by Catriona Mills

Live-blogging Doctor Who Season Six: "The God Complex"

Posted 27 September 2011 in by Catriona

Nick and I can’t agree on whether this is a good name or a bad name. I have my own opinions about this episode, but I think I’ll keep the main one for a witty and pithy joke at the end of the live-blogging.

We’ll stick with calling this live-blogging, despite the heavy delay this week, on the grounds that “not-quite-live blogging” makes me sound like a zombie.

We open somewhere on the Isle of Wight. Or something like that. It’s a hotel, anyway. Terribly retro. Apparently occupied solely by a policewoman.

During her soliloquy (in which she tells us she’s the last one left), she opens a variety of hotel rooms, finding a clown, and a person taking photographs, and a gorilla. The gorilla’s intended for her, apparently, going by how she screams. And as she sits to write down her experiences, she shifts, between one sentence and the next, from a panicky desire to notate something strange to the repeated phrase “Praise him.”

Something comes storming down the corridors towards her, and she smiles us into the opening credits.

Apparently, the Doctor promised to take Rory and Amy to a place where the people are six hundred feet tall (you have to talk to them in hot-air balloons and the information centre is made out of one of their hats), but instead they’re “in a rubbish hotel on a rubbish bit of Earth.”

No, the Doctor says: this isn’t Earth. It’s just made to looks like Earth.

DOCTOR: The same way that ex-pats open English pubs in Majorca.

The Doctor’s thrilled by this, though the photographs of people with mysterious phrases under their names (“That brutal gorilla”, “Plymouth”, “Defeat”) aren’t so comforting, especially as one of them is that nice policewoman Lucy, who we last saw being terrified by a gorilla.

Then a bunch of people come pouring into the reception area, and it’s all a big moment of confusion and fright, in which the Doctor develops a crush on one of the people, an attractive female doctor.

DOCTOR: Amy, with regret, you’re fired.
AMY: What?
DOCTOR: I’m kidding.

Then he mimes “Call me.”

NICK: Down, boy.

There’s a great deal of discussion about the shifting nature of the hotel, and the nightmares in the various rooms, and the most invaded planet in the galaxy, but the important things are that the TARDIS has disappeared and that’s a really huge number of ventriloquist’s dummies.

Basically, these people are starting to go the way of the people who arrived in the hotel with Lucy, all raw and terrified to begin with, but coming around to a state of grace and praise.

Joe (the fourth member of the trapped party, currently tied up in a hotel room and surrounded by ventriloquist’s dummies) demonstrates this by making an Archie Andrews joke and laughing uproariously. (Know Archie Andrews? He was a ventriloquist’s dummy who had a long-running and highly popular radio programme in England. Yes, I said “radio.” Yes, I said, “ventriloquist’s dummy.” No, no one knows why that was a good idea. But at least they’re less frightening over the radio.)

Joe tries to tell the Doctor to leave, and the Doctor does, but he takes Joe with him.

At Howie’s request, they “do something” about Joe, which basically means putting tape over his mouth. And then they traipse around the hotel, while Howie talks to Rory about conspiracy theories.

RORY: Amazing.
HOWIE: It’s all there on the Internet.
RORY: No, it’s amazing that you’ve come up with a theory even more insane than what’s actually happening.

But Howie is drawn towards a door, behind which are some completely awful girls, who mock him until he shuts the door, stuttering that this is all some CIA thing.

The Doctor says he’s right but it’s a little worrying that Howie is already saying, “Praise him.”

Rory finds an exit, but no one’s paying attention to him, because something is coming down the hallway towards them.

They all scatter and hide in various rooms.

In one, Rita (the clever doctor on whom the Doctor has a bit of a crush) is terrified by her father, who castigates her for a B in mathematics. And in another room, Amy is terrified by some stone angels, but they’re no more real than Rita’s father.

There’s something more real in the corridor, though, and Joe’s seeking it.

When the noise dies down and the others head out into the corridor, Joe is being dragged down the hallway, and the Doctor goes haring after him, only to find his dead body propped up against a wall.

