TV Recap: Doctor Who – The God Complex
Season 6, Episode 12
By Edwin Davies
September 3, 2012
Anyway, that's enough of my gripes with the season to date, what about the episode?
Well, this was firmly in the creepy/scary category of Doctor Who episodes, as The Doctor, Amy and Rory find themselves stuck in a hotel whose rooms contain the worst fears of the people trapped within the hotel. They encounter a group of strangers who have all been trapped in the hotel as well. There’s Rita (Amara Khan), a nurse; Howie (Dmitri Leonidas), a blogger who believes in conspiracy theories; Gibbis (David Walliams), an alien from a planet notable for the ease with which they surrender (his school motto; "Resistance is exhausting") and Joe, a gambler. As they are confronted by their worst fears, each of them seemingly starts to go mad - illustrated by some genuinely unsettling moments in which different close-up images of their faces are rapidly and disjointedly edited together - and start shouting "Praise Him", at which point a Minotaur-like creature shows up and they drop dead.
As someone for whom Stanley Kubrick's The Shining is a firm favourite, I liked the way that the hotel was clearly inspired by the Overlook. It had a similarly antiseptic atmosphere which made it creepy even before we entered the rooms filled with various terrors, including such common images of everyday horror as ventriloquist dummies, a PE teacher and a disapproving father, as well as Doctor Who-specific devices like The Weeping Angels and the image of young Amelia Pond, waiting in vain for The Doctor to come and take her away. The episode dealt in universal ideas about fear in a way which was very specific to the show, and that went a long way towards making it work as an excursion into haunted house horror.
More than that, though, the show made a bold move by making the real food for the curator of the hotel faith, rather than fear. Since The Doctor initially believes that it feeds on fear, he tells the people around him to dig deep and steel themselves using whatever they believe in to protect them, in the process exposing their faith to the hotel, which then feeds on them. This forces The Doctor to cause Amy to stop believing in him, which he does by talking about how he only took her along so that he could be worshipped, laying the worst aspects of himself out there so that Amy can be disillusioned, the hotel will lose its power, and the scant survivors can escape. It was a great scene that questioned the very nature of who The Doctor is and was beautifully played by both Matt Smith and Karen Gillan.
That realisation feeds into The Doctor's decision to part ways with Amy and Rory, and whilst I have no doubt that they will reappear at some point, I thought it was just a great piece of writing by Whithouse; he took the themes of the individual story and related them to a broader plot development in a way which felt natural and was emotionally satisfying, even poignant and sad. It was everything that I look for in an episode of Doctor Who, and I sincerely hope that the problems of the last few episodes (even if they were ones that existed only in my over-critical mind) can be left behind as well.