Today is a special day with a special post, as an old friend celebrates a significant milestone…
Doctor Who, televisions longest running science fiction show, is 50 years old today. This is a show I have enjoyed since as early as I can remember, a part of my life throughout my life, it has followed me throughout my journey as much as I have followed it through its own, and so in celebration of this milestone and as a small way of showing my appreciation for this moment, I thought I would share with you some of my thoughts about the amazing astrology behind this show, specifically focusing on the reasons for its longevity. In many ways this becomes more than a love letter paying tribute to a beloved TV show, it serves as a small demonstration of how I generally approach the interpretation of a chart when it is first put in front of me, a process I have never shared in writing, but far more importantly it will lead us to an appreciation of one of the fundamental ‘rules’ of astrology, one that is often omitted from instruction manuals on astrological interpretation but which is absolutely vital to grasp if we are to understand how astrology works.
First, some initial questions might arise in the mind of the reader. Does a TV show have a ‘birth’ chart? If so, what is the moment of birth – the moment when the idea is conceived, when the show is written, recorded, or when it is broadcast? Where is the birth ‘place’ – the place of broadcast, the place of recording, or some other place like the place where the first script is written? More subtly, and more intriguingly, we might also wonder what differentiates Doctor Who from other TV shows and events emerging at the same time in the UK, but on different channels or different artistic mediums – why have they not endured the same way? In other words, what is it about the show that has enabled its special endurance, from an astrological perspective? Why did it catch on in the way that it did?
To answer this last question from an artistic point of view would be complicated – we would have to talk about its formula as an artistic medium and its expression of that through the team of individuals involved in its design, acting, writing, themes, plot devices, social relevance, lighting, musical scoring, directing and a whole host of other areas, and we would have to chart its ups and downs and the influence of key individuals according to the changing patterns being communicated by the changing sky as time moves on. I’m not going to do much of that here. Instead, I am going to focus on the chart for the moment when the show was first broadcast, Saturday November 23rd 1963, using Television Centre in London as the birthplace, which for me is the data of greatest significance in terms of when and where the show is ‘born’, as I think most people will agree. However, the questions raised above are fitting questions, and will be left questions as the Doctor might leave them, things to be pondered that are their own precious treasures. Those who consider these questions carefully may begin to understand the ‘timey-wimey’ considerations that mundane astrologers must deal with in deciding when social movements or institutions are ‘born’, and deeper consideration illuminates stark and troubling philosophical differences between the currently popular natal approach – which insists on to the minute accuracy in natal charts – and the perspective and experience of the so called mundane astrologer which immediately makes this insistence seem a lot more arbitrary. To be blunt, the experience of investigating ‘mundane’ astrology (the study of events which take place in the human and natural world) reveals that there is no single ‘birth’ moment for anything, that there is just a continuous flux into which things are cast and re-cast, and human beings are included in this matrix. Our birth time is just one significant moment in that ongoing flux of essential meaning, a mere point of reference which at a fundamental level allows us to extract that meaning and make it significant for ourselves through expression in the world. It is like the door of the TARDIS, a dimensional doorway through which we emerge in a certain time and place and thereby have a certain perspective of life and history as it happens, but through which we can and one day will return, only to appear again elsewhere, elsewhen, the same, but different.
So, yes, a TV show does have a ‘birth’ chart, and like our own birth moment, it is the moment when its significance emerges into the world as a physical entity, fully formed, with all of its digits, limbs, extermination rays and appendages and with all of its potential being encapsulated in that moment. This, for me, is the moment when it appears for the first time on the screen, and with Doctor Who we know (by natal standards) that we have ‘reliable data’ because we know to the minute when this occurred – just after 5:15pm on November 23rd 1963. But we have to remember that this moment is not the only moment we could look at – we could choose the moment the cameras rolled on the first take, or the moment when Rex Tucker (a producer and director) reputedly wrote the title on a napkin at lunch, or any other moment of significance, and each of those moments would reveal the whole, fractal like, from its own perspective. That is because there is an essential meaning emerging and showing itself through different moments and places as different symbols, a meaning decipherable and made open to forecasting through the human awareness of astrology. Debunkers of astrology like to point at this and call it something – ‘Forer effect’ – which is basically the idea that a fuzzy and over-generalised reading of any single chart can be interpreted as very accurate by many different people at the same time. They say it’s an illusion; I say it’s the power of symbols and the infinite whole expressing itself in every iota of an infinite variety of itself. Additionally, I disagree that the work of an astrologer is fuzzy and over-generalised – not the work of a good astrologer anyway. The interpretation sometimes begins as a fuzzy outline but the work of the astrologer can potentially sharpen and clarify this with time so that it becomes scintillatingly relevant and eerily accurate, especially in terms of the ability the astrologer has to pinpoint the key events in life and when they occur. None of this requires the astrologer to meet or even speak with the subject. And sometimes there is no fuzziness, even in the beginning.