In the ballroom, the Doctor shrouds Joe (watched over by the now silent dummies), while Rita makes tea, and Rory and Howie barricade the door.

And Amy explains to the guy from the oft-invaded planet how she has faith in the Doctor.

AMY: The Doctor’s been part of my life for so long now. And he’s never let me down, not even when I thought he did, when I was a kid and he left me. He came back. He … saved me.

He’s not much comforted, just telling Amy that if the stone-angel room wasn’t for her, then her room is still out there somewhere.

Meanwhile, Rita and the Doctor get pally.

RORY: Every time the Doctor gets pally with someone I get this overwhelming urge to notify their next of kin.

Amy laughs. Rory flinches.

RORY: Sorry. Last time I said something like that, you hit me with your shoe. And you had to literally sit down and unlace it first.

Rita isn’t too sure about the Doctor, though. She says, “You are a medical doctor, aren’t you? You haven’t just got a degree in cheese-making or something?”

The Doctor says it’s both, actually, and I decide not to write my pro-Ph.D. rant in here, because I just remembered how awful Rita’s father is, and decided she’s probably just a warped product of her abusive family environment.

DOCTOR: And this is a cup of tea!
RITA: Of course. I’m British. It’s how we cope with trauma.

Rita talks a little to the Doctor about her (Muslim) faith and her belief that this is Hell, though she is a bit surprised by the whole ’80s-hotel vibe.

Rita’s not too bothered by finding herself in Hell, because she knows that she’s tried her best to live a good life. But the Doctor’s conversation with her is cut short by Amy remembering that she has Lucy the policewoman’s notes in her pocket.

The Doctor reads them out loud, but Howie starts saying, “Praise him.” It’s what happened to Joe, and everyone’s completely freaking out, including Howie (or Howard? I’m just going to call him Howie. We’re mates, me and Howie), who really doesn’t want to be eaten.

But the Doctor thinks that once Howie is possessed again, they can ask him some questions.

For example, why aren’t they all being possessed? Howie says the others all have too many distractions. Too much going on in their heads.

The Doctor tells the others (out of Howie’s hearing) that the creature feeds on fear, so they have to cling on to whatever gives them strength. And then they can catch themselves a monster.

They hide in various locations, including Amy and Rita in one of the rooms, though not their own nightmare.

RITA: How’s it going?
AMY: Don’t talk to the clown!

And using Howie’s voice over the sound system, they manage to trap the monster in a distant room. Howie, meanwhile, is in reception, being watched over by the alien from the oft-invaded planet, which seems a poor choice of guard to me.

The Doctor, interrogating the prisoner, realises that this is a prison.

Howie continues trying to convince the alien (who I’m just going to call “The Coward”) to let him go to seek his glorious death.

And the Doctor continues interrogating the minotaur, which is what this creature (this creature of instinct, with no name) is.

Lord Nimon! It is I! Soldeed!

Nope, wrong episode. In this episode, Howie manages to get away, and the minotaur breaks loose to chase him down.

RORY: Oh, somebody hit me. Was it Amy?

The Doctor finds Howie’s broken glasses and Amy finds a room that calls to her—which she opens, despite being told repeatedly not to do that.

And then we pan past poor Howie’s body, slumped against a wall, just as Joe’s was. The Doctor’s not pleased with The Coward, but now is not the time for recriminations.

Howie’s picture appears on the wall in reception. The Doctor and Rory both stroll up to contemplate it, and the Doctor asks Rory if he’s found his room yet.

DOCTOR: Maybe you’re not scared of anything.
RORY: Well, after all the time with you in the TARDIS, what was left to be scared of?

And here’s the bit that I think sums up Rory. He tells the Doctor about Howie’s being in intensive speech therapy, and overcoming a massive stammer. And that’s not a huge shock, because we saw the girls mocking his stammer, asking him if he was speaking Klingon, and Howie stammering in response to their mockery. But the thing is that of all these people, only Rory would know that. Only Rory has the kind of conversations with people that elicit that sort of information. And only Rory cares enough to remember these kinds of details and to value them. Because he thinks people are important, does Rory. He thinks minutiae and personal victories (big and small) and daily life are important things.

