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“Doctor Who”: “The God Complex” Review (SPOILERS)

I certainly was not expecting this episode to end how it did. From the trailer, I, like most people I think, assumed this would just be another standalone scary-thing episode in the same vein as “Night Terrors,” but Toby Whithouse’s “The God Complex” turned into something far deeper and more impactful.

If last week’s “The Girl Who Waited” was about Amy’s relationship with Rory, and Rory’s relationship with the Doctor, “The God Complex” was about Amy’s relationship with the Doctor, and his relationship with himself and companions in general. While a good portion of the “plot” of the story doesn’t make as much sense as it might, the overall emotional impact of the episode and its reflection on its characters was spot on.  To anyone saying the Steven Moffat era lacks the complex character arcs of the Russell T. Davies era, I point you in the direction of this series. I don’t think I’ve seen a series of Doctor Who MORE about character. I don’t think that’s what any of us expected.


The episode begins, as so many do, with the TARDIS landing somewhere that nobody knows where it is.  In this case, it’s a perfect replica of a 1980s Earth hotel, complete with clashing decor, long hallways, and weird, twisty staircases.  They had been trying to go to a planet with 700 foot tall people you can only speak to with the help of hot air balloons. It always seems like the places they try to go sound way cooler than where they actually end up. But no matter.  Also, does the Doctor call Rory “Mickey?” Is that what he says? I can’t tell.  Regardless, this hotel is not as it seems. In the pre-credit sequence, we see a young police woman roaming the halls, going into various rooms and seeing apparitions of creepy things until finally she enters HER room, where the brutal gorilla that frightened her as a child resides.  It is at this point that she begins to chant “Praise Him,” and a large, horned creature comes to get her.

From this, it would seem this is a haunted, Shining-type hotel with all manner of nastiness lurking in the rooms. However, naturally, nothing is as it seems.  The crew almost immediately meets four more people, three Earthlings and an alien sheep from a constantly-conquered planet, and find out that all them awoke there with no memory of how they arrived.  Over time, each of them sees their darkest fears and to overcome them, they begin worshipping the Minotaur creature, eventually dying when it feeds upon their worship. Turns out, it’s a prison for the Minotaur which automatically captures people, shows them their greatest fear, gets them to renounce whatever beliefs they carry in favor of worshipping the creature, who then feeds on them.

Some things in the episode that didn’t make sense: 1) Why would the prison look like an Earth hotel if it captured people from all over the universe? 2) Why would an alien prison be made to look like something from Earth in the first place? 3) How is a prison sitting in outer space able to even abduct people from all over the universe? 4) Why is it that when people start praising the beast, they see the printed words “Praise Him” in various fonts?  That last one’s less important. Whatever the plot holes involved, the idea of the Minotaur, a relative of the Nimon for us Classic Who fans, is an interesting and different one.  This half-season seems to be fixated on the idea of bad guys that aren’t really bad.  None of these four episodes yet have actually had a proper villain. “Let’s Kill Hitler” had River and/or the Teselecta, “Night Terrors” has the little alien kid, “The Girl Who Waited” had the handbots, and now this one has the Minotaur who doesn’t want to do what he’s doing.  Remember when there’d be a bad guy in every episode? I’m not necessarily saying this is a bad thing, but it’s just happening a lot.  Thank cripes for next week when we get the Cybermen back. Nothing sympathetic about that lot.

Of course, Nimon cousin aside, this episode is really about the Doctor. He realizes, finally before it’s too late, that the Doctor makes his companions believe in him wholeheartedly and that can, and often does, lead to their death.  In a scene reminiscent of “The Curse of Fenric,” the Doctor tells Amy she has to lose her faith in him, that he’s not a hero, just a madman in a box.  The character of Rita was a great addition and will join the ranks of companions who might’ve been.  She’s the one who first seeds the idea in the Doctor that he’s big into being worshipped, or at the very least admired, and how dangerous it is.  He knows he leads people into danger, sometimes death, and yet he still tries to recruit her with the promise of a box of sweets and all of time and space.  No matter how good his intentions, he is sort of like an intergalactic drugs pusher, using the promise of adventure to get innocent people to come aboard.  Matt Smith, perhaps better than any other Doctor (I look forward to your letters), can portray quiet self-loathing and pained remorse without going too far or too big with it.

