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The Doctor and the Minotaur

September 18, 2011

Greetings all and welcome to the hotel of nightmares.

Your stay will be somewhat shorter this week owing to my lack of note-taking on the first viewing of The God Complex and my current inability to schedule a second viewing thanks to real life getting in the way. The thing is though, aside from the odd standout performance and some well-executed camerawork, there wasn’t much in this episode to bring me back for a second viewing anyway.

This isn’t to say that it wasn’t a good episode. On the whole it was. It was entertaining, there was enough suspense to keep things ticking along and the balance between humorous and serious was fairly well struck. I particularly liked Amara Karan’s performance as Rita, and in fact Rita’s character as a whole. Aside from being well acted Rita was confident, believable, funny, a fairly good match for the Doctor from what we could see and someone who I genuinely cared about when I knew that she was about to die. Her “let me lose my faith with dignity” scene was excellent. The cameo by David Walliams as a giant rat-man was fun as well. He got some great lines, “Resistance is exhausting” being my favourite. I also thought the camerawork was good, especially the way the layout of the hotel was manipulated on screen to confuse us. The scene where the Doctor positions all the mirrors to talk to the minotaur from a safe distance was effective too.

The issue I had with the episode – the main issue anyway – was that there wasn’t much cohesion to the whole thing. Looking back at it I’m having trouble putting it all together in my head. It seemed like a fairly successful and well executed hotel-full-of-nightmares premise, behind which a plot that didn’t really make sense had been rather flimsily tacked on, apparently trying to bridge the gap between what was going on and what it all meant for the Doctor, Amy and Rory. All of this of course came with with some hints about the Doctor’s death thrown in not-very-cryptically for good measure (it was hugely obvious that the minotaur’s speech as it was dying was about the Doctor rather than itself). It’s the lack of cohesion between these three things – premise, explanation and bit-at-the-end – that made The God Complex feel… undercooked. It’s like when you try and make a cottage pie and all you can seem to produce is mince with mashed potato on top of it. All the ingredients are there but somehow they haven’t become the dish they were intended to be, and you can’t really put your finger on why.

To add to this lack of cohesion, consider that this is an episode which hinges on how much faith Amy has in the Doctor. Now remember that last week we saw an older Amy who absolutely hated the Doctor because he’d failed her, and who’d said so in very plain terms to the younger Amy who’s still with us. Younger Amy would probably have had some strong opinions on how the Doctor dealt with – or didn’t deal with – older Amy last week, so to have that episode immediately prior to this one which focuses so much on her faith in him strikes me as rather unfortunate series-planning.

To get back to the episode at hand now, towards the end when we saw that the room they all ended up in had Amelia waiting for the Doctor to return, I was thinking that this could be the Doctor’s room as easily as it could be Amy’s. People putting such faith into him when he knows what he does to them would be crushing to him – remember the line “is there anyone in the universe who’s life I haven’t screwed up?!” from Let’s Kill Hitler? – because again it would show him what he does to people and how he destroys them. But I was wrong about the room; it was clearly Amy’s from the number 7 we could see on the door. The rest of what I said may still have been significant though. Maybe seeing Amy’s faith in the flesh and the danger it put her and Rory in here – as it has done ever since they started traveling with him – is what made the Doctor reconsider having them as companions now. However, Amy’s been kidnapped and Rory’s died a couple of times already so to keep them on after that only to suddenly drop them off now must mean a significant change of heart(s) by the Doctor. Again that lack of cohesion is creeping back into things and making them more complicated that they need to be. Though maybe that’s just me.

As for the relationship between Amy and the Doctor in this episode, in the little research that I did do for this posting I came across this blog which, from what I can see, appears to be a Doctor Who fan blog akin to this one. The author discusses the Doctor and Amy, and her and Rory’s eventual departure, in a manner that I feel it would be better simply to reference rather than try and recreate, hence the link. Sharing is caring after all. I will just briefly mention the more technical side of the Williams’/Ponds’ departure though: It didn’t happen at the end of the season. This is significant because so far in New Who the main companions have tended to stay on for the entire series, their departure normally being a feature of that series’ finale. Once again Moffat is slightly shaking things up by having Amy and Rory leave before they’d have been expected to leave, and with far less tragic consequences (so far Martha’s really the only one to have gotten out of the TARDIS safely, what with Rose being trapped in a parallel universe and Donna not remembering any of it). This could simply be freeing up the Doctor for his reunion with Craig (James Cordon) next week, which I’m very much looking forward to. After this interlude we may see (relative) normality resume for the finale and the reappearance of Amy and Rory so that the series can be nicely rounded off. Or, this shake-up could be paving the way for an entirely different kind of series finale, one where the Doctor’s going it alone against the Silence, the Impossible Astronaut and possibly even River Song.

Personally I’d expect to see Amy and Rory back for the finale but at this point I think it’s too soon to predict anything, at least without reading the spoilers, which I’m deliberately trying not to do. But then again this is a Moffat story, and since when have they ever done what we’ve expected them to do?

Best bits:

  • The creepy (though largely unexplained) ventriloquism dummies in the hotel’s restaurant with Joe.
  • I brought them here. And so it’s their choice. But offer a child a suitcase full of sweets and they’ll take it. Offer someone all of time and space and they’ll take that, too. Which is why you shouldn’t. Which is why grown-ups were invented.
  • The Weeping Angels popping up again, albeit briefly.
  • I’m in town planning. We’re lining all the highways with trees so invading forces could march in the shade. Which is nice for them.
  • Rory’s reaction to his shiny new sports car. If Rory doesn’t come back for the rest of the season I’m really going to miss him.
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