In looking at this chart the questions I would like to shed light on in this essay are what is the essential meaning behind the show, how has the essential meaning of the astrology being expressed by Doctor Who manifested itself, why has it remained so popular, and ultimately, through shedding light on these questions, we may remotely hope to shed some on perhaps the ultimate question posed by the show – Who is the Doctor?
So lets start by looking at the chart for the moment when the show was first broadcast –
On this page you can see most of the information I use when judging the qualities of a chart in the tables to the left with the chart itself to the right. I will just quickly explain some of those tables for the technically minded and curious out there (skip down to the debonaire Jon Pertwee if you are not interested) – the Elements and Modes are measured at the top, something that works as a handy visual reference for the overall nature of the chart. I will check this out pretty quickly after looking at the chart itself, because it really does shape the expression of everything. Here, for example, I would note the powerful dominance of Fire and the Reactive or Mutable quality, which matches Sagittarius, and that becomes part of my baseline for interpreting everything. With such an imprint even a shy Virgo Moon will be more outgoing, for example. It’s my first clue.
It’s interesting to note here that in the recent episode ‘Dinosaurs on a Spaceship’, the 11th Doctor says “I’m a Sagittarius. Probably.” I can’t hep but wonder whether this is a really quite cool deliberate reference on the part of writer Chris Chibnall to the fact that the show aired on the cusp of Scorpio Sun becoming a Sagittarius Sun (so there is ambiguity over which Sun sign the show has unless you know the precise moment the Sun changes signs), or whether this line was entirely throwaway and flippant, but uncannily hit the mark.
Next to them are the esoteric Rays popularised by theosophist Alice Bailey – a consideration I rarely find use for, but which are there because people have asked for them. In my practice they have not helped at all on a practical level, I have instead drawn upon stars and constellations for the more esoteric or occult (i.e. concealed) interpretation of charts. Where I have found the Rays to be helpful is in perceiving the natural mental body equilibrium – the inner equilibrium of my spirit or individual nature – as opposed to the astral equilibrium of my personality which the bulk of astrology focuses itself on. But that’s a magical matter and not really an astrological one. I am not a theosophist, and do not agree with much of its doctrine. So personally I am almost always ignoring this except when asked or am considering a question pertaining to the magical equilibrium of the mental body, and how often does that tend to happen?
Below that I have the dense list of points showing the co-ordinate positions for the planets in the sky, their speed as a relative factor, and the temples or houses that they occupy or govern by the placement of signs. This table helps me to identify the more subtle and intricate patterns which do not visually present themselves. Fast planets will process issues faster, slow planets will take their time to digest situations, and retrograde planets will be more self referential and inclined to trust to hindsight.
To the right is a box on the house cusps, for which I am using the Placidus system. This table is often helpful when I am working with temples (i.e. when I have a precise time for the chart) as their degree is not readily visible on the chart itself.
Underneath that are two more boxes, one for sect and one for essential dignity. Sect is an important part of my interpretation process, and I will explain how I use it shortly. Essential dignity is also important, but I have an unconventional approach to the subject which has arisen from inner reflection, reading around, experience using my keys and other magical forms of astrological work. I will explain some of that in this essay too, but here I want to point out that I am using the Egyptian terms and bounds, not those of Ptolemy which came later. These are two ancient methods I use which I find provide critical information.
The final two tables below those for sect and dignity show the positions of the newly arrived objects mentioned in my book The 26 Keys and a list of the closest aspects between major bodies in the chart. I find both of these handy reference tools that can add significant detail to interpretation very quickly.
When a chart first appears in front of me, I don’t look at any of these tables initially. The first thing I note is the impact the chart makes on my own awareness, the immediate, instinctive sense of it. This is a wordless thing I will not write about much except to say there is always something obvious and in the case of the chart for Doctor Who it is all about the massive significance of three regions – the sign of Sagittarius, the placement of Saturn and the Moon on the midheaven in Aquarius, and the potent Uranus/Pluto conjunction in Virgo. My attention is drawn by the pile-up including the Sun in Sagittarius, and by the placement of the other factors because they are at one of the angles.
Another important part of this initial impression is the colour coded geometric structure formed by the aspects. Astrologers call these aspect patterns and have identified major ones and their specific essential meaning. However every chart has a shape and this shape conveys a meaning, an energy and an overall tone. In this case one senses a focused energy that points towards the right side of the chart (the west) with a ‘spine’ that is composed of the axis involving Uranus, Pluto and Chiron – the dark purple lines bisecting the chart from top to bottom – and an energised ‘point’ emerging through Sagittarius.
What immediately leaps out is this sense of pushing outwards, of being compelled to flee, to cast away, to reject convention and restriction and to adventure into the bizarre and the extraordinary, but to do so under harsh or unpredictable conditions and to have to endure a multitude of pressures arising from an instinctive idealism, a desire to do things both spectacular and truthful, or moral. Significantly, this is an apt description of the Doctor himself and the things which tend to happen in the show, as well as an accurate description of the process of conceiving and creating it – the inception of Doctor Who was ambitious and hassled, its ambitious reach extending far beyond the technical capabilities of television at the time, and it was created with the directive of being an educational program which held to high moral standards in its storyline.
