Almost every one has faith. Whether it be religious faith, the belief in a god or higher power, or the belief in a certain code of ethics or way of life, or the belief in humanity, a parent, a sibling, a friend. Faith is the ultimate trust in someone or something - there for you in your time of need, to protect you, help you, save you. Faith can be strong and powerful, but it can also blind us, leaving us weak and vulnerable.
How many people over the years have had faith in The Doctor? And how many times has that faith lead to heartache and misery, and in some cases, death? The God Complex could very well have been called The Doctor Complex. The Doctor’s need to save people, and his control over the universe is at best egocentric, and at worst highly irresponsible. Rose Tyler, Martha Jones, Donna Noble, they all had faith in the Doctor, and did their lives turn out for the better? It’s debatable. But perhaps nobody has as much faith in the Doctor as Amy Pond, who has worshipped him since she was a little girl, sitting on her suitcase, waiting for him to come and save her. It comes to a point where people have to let go of their faith, and stand on their own two feet, before that faith destroys them.
Doctor Who Episode 11 Review - Reach Out And Touch Faith
Welcome to Hotel Nightmare, you can check out any time you’d like, but you can never leave. The God Complex borrowed heavily from Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 horror classic adaptation of The Shining, not only in a stylistic sense but the theme of “hell on earth” is certainly prevalent in both. The individual rooms home to various horrors, in The Shining it is acts of depravity and sordid desires, in The God Complex the rooms are occupied by “bad dreams”, the fears of the hotel’s various guests.
Once you are exposed to your room and thereby brought face to face with your fear, you become prone to worship, almost as if you are possessed, like we see with Lucy Hayward at the beginning of the episode. After opening the door to her room, she begins to lose sense of herself, she manages to scribble her last thoughts on to a piece of paper, before she starts to give herself over to the monster that lurks the corridors, an alien Minotaur that seemingly feeds off people’s fears. “Praise him,” Lucy says over and over.
Again, the TARDIS has ventured off course and landed somewhere it wasn’t supposed to, either the Doctor needs to invest in a sat-nav, or the TARDIS is taking the Doctor not where he wants to be, but where ne needs to be, which is what he was told earlier this series in The Doctor’s Wife. The Doctor has a theory, although you should be prepared to ignore it, he believes that they are not on earth but are in fact in a hotel that has been made to look like Earth, although for what purpose is not yet known.
The walls are adorned with photographs of the Minotaur’s victims, each labelled with their fear “Commander Halke - Defeat” “Lady Silvertear - Daleks” “Lucy Hayward - That brutal Gorilla.”
“It’s okay, we’re nice,” Rory pleads to the three hotel guests that appear in reception, screaming and waving various weapons. The three people are, Gibbis, a native of Tivoli, a planet whose inhabitants willingly surrender and welcome being conquered. Howie, a young conspiracy theory nut. And Rita, a Muslim nurse who is quite the clever cloggs. Rita tells the Doctor and co that the hotel is alive, rooms change, corridors stretch, things appear elsewhere, and that each room contains “bad dreams”.
There is also Joe, who is tied up at the minute, and enjoying a good old chuckle with a room full of creepy ventriloquist dolls. Joe is already possessed, he tells the Doctor that they are not yet ready, that they are still raw, and they must first find their room, because even the Doctor has a room. When they have found their room and given themselves over, “he will feast”.
In Howie’s room there was a group of pretty young girls mocking him about his stammer.
In what was supposedly Gibbis’s room there were two Weeping Angels, still as frightening as ever.
In Rita’s room was her father chastising her for only getting a ‘B’ in her exams.
In Amy’s room was her as a little girl sat waiting for the Doctor to return.
And in the Doctor’s room (Room 11)? We didn’t get to find out but I have a pretty good idea of what it was, and I’ll come back to that.
The Doctor, from what he has seen and read in Lucy Hayward’s note, tells them all that the Minotaur is feeding off of their fear, and that they need to put faith in to whatever they believe in, whether that be religion or “a basket of kittens.” But this doesn’t appear to stop anything, because one by one those that have seen their rooms begin to praise, starting with Howie.
In a plan to trap the Minotaur, the Doctor and co tie Howie up and pipe his praising through a tannoy system, leading the monster to the Doctor. It becomes question time for the Minotaur as he must answer to the Doctor, it explains that the hotel is a prison, and that he is the guard. But more importantly, he lets the Doctor know that he wants it all to stop, that it is so old it has forgotten it’s name. Before the Doctor can get an answer on how to put it out of its misery, the Minotaur smashes through the doors, pursuing Howie, who Gibbis, in an act of pure cowardice, set free.
With Howie and Joe now literally shells of their former selves, Rita is next. This death perhaps meant the most because Rita had been set up as a potential companion to the Doctor throughout the episode, the Doctor, doing his best Alan Sugar impression, even jokingly fired Amy. But the Doctor couldn’t save Rita, he had to watch her death on the CCTV cameras. This brought out the angry Doctor, which is always welcome in my eyes, and he started to ‘rearrange’ some of the furniture.
