(all spoilers! don’t read till you’ve seen the episode! this is a love fest only — all complaints and bitching must come from a place of love / previous: “The Girl Who Waited”)
This is a wonderful episode: creepy, poignant, scary, funny. This is what Doctor Who can do that no other show can: be this surreal and this grounded at the same time. Take away the minotaur, and this is a generic aliens-experimenting-on-the-humans Star Trek episode. But Toby Whithouse makes it something else entirely. It’s not just a little look into the psyches of the main characters; it’s a look into the psyche of the show itself.
This is sort of the flip side of Whithouse’s exquisite “School Reunion,” which explored the Doctor-companion relationship from the companion’s perspective in a way we’d never seen before. Here, we see it from the Doctor’s side. There is the lovely bit with Rita, who is so clever and calm and competent even in the face of bizarre danger. I loved her instantly, and was thinking much the same thing as the Doctor:
Oh, you’re good. Oh, she’s good. Amy, with regret, you’re fired.
And Rita is intrigued immediately:
Who wouldn’t be?
In a way, it’s terrible that poor Rory gets overlooked, in failing to get his own room of terrors. Surely he’s afraid of something, and I think we get a glimpse of it when the Doctor realizes that what is trapping them is their faith in whatever it is they have faith in. And no matter how often Amy tells Rory she loves him, he still comes second to the Doctor. He certainly looks very uncomfortable to be reminded of that again:
The Doctor seems to recognize that this is a problem, too, because he does look to see what Rory’s reaction will be.
But Rory as the third wheel is often how it is for the Doctor and his companions. It was that was with Harry and Sarah, for Tegan and Turlough. You don’t want to be the one who gets in the middle of the Doctor and his best girl (of the moment). Here we have the extra dynamic of the Doctor coming between Rory and Amy sometimes, too. And I don’t think he likes that. I think that may well be why he dumps Amy and Rory in this episode: he is selfish, and he does want to be adored, and he’s not getting enough of that in this dynamic.
There are many problems with Amy as a character — and specifically as a character in Doctor Who — and one of them for me is that she is not sufficiently absorbed by the Doctor. Amy is insane to choose Rory over the Doctor. I’m sorry, it’s just plain and basic true. I mean, Rory is a great guy
but he’s not the Doctor. In a world where there’s no Doctor, Rory is awesome. In a world with the Doctor, Rory loses.
How do you not love the guy who finds monsters beautiful, even when they’re trying to kill you?
How do you not love the guy who has to see the beautiful monster?
Of course, it’s good in a dramatic sense for the Doctor to get a little bit of comeuppance to his arrogance, which is what he gets here, in having to acknowledge what he’s done to Amy’s life:
I stole your childhood and now I’ve lead you by the hand to your death. But the worst thing is I knew. I knew this would happen. I took you with me because I was vain, because I wanted to be adored. I’m not a hero. I really am just a madman in a box.
Oh, man. Now, for all my many issues with Amy, the one thing that does work about her character, and has from the beginning, is her faith in the Doctor… especially since it has been explored in a way that the show has never done before. (Maybe Nyssa came closest, in that she was a child who was ophaned by the Master and then seemed to be adopted by the Doctor in a big-brother or avuncular sort of way. But even all that aspect of their relationship was mostly only ever in the subtext; it was only just alluded to when Nyssa said her good-byes and left the TARDIS. And Nyssa was an older teen when she first met the Doctor, not a little girl.) Amelia/Amy worked particularly well because it was in childhood when most of us first developed our faith in the Doctor, too.
So it’s not a thing you want to hear, either as a companion within the story or a viewer from without: that the Doctor is not worth the faith we put in him. Watching him have to crush little Amelia’s faith in him was heartbreaking, for Amy and for myself.
This episode was like “Midnight” in how it rips bare the fundamental stuff that makes Doctor Who work and turns it against itself. We keep watching the show because of our faith in the Doctor. If we don’t have that, what do we have?
All that said: If it is a person’s most primal fear that is in each room, “a tailor-made hell,” the what does it mean that Amy’s room contained little Amelia on that night she waited for the Doctor. Her hell is the waiting? Her hell is the fear of abandonment?
If so, she reacts really well to his throwing her and Rory out of the TARDIS. She actually buys the idea of marriage and settling down on one little backward planet as “a bigger scarier adventure”? (I wouldn’t!) What do you do then? Get a job?
Where does the Doctor get a house and a car to give Amy and Rory, anyway? Why would he give them a house when they already have someplace nice to live, as we saw in “The Impossible Astronaut”?
