6.11 – “The God Complex”
The Doctor, Amy and Rory arrive in a hotel. A big, scary hotel. There’s a group of other randomly trapped people there and, sooner or later, everyone will find the one room containing the one thing they fear most. When that happens, they will start to praise him. And “him” will come for them…
Whereas much of Series 6 wants to be deep and profound but is ultimately fairly shallow, “The God Complex” just appears to be a bunch of horror clichés strung together but there’s actually more going on in the background. Nothing is ever quite what it seems.
We start with the horror clichés. We know that Lisa is possessed by something creepy. There are quick jumps between screams and smiles (which made me think of Brian from Spaced). There’s some trippy camera work and ominously long corridors which lengthen and shrink at random. When The Doctor and chums arrive, we get stairwells, fuzzy CCTV shots, laughing dolls and even a sad clown. Basically, our heroes have stumbled into The Shining.
These are all clichés but they are done well and do make sense in the context of the story and the characters are mostly strong enough to rise above them. In particular, Amara Karan’s Rita shines, jumping straight in as a substitute companion (which, as Rory points out, usually ends up being fatal). She’s so good though; The Doctor fires Amy in favour of her in a deft show of breaking up the horror tension. It’s a sharp laugh and, of course, Smith carries it well. Dimitri Leonidas’ Howie is a little less well developed being a skinny geek with a fear of girls. Daniel Pirrie as Joe has a fairly standard fear of laughing ventriloquists’ dummies and, while he’s suitably creepy when possessed, he’s really just monster fodder. It’s Rita’s shrewd summing up of the place they’re trapped in that sparks The Doctor’s admiration. Her decision that they are in hell reveals she is a Muslim. Her courage comes from her faith in her faith. It’s an elegant summing up of the appeal of religion – it’s a handy way to containerise all the questions that are impossible to answer, a good way to get reassurance against the darkness if you (like Rita) have led a good life.
David Walliams, as a sort of celebrity guest star, plays Gibbis from Tivoli, the most invaded planet in history. At first this is a comic turn but Walliams is able to slide from funny scared to cunning cowardice in a moment. When Amy comforts him after they see the Weeping Angels in a room, he takes a sinister delight in telling Amy that her fear is still out there. His idea to let the others die in order to save himself has a certain black humour to it, but also reveals the true nature of this supposedly, weak and constantly oppressed species. As The Doctor points out, it’s cowardice that means the Tivoli live on while others species have been swept away, fighting to survive.
The monster itself, the Minotaur, should be disappointing – instead of some ethereal, supernatural being (or at least something that appears supernatural), we get a flesh and blood beast. However, the strange nature of the creature, feeding on faith and nothing so clichéd as fear, makes it more than it appears. It’s similar to the Krafayis from “Vincent and The Doctor” – brutal and murderous, but more to be pitied than hated. And it’s definitely a wee redemption of the much maligned Nimon.
While some of the best running around in corridors that New Who has ever done is going on, Rory and Amy don’t really get that much to do. It’s only when The Doctor finally realises that the Minotaur is out for faith that Karen Gillan gets to work. This is where the episode really swings around – the fate of Rita hammers home the cost of unquestioned faith in The Doctor and it’s pushing Amy to let go of that faith that breaks the Minotaur’s prison and allows the creature to die. It’s a subtle, but powerful way to break up The Doctor and his two companions – a sense that by letting them go, The Doctor lets them grow up and have a life, as opposed to the inevitable descent to their death that staying with The Doctor seems to bring.
The final parting (which of course, is NOT the final parting) is moving without being hysterical. If only the wonderful Doctor/companion team of Eleven and Amy had finished here…
A subtle and clever episode. On the surface, it’s all fairly standard but well played horror, but a succession of well-thought out elements raises it up. Praise this! 8/10.
Written and edited by Richard Barnes