After an immediate impression of things, I will begin a journey through the chart, always entering at the ascendant. So let’s start there – there is a Gemini ascendant, establishing Mercury as the chart ruler. That’s already a huge amount of information. The essential meaning of Gemini is one of travelling, both mentally and physically, of moving through patterns in time and space and trying to identify them, especially those which are curious, odd or new. The Doctor is a traveller, a wanderer in the 5th dimension, a drifter in time and space. His eye is always being caught by the little things that seem out of place, curious details that only he notices, and on the surface of it he is a scientist, or at least some kind of intellectual – a towering brain firing on all cylinders is how he announces himself in a room, and he often asks impertinent or abrasive questions and is somewhat cantankerous and changeable, at least to ‘stupid apes’. At first impression he is a typical Mercurial figure, contradictory, unpredictable and changeable, facts and brains pouring out in all directions, talkative and witty, sometimes a little too smart for his own good, and full of questions, down to his very name. Am I over-generalising here, stretching to shoe-horn the subject into the chart? No. It fits like a tailor made glove.
Striking, too, is the resonance this sign rising has with one of the most ingenious plot devices ever invented, the ability of the Doctor to regenerate and change his appearance. While the Daleks may have (ironically) provided the fuel that launched the show into the stratosphere, it is probably the concept of regeneration that ensured its continued existence. The show continually reinvents itself and is able to appeal to a fresh generation of viewers on a regular basis. It outlives its cast and can shed them all but remain fundamentally and essentially the same. Only the TARDIS remains externally unchanged as arguably the central ‘co-star’ of the show, although in a bizarre inversion its interior undergoes regular makeovers. We can also note that the freedom given to the shows writers in the form of a vessel that can go anywhere in time and space is also resonant with the rising of Gemini, as is its appearance as a telephone box, as well as its unruly, curious and uncontrollable nature and the fact that there are often 2 people inside. Nor can we ignore the fact that this is primarily childrens television, although the adults have always enjoyed it as well, and children of school age are the purview of Mercury. And the Doctor really does love his gadgets and his pockets…
These factors – the TARDIS, the eternally mysterious, curious but ultimately scientific Doctor, the freedom of the concept to move and explore any where and any time and any (probably dangerous) thing, its appeal to the young and the curious at heart – are in essence representative of the life force of the show, its vital breath, the ingredients which bring it to life and sustain its existence. Looking at Mercury will elaborate on this and provide further context for this essential meaning to express itself. If Gemini rising tells us the Doctor is a traveller and a thinker, the condition of Mercury will tell us what kind of traveller and thinker he is, where he takes that urge, and how he will satisfy it. It will also tell us how the writers and imaginers cope in practical terms with that sweeping freedom, and how the whole enterprise is co-ordinated to express the realisation of the ideas which will be constantly generated.
Mercury is in Sagittarius in the 6th temple, but before going there I will check out his status in the sect table, and then his dignity in the essential dignity table. When considering sect, my question is about the Fluids – is Mercury getting support from a nutrient Fluid? A Fluid is a substance that a planet needs in order to function optimally. There are 2 Fluids, a Magnetic and an Electric, and they are generated astrologically by the Sun (Electric) and the Moon (Magnetic). Every planet needs one of these Fluids for the expression of the life of its symbolism to prosper. A planet lacking in a needed Fluid will encounter some challenges in being comfortable with itself and this will show itself in a difficulty expressing the potential it represents.
Mercury is setting after the Sun – visible only at the start of night if at all – and this makes him a Magnetic planet in this chart, which means he favours Earth and especially Water signs. He will also prefer to be below the horizon and/or in the opposite hemisphere to the Sun, i.e. with the Sun having set but Mercury above the horizon in the dark part of the sky. This will supply him with Magnetic Fluid, especially when in an Earth or Water sign. In this case he gets almost nothing, gaining only a weak supply from being placed below the horizon, but on the same side as the Sun.
To say it was not easy for the creative crew to realise the scope of the scripts is a huge understatement – it was a humongous, crazy, monumentally ambitious idea that such a project could even get off the ground, let alone fly for 50+ years. Early shows were made under extremely challenging conditions but the scripts demanded the presentation of other worlds, times, races, and technologies. There was no big Hollywood budget behind it. Compared to American TV budgets, the budget for Doctor Who is still small.
In part at least these difficulties stem from the challenges of Mercury being unsupported by Magnetic Fluid, but they are sourced elsewhere as well, and it’s often prudent to find three different symbols pointing in the same direction before you take that direction on board rather than draw judgement from a single powerful factor like this. Let’s go further with this Mercury before looking elsewhere though; we have only just begun to look at her.
Her essential dignity tells me how familiar she is with her tasks and her situation, the degree she inhabits in the zodiac and her overall ability to realise her agenda, how equipped and supported by the status quo she is. In the sign of Sagittarius Mercury has two zones where it gains this dignity – one is the first 10 degrees of the sign, the other is 17-21° of the sign. These are the faces (also called decanates) and terms (also called bounds) of the Sagittarius sign which have a Mercurial essential meaning. Mercury is just outside of its own decanate at 11° Sagittarius, thus it does not fall in any familiar territory, a condition called ‘peregrine’. Instead, it finds itself in very unfamiliar territory in a sign opposite its own sign (Gemini is opposite Sagittarius), and so it is also called ‘in detriment’.
