18
Sep
2011
Dr. Who: Season 6, Episode 12
The God Complex
Michael Richardson
It should be the first lesson of scary media anybody learns: when you're trying to make your villain so terrifying that it is can literally frighten you to death, it's probably best to not allow us to see it, because it's not going to be as scary as it was hyped up to be. Let's call it the Cloverfield rule - glimpses of a monster are far more terrifying than actually seeing it. In tonight's episode, we have a monster that works using the fears of his trapped victims against him. But when those fears include being laughed at by girls and a gorilla while the monster himself looks like a Minotaur that industrial light and magic threw away, it might have been better left in the dark.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. "The God Complex" is written by Toby Whithouse, who brought us the excellent episode "Vampires in Venice" from last season. It's an episode that is concerned with fear and faith; two things that the show insists have symbiotic ties - think Kierkegaard with aliens. The Doctor and company find themselves in a hotel that is, surprise, surprise, not what it seems to be. Each room is filled with a fear, whether it's a sad clown or Weeping Angels (providing the only real scare of the episode, naturally). The Doctor figures out that the Minotaur uses fear as a means to possess the people occupying the hotel and then kills them. He is, of course, wrong. That would be too simple. When he sees our young Muslim nurse face down the monster in serenity, he realizes instead that it is faith that the beast feeds upon, and that it a different problem altogether.

The show posits that faith is the natural reaction to fear, but it also offers up its own dangers. It's not a particularly revolutionary hypothesis, and the show doesn't seem to be saying anything complex about the phenomenon. It also likes to contradict himself. In order to prevent the monster from feeding on Amy's faith in the Doctor, our hero has to convince her that he's not reliable and can't always be there to save her, weakening her faith. Of course, by doing this, he saves her. Doctor Who can often get away with fudging the details a bit, but this is a big oversight. The episode doesn't come down for faith or skepticism either way (though the house rejecting Rory because of his skepticism might tip its hand a bit), but by plotting out what seems like middle ground, it loses much of the punch the idea could have produced.


By the end of the episode, the Doctor apparently forsakes companions altogether, fearing that their faith in him will only lead to their deaths. He leaves Rory and Amy at a nice house with Rory's dream car, and then apparently leaves forever without them. This would be much more touching, of course, if they were actually saying goodbye forever. We as viewers know that, because there are two more episodes in the season, and that Doctor Who always makes a big deal when a companion leaves. So the end of the episode just feels like a cheap shot for sentimentality: The Doctor is "leaving" but we know he isn't. Also strange: They no longer seem at all concerned with finding Melody Pond. How you could forget your baby was stolen is a bit of a plot hole.






Miscellaneous
We're only as couple more weeks from the season finale of Who, so now might be a good time to take stock of what needs to still be clarified:
"¢\tThe relationship The Silence has to their enemies in "Let's Kill Hitler"
"¢\tThe identity of the lake astronaut who kills the Doctor
"¢\tWhat ever happened to Melody Pond/River Song?
"¢\tWhether the Doctor can redeem himself. His behavior has become more and more monstrous, as pointed out tonight by our Minotaur friend, who dreamed of a great evil that destroys and devours lives.
"¢\tAnd what was in the Doctor's room, his greatest fear. He calls it a "you," so a person is a good bet. I'm thinking it's the Doctor himself, though the Astronaut might be a better twist.

One more nitpick: I understand that these episodes often air out of the intended order, but last weeks episode was about the Doctor betraying Amy in a serious way. This week her faith in the doctor is strong enough to mirror religious devotion. It's a weird choice for sure.
Tags: Dr. Who
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