Review: Doctor Who 6.11: The God Complex

By Heather S. Vina

[spoilers ahead]

Written by: Toby Whitehouse

Recap: In a mysterious Earth-like hotel (think the Jack Nicholson movie, The Shining), a female police officer named ‘Lucy Hayward’ (Sarah Quintrell) is walking down the halls, checking things out. While she does this, she is narrating what has been happening there and it seems that she’s the last one left. She talks about the rooms, and not knowing what is in “your room” until you see it. While she does, she’s opening the doors and different things are in the room. In one, there’s a creepy man taking a picture the old-fashioned way, scaring a young girl. In another, there’s a huge gorilla, who makes a move to attack Lucy. She screams and closes the door, leaning against the wall in fright. When Lucy freaks out, a strange, alien eye opens up.

Lucy’s narration continues. As it does, she writes all of this down in her police notebook. She says that the “gaps between” her “worship” are getting shorter. This is what happened to the others.

All of a sudden, her tone changes from scared and frantic, to relaxed and happy. She says that she’s happy and that it’s “all so clear now”. The words “praise him” are being whispered. She echoes them, writing them down in her notebook. There’s a creature appearing down the hall. Lucy stands up to meet him with a smile on her face. She drops her notes to the ground.

Credits.

The Doctor, Rory and Amy are at the hotel, looking at the spiral stairs that seem to repeat for a long way. The Doctor is excited, but Amy is complaining that he had described a wondrous place. This is nowhere near it. The Doctor explains that this looks like Earth, but it’s not Earth, and he’s excited by the idea that they created a really realistic Earth hotel in space.

The gang go exploring. They find a wall of pictures of people, with their names listed and strange captions. One is of a Sontaran. It says, “Defeat” under his name. Another is of a young man. It says, “Having his picture taken.” Lucy’s picture is there, too. Under her name, it says, “That brutal gorilla.” The Doctor doesn’t know what’s going on, but he wants to find out.

They head down to the lobby, where three people surprise them: two humans, Rita (Amara Karan), an intern, and Howie Spragg (Dimitri Leonidas), a young man; and Gibbis (David Walliams), an alien from the planet Duvali, the “most invaded planet in the galaxy.” Rita impresses the Doctor with her intelligence. She explains to them that the rooms move and shift, and that they are never quite sure where they are. Sounds a lot like the Red Rose house from the miniseries Red Rose!. There are also things in the rooms, bad things.

None of them knows how they got into the hotel. Rita was starting her shift, Howie was just starting to blog, and Gibbis was working on a project at home. The Doctor decides to take them on the TARDIS, however, when they go look for it, it’s gone. The Doctor asks if there are any more people in the place. Rita tells him about Joe Buchanan (Daniel Pirrie), whom they literally have tied up. They have him in the dining area, where there are a bunch of these laughing, ventriloquist-like dummies. They all stop laughing when the others enter the room.

Joe explains to the Doctor that they’re all going to die there, but he’s okay with it because he has “seen the light.” He’s led a blasphemous life, but he has been forgiven his sins. Soon, “he” will “feast”. He explains that it will happen to all of them; they just have to find “their room”. There’s a room there for everyone, even the Doctor. The dummies use to be something that he feared, but now they make him laugh.

The Doctor takes Joe back with them to the lobby, where he explains that they need to find the TARDIS. He tells the others that, if they feel drawn to a room, they shouldn’t open it.

The gang all go exploring, dragging Joe along with them. Howie explains to Rory that he’s figured it all out; they’re in Norway. He has a conspiracy theory that the U.S. government is somehow involved.

A PE teacher appears out of one of the rooms and asks the Doctor for a hallway pass, tells him that he will just have to “go in his pants,” and then goes back into the room. Howie gets intrigued by a door. Before the Doctor can stop him, he opens it. There’s a group of giggling teenage girls in there. They all start mocking and laughing at Howie, who starts to stutter and has flashes of hysterical laughter. He then says, “Praise him,” and the monster eye opens up, the same way it did when Lucy said it.

The Doctor tries to reassure Howie and they continue on down the hallway. Rory stops to tie his shoe. Behind him, he sees a door marked “Fire Exit”. He calls the others to it, but it disappears. Amy finds Lucy’s dropped papers. The growling of a monster startles them all and the Doctor has them hide in different rooms. Rita and Joe go into one together. In there, there’s an older man who is clearly Rita’s father. He starts berating her for having received a B on a school paper. She starts crying and then has the same kind of strange, hysterical reaction that Howie had. The whisper, “Praise him,” is heard again.