In “The Girl Who Waited,” the Doctor got to see the result of his failure to save Amy, a bitter, angry woman, and also that he grooms others to be like him, forcing Rory to do things he flatly opposes.  In “The God Complex,” the Doctor now sees that it’s his companions’ faith in him that can lead to resentment, bitterness, and failure.  But he, too, had a room in the hotel.  He also believes in something wholeheartedly and fears something enough to manifest it.  Though we never actually see it in the episode, it’s fairly clear to me what it was. When the Doctor opens HIS door, fittingly room 11, he looks in and says, “Of course. Who else?” As he shuts the door, we hear single ring of the cloister bell from the TARDIS. As we’ve seen in “The Doctor’s Wife,” the Doctor adores the TARDIS and knows it to be his one true companion.  He believes in it entirely and fears losing it.  So subtle, but also blatantly obvious if you think about it.

The episode ends right where I wasn’t expecting it to end, but right where it needed to.  After all he’s done to them, he drops off Amy and Rory at their new flat, with a brand new sports car.  He’s choosing to make them leave before he hurts them any further.  This is a gesture no other Doctor has made and one that shows the Eleventh Doctor, for all his lying and deceit, is indeed a good man. Surely they’ll return in the finale, but if the story of Rory and Amy ended this season, as much as I like both characters, I would not be sad about it.  There isn’t much else to do with them as characters and they deserve a happy ending. Whether they actually get one is another story entirely…

On first viewing, I wasn’t sold on the episode as a whole, but upon reflection and second viewing, after knowing what the episode actually was, I knew it to be another fantastic episode for the season.  While not as scary as I wanted it to be, even though laughing dummies is certainly one of my many fears, “The God Complex” delivered in its exploration of the Doctor and the nature of his relationship to companions.  For the second week in a row, Nick Hurran’s direction was fantastic, in a completely different way than with “The Girl Who Waited.”  Let’s hope he gets added to the permanent roster along with Toby Haynes and Adam Smith (if they hopefully bring him back).  David Walliams from Little Britain, a huge Doctor Who fan himself, gave an interesting performance as Gibbis, the sheep person, but the entire guest cast was great.  Not surprisingly, Smith, Gillan, and Darvil were brilliant, and, in particular, the end scenes between the Doctor and Amy were compelling and moving.  It’s times like this you realize the Doctor isn’t just a hero, a savior, a god; he’s a guy who makes friends and wants what’s best for them, even if it means leaving them alone.

Next week’s episode looks great. It sees the return of Craig (James Corden) from Series 5’s “The Lodger,” as well as my favorite villains, the Cybermen.  Let’s take a look at Gareth Roberts’ “Closing Time”:

Hooray for things!!!!

-Kanderson thinks you could praise him. If you wanted. Or maybe just follow him on TWITTER.

Comments

  1. ian says:

    It wasn’t fears.. It was about faith.. He heard the Tardis when he opened his room. 
    If there is one thing that the Doctor believes in it’s the Tardis. 

  2. Bannakaffalatta says:

    @Authiel : “Incidentally, yesterday, I ended up in a hotel with hallways that looked rather similar to those shown in the episode. . .”

    OH MY GOSH! THIS CRAP ALWAYS HAPPENS TO ME! As soon as I finished watching the “Turn Left” episode, I started to clean up my room. Found my roommates coat and on the tag? “TurnLeft” O_O.

  3. Tazia says:

    I think now that we were given “The Name Of The Doctor” and we were introduced to John Hurt who is probably, or is, a past incarnation of the Doctor, the person who the Doctor saw in his room is him when he made all the wrong choices.

    But also, I agree that it could be the fear of him losing the TARDIS, his closest companion.

  4. Sarah says:

    I think that the doctor saw himself surrounded by his companions, everyone who’s lives he has wrecked. He sees himself as someone who takes people and destroys them, a monster.

  5. Rexicon says:

    Perhaps what he saw was himself regenerating into the Valeyard. The Master indicated in Trial of a Time Lord that the Valeyard was a future version of the Doctor, somewhere between his current and final regeneration.

