Doctor Who: The God Complex
(1 episode, s06e11, 2011)
The Doctor meets The Shining.
Policewoman Lucy Hayward roams the halls of what appears to be a 1980s vintage hotel. Each room she checks holds a manifestation of a fear, and the visitors must wander the halls until they find their specific room. After that, it becomes clear – “Praise him.” – before the fear kills them.
Our traveling trio arrives at the hotel and sees a series of photos with strange captions (which we know correlates to the killing fear) before meeting Rita (a human nurse), Howie (a human computer geek), and Gibbis (a cowardly, mole-like alien from the planet Tivoli). They have all been taken from their normal lives and deposited in this endlessly shifting maze on the planet Ravenscala.
To make matters worse, the TARDIS has vanished.
The three survivors also tell the Doctor about Joe, a delusional man who is tied up in the ballroom with a host of laughing puppets. Joe has “seen the light” and is willing to accept his fate because only “he” matters. Joe explains that everyone has a specific room and asks to be left behind, but the Doctor puts Joe’s chair on a luggage cart and brings him along.
The team decides to look for a way out, pledging not to leave anyone alone at any time. Howie finds a room full of twenty-something girls who mock his nerdiness and stutter, but is saved by the Doctor and Rory. Amy finds Lucy Hayward’s notes, but can’t show the Doctor before the roaring beast approaches and sends the team scattering.
Rita and Joe enter a room to find Rita’s father scolding her about grades. She begins to “praise him” as Amy, Rory, Howie, Gibbis, and the Doctor enter a room to find a pair of Weeping Angels, but the Doctor quickly ascertains that they are not real. The Doctor peeks through the door’s peephole to see the beast. The beast goes after Joe, whose bindings are loosened telekinetically, and hauls the man away before killing him.
The group returns to the ballroom, presumably the safest place now, and Amy consoles Gibbis. Gibbis notes that if the Weeping Angels were meant for him, then Amy’s room is still out there. Meanwhile, Rita and the Doctor discuss Joe’s death and the situation. She believes that the hotels is Jahannam, the Muslim version of Hell. Amy takes the moment to show Lucy’s notes to the Doctor. When the Doctor mentions the words “praise him”, Howie repeats them and the beast awakens.
Gibbis suggests that the group sacrifices Howie to save everyone, but the Doctor says that all of them are getting out alive. Theorizing that the beast feeds on fear, the Doctor tells the others that they must do whatever they can to fight the fear off in any way they can. Amy wonders about the next move, and the Doctor explains that they’re going to catch the monster.
Using a speaker, the Doctor lures the monster into the hotel spa. Amy, Rory, and Rita block the exits, locking the creature in the spa as the Doctor begins talking with it. The beast is a Minotaur and the hotel is a prison. The Minotaur has lived so long that it has forgotten its own name, but it wants the cycle to stop so it can get some peace.
Unfortunately, Howie (who was being watched by Gibbis) gets free and the Minotaur gives chase. While the team looks for Howie, Amy enters a room and finds her fear. Howie is soon found, dead, and Gibbis begs for forgiveness after losing track of him.
Rory and the Doctor share a moment in front of Howie’s picture. Rory hasn’t found his room yet, and the Doctor interprets that Rory isn’t afraid of anything. Rory replies, “After all the time I spent with you in the TARDIS, what was left to be scared of?” The Doctor is sad that Rory said it in the past tense.
The Doctor talks with Rita, who notes that the Doctor has a God complex. The Doctor watches Amy and realizes that he feels guilty for bringing them to a place with a real danger of killing them. He offers Rita a place on the TARDIS before spotting a security camera and going in search of the security room, missing the fact that Rita has been afflicted by her own fear.
The Doctor finds his own room, Room 11, and faces his fear. The reflection in his eye reveals it as the crack in time, forcing him to smile as the Cloister Bell sounds and remark, “Of course. Who else?” He hangs a Do Not Disturb sign on the door and moves on.