Again, this detrimental quality is to do with the extreme difficulties in realising the shows potential, they are not indications of being destined to fail or anything so fatalistic, they are simply qualities and conditions it has to contend with. And, to be precise, the lack of essential dignity refers to the ‘uncharted territory’ nature of this Mercury – it is being driven to go farther and wider than ever before, to operate completely outside of conventional boundaries and to be therefore encountering a lack of support from the status quo and a need to forge its own path in inventive ways. To be peregrine is to be a wanderer outside of the main stream, to be unable to call upon the support showered upon more conventional and less risky shows.
This was certainly the case in the early days of Doctor Who with a distinct lack of confidence in it being expressed by the upper management of the BBC, a resistance and scepticism which producer Verity Lambert (an outsider herself being a woman, alongside Indian director Warris Hussein) was instrumental in challenging. The story of the show in the beginning is one of struggle and hardship and lack of conviction from those in authority whilst at the same time being one of great spiritedness and ambition on the part of cast and crew.
So we see a Mercury intent on doing things that are ‘out there’ and having to contend with a lack of support from the establishment and the status quo it finds itself in. The Doctor is forever an outsider looking in, a wanderer in strange places, and the show is always a little eccentric and refuses to conform to the conventional standards being imposed on other shows and even on itself. It has an instinct to reach beyond itself and its own limitations, to push the envelope of what is believed possible, both creatively and practically.
This ‘pushing’ nature is given a rocket-like thrust by the pile up of planets in Sagittarius, which includes Mercury. What we perceive immediately from this Sagittarius emphasis is that the Doctor, and this show, is a rambling gypsy of a thing, a somewhat roguish but romantic figure that refuses to come to rest. There are no boundaries here. Both the show and the Doctor are hell bent on going to the farthest reaches and then falling off the edge, just to see what happens. His Gemini curiosity is never satisfied – there are always new things to discover over the next horizon – and he is literally a wild stallion loosed across the vast expanses of all of time and space, free to roam and explore. And he is informative – he is bursting with notions that make our heads pop – and eager to share discoveries by bringing along companions whom he shows this immense vastness to.
The show, itself being initially created to inform, also resonates with this essential meaning; early on it expressed it through historical dramas intended to awaken interest in history and science in the younger viewers, and even when this agenda was dropped it always retained a strong moral core to it which was often far ahead of its time, even prophetic. All these qualities are imparted by Sagittarius, and also by the 6th temple, which is about things done as acts of service or intended to help in practical ways – and there is a heaping helpful of hard labour in a 6th temple pile-up…it looks like the job will never get done…The Doctor may not always be heroic, but he is often far sighted and must always be motivated by a sense of what is right, ethical, and, broadly speaking, truthful. That’s the story side of the expression. The early attention to historical accuracy is just one manifestation of this quality in the production side of the show; another is the hard labour that went into it under duress, at giddy speed, and then there are the challenges to peoples health that the 6th temple can symbolise…
Fascinatingly, the placement of the chart ruler Mercury in the 6th temple is clearly expressive of a doctor or a healer, someone who helps make things better. There is really little to say about this except to note how incredibly remarkable and apt astrology is once you really understand it, and also sometimes, how eerie it feels to play with when the symbolism becomes so clear. We are going to see more of that striking clarity in a moment. I think it is important to point out that in my experience the frequency of these things in astrology is far in excess of what could be expected by random chance. Reflecting on this now my experience puts me in mind of the TARDIS and how it always seems to manifest in the most appropriate place possible. The thing is, though, I don’t think the planets are causing anything. I think its not so linear, and more ‘spacey wacey, timey wimey’ than we have been assuming.
Before looking elsewhere, I will take a look at the aspects of the chart ruler, and I will focus only on the closest aspect at first. In this chart, it is Mercury in Sagittarius square Chiron in Pisces. Here again, the essential meaning of healer/doctor is being underscored, but note that the square denotes action, challenge, dynamism and friction – this is not a passive healer but one who wades into broken, dangerous or sticky situations trying to fix things, someone who is themselves afflicted with a malady. He is almost painfully driven to act as a force which brings warring factions together and stops the killing, death, destruction or horror that is emerging, even when he knows it is a ‘fixed point in time’. And he has critical self doubts about whether or not he is the cause or instigator of all this mayhem, simply by turning up in his magic box. Catastrophe and disaster follow him around, and not just because as a (probably immortal) Time Lord all his company is deferred death. He feels a vast nebulous pain that is never to be healed, a Chironic pain that is part of what makes him who he is and which he must continually salve and soothe – the pain of loneliness and despair, the pain of being an exile and a maverick, in recent years, the pain of being the only surviving member of his race. He left his own people behind him, absconding with (or being absconded with by) his time machine and his mysterious grand-daughter, Susan, and it was perhaps not just because of his wanderlust and curiosity, but because of some personal tragedy that left him feeling very alone and disenchanted with the ideas of his own society. In recent years, and as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations, the show reveals details of the Time War that saw his own people and home planet lost, and this will undoubtedly add to his already epic scale as a tragic figure.
