The God Complex

Story No. 243 Ha ha ha!
Production Code Series 6, Episode 11
Dates September 17, 2011

With Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill
Written by Toby Whithouse Directed by Nick Hurran
Executive Producers: Steven Moffat, Piers Wenger, Beth Willis.

Synopsis: The TARDIS crew are trapped in a hotel where your worst fears reside.


Praise The Story, And Him by Clement Tang 3/4/12

I want to review this without spoiling much of the plot, so bear with me. As the title implies, I love this story. The twists and turns, the concept, the dialogue, the acting etc. Everything seems like The Curse of Fenric. This story is basically about people trapped in a hotel that seems like a maze, and every room has someone's fear in them; faith in the enemy (because of this fear) will kill you. It's a psychological episode. Everyone has a fear, but temptation will overpower each person and every one of them will find the fear. Imagine yourself in there, wanting to find your fear, but at the same time trying to fight off the fear to avoid the enemy who hates and feeds on faith.

The acting is really good. Matt Smith, Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill are all brilliant in this one. The supporting actors are pretty good too, particularly the girl who plays Rita. I could imagine her as a companion for the show. Shame though, she's really only meant for this story alone. The dialogue is good, too. Parts of it are touching, particularly the ending (which I will not spoil).

The setting really makes it claustrophobic. You don't know what's coming in this seemingly small hotel. All paths keep changing and all you know is that someone's coming for your faith.

Well, I think this story is brilliant, but I know some people may not like it. It's up to you to see it. It may not be classic Doctor Who, but it's very good.


In Praise of Him by Jason A. Miller 19/2/19

I'm not a big fan of Matt Smith's Doctor, and I just don't like Series 6 all that much. There, I said it. I appreciate that Steven Moffat had a really strong idea for a character in River Song, and I appreciate that wide segments of fandom love her, but she doesn't really speak to me, and devoting much of a single season to telling her entire life story is a big risk for the segment of fandom that would rather see the man in the blue box. And with five or six arc-heavy episodes out of the season, that just doesn't leave a lot of room for folks who didn't like the arc.

Of course, by putting all that kvetching in the first paragraph, I've kind of disqualified myself as an impartial reviewer of anything Matt Smith-related, so you probably don't want to hear from me anymore. Therefore, I'm going to turn over the next segment of this review to a sponsored ad. Enjoy.



This is the worst hotel I've ever been to. I wish they'd stabilize their pedestrian infrastructure. I keep getting lost, with hallways never seeming to lead to the same place twice. The decor is also a bit nauseating, with clashing wallpaper and carpeting in the corridors. I mean, hello! You can't just copy your set design from "The Shining" and expect people to want to stay here.

The rooms are also very unsettling. Every single room in the place is occupied! Doesn't the hotel staff realize that I'm terrified of beets? When I got to Room 237, there was a complete stranger already standing there, juggling beets. First of all, why should I have to share my room? Second of all, don't they realize I'm terrified of beets?

Praise him.

Um, sorry, I don't even remember typing that.

And when I tried to step outside the hotel for a smoke (why are the rooms non-smoking, but full of beets?), some joker had walled the doorways back up with white cinder-block. This is a terrible hotel.

Praise him.

Sorry, I think the hotel wi-fi is bad and someone's 'jacking my phone. And that's another problem with this hotel --

Praise him.



As much as I disliked the first half of season 6, before the mid-season hiatus, I disliked even more the run of stand-alone episodes following the second-half premiere. Night Terrors and The Girl Who Waited did nothing for me on first viewing, and I haven't been motivated to watch either story again.

The G-d Complex, though, jumped out at me as something special from the get-go, from its first airing. I didn't even realize it was a direct sequel to The Horns of Nimon until the very end, even though it's so obvious in retrospect: the space Minotaur, the Complex from which there is no escape (Power Complex there: "Sounds like an insecure personality"; G-d Complex here, a phrase applied to the Doctor as well); and the ever-shifting corridors. By the time the Doctor declares the vanquished space-Minotaur to be a "distant cousin of the Nimon", you realize that Toby Whithouse has taken a much-derided Classic Series story, stripped that story down to its bare essence and turned it into the classic that it always deserved to be.

The Horns of Nimon is a silly story, as I said in my recent review of that one. There's a lot of over-acting going on and a metric ton of padding. Tom Baker is acting wildly off-script, and even sound-effects guy Dick Mills gets in on the act with the most ludicrous exploding-TARDIS-console noise of all time. I love it in spite of all that, but that is a story that succeeded almost in spite of the production, not because of it.

The G-d Complex, on the other hand, does away with the padding -- no scenes on spaceships, no turning the first part and a half into a prologue set off-world, no Soldeed-type character running around trying to out-overact Tom Baker. We get to the hotel in the very first scene and don't leave it until the main story is over. There's the victim who dies in the cold open, and the rest of the story features essentially just four guest characters. Each character is marked for death with shocking speed, but each is also vivid and well portrayed, with particular emphasis on Amara Karan as Rita, the Muslim ("Don't be frightened!") physician, whose observational skills are so sharp that the Doctor turns to Amy and announces, "You're fired." David Walliams provides exceptional comic relief as a Tivolian, a resident of the most conquered planet in the Universe ("Our national anthem is "Glory To [Insert Name Here]."). There's not a weak element in the cast, honestly.

