Sunday, 18 September 2011

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 DWC 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 minute, 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?


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.'

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