Doctor Who: The God Complex

Doctor: 'I'm not a hero. I really am just a madman in a box.'

I struggled with tonight's episode, and it was only after listening to Toby Whithouse's commentary on Doctor Who Confidential that I understood half of what went on. Second time through, it made a lot more sense, but watching Doctor Who Confidential shouldn't be a prerequisite for understanding an episode. Maybe I'm a bit of a dunce, but it all felt unnecessarily convoluted. I did enjoy the last ten minutes, however, I just didn't want to believe them. I still don't.

Rumours of Amy and Rory's departure have been floating around the internet for months now. The details, of course, have been typically sketchy. The rumours seemed to start after stills of Amy bidding adieu to the Doctor were leaked online earlier this year, but it's still hard to believe that we've reached the end. It all felt too low key, too easy. Plus, Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill are officially contracted for another season. So, either (a) they'll be coming back as part-time companions, or (b) the Moff is trying to drive us mad. I'm putting my money on B. If not, this was an unsatisfactory end for two of the most likeable companions the show's ever had. I don't deny it was moving—but why the Doctor's sudden concern over his companions' welfare? They die every other week. What made this week different?

Mood wise, I thought the hotel provided an excellent setting for tonight's tale. Why it resembled the Overlook Hotel from The Shining, wasn't really explained, but director Nick Hurran did a great job of creating an oppressive and claustrophobic atmosphere. The dummies and the sad clown were a nice surreal touch, although I was disappointed by the Weeping Angels. I was expecting a more meaningful outing from them, particularly after seeing them featured in so many teasers. They've been one of the show's greatest success stories, yet their inclusion felt more like an afterthought.

The Minotaur god was also a mixed bag. I liked the throwback to Nimon ('Horns of Nimon'), and in short bursts, the Minotaur actually looked quite sinister. But the timeless adage of 'less is more' was eventually ignored and it eventually started to look like what it was: a man dressed in a suit. I liked that Whithouse gave the creature some depth. It was a slave to his instincts, yet despite being weary of his own existence, it seemed unable to resist feeding on the faith of its victims. In the end death was a release. Those were some juicy dying words, too. Will the Doctor see death as a gift when it comes calling in two weeks' time? (If it comes.)

The shattering of trust was an idea better explored in the classic 80s story 'The Curse of Fenric'. In that story, the seventh Doctor had to destroy Ace's faith in him to allow the Ancient One access to Fenric. And if I'm honest, there were probably a few too many homages for my tastes. I guess I expected something more original from Being Human writer Toby Whithouse.

Would Amy have fallen so quickly for the Doctor's ruse? I was also surprised to see Rory's nonchalance at the Doctor's departure—he seemed too wrapped up in his new E-Type Jaguar to even care. Did he really not realise they were being ditched? What did he think the house was, a holiday let? Plus, the room inside the prison, the one with Amelia inside, was Amy's room, right? If being abandoned by the Doctor was her greatest fear, then why did he abandon her at the end? The selflessness of his actions restored Amy's faith in him. Would she really have let him go so easily? Isn't Melody still out there, waiting to be found? She seemed almost resigned to never finding her again.

I loved the mystery of room eleven. What was in there, and why did the Cloister Bell start ringing? Despite it being the Doctor's greatest fear, he didn't seem particularly terrified by it. He even smiled. It was almost as if he were expecting it.

The supporting cast felt a little uninspired. Karan and Leonidas were pretty much forgettable, and Walliams, despite providing some nice laughs along the way, felt underused. In truth, this whole episode felt like something of a missed opportunity. The central concept was solid enough, but the other elements didn't seem to gel. In the end it felt more of a classic run-around style episode, littered with familiar plot devices and endless tip-of-the-hats. Having three stand-alone episodes airing back-to-back (four including next week's) didn't help much, either.

This wasn't a horrible episode. The emotional scenes between the Doctor and Amy were both beautiful and moving—but Amy and Rory's departure came out of nowhere. I'm not suggesting there haven't been incidents throughout the season (or indeed last season) which could be interpreted as hints that Rory and Amy might one day leave the show, but in light of the fact that both Arthur and Karen are contracted to appear in the season finale, and all of season seven, then why the emotional goodbyes?

Other Thoughts:

—Who do Time Lords pray to?

