The God Complex
Rory: I’d forgotten. Not all victories are about saving the universe.
Production Code: 2.11.
Doctor Who Season: S32 (Ep11, Footnote ).
Story Number: 222.
Another corker of a story after the previous one…
One that actually builds upon it too. It seems these last four single-episode stories of the season will be more than just adventures-as-usual…
Each of the the last two stories have “monsters”, (the peg doll, the handbots) created by of the instincts what’s controlling them (for example the unified programming of the handbots in their story). Their fearful aspect are an unintentional byproduct of the situation (in that later story placing a human in that alien environment).
In this story, the apparitions that haunt the rooms of the hotel are created with the express purpose of prompting fear from the people within its walls. In this way, the mechanism of the “maze” is trying to prompt fears and scares, just as a Doctor Who story tries to prompt fears and scares – and at the centre of each of these things is one figure.
The minotaur is at the centre of the maze. The Doctor is at the cente of a televised Doctor Who story.
As a story that “closes” an era begun with The Eleventh Hour, it has certain echoes with that story. A big seemingly deserted building – what’s in the rooms? – a policewoman tentatively investigates. With this story, instead of Prisoner Zero, there’s the fear-projections, and instead of kissogram-policewoman Amy, it’s an actual policewoman. Taking notes.
The Doctor and Amy and Rory emerge into the “hotel” after the precredits which shows the policewoman’s fate (something we don’t yet fully understand, but it involves the word “PRAISE HIM” appearing onscreen in typeface in a break from the normal narrative camera conventions of the programme).
It’s “the next lot of people” (we understand from the precredits) that the Doctor encounters.
The Doctor and Rory each have two significant lines to deliver to these people.
“It’s OK, we’re nice” says Rory.
The Doctor appraises the situation – “people being snatched from their lives and dropped into a endless shifting maze” – though the true significance, the double meaning of that line, will only become apparent later on. And is the Doctor nice? Or does he think of himself as nice?
The Doctor is trying to absorb as much of the environment as he can, and there’s another “Sherlock moment” as he (and we) zoom in on Joe’s cufflinks (what’s the significance?), which we understand later on.
The Doctor and the audience don’t know about the minotaur yet – though there’s certain rules which the story is playing out to that we understand already (thanks to the precredits). Howie has his “Praise Him” moment as he open the Room Of Stutter-Mocking Girls; Rita as she opens the Room of the Pushy Parent. The Weeping Angels though it seems though are not “Amy’s Room”.
There’s an echo of Tooth and Claw, “Oh look at you – you are beautiful” as the Doctor gets their first glimpse of the minotaur. It’s the classic Doctor Who situation, the classic narrative situation (Agatha Christies’ Ten Little Indians, the film Alien) of the cast which dies one by one as the monster of the story continues unstopped.
There’s an exchange of dialogue between Amy and Gibbis which illuminates both their characters – Amy praises the Doctor, she has faith that he will save them. Gibbis’s line in response, a creepy “then your room is still out there… somewhere”, revelling in her future misfortune shows there’s more to his character then expectations of enslavement, an active positioning.
Rita’s confiding to the Doctor that she thinks this “Jahannam” is an extaordinary scene – the easy rapport betwen the two of them (or as Rory describes it them getting “pally”) means we’re rooting for her in a way we’re not at all for Gibbis.
Lucy the policewoman’s notes give the Doctor a clearer picture of what it is exactly that’s going on.
THE CENTRE OF THE MAZE
The Doctor decides to corner the monster now that he understands more of what’s going on, with Howie praising piped into a decoy room thanks to the hotel’s sound system.
The line “people being snatched from their lives and dropped into a endless shifting maze” (the Doctor’s earlier appraisal of the situation) is expanded upon, as he translates the minotaur’s growls for the audience: the monster has “lived so long even the name is lost”.
The Doctor’s negoitating with the creature in a similar way to the events of Vincent and the Doctor with its similarly has-language-not-understood-by-the-audience “monster” – it’s how mythical creature are supposed to be approached, like Perseus spoke to the Medusa, there’s mirrors between the hero and monster. (In this instance though it seems to be to increase the disorentation of the minotaur, to keep it occupied with confusion, long enough for the Doctor to speak to it.) The Doctor speaks to the monster through another mirrored surface, the flowing indoor waterfall of the hotel.
All these mirrors though emphasise the subtext (which will become over text by the end), that’s it the Doctor also who’s “lived so long even the name is lost”, taking people from their lives and dropping them into the “endless shifting maze” of the TARDIS.
Is the Doctor a monster though? Surely he’s the one who tries to save everyone, the one the monsters have nightmares about?
