Episode: Doctor Who 6.11 – “The God Complex”
Original Air Date: May 7, 2011
Screencaps by enchantedfleur.
As Doctor Who has returned for the second half of series 6, it seems to have followed a more or less standard pattern: standalone story with a minor increase in the over-arching plot. “The God Complex” is no different.
Team TARDIS has once again strayed from its intended destination, this time finding themselves in a ’80s-era cheap hotel that is, in truth, a labyrinth that houses an alien Minotaur. As with many of the episodes this series, the focus isn’t really the monster. It’s a vehicle for character drama and that is something that Doctor Who has been criticized for as of late. The Doctor, it seems, has taken a back seat to the other characters in the story. But I think we’re being given an opportunity to see the Doctor through the companions’ eyes in a new way. To see how they change under his influence and, at brief times, see how the Time Lord views himself.
This episode manages to do all of that, and quite beautifully. Tom McRae’s “The Girl Who Waited” has been pointed out by some as the emotional high point of series 6.5. I’m afraid I have to disagree. “TGWW” was full of emotional moments, but they felt forced and manufactured. The drama and the resonant feelings were served on a silver platter and then practically shoved down our throats. In “The God Complex,” those points felt more natural and legitimately earned through the course of the story.
The story centers on our trio of time-travelers and the four characters they meet at this strange hotel. The basic plot is that one by one they find their way to their room, where they face their worst fear. Subsequently, this causes the individual’s faith to kick in; drawing the Minotaur, who then kills the unfortunate victim. In short: the characters are shown something wondrous, then scary, then they find something to have faith in, but in the end they die. Sounds a bit familiar, doesn’t it? “The God Complex,” despite its surface trappings, is a story about the Doctor and what it is like to travel with him. Indeed, the title alone can be said to be indicative of the Doctor since his return in 2005. We see the cautionary tale of traveling with the Doctor carried through over the course of the episode with Amy and Rory and also in a smaller scale with the character of Rita, so superbly portrayed by Amara Karan. This something we’ve seen before, in “Journey’s End,” but it was far more heavy-handed in the series 4 finale than is presented here. Allegorically, the Minotaur can be seen as the Doctor, a fact that is pointed out somewhat blatantly near the end for anyone that missed it.
Except for a few minor missteps, I think that “The God Complex” is a cracking good episode of Doctor Who. The only major flaw in the episode that stands out to me was the reuse of musical cues. It’s almost as though someone simply took all of Murray Gold’s previous compositions for the series, put them on random, and slapped the results on the episode. Despite the small assortment of quibbles I have with the finished product, there are number of stand out points to recommend it. Matt Smith is, as always, brilliant and he is absolutely the shining point of every scene he is in. Guest star Amara Karan is a delight and is an asset to the episode. There is little doubt she would make an excellent future companion. She’s a talented actress and her chemistry with Matt Smith is both natural and abundant.
The creature design for the Minotaur is stunning and is easily one of the best looking monsters we’ve seen in new Who. Seen only in snippets initially, it is easy to get the impression that the powers that be are hiding the monster due to some flaw or other. As in Jaws, however, the reveal is done in stages and the final disclosure has a more powerful impact because of this. The Minotaur, in short, is a beautiful creature in both design and execution. These and all the other pieces of the puzzle fall into place quite easily resulting in what is, for my money, the best episode of series 6.5.