  6. Asmodeus says:

    Btw, on a sidenote, I think the Doctor saw himself in that room maybe even himself destroying the TARDIS…What else is there to fear if you have faced all possible forms of danger and death….what else is there to fear when Death becomes a gift, not a punishment.

    Why himself??
    Well because of what River Song says to him in the episode with Amy’s baby turning out to be a flesh avatar in the end. The final conversation between the Doctor and the Nimon. His demeanor in the very last scene of this episode (alone in his TARDIS and hugging himself, I swear you even see him shiver with solitude) and the what he says to the computer interface of the TARDIS when poisoned by Song’s kiss (Amy pond, before I ruined her ) and many more occasions in which his grandeur gets the better of him

  7. Asmodeus says:

    What I love about this episode is the final “conversation” the Doctor has with the Nimon

    Nimon (translated by the Doctor):”An ancient creature drenched in blood of the innocents. Drifting in space through an endless shifting maze. To such a creature death would be a gift.”
    Doctor: “Then accept it and rest well.”
    Then the Nimon mumbles something to which we only get a reply from the Doctor
    “I wasn’t talking about myself”

    It’s subtle that in essence the Nimon compares the Doctor to himself, the madman in his blue box, drifting on time and space on whimsey (qouted from the episode with the handbots by the “Unsaved” Amy Pond), as if to say the Doctor needs to be saved from himself just like he did the Nimon……

    If, up to that point, I didn’t like the Doctor; I couldn’t feel anything but sympathy with that god complexed creature calling himself Doctor (which also means “Great Warrior” in the language of the Forest people) afterward and it certainly left me with a feeling of how lonely the Doctor really must be in spite of his many adventures and companions. Much like Highlander, living forever eventually means being forever alone….

  8. Me1234 says:

    It was the angels with the tardis I think.

  9. tizzle says:

    Rory is the minotor. Time-lords are “allowed” 12 regenerations, they have been granted whole new sets (timewar-master). The dr is on his 10th regeneration, cheating with the hand was just cheating not loosing. Rory saw an exit because the hotel was his room, after dying and coming back so much, the thing that he feared most was the exit from the loop. Rory has travled with the dr FAR more then amy has(“what was there left to be scared of”) there is still a female of the dr-master-? Triad floating around not trapped in the time lock of galifre) heed dem words people.

  10. Jim says:

    I agree that the idea that it is the tardis in his room is very plausable, however i still think it could be amy lying dead, or dying due to him. I know it has to be a person, or an object he sees as a person as he uses the word ‘who’. But also i think the reason he decided to drop off rory and amy then is his realisation of this fear of amy dying and later on in the episode when amy asks why he is dropping them off now he replys ‘because you are still alive’ further verifying my arguement. The sound of the tardis could be that amy is shown in the tardis dying? but im not sure

  11. @ Robert says:

    i think his fear is rose his greatest companion

  12. Amanda says:

    So I guess I’m the only one who heard that sound when the Doctor opened the door, immediately flashed on The Sound of Drums, and assumed it was the Master. But given all the interesting theories posited here, all we can safely say is that whatever his fear is, it has something to do with losing the Tardis.

  13. Patrick Rose says:

    I’m with who ever it was who said it was the Doctor. Either him or the Master.

  14. ozze232 says:

    @mgabrys
    “re: the doctor fears losing his tardis : When the doctor opens the door, he doesn’t say what else – he says WHO else.”

    While I think you and Jazz have a very good point, I don’t think the fact that he said “who else” is an indicator either way. I reefer you to The Doctor’s Wife. To the doctor the TARDIS was never a “what”. In his eyes she is not only a who, but his greatest and most constant companion.

  15. Authiel says:

    @The Ridger – Agreed.

    Really, when you think about it, if you’re going to imprison someone for something, you want to punish them. Death would be the easy way out. To truly punish someone for something, you need to draw that punishment out as long as possible – meaning, you’d need to keep them alive.

    And any prison will feed its prisoners. Finding those with faith would be much more difficult than grabbing anyone at all. You couldn’t feed the Minotaur someone in despair, for example. . .

  16. Authiel says:

    @Josh – Yeah, the thirteen regenerations definitely don’t apply anymore. I read an announcement or something about how they decided give the Doctor an infinite amount of regenerations.