So, into this mix of an intelligent, gypsy wanderer who knows few if any boundaries, we have this essence being stirred in suddenly – pain. Loss. Death. It is his motivation to heal. He saves lives that will only be snuffed out later, but as he said once, for some people small beautiful things are what life is all about. Chiron is about the quest. There is a purpose to his wanderings, though he may not necessarily know it. I note too the close square between Uranus and Mercury, emphasising yet more firmly that this man is an outsider and a maverick who makes up his own mind and has some very strange ways and ideas, that he is not to be taken for granted because he is fundamentally driven to be unpredictable, while also underscoring the urge in the show to push back all the boundaries and display a distinctive eccentricity.
Many other things could be said about this Mercury, but this establishes the baseline from which I would draw my interpretation. At this stage I would start panning out and looking around the chart for other clues which help me to elaborate on this foundation.
The next thing drawing my attention in this case is the Moon and Saturn in Aquarius on the midheaven, the point overhead. (Saturn extremely powerful through its rulership of Aquarius). This again underscores many of the previously mentioned qualities – Aquarius is brilliantly scientific, regards itself as an outsider, has many strange foibles and challenges convention – and here comes the stark clarity of astrological symbolism again, because Aquarius is the sign of space exploration and science fiction and the midheaven in the case of a TV show is all about the themes it aspires to. Looking at the Moon and Saturn on this place the astrologer is immediately put in mind of a struggle to rise to the top, a strenuous and exhausting effort being made to achieve something which is beset with a multitude of different hassles, setbacks and difficulties. The mind also does not stretch one bit to match Aquarius with the broadcasting of a television signal.
When Doctor Who began it was filmed at Lime Grove studios rather than the comparatively luxurious Television Centre. The space was cramped, technology was badly outdated and the studio grew so hot that sometimes the sprinkler system would suddenly activate, drenching the crew and suspending work (Aquarius the Water Bearer!). Conditions were so limiting that there must have been many fears, doubts and insecurities in the air in those early days, and the Saturnine restraints definitely show in early episodes. For example, episode 3 of ‘The Daleks’ (the second story of the 1st series) has Carole Ann Ford run on the spot while stage hands whip her with twigs, simulating her fleeing through a forest. Additionally the day before it was broadcast Kennedy was assassinated, leaving the world in a state of shock (these events are clearly described by the parans of Uranus and Pluto for that day). This meant that the day of the broadcast of the first show and some of the filming of later episodes was affected by a mentally shocked, dark and depressive mood which is visible in some performances when you know to look for it and was reflected in the viewing figures – but the show was repeated the next week on the insistence of Lambert (who had a Sagittarius Sun and Moon to perfectly resonate with the shows essential nature).
This limiting of things is not just limited to the early production challenges and resources of the show; it is also about the limiting power of the title role, and in some cases where the companions have had major roles to play the careers of those actors too. All of the now 11 Doctors and many of the companions have become ‘typecast’, straight-jacketed by their career choice, eclipsed by the stature of the Doctor to a significant degree. Many careers have been used up by this show, but not entirely unkindly in many cases, and more than a few have been firmly established by it. Some, however, have had much harder burdens to bear from this Saturn and Moon than others. Carole Anne Ford, again, has said when asked whether her acting career was exterminated: “Yeah. In no small way. Definitely. Nothing shook it off. Nothing.” I met and worked with the 2nd Doctor Patrick Troughton, and he told me more or less the same thing, but he still loved it and thought fondly of it, as I am sure almost everyone involved with the show does. There has always been something of a family feel to Doctor Who, onscreen and off, even as a viewer. In the chart, that is a successful expression of the Dragons Head in Cancer in the 2nd, and of the presence of Uranus and Pluto near the cusp of the 4th temple – the temple of family. It broke down the barriers between adult and child, bringing families together.
There is no doubt that it has always been an exhaustingly punishing schedule to be a part of, with time, resources and energy levels being constantly drained and needing to be carefully spent. And, as previously noted, a lot of people high up in the BBC did not want Doctor Who to go ahead. In another display of poor support from the powers that be involved with the show, the BBC ceased to make it in 1989, leaving a 15 year near vacuum inhabited by the single appearance of the 8th Doctor in a TV movie (made in America). Despite this the Doctor lived on in audio adventures, conventions, comics – basically everything but a TV show. In the beginning there were concerns about large sums of money being spent on children’s programmes (which at that point were not considered to be of major importance), and there were stubborn rows, even a few violent bust-ups. The show has always been produced under a number of constraints that have literally squeezed creativity in new directions by necessity. There is also something of the nature of something that endures in this chemistry, too, an indicator of the shows longevity, if it can surmount these challenges and navigate through a very narrow space. Saturn is the giver of permanency through toil.