The Doctor, Howie, Rory, Amy, and Gibbis all end up in the same room, where there are two Weeping Angels. The Doctor realizes that they are not real and that they are Gibbis’ fear. The monster comes down the hallway and the Doctor watches it through the peephole. As it approaches, Joe’s bonds unravel and he is suddenly free. He goes rushing out of the room and stands in front of the creature. The Doctor rushes out, only to see the creature dragging Joe’s body down the hall.

The Doctor goes running after them, but the corridors start to shift. He finally finds Joe, slumped against the wall, dead.

Everyone goes back to the dining area. Rita makes tea for everyone, while the Doctor scans Joe’s body. Amy tries to reassure Gibbis that the Doctor will save them all; she has faith in him. Gibbis just needs to trust her. Rita and the Doctor have a bonding moment, and she gives him some tea. She knows that they are in an alien hotel, but she’s okay with it. He discovers that she is comforted by her religious beliefs and, therefore, is more accepting of what is happening.

Amy shows the Doctor Lucy’s notes. He starts to read them. When he gets to the end – where it says, “Praise him” – Howie unwillingly repeats the words. Gibbis freaks out, saying that’s what happened to Joe. Once again, the eye of the monster opens up and the monster starts its approach.

Everyone starts freaking out, now. Gibbis suggests that they throw Howie out to the monster. The Doctor approaches Gibbis and basically condemns him for being a coward. He tells him that “no one else is going to die today.”

The Doctor waits until Howie is possessed again and then starts to question him. Howie is all happy about being killed. He tells them that it will happen to all of them, soon. The Doctor theorises that it feeds on fear. He tells them that they need to do whatever they have to in order to “not give in to the fear.” His plan is to capture the beast. They bait the trap with Howie, who is talking over the speakerphone and calling the creature to him.

They manage to capture the beast and the Doctor interrogates it, able to understand its language. He discovers that it’s not the creature capturing people; it’s “they,” the wardens of the place. The Doctor realizes that it’s a prison. He also realizes that the creature is very old and tired. It wants to stop, but it can’t stop.

Just as the Doctor is asking the beast how to fight it, Howie comes up (Cowardly Gibbis set him free in an effort to appease the creature). The creature goes after Howie and the Doctor goes after it.

Amy moves to follow the Doctor, but is distracted by a room. She opens it and sees something, and the whispers of “Praise him” start up again. Before she can look at the room for very long, Rita comes up, pushes her out of the way, and closes the door.

The Doctor finally finds Howie, but he’s dead. Disgusted by Gibbis’ transparent cowardice, the Doctor just walks away from him.

Rory and the Doctor look at Howie’s picture, which is now on the wall. Rory, who had bonded with Howie a little, tells the Doctor that he had been in speech therapy and just gotten over a stammer. The Doctor asks Rory if he’s found his room, yet. When Rory says, “No,” and asks if that’s bad, the Doctor tells him that maybe he isn’t afraid of anything.

The Doctor reassures Rita that he is close to saving them. Rita asks him why it’s up to him to save them. She mentions him having a “God complex”. He tells her that he’s responsible for Rory and Amy being there. It was their choice to come with him, but it wasn’t much of a choice. He seems to think of them as children that he has led astray. And, I guess, if you are as old as he is, 22-26 would be almost a child.

The Doctor notices the camera in the corner of the hall and goes rushing off. After he leaves, Rita walks up to the camera and goes into a trance, saying “Praise him,” before she snaps out of it.

The Doctor runs down a hallway, but is stopped by the “Praise him” whispers and gets distracted by a door. Ironically enough, the door is numbered 11. Inexorably drawn, he opens the door. Inside, you can hear the cloister bell of the TARDIS ringing. That’s always been the alarm for something horrible and destructive happening. He looks in and goes, “Of course. Who else?” Then he quietly closes the door, putting a “Do Not Disturb” sign on it. We never do see what was in there.

The Doctor finally makes his way to the camera room, where he can see all of the cameras. He notices Rita walking down one of the halls and calls her. He asks her to come back, but she refuses and he realizes that she has been affected. She doesn’t want to endanger the rest of them. She tells him that if he tries to find her, the hotel won’t let him. She asks him to please not watch her die, but to remember her the way that she was. He begs her to come back, but she hangs up the phone. Griefstricken, the Doctor turns off the cameras before the creature takes her, out of respect for her final wishes.

