Stars: Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill, Sarah Quintrell, Amara Karan, Dimitri Leonidas, Daniel Pirrie, David Walliams, Caitlin Blackwood, Dafydd Emyr, Spencer Wilding, Rashad Karapiet, Roger Ennais
Writer: Toby Whithouse
Director: Nick Hurran
Network: BBC America, airs Saturday nights
Original Telecast: September 17, 2011
In the eleventh episode of DOCTOR WHO Series 6, “The God Complex,” the Doctor (Matt Smith), Amy (Karen Gillan), and Rory (Arthur Darvill) land in an alien replica of a 1980s hotel where every room might contain your worst fears. Teaming up with a motley crew of survivors, the TARDIS team has to figure out how to stop the Minotaur skulking in the endless corridors from feeding on them. They better have faith…or wait a minute, maybe they better not?
Let’s get to that elephant in the room first. It’s painfully clear now that it was intended that the revelation in “Let’s Kill Hitler” that Amy and Rory grew up with “Mels” was the resolution of the entire baby Melody storyline. Evidently we’re supposed to believe that growing up as contemporaries with a “best friend” (who was also a seriously troubled child and repeat criminal) was an acceptable emotional substitute for raising the baby through a normal, chronological childhood. Some viewers seem to be OK with this. I’m not. I think it’s reprehensible storytelling that shatters any ability to like or care about any of the three leads and it clashes drastically with any notion of this as family/children’s entertainment. That any parents could feel comfortable moving on from such a horrific scenario is just mind-numbing, offensive, and insulting to the intelligence.
What of “The God Complex” as an episode in and of itself? For one thing, it’s nice to see a talented actor and comedian like David Walliams finally living a dream and getting a chance to be an alien in DOCTOR WHO, and though his cowardly character is cute, it does feel as if his full potential has been somewhat squandered. Meanwhile, we’re also introduced to a great potential companion in a Muslim nurse named Rita (Amara Karan) whose first comment when telling the Doctor about her faith is the very self-aware and cheeky, “Don’t be frightened.” DOCTOR WHO could do with someone like her, but alas it is not to be. This is a real missed opportunity.
There’s a definite SHINING vibe in this creepy, time-lost hotel, and for classic WHO, the reference to the Nimon should spark a grin or two. If that isn’t enough, the crux of the plot centers on the Doctor actively shattering Amy’s faith in him, which is precisely the tactic the Seventh Doctor used on Ace when they were fighting the power of an Evil from the Dawn of Time in “The Curse of Fenric.”
But if Amy’s faith in the Doctor is at the heart of it all, once again we’re left with the arc issue. When Amy talks about the Doctor, she comments on how he’s never let her down and came back for her years ago. She doesn’t mention the part about how he’s the reason her baby was stolen from her. Why? Because no one cares.
There are other problems with this episode. If you’re imprisoning a being that feeds on faith, why do you want to keep feeding it when that presumably means endangering other innocent life forms? And why design the prison to mimic a 1980s Earth hotel when you have victims from multiple planets of origin? There’s the impression that it has a holodeck-like functionality, but we never see it display any other environment. And why…but let’s stop there. The premise is intriguing, some of the set pieces are almost exciting, but nothing ever really gels.
Fortunately, the show excels on the creative and directing fronts with some superb imagery, brilliant set and creature design, and arresting concepts like a dining hall filled with ventriloquist dummies and a stalking Minotaur half-obscured by mirrors, windows and falling water. If you were just watching the show for the visuals – and at this point, it’s all I can recommend – then you’ve had two weeks of some very satisfying material indeed. That does count for something, so good marks to all the technical personnel and director Nick Hurran for making the most of what little they have to work with.
At the end of the episode, we seemingly say goodbye to Amy and Rory, who are content to settle into their life at home knowing that a tiny baby is crying somewhere in time and space as it’s twisted and programmed into a heartless killer. The Doctor gives them a house and a car as consolation prizes for a life without their child; he’s so classy.
And lest we forget, it’s not only the baby they’ve stopped caring about; it’s the Doctor too. Remember back at the beginning of this series, that whole business with the Doctor dying in Utah? Remember how for the first few episodes, Amy and Rory were wringing their hands about telling him. Naturally, they were so concerned for their friend and his fate. Now he says goodbye to them here, and it’s possibly the last time they will ever speak to him. So do they bring it up one last time? Do they warn him, or even privately express a moment’s worry about what that whole thing was about and what his death might mean?
No of course not. They don’t care about anything. I’m beginning to understand how they feel.
Next time, Craig from “The Lodger” is back and I’m genuinely looking forward to an episode that might have nothing to do with people that have bodies of water in their names.
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Article: TV Review: DOCTOR WHO – Series 6 – “The God Complex”