—Rita became the latest victim to be invited aboard the TARDIS, only to snuff it almost immediately (Remember Astrid Peth and Lynda Moss?) Maybe the Doctor should stop doing that. It's turning into a curse.

—I hope that gorilla was supposed to look like a man in a suit. Otherwise, worst gorilla ever!

—Did anyone else think of 'Hotel California' by the Eagles while watching this episode?

-- Amy's room number was seven, her age on first meeting the Doctor. The Doctor's room number was eleven, a possible reference to his current regeneration.

—The photos were of a Sontaran, a Tritovore, a Silurian, a Hoix, a Catkind and a Judoon.

—According to the subtitles, the TARDIS makes a 'vworping' sound.

—Was tonight the first time the Doctor's ever called Amy, Amy Williams? Doesn't he usually call her Pond?

Quotes:

Doctor: 'Oh, you're good. Oh, she's good. Amy, with regret, you're fired.'
Amy: 'What?'
Doctor: 'I'm kidding. *Mimes to Rita* We'll talk.'

Doctor: 'I took you with me because I was vain. Because I wanted to be adored.'
Doctor: 'Look at you, glorious Pond. The girl who waited for me. I'm not a hero. I really am just a mad man in a box. And it's time we saw each other as we really are… Amy Williams. It's time to stop waiting.'

Amy: 'Why now?'
Doctor: 'Because you're still breathing.'

Amy: 'If you bump into my daughter, tell her to visit her old mum sometime.'

Rory: 'What's he doing?'
Amy: 'He's saving us.'
---
Also posted at The Time Meddler.

18 comments:

The Dark Shape said...

"Isn't Melody still out there, waiting to be found?"

NO.

I see all sorts of posts like this. "Why aren't they going after Melody?" Because they can't. They know exactly where Melody is. The Doctor and company could swoop into Leadworth some time around 1992 and 'save' her. But it would completely alter almost everything about Rory and Amy's history, including (potentially) whether they even got together.

In other news, I liked the episode quite a lot more than you, Paul, and didn't find it very confusing (and I haven't seen Confidential).

The Dark Shape said...

Also don't see how you can think Amy and Rory's departure came out of nowhere considering last week and a billion hints during the episode itself.

The Doctor Donna said...

Maybe it's because I'm such a weirdo, but I never grew fond of Amy. I did grow to like Rory once he grew a spine and stopped dying all over the place. But I always saw Amy as a mix between a Mary Sue and Donna. I loved Donna. To me, Amy always seemed to be a Donna-replacement with some strange connections and some Sue-ish back story thrown in. I'm not too upset to see Amy go if this is for real. Honestly, even though I knew it wouldn't happen, I was hoping Older Amy would live on...I liked Older Amy from last week so much better. She's mature, she kicks ass.

That said, this episode was ok. I really hope Craig's reaction to reuniting with The Doctor next week is, "Oh...damn." And here come the Cybermen in what looks like their first legitimate villain appearance since Ten became Eleven!

The Doctor Donna said...

And, just to clarify, when I say Amy is a 'Donna-replacement,' I meant with the sassy, extroverted attitude, the red hair being a prominent physical feature, the flirty nature, and the runaway bride subplot. The reason I prefer Donna to Amy is because Amy has the Sue characteristic added, like the fact that she's undeniably hot, gets 'saved' a lot, and has really random/strange/somewhat absurd connections to The Doctor.

Again, sorry if all this does is make you think me a very bad excuse for a Whovian. It's just my opinion.

Paul Kelly said...

Hello The Dark Shape,

I get your point about them not being able to go after Melody. But wouldn't Amy still want to try, bearing in mind the sort of upbringing Melody's been subjected to? Wouldn't that be a mother's natural response... even if it did carry the risk of altering aspects of her own past? Isn't this the risk they take virtually every week, anyway? Amy just seemed to give up.

Oh, and if you get a chance, Confidential's well worth a look.

Paul Kelly said...

Hi The Doctor Donna,

I think Donna appealed to most people, old and young. She was exactly what was needed after Rose and Martha. And no need to apologise. Everything I say is just my opinion, too :o)

Aly said...

I'd be sad to see Amy and Rory go, but I did see it coming at the end of this ep.
Last episode, older Amy had lost faith in the doc. This week, he had to actively destroy her faith in him. He called her Amy WILLIAMS.. her married name. Since there was always some sort of "extra" happening between them, to me that came accross as another way for him to say, let it go... let ME go.