Man, that was sad. I really wanted Rita to live!

Back at the lobby, the Doctor is throwing things around. He finally sits down and tries to figure it out. He starts doubting his fear theory because Rita wasn’t afraid. She was calm and at peace. If he can figure out what the creature is feeding on, then he can figure out how to fight it. Gibbis doubts his abilities to save them, but Amy reassures Gibbis that the Doctor will work it out; he always does.

And work it out he does, as he realizes that it’s not fear – it’s faith. Joe was a gambler who believed in luck and lucky tokens. Howie believed in conspiracies and outside forces controlling things. Rita believed in her religious faith. Gibbis believes that he’s always about to be conquered and his autonomy taken over. Each one of them had faith in something to save them. The Doctor has been encouraging people to dig deep and find faith in something to combat the fear, but it’s not the fear that puts them at danger – it’s their faith.

Rory doesn’t understand why they were brought there. The Doctor points out that it doesn’t want Rory, because he’s not religious or superstitious, and he has no faith in something higher than him to fall back on. That’s why it kept showing him the way out. It wants Amy. It was drawn to her complete faith in the Doctor.

That doesn’t quite make sense, though, because Amy doesn’t have absolute faith in the Doctor. She has turned on him before, when she felt something had gone horribly wrong (“The Girl Who Waited,” “A Good Man Goes To War”) and it was the Doctor’s fault because he didn’t stop it.

Anyway, alas, they discover that Amy’s faith has made her a victim, as she goes into the “Praise him” trance. They all take off running and end up in Amy’s room. There, we see little Amelia Pond (Caitlin Blackwood), sitting there in her jacket with her suitcase, waiting for the Doctor. Amy collapses on the floor and tells the Doctor that “it’s happening.” It’s changing her thoughts. He tells her that he can’t save her from this. While he’s saying this to her, she morphs into little Amelia. He tells her that it’s his fault. He knew that he would lead her to her death, but he was selfish. He took her with him because he was vain and needed to be adored. He’s just a “mad man with a box”, and no hero. She needs to forget her faith in him. It’s time they “saw each other as they really are.” He calls her “Amy Williams”.

“It’s time to stop waiting.”

As Amy’s faith in the Doctor declines, the hotel illusion disappears and the creature collapses. By sacrificing Amy’s faith in him, he cut off its food supply, allowing the creature to finally start to die. The Doctor explains to them that it’s an alien that would set itself up on distant planets to be worshiped. It was imprisoned by the people who once worshiped it and set in this ship, which is set on automatic to kidnap people and convert their faith into food for the creature.

Amy approaches the Doctor and tells him that it wasn’t just her that the creature showed a door to. What do Timelords worship or believe in? The Doctor doesn’t answer.

The creature starts talking again and the Doctor translates for everyone: “‘An ancient creature, drenched in blood of the innocent. Drifting in space, through an endless, shifting maze. Such a creature, death would be a gift.’ And accepted. Sleep well. ‘I wasn’t talking about myself.'”

The Doctor drops Giddis off somewhere and then heads back towards Earth, London. There, he gives Amy the keys to the flat and Rory the keys to a car that Rory has always wanted. Amy asks Rory to give them a few minutes to talk and Rory goes into the flat.

Amy knows the Doctor is leaving them behind. He tells her that she hasn’t seen the last of him, and jokes with her, but Amy wants to know why he’s leaving them now. He tells her that it’s because she’s still “breathing”. Amy tells him that it feels strange, after everything they have been through, for him to just leave them behind. But he asks her what is the alternative – to watch her and Rory eventually be killed? She hugs him and they share an intense moment. When they pull away, she tells him that, if he bumps into River, tell her daughter to come and visit her, sometime. The Doctor tells her to look after Rory and she tells him to look after himself. She kisses him on the forehead and then he leaves. Rory comes out with a bottle of champagne and some glasses. Poor guy didn’t even get to say goodbye. He asks Amy what the Doctor is doing. She tells him that he is “saving us.”

In the TARDIS, the Doctor looks around and sadly realizes that he is alone. He stands there forlornly.

Recap: Having seen a clip of this at Comic-Con, I really didn’t think that I was going to like this one that much. It looked a little corny and silly, with kind of a silly-looking costume for the creature. But it actually ended up being a very moving and sad tale, with a nice continuity in the main storyline of the season. And I never expected the Doctor to drop Rory and Amy off!