It’s not the same house, so we probably shouldn’t think that something timey-whimey is going on, that all of this is somehow before the events of “The Impossible Astronaut.” This new house has a TARDIS-blue door, but the other place has a glass door:
What the hell is going on? Is any of this real? Is this new house actually on Earth, or is it a simulation somewhere, in the Matrix or the Library or something? Has all of it been somewhere not real?
I’m still leaning toward that explanation. Nothing I’ve seen yet suggests otherwise, or contradicts my theory that everything since Matt Smith first appeared on the show — or perhaps since the night Amelia Pond waited — hasn’t been happening someplace other than the “real” universe, and can and will be reset or restarted or otherwise erased.
There’s this, too:
An ancient creature, drenched in the blood of the innocent, drifting in space through an endless shifting maze. such a creature, death would be a gift.. I wasn’t talking about myself.
Whatever happens between now and the time we find out what happens when the Doctor is killed at Lake Silencio, he still has hundreds of years left to go in his personal timeline. Or perhaps that will be obliterated, too. Timey-whimey erasey-wasy.
Random thoughts on “The God Complex”:
• Cheese plant?
*scrurries off to Google* Oh, that’s a real thing. But now I’ve got all sorts of SFnal ideas of sprouting bries and flowering cheddars…
• Again with the Rubik’s cube…
…which appeared in “Night Terrors,” too. Again with the 80s stuff.
Remember how Rory’s hospital ID badge had an early 90s date?
If he and Amy had been kids in the early 80s, that badge suddenly makes sense. (I’ve been talking about all this stuff since Amy’s — and Doctor No 11’s — first episode.) And even if Steven Moffat had been telling the truth back then that the date of Rory’s badge was simply a production flub (which I never believed anyway), there’s no reason why they couldn’t have worked it into the story afterward.
Just sayin’ is all…
• I wonder what’s so special about Tivoli that it’s such a magnet for invasion? The notion — “the most invaded planet in the galaxy. Our anthem is called ‘Glory to [Insert Name Here]’” — is so brilliant. So Douglas Adams-y.
• The Doctor implies here that he is a medical doctor as well as a doctor of cheesemaking. So more fodder for the cheese-plant story now festering my mind…
• Hey, wait a minute! Back in “Flesh and Stone” the mere image of a Weeping Angel on a screen could kill you. But now a convincingly solid hologram can’t?
• Is it weird that I’m a little bit fixated on the Doctor’s trousers? No, not like that! It’s just that I can never seem to figure out if they’re jeans or what:
Sometimes they have a weird sheen to them. Sometimes they look like leather.
It’s stupid, I know. But I can’t help it. I am sort of fascinated by how fabrics can look so different onscreen than they do in real life. Yes, I’m a geek.
• Ha! Of course the Doctor’s room is No. 11:
What is in the Doctor’s room? The sound of the TARDIS cloister bell and… “Of course. Who else?” So a who, then. River Song? The Master? Himself?
And what does the Doctor have faith in? His friends? His companions? Anything?
• A “distant cousin of the Nimon”! Tee-hee!
For those not familiar with classic Who, the Nimon is a minotaur creature from the Tom Baker story “The Horns of Nimon,” which has become sort of a joke because it was particularly cheesy, and the story not particularly good. (Though when I rewatched it recently it was much better than I remembered.) I noted the resemblance when I ran the trailer for the second half of this season.
• Hey! Why can’t Amy and Rory understand the minotaur creature? They should be able to, what with the TARDIS doing all that translating and stuff.
• I’m a little bit miffed by the Doctor calling Amy “Amy Williams,” as if he’s passing her off to another man. If she’s been calling herself Pond all along, why would she change that now?
• Awwww no. The Doctor is lonely and alone and by himself and lonely:
I’m here! Come get me! I won’t leave you. And I won’t let you leave me.
Crap, I’m falling in love with Matt Smith. Damn.
• Great quotes:
“It’s okay. We’re nice!” –Rory
“The rooms have… things in them.” –Rita
“Things? Hello! What kind of things? Intersting things? I love things. Ask anyone.” –the Doctor
“Bad things.” –Rita
“Well, that killed the mood.” –the Doctor
“This is bad. At the moment I don’t know how bad. But certainly we’re three buses, a long walk, and eight quid in a taxi from good.” –the Doctor
“You’re going to die here.” –Joe
“Well, they certainly didn’t mention that in the brochure.” –the Doctor
“Every time the Doctor gets pally with someone, I have this overwhelming urge to notify their next of kin.” –Rory
“All I wanna do is go home and be conquered and oppressed. Is that too much to ask?” –Gibbis
“Don’t talk to the clown.” –Amy
“Why is it up to you to save us? That’s quite a god complex you’ve got there.” –Rita to the Doctor
(next: “Closing Time”)