The last ten minutes of the story are perhaps a slight letdown. The hotel room containing the Doctor's greatest fear is room 11, because what's a Steven Moffat-era story without an on-the-nose reference to this Doctor calling himself the 11th Doctor? The Eleventh Hour. The Fall of the Eleventh. "Out of ten? Eleven.". We get it, Chief. Even Graham Williams at the height of his silliness didn't press-gang Tom Baker into starring in "The Sign of the Four". And then, we're never told exactly what fear is contained in the Doctor's room, with only the sound of the Cloister Bell, and Smith's detached murmuring "Of course..." Had this fear been directly tied into The Time of the Doctor, there might have been some distant payoff at the end of Smith's run, but instead it winds up just being a mildly irksome loose end. And you can easily skip the five-minute epilogue "writing out" Amy and Rory, because they stuck around for another two half-seasons before being written out again. Written out two or three more times, and ultimately in the most ill-conceived fashion imaginable.

But my disdain for the rest of the Smith era is bleeding through again. The first 35 minutes of The G-d Complex are, for me, everything a stand-alone New Who story should be. Tightly written, funny, scary and building nicely off the Classic Series. My greatest fear may be Moffat coming along and ruining the show, but -

Uh-oh, did I just admit that my fear is Moffat? This is not the place to be confronted with one's fears...

Praise him.

Amy, with regret, you're fired by Evan Weston 8/6/19

Praise him. And when I say him, I mean Toby Whithouse. That's three out of three solid episodes for the former Being Human showrunner, who puts together the scariest episode of Series 6 while also beautifully leading the Ponds out the door as a permanent fixture in the Doctor's life. Building off the development from Tom MacRae's The Girl Who Waited, Whithouse manages to do what Steven Moffat thus far could not in this run - continue realistic character development across multiple episodes. For that alone, The God Complex deserves a tremendous amount of praise.

Let's start there, at the end, because it's a really terrific decision to have the Doctor let Amy and Rory go. He saw how fundamentally apart he is from them in The Girl Who Waited, and here he exposes the other down side to his character: he puts them in grave danger. Whithouse, along with Matt Smith, convinces us that the Doctor realizes the error of his ways and sends the Ponds off before they can do too much damage. It's subtle, serialized character development like this that lends Doctor Who a good chunk of its power, and it's nice to see that element return after breathing so much life into Series 5.

It's also interesting to see what Whithouse believes to be Amy's deepest fear. The episode is built around her faith in the Doctor, which isn't something that has played a prominent role in the series so far - unlike, say, her faith in Rory. But while she believes Rory will always love her, she consistently entrusts the Doctor with saving her, especially now after the events of The Girl Who Waited. The premise behind The God Complex forces Amy to release this faith completely, which makes the conclusion feel natural. But her fear of being left behind again (and her subsequent conquering of said fear) plays just as key a role, and, while seeing Rory dead may qualify as a deeper fear, this one is totally believable. It's also fun to think about what was in the Doctor's room; at the time, I thought it was the astronaut.

Regardless, this premise carries The God Complex through a mostly successful 40 minutes, creating an air of fear and paranoia that extends throughout the episode. Not one character that comes under the spell of the Minotaur lives save Amy, and this inevitable death amplifies the fear factor immensely. The 1980s hotel location, owing a leg and a half to Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, also ups the creep factor, as does a guest spot from the Weeping Angels and more inspired direction from the wonderfully unique Nick Hurran. It's a pretty intense episode, maybe not quite at Blink-level scary but at least in the next tier.

The story is, for the third week in a row, a bit on the slow side, as it's mostly just people dying. It's also built heavily on the Doctor being wrong about the creature, believing it to feed on fear instead of faith. While it's refreshing for the Doctor to miss something, as he should never become a completely trustworthy source of exposition, the script simply decides to meander for 20 minutes while our hero figures things out. Meanwhile, two people die, and, in the middle, we have a silly sequence in which the Doctor catches the Minotaur... and subsequently lets him go. It's a weird middle, and though it doesn't take away from the strong finish, it holds The God Complex back from pure greatness.

The other flaw here is the Minotaur itself, which is revealed in full far too early in the episode and looks totally silly. The production crew doesn't often drop the ball in the Moffat era, but the Minotaur's prosthetic suit makes him look like a high-school mascot. The decision to show him early is also misguided, as holding him back would have at least held the suspense of what he could look like a bit longer. Once we can see the Minotaur in its full, obviously fake glory, it becomes quite difficult to suspend belief.

The same cannot be said of the supporting cast, who are almost all terrific. The one weak link is the awesomely named Dmitri Leonidas as Howie, who overdoes both the nerdiness before and the campiness after he's converted. Add Amara Karan to the list of strong guest stars this series as Rita, whose death scene is done brilliantly and whose faith and ethnicity is treated mostly with respect. David Walliams is also great as Gibbis, who provides much needed comic relief and is used as a proper plot device, with his character flaws driving the events of the narrative. Matt Smith and Karen Gillan (in the final 15 minutes at least) are both excellent, with Arthur Darvill sent back into the background after his big role in The Girl Who Waited.

The God Complex is a well-written and pretty creepy yarn that sends the Ponds out of the main picture in a believable way, using previous events to justify the decision. While the story itself has its flaws and the theme of faith isn't really explored beyond Amy's, it never fails to be engaging, though I suppose it should have been obvious from the start that Doctor Who would be a pretty good fit for The Shining (not to mention a little bit of George Orwell's Room 101 from 1984). The God Complex continues the strong close to Series 6 and sets us on a decisive path towards the finale. After the mess of timey-wimey nonsense we've endured so far, any type of course correction is welcome.