    I really enjoyed “The God Complex,” despite the things that didn’t make sense. Incidentally, yesterday, I ended up in a hotel with hallways that looked rather similar to those shown in the episode. . .

    I’m glad that Amy’s had a nice goodbye. It’s certainly better than a tragic goodbye – and, honestly, I’m really sick of Amy at this point. I do hope that, now, Moffat will lose the annoying Amy intro, and that, after this series, we will move on with a new companion. (And we WILL move on, because the Doctor obviously isn’t going to die.)

    Speaking of the Doctor dying. . . Isn’t it rather obvious what the question is? Silence will fall when the question is asked, and the question is hidden in plain sight.

    Of course it’s hidden in plain sight. It’s the name of the show. How do you think River knew his name in “Silence in the Library?”

    “Silence in the Library.”
    Silence.
    . . . A coincidence? I’m really not sure.

  17. The Ridger says:

    In the exposition during the death scene, the Doctor said the prison was drifting and abducting people with faith – possibly those who imprisoned the Beast felt that was fair enough. He also said that after all those centuries there were “glitches” in the system, that it got “stuck” on that setting, other people’s fears “weren’t cleaned away”. So, not as plot-holey as that…

    Also, I agree with Russell – there’s a difference between a plot hole and a loose thread/unexplained detail.

  18. Jazz says:

    Everyone points out Rory’s faith in Amy but the whole thing wasn’t faith in a person (to essential BE that person) but faith in the idea that they can be saved. While Rory certainly /trusts/ Amy, I don’t think he believes she will save him. Hell, look at all the times he’s died! He knows she can’t save him! And he doesn’t have the same feelings in the Doctor that Amy has, I think he more or less sees him for who he is. And there are parts of the Doctor he doesn’t like.

    Also, I believe what the Doctor saw in his Fear Room was Himself. He fears what he does to people, he fears the things he’s capable of, he fears what happens when he doesn’t get things right. Just like Dumbledore said of himself, He tends to make bigger mistakes than most people.

  19. Rory Pond says:

    “Also, does the Doctor call Rory “Mickey?” Is that what he says? I can’t tell.”

    According to the captions on BBC America, the Doctor calls Rory “Beaky,” which is in keeping with his general disdain for Rory’s nose.

  20. uncanny expat says:

    @Kurt
    “And that while Rory was offered a way out you’d think he’d have a door too. Considering his faith in Amy”
    He has love for Amy, not necessarily faith in a religious sense.

    @Josh
    “David used up two incarnations by cheating and pushing a regen off into his severed hand.”
    I don’t think that was ever confirmed by RTD. When asked about it, I think he gave a very vague, noncommital answer.

    I’m also pretty sure they confirmed at various points in the classic series that Hartnell was the first. The only example I can think of off the top of my head is in The Five Doctors:
    1st Doctor: Regeneration?
    5th Doctor: Fourth.
    1st: So there are five of me now!
    Also, the Doctor being an alien was established from the very beginning, in An Unearthly Child.

  21. mgabrys says:

    re: the doctor fears losing his tardis : When the doctor opens the door, he doesn’t say what else – he says WHO else.

    I think it’s himself.

  22. Russell W says:

    I really think you (everyone who reviews anything narrative, really) that there is a difference between a plot hole and a detail you don’t have an explanation for. Criticizing the show for having a spaceship that looks like a hotel should be no different than criticizing the show because the Doctor’s TARDIS looks like a police box. It’s not a plot hole; it’s an intriguing detail lacking an explanation. The flip side of this kind of criticism is to say that the dialogue was too “explain-y”. Well, if the characters all stand around and explain all these little cryptic details, you lose the mystery and the randomness and get crap dialogue. These are the kinds of details meant for the suspension of disbelief. They’re there to disorient you; which is fun.