I love Rory.

I bet he’s an excellent and beloved nurse.

The Doctor tells Rita that he’s very close to getting them all out of there.

RITA: Why’s it up to you to save us? That’s quite a God complex you’ve got there.
DOCTOR: I brought them here. They’ll tell you it was their choice, but offer a child a suitcase of sweets and they’ll take it. Offer someone the whole of time and space, and they’ll take that, too.

But Rita’s starting to praise him (not the Doctor). And the Doctor’s found room 11, and opened the door, despite instructions. Whatever’s inside, we don’t see, though we do hear the tolling of the Cloister Bell.

But the Doctor—and the rest of us—are distracted by Rita, who has walked off into the depths of the hotel, feeling the rapture coming on and wanting to “be robbed of my faith in private”. She asks the Doctor not to watch, but he waits long enough to see the monster come into view before he turns off the security cameras.

And then they go and find Rita’s body, to lay her out alongside Howie and Joe. And the Doctor’s more furious than we’ve ever seen him, a smashing-crockery kind of fury.

But he has come to a realisation of what the beast is feeding on. It’s not fear, because Rita wasn’t frightened: she was strong and brave. No: it’s feeding on faith. Because when you’re confronted with your primal fear, you fall back on what you have the most faith in. So the Doctor telling them to dig deep and stay strong is actually making them vulnerable.

And, he says, the beast doesn’t want Rory, because Rory’s not religious or superstitious. It wants Amy, because of Amy’s faith in the Doctor. That’s what brought them to the hotel.

And now Amy’s praising the beast.

They run, because that’s what Doctor Who is: all running-sexy-fish-vampire-minotaurs.

And they end up in a room, where the Doctor tells Amy that he stole her childhood, and led her by her hand to her death. And he knew it was going to happen. Because it’s what always happens.

DOCTOR: Forget your faith in me. I took you with me because I was vain. Because I wanted to be adored. Look at you. Glorious Pond. The girl who waited—for me. I’m not a hero. I really am just a madman in a box. And it’s time we saw each other as we really are. Amy Williams: it’s time to stop waiting.

I’m not touching the “Amy Williams” bit (comments!), but I will point out that Amy flips between Amy and young Amelia (who is sitting on her suitcase, staring out the window, in this room, the room of Amy’s greatest fear), and it’s rather lovely and sad and sweet.

Out in the corridor, a minotaur is dying.

Sorry: not a corridor. It’s a holodeck. Will people never learn? Those things malfunction all the time.

The minotaur is a distant cousin of the Nimon, who set themselves up on distant planets and are worshipped as gods. So my “Horns of Nimon” joke earlier was even wittier than it seemed at the time.

There’s much technobabble here about how the prison works, but I’ll ignore it all in favour of this next exchange.

MINOTAUR: An ancient creature, dredged in the blood of the innocent, drifting in space through an endless, shifting maze. For such a creature, death would be a gift.
DOCTOR: Then accept it. And sleep well.
MINOTAUR: I wasn’t talking about myself.

And now we’re at a house (which is a real house, without any goblins or minotaurs), and, outside it, a car that happens to be Rory’s favourite car. And Rory is sent off to investigate the house (RORY: She’ll say we can’t accept it because it’s too extravagant and we’ll always feel a sense of crippling obligation. It’s a risk I’m willing to take), while Amy comes to the realisation that the Doctor is leaving.

DOCTOR: And what’s the alternative? Me standing over your grave? Over your broken body? Over Rory’s body?
ME: Well, you’ve already done that last one at least twice. Maybe three times.

Amy lets him go with a good grace, in the end, though she’s clearly quite broken up about it. She tells him that if he runs into her daughter, he should tell her to visit her old mum occasionally.

And then he’s off.

RORY: What’s happened? What’s he doing?
AMY: He’s saving us.