The episode in general was a bit meh to me, I guess like you said it Paul, the seperate elements didn't "gel" right.

Ahh anyway. I was deeply moved by the end of the episode and of course I hope they will be back.
They should be, with the doc dying and River/Melody being involved and all that.

Was glad to see the review up, right after I watched. (think it wasn't earlier?) Thanks!

The Dark Shape said...

"I get your point about them not being able to go after Melody. But wouldn't Amy still want to try, bearing in mind the sort of upbringing Melody's been subjected to? Wouldn't that be a mother's natural response... even if it did carry the risk of altering aspects of her own past? Isn't this the risk they take virtually every week, anyway? Amy just seemed to give up."

But Amy saw Melody grow up. She spent the first 22 years of her life with her.

Josie Kafka said...

The "Why aren't they freaking out about Melody?" vs. "Because they saw her grow up" debate reminds me of the different reactions to Rose getting a Doctoganger imitation rather than the real thing. For some, it feels like it should be enough; for others, it feels almost worse than no Doctor at all.

I'm in the "Why are they freaking out?" camp, myself. If I found out that my childhood best friend Lindsey was actually my daughter, I'd be horrified, because I was never a mother to her. I never made her soup when she was sick or read her bedtime stories. Knowing how she grew up--and possibly helping to mold her character as any close friend does for another--doesn't substitute for motherhood, for me.

Especially given our patchy knowledge of Melody's pre-River (pre-Alex Kingston) adventures, including the little girl we saw her turn into, I'd have a hard time, as Amy and Rory, not saying: "We know she's our friend Mels later in her timeline and regeneration cycles; we know she's River even after that. But what about her infant years? Can't we get those, even if it means avoiding crossing our own timelines from, say 1986 to 2011?"

That Rory and Amy aren't saying that doesn't feel particularly organic to me. It feels a bit more like the writers are begging the question, although I supposed we can see the Melody problem as part of Rory's increasing disenchantment with the Doctor.

I have seen some crazy internet speculation about timelines, though. Maybe there's a wibbly wobbly explanation for the mother thing.

Maybe Mark Sheppard as Canton Evert Delaware III is her nanny.

Patryk said...

Like I wrote in the review for last's week episode. They started to set up a departure.

Next week is a standalone? What no more two-parters to finish up a season? Maybe it's a hidden part 1. :)

Nick said...

"But why the Doctor's sudden concern over his companions' welfare? They die every other week. What made this week different?"

Several things, which is understandable given this was an exceedingly dense episode (lots of material dense, not dumb as a brick dense).

*There's the build up from last week's episode. The Doctor failed them then. Both Rory and future Amy call the Doctor on his mistake, and both don't want to travel with him any more. Rory says it explicitly. Just because Future Amy's gone now doesn't mean she never existed in the first place.
*Rita's death. She was clearly companion material -- smart, capable, kind, with a strong margin for weirdness. But she rejected him and died, after the Doctor promises that "No one shall die today." He was certain he could keep that promise, and he couldn't. Repeatedly. Even the fish. (And think about it, that fish is a blatant metaphor. The Doctor waltzed into its life, destroyed its tank during one of his adventures, saved it, took it somewhere else -- on the fishy equivalent of an adventure -- and got it killed. It dies at exactly the same moment Rita does, killed by a predator beyond its comprehension.) Rita's death, on top of everyone else's, hammered it home. He can't always keep his friends safe.
*What did you think the Doctor saw behind the door? His reaction says it all: he saw his companions and his TARDIS dead (we heard the cloister bell chiming as well, and that only happens when the TARDIS is severely damaged.) He decided to save them from his nightmares.

Also, I think you've misread the scene where the Doctor breaks Amy's faith in himself, due to its similarities to the scene from Curse Of Fenric. In Fenric the Doctor was lieing. He's telling the truth here. What he says to Amy (your faith in me is misplaced, I can't always be there for you, one day my actions will get you killed, and only you can save yourself) does save her, and therefore seems like a lie. But at the time he's saying it, it's the truth. He gives into fear, in the same way that Amy does. Only by embracing the in-escapability of their situation can they escape it. It's a paradox -- he at once reaffirms and denies her faith.

