Television: Doctor Who and the God Complex

"The God Complex" written by Toby WhithouseThe Doctor, Amy and Rory are on their way to Ravan-Skala. Legend has it that the people there are 600-feet tall. But then the TARDIS is yanked off course and drops them off in an ordinary – albeit deserted – hotel instead. “How can you be excited about a rubbish hotel on a rubbish bit of Earth?” asks Amy. But this hotel isn’t as ordinary or as empty as it first appears…There’s a room packed with party balloons. In another, a gorilla uses the en suite bathroom. There are clowns. And Weeping Angels. All manner of nightmares stalk the corridors. And it isn’t even a hotel. It’s just been made to look like one. But who would mock-up an Earth hotel? “You’re going to die here,” the guests are told. “Well, they certainly didn’t mention that in the brochure,” replies the Doctor.

I didn’t know what to expect about The God Complex. And that helped in making me like the episode, I think. I had no expectations whatsoever. All I knew was that we had nightmare rooms, and the Weeping Angels appear in one. And then there’s the spoiler that we find out what the Doctor’s greatest fear is.

We do find out. And while a little unexpected (for me), it was… not surprising.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

A couple of weeks ago, I griped about the bland opening of Night Terrors–the episode that was supposed to scare the pants off us. Excepct it didn’t. And I still can’t get past how boring the opening was. And I thought that this episode’s opening had started along the same lines–except it didn’t.

We get a bit of hallway-running action. We get the impending doom feel. And unlike in Night Terrors, this one was done right. Your interest is piqued as a woman gets confronted by her innermost fear–and finds peace.

Now, as for the episode itself, it was an interesting blend of exposition and… well, more exposition. As Doctor Who episodes go, this episode spent a lot of the budget on the things that doesn’t really matter–like a really fancy new car, a room full of dummies (which I found creepy) and a magnificently set-up hotel interior. Okay, so maybe that last bit did matter. But I’m already finished with the episode, and I still can’t figure out why there was a dining room full of dummies. Unless that was supposed to be a commentary of sorts. If it was, it completely flew over my head.

And yet, even though it was mostly exposition (amidst running around trying to escape some form of death), it was exhilirating. Because very much like The Girl Who Waited, The God Complex played on the relationship of the characters. It made our understanding of the Doctor’s world grander–and that’s a feat, considering that his world changes from episode to episode. Though, I do feel that Amy and Rory got shafted for most of the episode, they both got their shining moments in the end too.

I’m not completely in love with Series 6 as I was with the more whimsical tone of Series 5. But I do like how this year is deconstructing who the Doctor is–who he is known as. At the start of the series, we were greeted by his death. And whether or not the death sticks literally, I really do believe that one form of the Doctor will die by the end of Episode 13, the last episode of Series 6. In this episode, we get a glimpse of one facet of the Doctor. A lonely facet that keeps being mentioned–but has never been shown as heartbreakingly as they did in this episode.

And in a way, we get that first step to the doomed destiny that the premiere promised us.

It’s not until the mystery is solved and all is well that we find out that we’ve already seen what the Doctor’s biggest fear is. When it clicked for me, I had a sort-of understanding. Of what the series has been building up on. It’s making us lose faith with the Doctor. The series is telling us that all will not be well. That the Doctor is not God. And we realize that while we never thought this, we never thought otherwise as well.

The Doctor has lost so many lives. He has failed to save so many people. But it’s not until this episode that we were shown just how utterly powerless the Doctor can be. And that we are fools to believe that it will always be all right in the end. And this vulnerability in the Doctor, and in our faith, is what will make the last two episodes of this series be all the more thrilling. For the first time since we were reintroduced to the Doctor in 2005 (2010 for me), we finally have a fear that maybe this time he won’t survive.

Now, before I completely go, if you guys want a better reading of Doctor Who episodes, do check out The Oncoming Hope blog.

And, someone e-mailed me about a “Call for Papers” and I wanted to bring that up here. Obviously, I’m not the intellectual academic who can actually write a paper on the effects of Doctor Who to society, or what-not. But what I can do is to write about it, and maybe let someone who is interested (and is better fitted than me) know about the request for submissions.

To find out what the details are, go to Doctor Who and Race: An Anthology.

3 thoughts on “Television: Doctor Who and the God Complex

  1. 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:

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

    • “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.”

      I agree. There is that. But while people seem to think the room with Amelia Pond was Amy’s, I subscribe to the idea that it was the Doctor’s. His fear, for me, stems from knowing that he must open a child’s eyes to the reality that he is not the wonderful wizard she made him out to be. And it wasn’t so much the Doctor taking Amy’s faith away from her, but rather the Doctor making him look vulnerable enough for Amy to believe that he wasn’t the savior she sees him to be.

      So, for me, I understood why Amy would go back to the being who she always is by episode’s end. Because she didn’t so much lose her faith in the Doctor, as she accepted that he wasn’t all-mighty like she believed. Faith is believing blindly and truly. Amy’s relationship with the Doctor now runs on trust and friendship. Which is, I think, why she let him leave her and Rory behind at the end of the episode.

      With that said, I do agree with your point that Moffat shouldn’t have made the Ponds River’s daughter. At first I thought it was brilliant. Four episodes in, I see that it only presents more problems to the Who timeline–and the way Amy and Rory are being written, it seems as if the writers aren’t completely sold on the idea that Amy and Rory are River’s parents either.

  2. Pingback: Television: Doctor Who and the Angels Take Manhattan | taking a break

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