Doctor Who: The God Complex – A Recap

Courtesy BBC

***Warning this post contains spoilers about The God Complex and may refer to previous episodes of Doctor Who. If you haven’t watched the episode or don’t want to be surprised do not read further.***


I have to admit this episode my very well be my least favorite Matt Smith episode thus far. I was worried that it was a Moffat episode, but thankfully my love for Moffat is intact. This episode was written by Toby Whithouse, who also wrote Vampires of Venice and School Reunion. It felt rushed and incomplete, and honestly a cop out. Maybe it will all make more sense later on in the story arch, and I’ll love it later, but for now, not so much.

We open to a police woman wandering through the halls of what looks like the Stanley Hotel from The Shining, although later we find out that its not, its just a generic 80’s hotel. The police woman keeps stopping and making notes about what she is experiencing. She opens several doors to extremely odd scenes, a clown sitting on a bed and then a man in a gorilla suit running towards her. There are flashes of an illustrated gorilla, you see her eyes dilate, and euphoria over takes her. She starts chanting (and writing) “Praise Him”, falls to her knees and drops her notepad, clearly giving herself up. But to what?

The Doctor, Amy and Rory arrive inside the hotel via the TARDIS. They walk around and notice a number of pictures on the wall with inexplainable plaques underneath them. They are surprised by  another group of people there: a cowardly alien called Gibbis who comes from one of the most invaded races of the Universe; Howie, a conspiracy theorist who just got over a stutter; Rita, an intelligent Nurse who might make a good companion for the Doctor; and Joe, a gambler who has already started to “Praise Him.”

Joe is tied to a chair in a room full of ventriloquist dummies, something he used to be terrified of. Joe insists that he doesn’t want to be saved, that he is no longer afraid of the dummies. He is already euphoric, and through the euphoria we get flashes of the monster that Joe is praising: horns, flared nostrils and dark eyes. In order to keep Joe with the rest of the group they keep him tied to the chair and wheel him around on a dolly to escape the monster from coming. When it sounds as though the monster has found them and is right around the corner, the Doctor tells everyone to hide. Rory briefly sees a fire exit and tries to get everyone to escape, but it disappears. They all split up and hide in different hotel rooms.

Rita and Joe enter a hotel room that contains Rita’s father. He is berating her on getting a “B” in mathematics. Her greatest fear is disappointing her father. Howie walks into a room of young women that are all mocking his stammer, which immediately returns. Amy, Rory, the Doctor and Gibbis jump into another hotel room. This one seems to be occupied by the weeping angels. Amy immediately reminds everyone not to blink. Its then that the Doctor realizes that they aren’t real, that they are illusions.  My only problem with this is that previously we learned that “Anything that takes the image of an angel becomes an angel.” So I have to ask, why not these? Amy thinks that this was her room, that the angels were her greatest fear, but as it turns out Gibbis is cowering in the corner completely afraid. He won’t even look at the angels.

Meanwhile, Joe’s ropes have magically become untied, he has left his room and been taken by the monster. once the coast is clear, the Doctor wanders the halls and finds Joe leaning against a wall, completely dead. The Doctor brings him back to the dining room and lays him out on the stage with the ventriloquist dummies who now seem to be mourning him. He covers him with a sheet and then tries to figure out what to do next. Rory makes an off hand comment that it seems as though everyone the Doctor befriends ends up dead, and while he doesn’t seem that effected by the comment, you can tell it caught the Doctor’s attention.

The Doctor is chatting with Rita, who seems remarkably unfazed by what is going on. Rita is smart, strong and confident in herself, a striking opposite from the other guests she is with. She is totally level headed and explains to the Doctor that she is convinced that they are all in Jahannam, the Islamic word for hell. She explains to the Doctor that she is very calm because she has been a good Muslim. The Doctor assures her that they aren’t in Hell. You can tell the the Doctor has fallen for Rita and would love to have her as a companion on the TARDIS, just the kind of person to keep him on his toes.

Amy goes to find the Doctor after she finds the police woman’s notes in her pocket. She had found them earlier when trying to escape the monster. The Doctor reads the note and is able to figure out what is going on…. well almost. Just then Howie begins to “Praise Him” and you know that the monster can’t be far away. Gibbis tries unsuccessfully to convince everyone that they should just sacrifice Howie to the monster to save themselves. Of course that doesn’t go over well with the Doctor. After questioning the euphoric Howie, the Doctor concludes that the monster is feasting on fear. He tells everyone to clear their minds of fear and search deep down for strength while he sets a trap to catch the monster.

The Doctor sets up a speaker in a closed off room, and uses his sonic screwdriver to have it play Howie’s delusional ramblings. This lures the monster in and they are able to block his exit long enough for the Doctor to have a chat with it. We finally see the monster that they are all facing, a Minotaur. Everything is starting to make more sense, the hotel is acting like a living maze, just like the greek myth of the minotaur. Only the Doctor can understand the growls of the Minotaur, who tells him that this is a prison. The Doctor assumes that the people who are brought there are also prisoners, but in reality they are food for the Minotaur. The similarities between the Doctor and the Minotaur become immediately apparent when the Minotaur continues to talk saying that he is so old that even his name is lost. The Minotaur is desperate to end his own life, but cannot refuse food when it is handed to him. The Doctor promises to help him.

