Doctor Who, Ep. 6.11: “The God Complex”

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Doctor Who Review, Series 6, Episode 11: “The God Complex”
Written by Toby Whithouse
Directed by Nick Hurran
Airs Saturdays at 9pm (ET) on BBC America

This week, on Doctor Who: the TARDIS crew check in to a creepy hotel and have trouble checking out and the Doctor makes a decision

This week, Doctor Who embraces high concept storytelling and, for the most part, it succeeds. It is a definite improvement over “Night Terrors”, but a few missteps towards the end of the episode stop it from reaching the heights of “The Girl Who Waited”. The concept is a great one- the Doctor, Amy, and Rory get lost in a labyrinthine hotel and are confronted with their fears. Throw in some strong references to Classic Who (“The Horns of Nimon” and “The Curse of Fenric” most specifically), the creepiest clown since “Greatest Show in the Galaxy”, and a few red shirts, and you have a great setup for an episode. Unfortunately, the end of the episode, while interesting, falls a bit flat. Amy loses her faith in the Doctor far too easily (it took much more for Ace to have the same experience in “Fenric”) and even if one accepts that, the notion that Amy and Rory are done travelling with the Doctor holds absolutely no water. Not only are they expected back for the series finale, Karen Gillan has said they’ll be back in/for the next series. This could be a lie fed to the press to mislead fans, but the farewell scene between the Doctor and Amy has nowhere near the sense of finality necessary for the audience to fully accept it.

Those aren’t the only problems either. Though Amy’s loss of faith is apparently crucial in cutting off the minotaur’s food supply, no mention is made of the Doctor’s faith. He clearly has some, or else he wouldn’t have had a room, but this isn’t addressed. Also, while the notion that Rory lacks faith is an interesting one, it isn’t fully examined. He is a character who is always thinking of the good in people and situations, always concerned for those around him, but he has no faith in humanity, a higher power, or even his wife? It doesn’t mesh with the character we’ve gotten to know.  If the minotaur were only feeding on spiritual faith, that would make sense, but Rory’s faith in Amy should be at least as strong as Howie’s faith in conspiracies, particularly after the events of last week. Oh, and the CGI ropes? Pretty terrible.

There are plenty of positive elements to this episode. The guest cast are strong, with Amara Karan leaving a particularly strong impression as Rita. This is a type of character it would be fun to have in the TARDIS, one who’s absolutely calm and fearless in the face of danger. There are flashes of Leela in her stoicism and Martha in her approach (the scrubs help with that too). There hasn’t been a particularly religious Companion in ages. Katarina is the only one who springs to mind, and she barely counts, due to her incredibly short time on the series. It would be fascinating to see how Doctor Who would address religion on a (semi) weekly basis. Finally a mention is made of River by Amy. Unfortunately, it appears the Who PTB disagree with much, If not all, of fandom and think Amy and Rory are and should be completely well adjusted to having lost their child. Speaking of children, Caitlin Blackwood is fabulous in her brief moments as Young Amy and any reason the writers can think of to prompt another visit from her is welcome.

The set design for this episode is fantastic. The hotel is evocative and features some of the best shots of staircases in recent memory. The rooms themselves are great as well, with some very universal and some very specific fears represented. The specificity of Lucy’s room, for example, makes it incredibly effective. While Murray Gold’s music at the end returns to its usual, unfortunate level of schmaltz, the early background music at the hotel is great and perfectly captures the tone of the story. Also effective are the intercut shots of the red shirts being affected by the minotaur. The monster itself is well designed and shot and Toby Whithouse wisely uses the less-is-more method. Though the ending tag from the minotaur is ridiculous (mostly just because the Doctor translated it out loud, something that feels incredibly out of charater for him), the explanation of the prison fit nicely and managed to be tidy without feeling like a cheat.

“The God Complex” leaves viewers with several questions. Why the sudden burst of conscience from the Doctor? How long ‘til he looks up Amy and Rory again? Just what/who was in his room? (The lattermost is undoubtedly himself, perhaps either the Vanguard or Dream Lord, to be more specific. The cloister bell is a nice touch). One complaint from this season so far is the seeming lack of change or dvevlopment in the Doctor. That’s over- he has only ever left behind a Companion once before, with Sarah Jane, and that situation was theoretically out of his hands. The next two weeks should be very interesting as we first get a Companion-lite episode and then a potential wrap-up to the River Song arc with the series 6 finale, “The Wedding of River Song”. Looking forward to it! Whatever problems this episode, and this part of series six, may have, it’s still been a lot of fun.

What did you think of Amy’s exit? What do you think was in the Doctor’s room? Can Rory do any wrong? Let us know what you think- post below in the comments!

Kate Kulzick

Follow me on Twitter @theteleverse to see what I’m watching and to let me know what you think of this episode.

4 Comments
  1. Kate Kulzick says

    Great point, Steve. I missed that connection (apples). Interesting.

  2. theoncominghope says

    I agree that the biggest problem in the episode was that it was too easy for the Doctor to take Amy’s faith away from her.

    But so many of the problems in the narrative of this episode stem directly from the writers having no idea of Amy as a character, as I discuss in more detail here:

    http://theoncominghope.blogspot.com/2011/09/doctor-who-god-complex-aka-characters.html

  3. Steve Does Dr Who says

    I do wonder about the Rory thing. As you say, there’s an implication in all this that he’s not scared of anything and that he has no faith. There’s also that odd scene in which he starts talking about travelling with the Doctor in the past tense. I do wonder if there’s been something going on with Rory in this series that’s yet to be revealed.

    Also, anyone notice that the Doctor eats an apple in this episode and plays with a Rubik’s Cube, even though it’s been established in earlier episodes that he hates both apples and Rubik’s Cubes?

  4. Matt Marquissee says

    The faith thing was pretty thin. Rory has faith in Amy or he wouldn’t have waited so long for her. Likewise, Amy has faith in Rory and The Doctor.

    “Amy, I’m not your hero.” “Oh, okay.”

    An emotion like guilt would’ve worked much better. Guilt over Melody perhaps. But, the rest was solid. My favorite line was “I just wanna go home and be conquered and oppressed!” Not exact.

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