Entering the security room, he watches as Rita navigates the halls. He dials a nearby room and waits for Rita to pick up the phone, discovering that she’s been affected. She wants the Doctor to remember her as she was, and as the Doctor is joined by Amy and Rory, Rita says goodbye and succumbs to the Minotaur.
Devastated, the Doctor hangs up the phone and turns off the camera. In a fit of rage, he later realizes that his theory was wrong. Rita was not afraid of her death, so the fear couldn’t be the driver. Instead, it was faith.
Howie believed in conspiracies, Rita was a devout Muslim, Joe was a gambler who believed in luck, and Gibbis believes in the continued presence of invaders who will tell him what to do. The Doctor laments that his has inadvertently helped the Minotaur by insisting that everyone reject their fear and fall back on their faith.
He tells a confused Rory that the TARDIS was pulled to the hotel – which is, in fact, an alien prison – because of Amy’s faith in the Doctor. Rory has no faith to consume.
Since Amy has seen her fear, she suddenly begins the mantra: “Praise him.”
The team then flee through the hotel as the Minotaur pursues them. They end up in the room with Amy’s fear: Her seven-year-old self waiting for the Doctor. The Time Lord laments stealing her childhood, revealing that he took Amy in the TARDIS because he was vain and wanted to be adored. He tells her to let go of her faith in him, calling her Amy Williams, and suggests that she allow herself to stop waiting for her Doctor. He is, after all, just a madman in a box.
The Minotaur collapses in the hallway and the illusion dissolves, revealing an alien prison is revealed. The automated system kidnaps people with belief systems and feeds the creature. The dying Minotaur passes a message to the Doctor, expressing his pity for “an ancient creature drenched in the blood of the innocent”, because “for such a creature, death would be a gift.” The Minotaur tells the Doctor that he wasn’t speaking of himself, but rather the Time Lord who saved him.
Refusing to tell Amy what he saw in his own room, the Doctor returns Amy and Rory to Earth. He presents them with their own home and Rory’s favorite car, and Amy knows that he is leaving them behind. She asks why and he responds that it’s because they’re still breathing. He doesn’t want to wait to say goodbye until he’s standing over their graves.
After a tearful farewell, the Doctor leaves. Rory watches the TARDIS dematerialize and wonders where he’s gone, but Amy simply says that he is saving them.
Later that night, Amy watches the sky from her bedroom window. The Doctor looks around the empty console room as he prepares to travel alone.
This was quite the ride that brought us full circle from The Vampires of Venice. Recall that, on his first journey in the TARDIS, Rory believed that the Doctor’s companions placed themselves in danger to impress the Time Lord. This adventure confirmed that first impression, and finally brought the Eleventh Doctor’s fears in that regard to a head.
It’s a common thread with writer Toby Whithouse, whose pen graced this story, Vampires, and School Reunion, all of which played with this concept.
The story here, which we first think is an obsession with facing fears, but actually is an obsession with faith, was fun to explore. It was also thought-provoking to find that there was nothing evil behind the scenes. There’s a lot to digest with an automatic system that has a mission to maintain those under its charge, even to the point of killing innocent people, and that its been doing this for such a very long time.
This story had a few franchise ties, including one that linked Amy to Ace with the Doctor saving a companion’s life by forcing her to lose faith in him. The Seventh Doctor tore Ace apart emotionally in The Curse of Fenric, opening the door for a victory. Another was exploring the Doctor’s fears, which we saw in The Mind of Evil and Inferno, and the Doctor seemed unmoved by the revelation of what he feared most at this particular point. Strangely, it didn’t seem to be his own death at Lake Silencio, which has been taking up a lot of his bandwidth since The Impossible Astronaut.
We have seen minotaurs before (The Mind Robber and The Time Monster) and we’ve seen the “distant cousin” in The Horns of Nimon, a story that I called “downright painful”.
From this point forward, we get to find the answer to the question that sprung from The Girl Who Waited: Amy loved being Amy Pond in the TARDIS with Rory Williams, but what happens when they stop traveling with the Doctor?
Obviously, Amy misses it already.
Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”
UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Closing Time
The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.