Just then Howie realizes that he has been tricked and asks Gibbis to release him so that he can “Praise” the Minotaur. The Minotaur instinctively escapes by busting through one of the doors that Rory has blocked, knocking him out. The Doctor rushes after the Minotaur in an attempt to save Howie but it is too late. Gibbis’ instinct for self-preservation lead to Howie’s death. On the way to find the Doctor, Amy finds her door, number 7, and can’t resist opening it. Just as she is about to step in the room, Rita comes from behind her and slams the door shut. Amy has had only a glimpse of what was inside the door. Question is, is that enough? Rita asks Amy what she saw, but Amy can’t explain, she says its complicated.

Howie is laid out next to Joe and the rest of them take a short breather. The Doctor and Rory have a heart-to-heart. The Doctor asks Rory if he has found his room, he hasn’t (unless it was the exit door that only he saw). The Doctor tells him it is because Rory doesn’t fear anything. Rory blames his lack of fear on all the time he spent in the TARDIS with the Doctor and Amy, but you can assume that being the Lone Centurion for 2000 years had something to do with it. Rory remarks that Howie’s ability to conquer his stutter was an incredible achievement. He tells the Doctor that not all victories are about saving the universe. The Doctor seems to know he is right.

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After a bit, Rita and the Doctor start talking again. She asks him why he feels the need to always save everyone, as he isn’t a god. He said it needs to be someone’s responsibility, “thats what grown-ups were invented for”. He comes to the realization that maybe he shouldn’t have offered Amy all of time and space, that it never seemed to end well for anyone. Then he offers all of time and space to Rita, who is smart enough to refuse before she is tempted. The Doctor looks around and notices the CCTV cameras that have been running all along. He gets an idea and runs off. Rita turns to the camera and, almost as a sigh of relief, says “Praise Him”. The process has begun.

On the way to the reception area, the Doctor finds his room, number 11. He opens the door, but we never see what is inside. We hear cloister bells and the Doctor says “of course its you”. He slowly closes the door and puts the do not disturb sign on the handle. What could possibly be the Doctor’s greatest fear? His Death? A monster? Time?

Next thing we know the Doctor is watching Rita run through the halls on the CCTV. She knows that she has begun to “Praise Him” and also knows that means the Minotaur is now seeking her. In order to save the others, she has entered the maze of hallways to keep the Minotaur as far away from the others as possible. She doesn’t want the Doctor to save her, because she knows he can’t, its not his responsibility. She has one final request, for the sake of her dignity that they not watch her final moments. She wants them to remember her as strong and confident, not as the possessed person that she is now. The Doctor honors her final request, then goes to find her lifeless body. He lays her body with the others and then lashes out. He breaks vases and throws things around.

He is angry that he couldn’t save her and that he seems to have gotten it all wrong. The Doctor thought that the Minotaur was feeding off of the greatest fears of the people that it killed. In reality it isn’t the fear it is feeding on at all, it is faith. When people are confronted with their greatest fears they fall back on their most fundamental faiths. It is this faith that the Minotaur is drawing out of them to feed on. Not just religious faith like Rita had, but Joe’s faith in luck, Gibbis’ faith in invading forces, Howie’s faith in conspiracies, and it seems Amy’s faith in the Doctor. Amy suddenly says “Praise Him”.

The Doctor and Rory jump into action in an attempt to save and protect Amy. They run with her and guide her into a room, her room. She is confronted with a 7 year old version of herself waiting for the Doctor that never came. The Doctor realizes that the only way to save Amy is to destroy her faith in him, leaving the Minotaur with no food source and thus killing it. The Doctor tells the truth about their relationship and in doing so breaks Amy’s heart. He makes little Amelia Pond grow up and makes her realize that she doesn’t need the Doctor, she has Rory. Rory is her own fairytale ending.

The hotel fades away to a holodeck type room. The Minotaur is dying on the floor. You can see that the prison is floating through space plucking people with strong beliefs from their everyday lives to feed the Minotaur for eternity as punishment for posing as a false god. The Minotaur has one last thing to tell the Doctor “An ancient creature, drenched in the blood of the innocent, drifting in space through an endless, shifting maze. For such a creature, death would be a gift.” Then the Minotaur says that he wasn’t speaking of himself. Knowing that the Doctor’s death is coming within the next few episodes, this foreshadowing is eerie and ominous. The Minotaur is finally able to die, free of his eternity of solitude.

Warning this next scene is what ruined the whole episode for me. Maybe I just didn’t understand it. Maybe watching it a few more times will make it better for me, but for now it was just a bad ending to an otherwise great story.

Gibbis is dropped off to live another day waiting to be enslaved yet again, only surviving because of his cowardice. Then the Doctor arrives back on Earth in a lovely neighborhood, in front of a beautiful blue house with a TARDIS blue door and Rory’s all-time favorite car parked right in front. The Doctor hands Rory the keys and tells Rory and Amy to consider it a gift. Its time for the Doctor to leave. He knows that it is better to leave Amy while she is still safe, unlike all of his other former companions. Amy knows that this is a very difficult decision for the Doctor, but also knows that he is making the mature decision. She kisses his head and off he goes. Rory comes out of the house and asks where the Doctor is and Amy says that he saved them.

 

I just deel like this was such a cop out. I just felt that after everything Amy, Rory and the Doctor have been through, this was a let down of a break-up. It really bothered me. I will say that with the exception of this final scene, the rest of the episode has really grown on me through writing this recap, maybe this ending will grow on me as well. I do know that both Amy and Rory are confirmed to at least appear in the next season, so they aren’t gone forever, and they are still River Song’s parents.

How did you feel about this episode, especially the ending?