Doctor Who episode 797: The God Complex (17/9/2011)

‘Amy, with regret, you’re fired.’ Another solid episode that’s more interested in getting the behind-the-sofa basics right than doing anything timey-wimey. If anything, this wears its classic Doctor Who influences even more overtly than anything in Night Terrors, explicitly connecting back to (of all things) The Horns of Nimon, with a ‘god complex’ instead of a ‘power complex’ but the same shifting walls and minotaur monster. And it’s no coincidence that the climax comes in Room Seven, surely a deliberate reference to the way the eleventh Doctor breaking Amy’s faith in him replays the seventh Doctor having to shake Ace’s faith in him to defeat Fenric.

The production design is in step with the script, with a creepy, Shining-inspired hotel full of disconcertingly unsettling scenes behind each door – a sad clown, Weeping Angels, a disappointed father. The wall of previous victims, each accompanied by a gnomic comment; the restaurant full of dummies; cheesy muzak; the surveillance cameras subtly implying the watchful panopticon prison – everything works in step. Similarly, the mix of characters, from a Strood-esque conspiracy nut spreading rumours, to the brave, Lynda-with-a-y Rita, to the self-serving, Rodricki-ish Gibbis all recall the cast of Bad Wolf. Each gives the Doctor something to respond to: his admiration for Rita already suggests thoughts of ending his time with the Ponds are running through his head, while his subtle disgust at Gibbis shows that the old, “The Thals must fight for us” mentality persists after all these regenerations.

The God Complex

This only falls down, surprise, surprise, when it links back to the series’ over-arching storyline. I like the Doctor’s little smile when he realises Rory has already seen past him, ‘not all victories are about saving the universe’. I’m surprised that Amelia’s sense of abandonment is what haunts Amy – rather than, say, the loss of her daughter. I’m not thrilled that this pays off with the Doctor metaphorically handing over ‘Amy Williams’ like chattel to Rory, and then setting them up in a fancy house. I know this isn’t the end for the Ponds, and that this is ultimately going to also play out like Bad Wolf, with Amy refusing to play the role the Doctor (displaying his own god complex) has decided for her. However, I’m still uncomfortable that Amy would be quite so accepting even temporarily, and even after the ‘time to stop waiting’ scene – particularly as there are a whole host of reasons this series why Amy and Rory might want to break from the Doctor on their own terms. I think when it’s being a creepy standalone episode The God Complex works really well, but as part of an ongoing story it feels like another stumble.

Next Time: Closing Time



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