So there is a paradox here, as is typical of Aquarius, in that while the nature of the show and its title character are virtually limitless the experience of manifesting those things publicly is in some way unusually limiting to those who attempt to do so, and that there are long term consequences for careers and conditions being attached to success which mean that anyone involved with that success in a publicly visible way meets with serious consequences professionally that have been described as ‘suffocating’ and must work hard if they want to throw them off, perhaps even having to accept that they never can, and it may be that when Christopher Eccleston, who played the 9th Doctor, chose to depart from the show after one season it was at least partly because he was able to sense this quality taking root in his life. This Moon/Saturn in Aquarius on the midheaven also pairs with Chiron square Mercury as an eerily apt symbol for the failing health of the actor in the title role, William Hartnell, who was eventually forced to leave because of arteriosclerosis. Aquarius and Leo are the signs of the circulatory system and heart.
Scanning the rest of the chart several other factors immediately make interesting presentations – Chiron in Pisces in the 10th, already discussed, again hints at a healer or Doctor in a leading role, but a compassionate one, one who has a nebulous emotional injury; Pluto conjunct Uranus in the 4th temple in Virgo speak of his strange home, the TARDIS, which is grown as a sentient vessel powered by a collapsed star and has infinite dimension on the inside but is externally a plain old police box used to call for help services, and it also speaks of his exile from and the eventual destruction of his home planet, Gallifrey, along with his entire race, as well as the structure of many plots – ‘base under siege'; elsewhere the secrecy of Neptune in Scorpio hints at the unending mystery of just who he is, including the mystery of his name, as well as the many dark conspiracies he is part of; and the Dragons Tail in Capricorn in the 8th is a powerful symbol of his often destructive potential which brings a reckoning on the heads of those who abuse their power and authority.
Just as clearly, these symbols tell us things about the show as it is behind the scenes and in terms of real life experience rather than the storyline (italics provided for the astrologically illiterate) – Uranus and Pluto in Virgo in the 4th show inventive attention to detail in the crafts that go into the show (it had a scientific advisor in its early years, for example) and resonates with the extraordinary challenges of exotic and alien monsters and invaders, many of which seem excessively interested in our home planet Earth, which had to be realised along with entire planets and the past, often on a weekly basis. Here, too, once again, is the pressure cooker base of operations that was Lime Grove Studios, and the quirky Britishness of the show. Neptune in Scorpio conjures the music of the show, from the eerie and ethereal theme tune to the creepy and sinister scoring of the monsters and villains. It also speaks of the visual effects, many of which (at least in the classic era of the show) required a leap of faith and imagination to believe in, but many more of which were superbly realised for their time, and a large number of which involved contamination, explosions, destruction, exotic and imaginative deaths, and things we only ever see in our darkest fears. Doctor Who is one of the few children’s shows which has not hidden death from children but instead revealed it as a part of life, and not patronised them with the usual fairy tales. And the Dragons Tail in Capricorn in the 8th is clearly suggestive of grappling with the power of an authority, budgetary and financial entanglements and restraints, the need to make ends meet, as well as acting as an echo of this awareness of the significance of death and tragedy. It is as if the educational agenda of the show is also reaching and extending far beyond the usual horizons, beyond the areas taught in schools and by families, into the deeper, darker areas, as if it feels an educational responsibility to show that too. The urge for honesty in Sagittarius is often overpowering and felt at the core.
Jupiter in Aries is especially interesting, given that it falls in the 11th temple of ‘companions’. Again, it is a strikingly apt symbol for the whole panoply of about 50 companions who have travelled in the TARDIS. There have been brave or plucky action figures and soldiers (Ian, Rory, Mickey, Ben, Jamie, Stephen, Captain Jack Harkness, Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart, K9), independent and self motivated heroines (Barbara, Liz, Sara Jane Smith, River Song, Clara, Jo, Romana, Leela, Amy, Rose) and innocent but often truculent and defiant children who need saving or guiding (Susan, Adric, Ace, Victoria, Polly). The Doctor, and the show, has a burning need for companions and is drawn overall to people with a spirit of adventure and a willingness to face danger.
No discussion of Doctor Who would be complete without a discussion of the huge variety of monsters. Interestingly, when we look for that danger we find it also coming at least partly under the giant purview of Jupiter in Aries – the sign Sagittarius on the 7th temple puts Jupiter in charge there, and the 7th temple is the place of ‘known enemies’. The Daleks, the Cybermen, the Master, the Weeping Angels and even the Time Lords themselves are all merciless genocidal killers relentlessly bent on exterminating, deleting, destroying and obliterating from time every living thing they can lay their cold hands and sink plungers on. Yet they are also ‘companions’ of the Doctor and of the show, inseparable from him or from it. Or, as Madame Du Pompadour once said “It is the way it has always been. The monsters and the Doctor. It seems you cannot have one without the other.” We also see a Mars in Sagittarius conjunct that 7th temple cusp, with Venus close by, an imagery which brings to mind the hysterical cry ‘Exterminate!’ very vividly and aptly (when you think of Sagittarius, think of the Arrow), and this goes towards explaining why so many of the villains and monsters of Doctor Who are xenophobic extremists, crusaders, fanatics, mad scientists or immoral military types (although the mad scientist is more an archetype of the Moon/Saturn conjunction in Aquarius). But there is more than a hint of the monsters in the conjunction of Uranus and Pluto in Virgo, too, as I pointed out earlier in connection with the work of the props, make-up and special effects crew and the plot device of a base under siege – they had to be inventive but efficient, convincing but practical, mind bogglingly exotic but able to be produced out of some modest materials like a box of ping-pong balls, some string and a few boxes.