But it’s not quite that simple, because, alone in the console room, the Doctor definitely has something else on his mind.

Well, that was “Curse of Fenric.” I mean “The Fenric Complex.” I mean “The God Complex.”

Next week: Craig versus the Cybermen.

Share your thoughts [11]


Deb wrote at Sep 27, 11:33 am

what was the point of the ‘saving of the goldfish’ and the ‘eating of the goldfish’? demonstrating a slyness to The Coward? already achieved I thought.


Catriona wrote at Sep 27, 09:32 pm

I think I ignored the goldfish bit entirely with the live-blogging, didn’t I? That’s because I really didn’t have the faintest idea what its purpose was. I assumed it was a moderately ill-advised visual joke, and just ignored it accordingly.


Nick wrote at Sep 28, 11:29 pm

The goldfish gag kind of felt like one of those moments where they just hadn’t shot enough footage to make it work once they got it in the edit bay, but were just too stubborn to cut it out entirely. It’s not like they needed to pad the episode’s length, as it was already longer than normal with the back-on-Earth coda.


Nick wrote at Sep 28, 11:36 pm

Whitehouse’s most conceptually complex episode to date. (Incidentally, it’s amazing how much the modern Doctor Who has changed since “School Reunion”, both tonally and visually).

Many good Rory moments this week, but his being immune to the effects of the hotel was mishandled — why did the prison take all of them in the first place? What would have happened if he’d gone through one of the exits? For such an important character beat it wasn’t reinforced enough, and how did the Doctor know that the hotel was showing Rory a way out? Sure, it could have happened off-camera, but something like that really needs to be shown. They could have lost the fish gag for it.


Tim wrote at Sep 29, 12:19 pm

The issue of Rory’s faith also deserved more time, I thought. We haven’t seen it established before, have we? The way the Doctor threw it out made it seem almost like a reference to an obvious fact that the audience should already know.


Catriona wrote at Sep 29, 08:58 pm

On the one hand, I didn’t mind the way he threw out the idea of Rory’s deeply secular and practical nature as though it were a well-understand fact: it suggested a kind of intimacy of knowledge that I liked and that Whithouse seemed to feed into other parts of the script.

Let me see if I can explain what I mean by that a little more clearly, even though it’s really early in the morning.

Rory’s often a bit left out of what Nick’s been calling “the domestic TARDIS”, like he’s only along on sufferance. But lately they’ve been deepening his character and making him a much more integral part of the team. The Doctor and Amy still share a different kind of relationship, which makes sense (they met first, after all), but Rory’s much more integrated now. And the Doctor’s comment could be read as a way of showing that he is, finally, as interested (or nearly) in what makes Rory tick as what makes Amy tick.

That said, it was too important a plot point to be thrown out as an aside, and the dialogue about the car did the above pretty much as effectively.

(And despite Whithouse’s implication, I don’t think Amy keeping her own surname after marriage or giving their child her surname has any deeper significance, let alone suggesting that she wasn’t fully committed to her marriage. That really annoyed me—and it was an incredibly conservative stance to put in the mouth of a character like the Doctor.)


Deb wrote at Sep 29, 10:43 pm

did Amy meet the Doctor before Rory? I thought Rory had been there pretty much all her life (like the elusive Mels)


Catriona wrote at Sep 30, 06:41 am

Sorry, that’s my poor grammar. I meant that Amy and the Doctor have bonded before the Doctor met Rory.


Tim wrote at Oct 2, 06:44 am

Indeed, I liked how they brought in Howard’s stammer. Rory’s atheism just seemed to come out of nowhere.

And re Amy Pond-Williams, I hated how Rory was simply shoved behind the door in that scene.


Catriona wrote at Oct 3, 03:45 am

The door thing was bizarre. I thought we were over keeping Rory away from the important emotional moments, now he’s all sexy and take-charge and all?

My basic reaction to this story was that it was essentially “Curse of Fenric”, but with fewer Communists.


Tim wrote at Oct 8, 03:47 am

Incidentally, may I say after a rewatch: apple and Rubik’s Cube.

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