A Special Look at: The God Complex

According to the Den of Geek review:

It does this through the arrival of the Tardis at a happy, tacky 1980s hotel. Well, not that happy, as it happens. Behind each of the hotel bedroom doors is something that’s someone’s biggest fear, as Doctor Who dips into George Orwell’s world, and basically comes up with a guest house full of Room 101s. It dips into Stanley Kubrick’s world, too, with the way The God Complex is shot and presented, and there’s also the coldness of CCTV cameras to play with, as well.

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The result of this cocktail is something really quite creepy.

Knowing that each of the characters is likely to find their main fear keeps the concept interesting beyond the initial set-up, and for the supporting characters, they get to take a look at what the store cupboard has for them.

Thus, there’s a brief cameo from the Weeping Angels, and a desperately sad looking clown (something Doctor Who really hasn’t explored much, outside of The Greatest Show In The Galaxy). Even better, though, were the ventriloquist dolls, but just as effective was the nerdy guy faced with a bunch of in-crowd girls. They tapped into a broad collection of fears exceptionally well.

This gave space for each of those supporting characters to be a little more fleshed out, too. Particular beneficiaries were Amara Karan as Rita, and David Walliams as Gibbis. Walliams in particular is just the kind of guest star that could easily overshadow an episode, but here, he’s treated very much as an actor for hire. He’s understated, and his believable yet dislikeable character benefits as a result.

The subtext of the episode is, for the most part, a religious one, it seems, with the clue in the name of it. But then Toby Whithouse’s script skilfully turns its focus towards the end, and while he makes his points about the power and influence of religion (your fears disappear when you completely believe), it turns out he’s pointing his finger in the direction of the Doctor, too. Faith is a far bigger subject matter than religion alone, and Whithouse explores it well, within the confines of a Doctor Who episode.

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Thus, in a similar way that Vincent And The Doctor came up with a monster that was a metaphor for depression, you don’t have to dig too deep to see the parallels between the creature this week, and the Doctor himself.

Making people face their worst fears? Leaving people worshipping him, before leaving them in a worst state than they started? Wanting to be adored? A series of faces on the wall who have drifted, basically, into time, awaiting the arrival of the next?

It’s no wonder we got the ending that we did. That the pressure, that’s been building up on the Doctor’s shoulders, led him to do what he clearly didn’t want: to let Amy and Rory go, to save them. Since he came back to our screens in 2005, the Doctor’s loneliness has been a more potent theme than it often was, and, aware of his death, the Doctor is basically saving himself from screwing up Rory and Amy (the moment were he talked to Amy about standing over her grave was particularly haunting. Adric can testify to that). Not least now that it seems the pair actually like each other.

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To let Amy go, and defeat this week’s monster, he had to break her faith, which reminded me a little of The Curse Of Fenric, when Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor had to do so with Ace in a far more brutal way than Smith’s did with Amy here (see? The stories had to do with the assistants before, too).

I don’t buy that it’ll hold, of course, and nobody watching The God Complex will be thinking it’s the last we’ve seen of Amy and Rory. But it’s an episode that rammed home to the Doctor just what a force he is in people’s lives, and not always for the better.

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On the departure of Amy and Rory: I am not fond of the way in which the Doctor uses her presumed married name to try get her to stop believing in him. This means her ‘real self’ isn’t about her own sense of individuality, but about being Rory’s wife. Quite a disappointing false manner of leaving the TARDIS.

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On Rita: The blog, Womanist Musings, best articulates how I feel about her in the post, “The Doctor Who Muslim Fail“:

Alternate universes. Causal time loops. Perception filters. Sonic screwdrivers. Roundels. Creatures and stories beyond imagination. Time travel in a blue 1960s-style London police box. Sexy British men in a variety of amusing outfits. The Doctor, a brilliant man of two hearts, traversing time and space with his equally sexy and (usually) brilliant companions – saving humanity, alien species or time itself from a vast host of evil threats. Put it all together and you get my favourite television programming of all time: Doctor Who.

So imagine my absolute fan girl surprise when they introduced a Muslim character into a recent episode, “The God Complex.” For a few brief moments my heart soared with excitement at the very thought that there would be a Muslim in the TARDIS.

And then they promptly killed her off.

Because she was such an enjoyable and positive character, some podcasters and fans within the Whoniverse have expressed surprise that Rita, the “almost companion” had to die. But the more I thought about how her story played out the more I realised that the focus on Rita’s religion was just convenient tool to drive the plot. Which makes her death even more unfortunate, as her faith and strength as a character is pivotal to the story itself – a story about exposing your very soul through terror.

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7 thoughts on “A Special Look at: The God Complex

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  2. “On the departure of Amy and Rory: I am not fond of the way in which the Doctor uses her presumed married name to try get her to stop believing in him. This means her ‘real self’ isn’t about her own sense of individuality, but about being Rory’s wife. Quite a disappointing false manner of leaving the TARDIS.”

    I saw it as a way for both of them to see who the other really is. His use of her presumed married name was to jar her into really seeing him, and for him to accept the fact that she’s not little Amelia Pond waiting for him anymore. It is about her own sense of individuality — utilizing someone’s married name does not imply that they are relegated to only wife and not whole on their own, but rather that they made this decision, they followed their heart, and they decided that they would take the name of the person they loved. It’s part of the character story arch — and until that point, Rory was little more than Amy’s companion in the Doctor’s eyes. At that point, he was giving Rory equal due and consideration to Amy. Amy wasn’t the little girl who idolizes him; she’s an adult who chose to go with him and take her husband with her, despite the dangers.

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