So, having looked over the chart briefly and made these kinds of baseline observations I will later return to it and look at the sect and dignity of every planet, as well as all the aspects they make, and the positions they occupy in the pattern. Before I do this, however, I will go and have a look at the influence of the stars on the planets and the chart as a whole. To do this I will need to open the chart in different software, because Solar Fire (my software for birth chart work) does not display the information I need. For that I must use Starlight, which will show me the actual image of the sky at the time and calculate the parans to the planets in a way which I have found to be more accurate than the way Solar Fire does it. Starlight also has the advantage of providing well researched, highly astute and precisely tuned interpretations by the author Bernadette Brady, interpretations which squarely hit the nail on the head every time I turn to them and help to awaken and inspire my own process. So I will be giving you some example of those interpretations here and using them as the basis for this demonstration of how I will use the stars to fine tune the interpretation.
First, take a look at this image from Starlight showing the western sky over London at the time the show was first broadcast. The vast majority of planets are visible against the backdrop of stars.
I will go immediately to look at the overall picture wherever there seems to be a planetary pileup, which in this case is happening in the above section of sky, the part given over to the zodiac sign Sagittarius, and also look at wherever there seem to be points of interest from the earlier look at the chart. I will check out positions against the constellations first, and then look up the parans to planets in Starlight, if any are to be found. Parans are the relationships that form between stars and planets when they cross over one of the four turning points of their journey through the sky (rising over the horizon or setting, culminating in the sky or anti-culminating). The planet and star have to cross any of these points at the same time during the period between sunrise and sunrise in order to form a paran. For example, if there is a day at a specific location when Mercury rises at the same time star X rises, or culminates, or sets, or anti-culminates, Mercury will form a paran with the star.
Starting with Mercury, then, I am immediately impressed by his presence above the heart of Scorpius, the star called Antares, and at the foot of the stars called Ophiucus. These are the stars of the serpent-healer, a mythic figure who wields a primal and magical power (the serpent) in the name of healing. These are the stars of The Doctor, a true healer who does not just fix broken limbs but mends the winding and writhing space-time continuum and who can even defy death – they resonate with Asclepius the Greek god of medicine, who angered the gods by restoring the dead to life, and the serpent entwined around a rod (the rod of Asclepius, which is different to the caduceus) is used as a symbol of medicine today. It cannot be more fitting an identity to find as we pull the symbolic mask of tropical astrology away. Stars often have this eerily acute focusing of meaning, a striking form of literal symbolism that shines with significance. There is also something of the power of the snake to shed its skin suggesting itself through the regeneration of the Doctor, and his mastery of the ‘wibbly wobbly’ and ‘timey wimey’ is also being presented here. We simply cannot mistake this symbolism, it requires no stretching or reaching.
Interestingly, there are no parans to Mercury. The stars do not impose direction upon it. What this immediately brings to mind is the utter freedom with which the Doctor operates. His fate is his own to forge, he has broken away from the eternals – his own people – and has nobody but himself to obey. The fact that there are no parans to Mercury is also an indication that despite other pressures the show has a chance to make its own destiny as well. All depends on how well it grasps the serpent in its hands. The grip must not be too tight, nor too lax, neither a dominance nor a relaxation, but instead a kind of wriggling dance of probabilities. Flexibility is the key to continued health and survival.
Noting the nearby area – that Venus and Mars are also at the feet of Ophiucus, and that Antares strongly resonates with a darker and more obsessive undertone to the character and the show, especially visible in recent years but always present in the Doctors actions and the situations he materialises into – I will then begin scanning the other parans and planetary positions for interesting symbolism. Here is an example of the kinds of things I find immediately, the interpretations provided by Bernadette Brady:
The Moon is in paran with –
Hamal, the horns of Aries – “A rogue, but liked by many. To challenge authority in a way that is loved or appreciated by others. A focus on the next generation and what can be saved.”
and also with –
Denebola the tail of Leo – “Encountering different religions or cultures.”
Alpheratz the navel of Pegasus – “The person who stands alone.”
The Sun is in paran with –
Denebola in the tail of Leo – “To be independent and to do things ones own way.”
Venus is in paran with –
Capella, the shoulder of Auriga – “To go outside of society’s accepted boundaries.”
Mars is in paran with –
Aldebaran the eye of Taurus – “The successful craftsperson.”
El Nath, the horn of Taurus – “To take physical action even in the face of strong opposition. To be brave or foolhardy with ones safety.”