During Amy’s speech to Gibbis about how the Doctor will save them eventually, because “he always does”, it suddenly clicks in to place. The Doctor realises that it isn’t fear that the Minotaur is feeding on, but faith. The reason Rory didn’t find his room, and why he was shown exits was because he has no faith, he isn’t religious or superstitious (this could be read as slight against religion). But all of the others believed in someone or something. Joe was a gambler, he had faith in luck. Howie believed in conspiracy theories. Rita was a Muslim so had religious faith. Gibbis believes in subjugation. And of course, Amy has faith in the Doctor, and the strength of her faith in him means she is next.
In order to stop the Minotaur feasting on Amy, the Doctor has to destroy Amy’s faith in him. They enter Amy’s room, with the young Amelia Pond sitting on her suitcase, awaiting her raggedy man in a blue box. The Doctor, simultaneously talking to the young Amy and present Amy, tells her that he knew all along that he would lead her to her death, this was always going to happen and he did nothing to stop it, he says that she should forget him, let go of her faith in him, and become who she really is, Amy Williams. It was a beautiful little scene, and tightly performed by Matt Smith, not too over-the-top, it was just right.
I know this is probably going to get me lots of stick from the Tennant fan boys and girls, but it is the reason I prefer Smith to Tennant, I think there is much more subtly to Smith’s performance, whereas Tennant would often ham it up, especially in emotional scenes. That’s not to say Tennant was bad, he was often fantastic, I just think Smith has taken the Doctor to another level.
As the Minotaur slowly begins to die, the hotel falls apart, revealing a Tron-like environment based in outer-space. Before the Minotaur passes, he reveals some home truths, and this is where the episode links thematically with A Good Man Goes To War, in regards to the fall of the Doctor. Here is the Minotaur’s speech:
“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.”
Whilst the Doctor believes the Minotaur is talking about himself, before they step back on the TARDIS, the monster reveals “I wasn’t talking about myself.” I still think this path we are heading down is very dark and very brave for Doctor Who. They’ve always played with the notion that what the Doctor does can cause pain and destruction, but I don’t think it has ever plagued the Doctor’s mind like it has done recently, I mean “drenched in the blood of the innocent” is pretty explicit.
The Doctor’s fall is continuing from A Good Man Goes To War, in Let’s Kill Hitler he was almost brought to his death, it ended up with River Song saving his life. In last week’s episode The Girl Who Waited we saw the Doctor at his most devious, locking the future Amy out of the TARDIS despite telling Rory that both Amy’s could survive. Night Terrors kind of disrupted the fall, but as that episode was supposed to air in the first half of the season, I’m going to ignore it. And of course, The God Complex brought the realisation once again that bad things happen to those that meet the Doctor.
There is no choice left for the Doctor but to return the Ponds, or I suppose I should now say, the Williams’, home. But not their old home, this is a new home that the Doctor has bought them, along with a flash new car. At first I thought this was the house they were living in at the beginning of The Impossible Astronaut, and it had me confused. I did have a theory that this was taking place before the events of The Impossible Astronaut, because there was also some strange timey-wimey madness when Rory spoke in the past tense to the Doctor, when he said “After all the time I spent with you in the TARDIS, what’s left to fear.” But I think this was maybe Rory having already made his decision to leave the TARDIS, last week he did tell the Doctor that he didn’t want to travel with him anymore.
The Doctor does tell Amy that they will see him again some day, and as we know, Amy and Rory are present for the Doctor’s death. But for now he has to leave them behind in order to save them, he doesn’t want to be standing over Amy and/or Rory’s dead bodies, and he knows that the longer they travel with him the more that becomes a severe possibility. It may be a bit harsh on the Doctor to say that he ruins the lives of those that travel with him, because I don’t think that is true. His companions often are looking for meaning, they were outcasts or underachievers in the real world, and travelling through time and space with the Doctor brought them a sense of purpose, and arguably made them better people. But that doesn’t diminish the fact that they are risking their lives every second they are with the Doctor, and it is a risk our favourite Time Lord is no longer willing to take.
The parting shot of the lonely Doctor in his TARDIS is beautifully poignant. And I believe this is what the Doctor saw in his room, himself, alone. The Doctor’s greatest fear is loneliness. “Of course. Who else?” he says when he opens the door to his room, and I’m sure this is exactly what he says before he his shot by the astronaut - does this mean the Doctor kills himself? Suicide may be going a little bit too far for tea-time entertainment. We may never know what was inside the Doctor’s room, and I think it is probably better if it remains a secret.
The Doctor won’t be lonely for too long though, as in next weeks penultimate episode he once again finds Craig (James Corden), and they prepare to do battle with some…Cybermen!