Saturday 17 September 2011

The God Complex. Review

Dr Who, The God Complex, ventriloquists' dummies
It'd appear that sometimes in life the worst thing you can do is open a door. That's why I have a cat-flap fitted, and why I crawl through it every night to preserve my dignity. But I'm not going to let that stop me as, for one night only, Steve Does Dr Who flings open the doorway of Review and leaps, face first, into the Chamber of Opinion.

Looking for yet another holiday, the Doctor, Rory and Amy find themselves in a hotel with a nasty habit of bumping off its "guests". Once the hotel's made each "guest" enter a room that contains his or her darkest fears, they develop a compulsion to worship a resident Minotaur which then comes to kill them.

It turns out the place isn't a hotel at all but an automated space prison for the Minotaur which feeds on people's faith. And now, minor cast members despatched, Amy's next on the hit-list. Is this the end for our plucky heroine and her rather fetchingly decorated fingernails?

Of course it's not. Just as the Minotaur's about to get her, the Doctor kills it by talking Amy out of her long-standing faith in him, thus robbing the creature of its food source.

Deciding he can't keep putting Amy and Rory in such danger, the Doctor then leaves them behind on Earth, with a new home and car he's somehow acquired for them, then sets off to roam the Universe alone.

Dr Who, The God Complex, Gibbis (David Walliams)and Howie

At last, after a string of episodes that've almost worked for me but haven't quite got there, The God Complex is an story that really doesn't have anything for me to complain about. I didn't feel any great emotional involvement for most of it but perhaps in the end I didn't need to. It seems that, provided you play it straight, you can't go wrong with the old Agatha Christie, "Let's kill everyone off one at a time while the protagonist tries to work out what's going on," format but it was well structured, paced and performed, and how can you not love a Minotaur - especially one whose horns scrape the ceiling?

I am a little concerned though at how easy it was for the Doctor to dispel Amy's faith in him. Basically all he had to do was tell her to drop it and she did. I mean, Colin Baker once tried to strangle his assistant. That's the sort of thing that really shakes a companion's faith.

Dr Who, The God Complex, Matt Smith

But is there some significance in the fact that the evidence of this episode is that Rory appears to have no fears and no faith? Is this just one of those things, or will it prove significant? Could it mean there's something about Rory we've not been told? I still keep going back to the end of The Impossible Astronaut where it seemed The Silence had zapped him, only for him to turn up alive and well at the start of Day of the Moon with no explanation for what'd happened in between.

Dr Who, The God Complex, minotaur
I did say the tale created no sense of emotional involvement but that was only true until the final scenes because it'd take a heart of stone not to be touched by the Doctor's farewell to Amy. I've not always warmed to her, I must confess. This is mostly down to often sketchy and inconsistent writing rather than Karen Gillan who can come up with the goods when she's allowed to, but both Matt Smith and Gillan did an excellent job with the scene, and writer Toby Whithouse showed admiral judgement in knowing when to use dialogue and when to let the characters convey their meaning through actions and body language.

So it's farewell to Amy and Rory. They haven't always worked as characters but they've had their moments. And shall we ever see their likes again?

Of course we will. Is there really anyone who believes the Ponds won't be back?


Kid said...

Great review. And, surprise, surprise, I think this was the best episode yet - certainly miles better than Neil Gaiman's self-reverential gobbledygook, Okay, we had basically the same thing we always have; the Doctor and cronies running up and down corridors and going into different rooms. That's been the case for almost every episode so far. However, this time, there was a sense of mystery about it all that kept the viewer intrigued right up until the end. Sure, there were still a few holes in the plot, but not too many to let in the draught of disbelief as things unfolded. And, as you said, the wrap-up was genuinely touching, with another bit of good acting from Karen Gillan and Matt Smith.

Well done. Now bring on the Daleks - once we get those wimpy second-raters, the Cybermen, out of the way first.

Steve W. said...

Thanks, Kid. Personally I live in hope of the Zygons making a comeback someday.

Sadly I get the feeling that no one connected with the show shares those hopes.

Jamie said...

I’m sorry, but am I ONLY one who thought Doctor Who was confusing and beyond boring? The storyline didn’t make sense, the extra characters were very annoying and not fully developed, and the storyline seemed half-assed, basically like someone threw a bunch of words together and called the episode “done.”

Everything I’ve read has people saying it was one of the best episodes but it made absolutely NO sense at all to me. I’ve watched every episode this season and to me, this episode was nothing but a big ball of “What the hell is going on?” and “A hotel that makes no sense? What are you trying to do, copy The Shining. Cause I gotta say, you sucked at it.”

I don’t know. Maybe you have to be a kid to understand it.It did seem like a child would have loved the different rooms and unfinished/unappealing/irrational storyline.

Forget the fact that he left Amy and Rory behind because I was so bored and confused from the rest of the ep that by then I didn’t even care.

How could anyone cry over THAT?

Especially when the rest of the episode was so far out of comprehension that I stopped caring who lived or died and just wanted it to end.

Steve W. said...

All I can say is it all made sense to me.

theoncominghope said...

Great review!

I don't think I was as positive about the episode as you though. I think 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:

CDR said...

The real problem with the episode is that it's a cheat. The Doctor has a "revelation" that he tempts people with all of time and space and they end up being put in danger? He didn't figure that out with Adric? How about when Tegan called him out on it when she left? Donna Noble?

Are we to believe we're going to have a companionless Doctor from now on? Of course not. That's why it's a cheat. For the show to continue the revelation must be forgotten or ignored...

...or it happened to a different Doctor. It's been my theory (not that I'm alone in holding it) that The Doctor who died was the Ganger Doctor. They left open the possibility that he could reform. They specifically stated that the self aware Gangers were just as real as the originals. They also pointed out The Tardis stablilizes their form. From "Let's Kill Hitler", we've been seeing the Ganger Doctor.

Steve W. said...

@The Oncoming Hope, thanks for the praise. I too felt it was a little too easy for the Doctor to dispel Amy's faith in him.

@CDR, you might be right. In "The God Complex" we see the Doctor eat an apple and play with a Rubik's Cube, even though it's been established in earlier episodes that he doesn't like apples and hates Rubik's Cubes. Unless it was a pair of continuity gaffes, it might be a signal that there's something not as it seems about the Doctor.

Then again, if it's the Ganger Doctor, it does leave the mystery of where he got the TARDIS from.

Andy said...

"I too felt it was a little too easy for the Doctor to dispel Amy's faith in him."

Did you not watch the episode prior? Where the Doctor and Rory left Amy for 36 years? Even though our Amy never experienced it, she saw the old Amy who had. Along those lines, I think they've done a fairly good job of dispelling Amy's faith/infatuation with him before this episode. Her deconversion felt right to me, as it often happens in an epiphany (Reminded me of a parent confessing there is no Santa Claus)

Details aside, Dr. Who rarely goes deep enough to question topics like faith, and this was a decidedly anti-faith, rather brave, episode. It personifies the negative qualities of faith as a man-eating minotaur, and I love that. Add The Shining, And Then There Were None, and The God Delusion and you have an episode made for me. One of my favorites this era.

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