This episode felt like old school Doctor Who. Trapped in an enclosed space with a group of people. Those people being killed off, one by one, until the only ones left are the Doctor and his Companions. It actually kind of reminded me of the feeling I got when I watched “Pyramid of Mars” with Four and Sarah Jane. I was really sad to see Rita and Howie die, Rita especially. I loved her and I loved the Doctor’s excitement over finding someone that he really liked. He and Rita had a nice connection. It made her death, and the nobility and strength that she exhibited before her death, all the more tragic.

Despite the hammy-looking costume, the creature was sad, as well: trapped in this prison, not wanting to live anymore or kill anymore, but having no choice. I’m glad it found peace at the end.

The hotel setting was claustrophobic and scary. I’ve always found the idea of being trapped in a hotel, with all of these mysterious rooms that you don’t know what’s in them, to be really spooky. The reveal of most of the rooms wasn’t very spooky, but it makes sense that the fears would be very personal for each individual, to the point where not necessarily anyone else would find them scary.

They didn’t quite expand on Amy’s fear. I guess her fear is waiting for the Doctor and him never coming? Or is it her remembering that feeling – that horrible, fearful feeling – of waiting for someone that never came? And it’s interesting how Rory never had a door. Out of all of them, he was the only one being shown the way out. Is it that he really doesn’t have any fear, or does he just not have any higher faith, blind faith, in anything outside of himself?

It made me sad to see the Doctor be so hard on himself, and calling himself vain and selfish. If it was just for him to break Amy’s faith in him, it would be one thing, but the truth is, I think he believes it. Yes, he’s taken people with him, but he’s never forced them. And it was never just to have someone worship him or adore him, but because he was lonely. The Doctor is a people person, always has been. For him to be alone is unnatural. But he’s reached that point where he believes that having someone with him puts them in danger, and he’s not willing to take that chance, anymore.

I wonder if he would feel better with someone like Jack traveling with him? Jack’s been around a long time, and he is much more experienced and self-assured than someone like Amy or Rory. Perhaps if the Doctor had confidence that his Companion could take care of himself or herself, both physically and emotionally, he might feel better about putting that person in danger.

Regardless, I was really surprised that he dropped off Amy and Rory at the end. I had not expected that, especially not when there are still a few more episodes to go and the Doctor’s “death” to deal with. Interestingly enough, Amy didn’t bring that up at all. Maybe she was ready to go home, too? I just hate that they didn’t let Rory say goodbye to him. That was a little mean and sad. He should have had a chance to say goodbye, too.

The Doctor dropping Amy and Rory off is similar to Four dropping Sarah Jane off, when he was called back to Gallifrey. It’s nice to see a Companion, or Companions, leave on good terms, without something horrible or emotionally damaging having happened to facilitate it.

Is the Doctor setting up his death? Getting things in order before he dies? We know that he knows that he is soon to die. And he’d want to make sure that Amy and Rory were safe before he did. So, perhaps it’s not just the idea of facing their deaths, but facing his own and them being stranded, that caused him to drop them off.

Whatever the reason, it was sad and touching and moving. We know the Doctor won’t be alone for long, but it’s sad seeing him not know that.

Quotes:

The Doctor: A chair leg! She’s threatening me with a chair leg! I’ve never been threatened with a chair leg, before! Wait, hold on, I tell a lie.

Rory: No, it’s okay. We’re nice!
Amy: Did you just say, ‘It’s okay. We’re nice?’

Rory: Have you tried the front door?
Rita: No. In two days, it never occurred to us to try the front door. Thank God you’re here.

The Doctor: They’re not doors; they’re walls. Walls that look like doors. Door-walls, if you like. Or dwalls, even? Though you probably got it when you said they’re not doors.

Joe: We’re going to die here.
The Doctor: Well, they certainly didn’t mention that in the brochure.

Rory: It’s amazing that you’ve come up with a theory even more insane than what’s actually happening.

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

Gibbis: All I want to do is go home, and be conquered and oppressed. Is that too much to ask?

Rita [to the Doctor]: Why is it up to you to save us? That’s quite a God complex you have there.

You can buy this episode, and the rest of season 6, on Amazon.com.

About Heather S. Vina

Heather's been a fan of science fiction since she was five years old and developed a crush on Captain Kirk, while watching reruns of Star Trek: The Original Series. A huge Anglophile, she loves reading and watching (and mocking!) TV, but hasn't figured out a way to make a living doing either, yet. But she lives in hope!

Heather S. VinaReview: Doctor Who 6.11: The God Complex