a more quiet, behind-the-scenes enabler, so the humans (and others) can save themselves with the Doctor’s benevolent mentoring. But that, too, is a powerful form of leadership.

As a bonus, I found this illustration on Reddit by Redditor jpw3bb – a beautiful render of this quote in Gallifreyan.

Illustration by redditor jpw3bb

As always, I’d love to know your thoughts. Is the quote “Never cruel or cowardly. Never give up. Never give in.” evocative of the Emperor for you? Why or why not?

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