Borgian labyrinth imagery in Doctor Who – Part 1

An article by L..A. Murillo (1959) discusses the idea of the labyrinth presented in the work of Jorge Luis Borges, and in reading this article, I noticed a lot of parallels with recent plots and settings in the remake of Doctor Who. This is a cumulating collection of Doctor Who labyrinth imagery and/or metaphors as described by Murillo, referring to the works of Borges.

Murillo suggests that  “each of Borges’ stories contains one or several variations of the labyrinth theme. In The Aleph it is not overly difficult to make out the nucleus of images that Borges uses for the labyrinth: the plan of a city, the sands of the desert, a spider web, a flaming pyre, and the dream state…”
(‘The Labyrinths of Jorge Luis Borges’, 1959)

Russel T Davies and Gareth Roberts use the metaphor of the sands of the desert when creating a planet that is entirely sand dunes (2009, ‘Planet of the Dead’, 4:15)

Interestingly, they also work in the labyrinthine city image – the planet used to be a thriving metropolis-planet in the past: 

The most relevant example for this project is ‘The Silence in the Library’ story arc (2008, Steven Moffat) which imagined a planet entirely composed of books – called ‘The Library‘. The darkness lurking there and recalls Murillo’s associations of the labyrinth with the fear of death and the helplessness of man (p.266, 1959). The plot recalls the original labyrinth myth in the terrifying beast/destroyer lurking in the library and the apparent inability to escape, but for the maker of the labyrinth – the character whose family created The Library is the one who possesses the knowledge to let them escape.

In another interesting layer, it also recalls Borges’ Babel in the sidelined role of humans within the library, and the search to find out what is at the heart of the library and discover its purpose to decipher it. Characters are ‘saved’ or ‘consumed’ (depending on your viewpoint and understanding of labyrinth stories) by both the character at the centre of the library (Cal) and also the ‘beast’ (the Vashta Nerada). 

More to come!

Reference List:

Murillo, L.A. 1959, ‘The Labyrinths of Jorge Luis Borges: An introductory to the stories of The Aleph’, Modern Language Quarterly, 20:3 , pp.259-266.

All images from the television series Doctor Who, episodes indicated.
Screen caps from