Jupiter is in paran with 3 stars –
Spica, the gift of Virgo –“A person who goes beyond the recognised limits of their field; or an event beyond peoples expectations. Assertive, intelligent and well planned action wins through”
Schedar the heart of Cassiopeia – “A person who values the past, the historian”
and most significantly with
Ras Alhague, the head of Ophiucus “A person who uses knowledge and optimism to expand the lives of others. To be a river of information for others. Justice is done, what is natural and correct comes to pass.”
Saturn is in paran with Menkar – “Ones actions or work affecting many; the Beast or the Saviour. The revealing of the true situation”.
(Note that despite what might be imagined with the thousands of stars in the sky, only a few parans are made each day overall because we only look at major stars, so this list is not selective or representative of the parans in the chart, but nearly complete).
Anyone who knows the show will immediately recognise the relevance and accuracy of these descriptions. They not only embody the character of the Doctor, but also the character of the show and its lengthy history. Further details are added when I consider the heliacal rising and setting stars for that day and place, and the pivoting stars for the moment the show was on the air:
Heliacal Rising: Spica of Virgo – “To excel in a particular area; wanting to use ones talents for the greatest possible good.”
Heliacal Setting: Mirach of Andromeda – “Learning that diplomacy does work.”
Pivoting: Alphard of Hydra – “Direct, hard hitting, sometimes vengeful or ruthless attitude to life.”
Once again, these qualities express themselves clearly in the persona of the Doctor, but they also serve as a blueprint for the production team, the cast and crew, who are being advised to use diplomacy to navigate through difficulties so that excellence in their individual crafts can come together, and they are being cautioned that there is a need for them to pull some punches when it comes to delivering the often dark and disturbing tales, but not too many punches…it is Alphard that empowers the appeal of the Daleks (and the other monsters), who shot the show into the stratosphere amid ‘Dalekmania’ in the 60s. The show – and Terry Nation in particular – managed to encapsulate that ‘ruthless, vengeful, hard-hitting’ attitude to life in a nemesis that is perhaps even more popular and recognisable than the show it was spawned from. Extermination? Children lapped it up gleefully, and still do. Far from extermination, the Daleks were instrumental in the shows existence today. They are inseparable from the Doctor and the success formula for the show, and always have been, because they give voice to the message of Alphard, along with the other monsters of the show.
With all this material I will then begin a more detailed interpretation of each part of the chart in turn, referring both to Starlight and Solar Fire, asking questions of the chart and examining it for a response. I will start with the stars and work out from there back to the natal chart. Once there I will cover all the bases that many other astrologers do, and pay special attention to the Lights, the ruler of the chart, planets in the 1st temple or at the angles and aspects with narrow orbs. There is a chaotic spontaneity and intuitive randomness to this, much as there is in any individual mind, so I will look at curious details like the position of the asteroid named TARDIS (…you want to know, don’t you? It’s next door to Chiron in Pisces, on the cusp of the 11th temple! – it brings him and the show to all of his companions and enemies). When pulling it all together I will remember the baseline I have established via the above methods and elaborate on it as I take in more of the picture. This, essentially, is my working process as it goes on in my head when a chart is put in front of me; my writing process, the method I have for writing a complete write up of a chart, is very different and much more involved, but more systematic.
Writing this has been a healing journey for me – a way of giving something back to someone who was always there for me. It doesn’t matter that he is really a fictional character – he still has that power to heal. He is a contradictory figure, eternally youthful yet unimaginably old, somewhat child-like in his mentality while at the same time being staggeringly intelligent and ineffably alien, and also at the same time he is just a mad man in a box. His TARDIS is a metaphor for the human mental body, the human spirit, which journeys through eternity housing souls and delivering them to where they most need to be when they need to be there. He is a hopeful, fairy-tale figure with a human pain, the pain of being alone.
So Doctor Who is now 50 with a promising 12th Doctor waiting in the wings, and in looking at this chart with you today I hope we have come some ways in understanding why. It is not that the show was blessed with a glowing fate by birth (Spica in paran with Jupiter aside), it is that the show has carried its essential meaning into expression, it has taken the matrix and played it like an instrument, and this embodiment of its potential is what enables it to stay afloat – it is born aloft by a monumental creative effort through the years, but also by an instinctive adherence and loyalty to the pattern it was born into. Nobody told the writers, producers or performers about any of this pattern – it was ‘in the air’, instinctively sensed as a ‘good idea’ and bravely responded to – and because they did this, all of them, it has captured the imagination of the public and continued to prosper, continuing in creative forms despite having several low points. It may be perhaps the most ingenious formula for a television show ever realised, continually able to reinvent itself whilst remaining true to its essence – a show so mysterious and yet so familiar that even now, 50 years on, it does not matter that we do not know just who the Doctor is, and probably never will.
Long may it continue; perhaps we can even be allowed to hope, on this special day, that in the words of William Hartnell to the rest of the cast, “it will go on forever.”
Thank you, Doctor. Would you like a jelly baby?
(My sincere thanks to the BBC and Bernadette Brady for use of their material and images in this article).