Friday, 10 August 2012

Epic Heroes

In our Literary Lessons From Lord Of The Rings, we have just finished The Fellowship of the rings, and as our final 'unit study', we learnt about epics and epic heroes.
An epic was originally defined as a "long, narrative poem that recounts the deeds of a hero and represents the values of a particular civilization of culture"
Some of the greatest epics in history are;

The Odyssey - Attributed to Homer
The Iliad - Attributed to Homer
The Aeniad - Vergil

Epics, of course, have epic heroes in them. But an epic hero could also be in a story that isn't an epic.

Anyway, I was reading through the classifications that is needed for a character to be classed as an epic hero, and as I read through them all, one particular character of a series came to my mind; The Doctor from Doctor Who.
At the end of this unit study on epics, I had to choose one of five writing assignments. I chose number 4;
'Have you read any books or seen any movies that portray an epic hero? Write a paper telling how this hero fits some, or all, of the qualifications as an epic hero.'

Of course, Doctor Who is a series (although there is a movie and books!), but I figured that was close enough... anyway.. here's my essay (apologies for any spoilers etc. in the second to last paragraph [the one with 'The Eleventh Doctor' next to it] for those of you who haven't, but plan to, see Doctor Who.)

The Doctor: An Epic Hero
08 / August / 2012

   What is an epic hero? He is not necessarily the main character of a story. Epic in the modern day society means large, or massive. In the early days of poetry, however, an epic was an extensive, narrative poem that recounted the deeds of a hero and represented the values of a civilization or culture. Being classified as an epic hero in these poems meant that he (or she) had to pass certain qualities:
  1. The epic hero is often of super-human origin
  2. The epic hero is favoured by the gods
  3. The epic hero performs super-human feats of strength and endurance
  4. The epic hero must have previously proven his courage in battle
  5. The epic hero is of national or universal importance and will hold the fate of a nation, civilization, or world in his hands
  6. The epic hero represents the values of his age (culture)
  7. The epic hero will usually take a journey to the underworld in order to accomplish his goal

The First Doctor
In BBC’s TV series, Doctor Who, The Doctor, who happens to be the main character, is an excellent example of a modern epic hero; he has mostly passed all of the above qualities. The Doctor, however, has not gone to the underworld, but he has gone to some pretty dangerous places to accomplish his goals!

The Second Doctor
   The first quality of an epic hero states that he must be of super-human origin. In a sense, this is true of The Doctor. He is a Time Lord. Being from this ‘alien’ race, he is therefore ‘higher’ than humans. “Superhuman [means] something that is not human, but considered to be "superior" to humans in some ways. […] A very intelligent or strong alien could be considered superhuman”. 1 The Doctor is a brilliant alien, and therefore, is classed as a super-human.

The Fourth Doctor 

   The Doctor is not ‘favoured by the gods’, because they are not portrayed in this series. Instead, Time Lords ruled the universe. They chiefly controlled time and space, so they can represent ‘gods’ even though they really aren’t at all. Before the near-extinction of the Time Lords, he is just ‘one of them’; he isn’t favoured at all. When The Last Great Time War was finally over, however, nearly all of the Time Lords were wiped out. The Doctor believed that he had become the last Time Lord, and so, he must have become the favoured one!

Dalek Invasion Fleet
   The epic hero performs superhuman feats of strength and endurance. The definition of endurance is:
The ability to bear prolonged hardship: the ability or power to bear prolonged exertion, pain, or hardship2
  To stop The Last Great Time War3, and the destruction of everything in the universe, The Doctor destroyed the ten million dalek ships. The explosions and burning resulted in the destruction of his own planet, Gallifrey, which was put into a ‘time lock’ – nobody could go in or out; it was frozen in time. For many years, he had to learn to live with the fact that he is the last Time Lord. The rest of his race was gone, however, because of that one act. While he may have felt torn, he knows that what he did was necessary. Thus, the obviously has the ability to bear prolonged hardship. This also shows another quality that the Doctor has, which portrays him as an epic hero; the feature to have courage in battle. Performing the act of destroying his whole race, his family, to end a war shows that The Doctor must, indeed, have an enormous amount of courage.

   In nearly every episode, or series of episodes, of this fantastic television show, The Doctor saves:

  • The Earth
  • Humans
  • An alien species
  • Another planet
  • A combination of two or more from the options above
The Sixth Doctor
Thus, he shows another feature of an epic hero; they are of national or universal importance, and hold the fate of a nation, civilization, or world in their hands. When he protects the humans and/or aliens, he is defending their nation(s) and/or their civilization(s). The Doctor holds the fate of entire planets in his hand, and he protects them, showing that he does, indeed, have this quality of an epic hero.

The Tenth Doctor
An epic hero represents the value of his age.
   The hero must represent the culture he has come from, in the Doctor’s case, Gallifrey, the home of the Time Lords. This ancient race values knowledge, they must have knowledge in order to keep time and space in order. Constantly learning, The Doctor, in all of his adventures, keeps this value true.


The Eleventh Doctor
    Although The Doctor has not gone into ‘The Underworld’, in one of the latest Doctor’s episodes he does go into a time crack in order to save the universe. Doing this act meant that he wiped himself from history. He never existed. Because this is not a desirable place to be, this can, in a way, represent The Underworld. By going through the crack, he accomplished his goal; he prevented the destruction of everything that ever existed and everything that ever will.


The Doctor's Time Machine
Time And Relative Dimensions In Space

 The Doctor passes every trait that he needs to be an epic hero. He is a super-human, and the favoured one at that. While he defends the world, he is practicing his endurance to live with the loss of his species. He has proved his bravery. Representing the values of his age, he is constantly learning and working to save mankind. To accomplish his goal, saving the universe, he went through a time crack, which wipes him from existence. He has therefore shown every one of the nine characteristics he needs. Truly, The Doctor is an epic hero!
1 Wikipedia – Superhuman -
2 Microsoft® Encarta® 2006 – Encarta Dictionary Tools - Endurance

A Time Lord On Gallifrey


  1. You supported your argument very well :D

    Nice use of words too :)

    Now for the 'but' ...there always has to be a but :P jk Actually it is more a pointer, one that I learnt the hard way...Wki isn't allowed to be used as your main source of information gathering for you biography (I just noticed that 2 out of your 3 sources were wiki) schools and uni's just don't like it.

    But Awesome essay, very interesting, loved it :D
    Well done! :)


    1. Thanks!(x2)

      Ahh ok didn't know that, thanks for pointing it out :)

      Thank you again!


  2. Nice Helena! Let me guess what you have been watching lately :P But where are the pics of the 5th, 7th, 8th and 9th doctors? :-o lol jks, number 5 and 9 (Peter Davison and Paul McGann, oh I am so sad to know all their names) numbers 5 and 11 are possibly my favourites, although I also like 1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10... wait a moment... very cool though I like it, especially since I have been doing essays on epic heroes as well lately... except mine are on The Odyssey :P

    1. Ok, you can guess! :P
      I didn't have enough room on the essay when I typed it up (without it looking overly-crowded), and Paul McGann was number 8, Christopher Eccleston was number 9 :P (sorry, just had to say that :P )
      LOL!! :P
      Thank you :D
      Yeah, that was one of the options for me to write about... but I thought writing about The Doctor was much cooler :P

    2. O_o my world just collapsed I wrote the wrong number! Stupid typos... :P

  3. Did I ever show you my 4th doctor scarf? Very cool. Seriously.

    1. No you didn't; it is not a must-show for next time I see you! It sounds very cool!


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