Reaction: Doctor Who – The God Complex

That's my fear door

“Praise Him!” “Praise Him!” “Praise Him!” “Praise Him!” “Praise Him!” errr *cough*

“The God Complex” is an odd episode, not in a bad way, but it definitely is different than anything else we’ve seen this season. First and foremost the direction was spot on for an episode that was supposed to make us feel uncomfortable and anxious. With a heavy use of surreal cinematography techniques including dutch angles, quick cuts, overlays of text and more, this almost felt a bit more like something Edgar Wright would have directed than a Doctor Who episode. Not that the story resembled anything like that. The actual plot was strange as well; it seemed to take the best elements from the “Hell scene” in Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey and crossed them with a bit of The Curse of Fenric, a seventh Doctor Story, chiefly with its use of fear and faith as a motif.

I was really worried that this would devolve into nothing more than a Scooby Doo corridor chase scene in the first act of the episode; but as we got further in, everything got a bit more mature than I was expecting. By “mature” I don’t mean gore and nudity, but complex themes not usually reserved for a family show.

While a lot of sci-fi has a tendency to take digs at religion and faith systems, this episode does it in a far more classy way than shows such as Stargate. Instead of coming across in a patronizing atheistic manner that some sci-fi embodies, we get an episode where the villain literally feeds on faith. Whether that faith be in a person, an idea, or a deity, we learn that most people fall back on faith when faced with our greatest fears in order to get us through. What if this faith is tampered with and everyone is brainwashed to have faith in the very thing that is about to kill them? The creature, a large minotaur-like monster, then finds this rapturous wave of faith for itself and feeds. Body after body falls until the Doctor can figure it out. Confusingly, Rory was shown to be a fatalist in some manner, and was said to have no faith. Since he only lives for himself, we are led to believe that the monster would leave him alone. Wouldn’t he have faith in Amy?

This idea is best played out when we find out that Amy hold all of her faith in the Doctor. He greatest fear is the Doctor abandoning her in some way, and she clings to him for help. Realizing that Amy regards him as some sort of God-like figure he has to make her lose faith in him or she’ll die. This was seen at one other point in Doctor Who history, an eighties episode called the Curse of Fenric. Then it was Ace that the Doctor was forced to mess with, although that instance was far more cruel than what we got tonight. The Doctor could have said something like “I could have saved your baby, but I chose not to”, instead we get the Doctor humbling himself.

All in all this was a good episode, but I will have to watch it again to fully take it in. the unorthodox direction, the weird plot and a few things to ponder make this hard to fully register. I do have some things to ponder for next week:

What exactly did the Doctor see behind his fear door? I assumed it was himself, but could it be someone truly evil?

What does the doctor worship? Amy asks this and the Doctor basically brushes it aside. Was this a random bit of dialogue, or is there importance to it? I feel this may tie in to point one, possibly showing the “big bad” of this season. It may be false hope, but I really want there to be a crazy evil time lord to be the ringleader at the end, and I wonder if this was the seed planted in our heads.

If the Minotaur is related to the Nimons and was seen as a God to some group, did that imply that he was the God of them? It wasn’t really made clear.

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13 thoughts on “Reaction: Doctor Who – The God Complex”

  1. There’s a beautiful narrative arch between “Fenric” and “God Complex”. Specially as the Eleventh’s Doctor seems to be at the core close to the First and Seventh (with some outside layers of the Second and Third). “The Girl Who Waited” was pure First sense of duty, and “Fenric” goes on in this story. Beautiful

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  2. Great review!

    I don’t think I was as positive about the episode as you though. I think the biggest problem in the episode was that it was too easy for the Doctor to take Amy’s faith away from her.

    But so many of the problems in the narrative of this episode stem directly from the writers having no idea of Amy as a character, as I discuss in more detail here:

    http://theoncominghope.blogspot.com/2011/09/doctor-who-god-complex-aka-characters.html

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    1. I think they knew well what were they doing with Amy:Amy has gone done from greatest (in “The Beast Below” she’s more Doctor than the Doctor) to lowest (nasty to the ganger Doctor in “The Almost People”, her old self so full of hate in “The Girl who Waited”), while Rory has gone the opposite route (from “The Eleventh Hour” to Rory the Roman to Rory the Cyberman Defeater to just-Rory-I’m-not-the-Doctor). Rory has been enabled by the Doctor, not Amy: he has some plan for him, and I very much have my theory about it.

      And I felt it fast but natural for Amy to lose her faith: specially when you remember that, in the original order of episodes, she had gone from losing her daughter, to her mental ordeal in “The Doctor’s Wife”, to being abandoned “AGAIN” in Waterfall Red and meeting her Dark Self and knowing the Doctor didn’t rescue her to “Hotel California”. It wasn’t played in our faces, but it was all there. With the current episode scheduling, the “Night Terrors” replace “The Doctor’s Wife” (although its original place before “The Rebel Flesh” is still there, as the final Doctor remark about “being together again in the flesh” notes) and the effect is slightly watered down.

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  3. It cant be his dead companions as he said “of course who else” seeming to indicate it was a single person(has there been a companion who has gotten killed at some point?).
    Also the minotaur isnt a god to the nimons he is a distant cousin of them and descends on primitive planets to take a place as a god.

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    1. He’s only ever had 2 companions that have died as far as I know: Adric, and a girl in the “dalek Masterplan” whose name I have forgotten. but yeah, I still think that whomever he saw is the “bad guy” in all of this. Thanks for the comment!

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