(And, also, the complete opposite of how the Doctor's presented in the first half of the season/Night Thoughts. There he's a man who saves people from the monsters -- he even gets a Jesus like death sequences complete with final supper/picnic. In The Doctor's Wife, A Good Man Goes To War onwards, he's a far more ambiguous figure. Several episodes have mentions of him not being seen clearly (Sexy's "death" from the Doctor's Wife and the end of this episode, for two), and his "death" in Lets Kill Hitler is more pointless, more pathetic. Killed by a kiss. Comes out of nowhere.)

Juliette said...

I think the problem with the debate over whether Rory and Amy should be making more of a fuss about Melody is that it's an emotional, character-based problem. Fr some people, the plot-based explanation of why they can't go after her is enough. For others (including me, I must admit) the emotional reality of being a parent (not that I am one!) doesn't gel with the plot, and the story doesn't make sense on an emotional level - Amy and Rory should either be tearing apart time and space to get their daughter back, or they should be very, very cross indeed. It isn't the plot that's annoying people so much as Amy and Rory's characters' reactions to the plot.

I wish New Who would either kill off/get rid of some companions, or stop teasing us with the possibility. I was, once again, left totally cold by the end of the episode because I know it won't stick. The only plot of this kind that's made an impact was Rory getting killed and then swallowed by the Crack, and that was only because at the time, there was some sense that he might not come back (glad as I was that he did, since I like him, but still...)

The Dark Shape said...

"The "Why aren't they freaking out about Melody?" vs. "Because they saw her grow up" debate reminds me of the different reactions to Rose getting a Doctoganger imitation rather than the real thing. For some, it feels like it should be enough; for others, it feels almost worse than no Doctor at all."

Because Amy doesn't demand to take Melody back, thus invalidating her own childhood, her relationship with Rory, and the fact she knows Melody grows up and is okay?

I really think people shrug off the growing up together thing too easily. Amy may not have been there to make Melody soup, but she was definitely there to make sure her uber-rebellious nature didn't get her into major trouble.

And I hate Rose/clone Doctor because it undermines Doomsday, not because of the ridiculously convenient clone. :)

Paul Kelly said...

Great comments, guys and gals. For the sake of clarity, I'm not suggesting there haven't been incidents throughout the season (or indeed last season) which could be taken as hints that Rory and Amy might one day leave the show. I'm simply interpreting them in light of the fact that both Arthur and Karen are contracted to appear next season. I simply assumed they'd overcome their doubts, and move on.

Companions always have grounds for leaving. Every episode seems to pose some threat. They either almost die, actually die, watch someone else die, make enormous personal sacrifices, or end up disappointed in the Doctor somehow. But we don't expect them to leave eleven episode into a thirteen episode run. Especially when we know they're still under contract. For me, that totally ruined the emotional clout of Rory and Amy leaving.

Patryk said...

That's the curse of meta-knowledge. Damn the internets! :)

Paul Kelly said...

Haha... indeed, Patryk.

Anonymous said...

@The Dark Shape...

Melody Pond, in the regeneration Amy gave birth to, is still somewhere in the '60s. Mels said that she'd "regenerated into a toddler somewhere in New York." So Amy could get the version of her daughter taken by the eyepatch lady, raise her Melody, have the Doctor take her back to eighty's NYC or whenever when she's regenerating, and still have Mels and River happen. It's complicated, but it works.

Sorry if someone already posted this... I didn't want to read through all the comments.

Arie said...

I'm always years late to these conversations (too bad I don't have a time machine...), but can never resist commenting!

I figured the Doctor saw one of two things in his room: The Valeyard, because who is the Doctor more afraid of than himself, and specifically his dark side? There were some hints about that in earlier episodes re: the Doctor pointing out good men don't need rules and no one wants to find out how many he has aka he's a bad man and don't you forget it. Or, Rose Tyler dying. Rose is my favourite companion (Donna is a close second) but I suggest her mainly because of the Doctor's speech in Krop Tor "If I believe in one thing, I believe in her", ergo her death is the representative of the death of his belief in anything. So not really about Rose herself. Bit too meta, maybe?

For the record, I would've much preferred they left Rose alone in the other world, with the Doctor promising to find his way back to her one day (even if he never did). The doctorganga was just too weird and definitely not one of RTD better ideas.

I liked the Doctor breaking Amy's faith in him. Honesty from the man whose first rule is "The Doctor lies". Hmmmm.