  23. Josh says:

    Kurt, “why does Amy NOT remember Dalek invasions or planets in the sky” was answered in that series… The crack was eating the universe and Amy was living with the crack her whole life. It’s the same reason her parents disappeared and the stars disappeared, etc. The tiny “eye of the storm” universe that allowed The Doctor to use the vortex manipulator to freely bop around in it was so tiny that all the rest of the universe around it had disappeared from time and existence (like Rory when he fell in a crack which is why Amy didn’t remember Rory, or why the Angel was removed from Amy’s mind when it ceased to exist). When The Doctor made Big Bang 2 and reset the universe it snapped back to normal and her parents came back and everyone remembered the universe the way it was supposed to be (except for the Doctor who was at the heart of the crack and the big bang and the TARDIS explosion). They don’t specifically say that Amy then remembered the “Dalek invasions or planets in the sky” but because Rory and her parents came back into existence they imply she remembers everything.

    Candice, Moffat is very clever with the use of specific words. The tenses of the word and even the inflection of the delivery of the actors are intentional. When they say Melody “used” all of her regenerations the key is the word “used” which implies she “used up” or exhausted her regenerations to bring him back, not GAVE them to him.

    It would be a clever trick to bypass the old nerd adage that The Doctor only has 12 regenerations (13 incarnations) by “giving” him Melody’s. Matt Smith used the eleventh regeneration when he became the eleventh doctor so there is still a twelve regeneration left, thus a thirteenth incarnation — i.e. one more actor. (David Tennant died and regenerated twice, so Matt is the eleventh Doctor and the eleventh regeneration instead of the eleventh doctor and the tenth regeneration. David used up two incarnations by cheating and pushing a regen off into his severed hand.) So if the mystery space suit person killed Matt by shooting him during the 12th regeneration (theoretically the last) then the new Doctor he was about to turn into would have been the thirteenth and last Doctor. Note also that the TARDIS’ voice interface (young Amy) mysteriously told The Doctor that regeneration was disabled when Melody (new River) poisoned him. Was this because he no longer had any regenerations? Perhaps we are reading his life wrong and there were regenerations BEFORE the first Doctor, William Hartnell. We don’t know for a fact that he was the “first” Doctor (and, to be honest, if you are obsessed with canon you have to admit that back then he wasn’t even an alien, he was just basically a human with a time machine). I’m not sure that I adhere to nerd lore about the old series because the reboot in 2005 was just that… a reboot. Since reboots break the rules and reset a series I think that the 1976 episode The Deadly Assassin where they say there are only 12 regenerations isn’t necessarily canon any longer, or at least not applicable — which both Davies and Moffat have implied in interviews.

  24. three toes of fury says:

    Michelle L: SWEEET TAT!!! Now you need to start working on making the sound effect of the tardis….Chris does a pretty good one every so often. “vwwwooo woo wooooo wooo vvvwwwooo”

  25. Candice says:

    I am new to the Doctor Who game, but I have figured one thing out, don’t try to speculate on what is going on.
    As for the episode (which takes at least two viewings to understand) I thought the best part was when the Doctor finally calls Amy by her married name. Like he was saying “I’m giving you to your husband and your real life now”
    When he opens his door and you hear the cloister bell which means the TARDIS is failing. That is the Doctors worst fear, losing his TARDIS. He would be stuck wherever possibly forever and that would drive him insane.
    Of course I have a question. Where did he get the car?
    And did anyone else notice the color of their front door? TARDIS blue of course.
    I really want to see more of River and the Doctor next season. Even if their paths are going in opposite directions at some point they have to meet.
    Question to ponder for the group. Can the Doctor really be killed now that he has all of River’s regenerations in him?

  26. Kurt Rocourt says:

    Did anyone else notice that Amy opened a door marked “7”. And that while Rory was offered a way out you’d think he’d have a door too. Considering his faith in Amy. And why did that sheep dude get shown weeping angels? Also going back to series 5 and the first half of this series. Faith or something religious based has played into a lot of this Doctors adventures. River Song working with clerics, headless monks, Christmas Eve with Sardic or faith in the Doctor. Very interesting where this is going.
    And of course the old, “why does Amy NOT remember Dalek invasions or planets in the sky” still has yet to be answered.

  27. Kyle Anderson says:

    With Moffat, anything could mean something, but not everything does mean something.

  28. Maggie says:

    @Bungeeball
    I totally agree. It does seem like Rory had a character shift after “A Good Man Goes to War”. He’s much more of an action hero and he seems quite angry with The Doctor. Maybe it’s just the growth of his character, but I wouldn’t doubt it’s future version of him.