“I’d forgetten – not all victories are about saving the universe” muses Rory as he considers Howie’s triumph over his stutter. Him talking of the TARDIS adventures in the past tense are another indication of how Rory is weary of the stakes of the game being: saving the universe – or death. Is the monstrous thing – the Doctor asking others to join him in this game of Time and Space?
“Why is it up to you to save us? That’s quite a god complex you have there” ask Rita.
“I brought them here. They’d say it was their choice…” It’s the choice Amy has made (dragging her husband along in her wake, who is less bothered about the excitement of the TARDIS), the third choice one not shown in the simple duality of Amy’s Choice but the choice made at the end of the 2010 season – choosing Rory AND the Doctor. Amy choosing just Rory and settling down without the TARDIS is something that Rory still is keen for though perhaps.
Rita has such rapport with the Doctor (a future companion?) that when he’s reduced to watching her being claimed by the minotaur – “Goodbye Doctor, thankyou for trying” – it really affects him. It affects the audience too – her scenes are one wonderful aspect of this great story, so we feel the Doctor’s loss, and understand as he crashes through the bar of the hotel in frustration afterwards.
THAT’S HER IN THE CORNER LOSING HER RELIGION
After the Doctor’s demolished the bar, he’s still trying to figure out what’s happening, he’s thinking it a was “brave and calm” end for Rita so it’s “not fear – it’s faith”. Faith in anything. A flashback to the Sherlock cam of Joe’s cufflinks confirms this…
The maze kept showing Rory a way out – “it wants her”, not Rory, Amy, and her faith in the Doctor…
The race through the maze – they hide in a room to escape the minotaur but: it’s Amy room. The Doctor’s Wife: the maze / the set of corridors to run down, the TARDIS as labyrinth has already been explored this season.
The Doctor’s doomed Amy.
“But the worst thing is I knew.
I knew this would happen.
This is what alway’s happens.”
It’s an echo of the sad scene “They’re always brave”, when the Doctor is contemplating the death of Lorna Bucket in A Good Man Goes to War.
“I took you with me because I was vain – because I wanted to be adored”.
“And it’s time we saw each as we really are. Amy Williams. It’s time to stop waiting”.
“Williams” isn’t a refutation of the choice to call herself Pond more an acknowledgment of Rory and the greater adventure she could have with him.
The being a “distant cousin of the Nimon” is a bold move – on one level the programme-makers have to make the acknowledgement once the imagery of the minotaur-in-maze has been decided upon, “minotaurs” have been “done before” in Doctor Who, and the “worship” angle fits, though on another level the asburdity and camp of The Horns of Nimon plays against the “heavy” tone they presumably want to establish.
One line is easy to miss, and the Doctor himself ignores it, Amy’s question – what does the Doctor pray to? (The Doctot isn’t shown the exit door like Rory, the man who doesn’t have a strong faith in anything.) The Doctor unlike Rory was also shown to have “his own room” in the hotel. Although it isn’t confirmed, I like to believe the Doctor’s supreme faith in in himself, and his fear, is… himself – “who else would it be?”
The sequence with the Doctor translating the minotaur’s final words ends with “I wasn’t talking about myself” – you either think that’s the Doctor making a joke, or that’s the last line he’s translated (which seems less clunky). That whole sequence explains the subtext though that’s been running through the story.
Out of the blue, a real shock ending, but consistent of course with what’s happened over the last two episodes.
“Because you’re still breathing”.
“He’s saving us”.
Tegan leaving in disgust, Victoria giving up screaming at monsters; the Doctor pushing Amy away is new – or is it? The Dalek Invasion of Earth features the Doctor closing the TARDIS door on his own granddaughter, for her own good.
“A bigger scarier adventure waiting for you” with Rory (just as there was for Susan and David).
If the Seventh Doctor era ends with a trio of stories about a companion’s psychological catharsis, and this end of an era can be compared, this was The Curse of Fenric (the issues of faith), and Ghost Light, the childhood-turmoil revisited story, the equivalent was The Girl Who Waited (the turmoil of waiting for the Doctor).
Maybe there’s a Survival still to come if Amy returns for the finale and the Doctor is right when he says she hasn’t seen the last of him.
With the (my interepretation anyway) colourcodes emphasised in The Girl Who Waited – Red for Amy, Green for Rory, that means that although it’s Rory favorite car, it’s really “for” Amy, a red replacement for the Blue TARDIS.
A startling end to a superb story.
Footnotes (and links)
It’s appropriate this episode about 11 featuring a room “11” should be number 11.