Entertainment Magazine

Review #3015: Doctor Who 6.11: “The God Complex”

Posted on the 19 September 2011 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: Gregg Wright

I find it a bit odd that the overall reaction to this episode was so positive, as I found it to be the first genuinely disappointing episode of the season. I’m a little reluctant to simply label this one as a “stand-alone” episode, as the conclusion and final scenes are highly significant in the context of Moffat’s bigger story. But the bulk of the episode is a fairly standard, somewhat underwhelming spook-fest.

Review #3015: Doctor Who 6.11: “The God Complex”

The idea of a faith-eating monster is an interesting twist on the overused concept of a fear-eating monster, but the idea is even harder to believe in than a fear-eater, which is ridiculous enough on its own. Fear is a basic emotion, so I can at least vaguely accept the idea of something feeding on it, at least in a fictional universe. But I can’t even come close to wrapping my mind around something feeding on religious faith, when faith is such an abstract concept.

I couldn’t help but notice that Toby Whithouse’s writing was a bit sub-par in many areas. It’s clear that he had a lot of great ideas for the episode, but I don’t think it gelled together properly. Every once in a while on “Doctor Who”, you’ll get an episode where the writer doesn’t quite succeed in writing the characters properly, so the episode ends up with this odd quality in which you stop believing that these are real people and start realizing that this is just a person attempting to channel the characters and the world of “Doctor Who” the best he can. In this case, I think a re-write was needed.

The episode never seems to generate as much suspense as is needed. There’s certainly a somewhat dream-like quality to the episode, but this is not a compliment. The unreality of it makes it hard to suspend disbelief in anything that’s going on. The end result is an overly hokey “running through halls” episode that simply doesn’t engage as it should (though it should be said that it improves to a noticeable degree after the twist is revealed). We’ve seen episodes like this before that were much, much better.

Still, I liked the ideas behind the episode quite a bit; particularly in how all of this relates to the Doctor. This is yet another episode that plays on our perceptions of the Doctor and how we (and the characters) feel about him. By this point in the show, the Doctor’s decision to part ways with Amy and Rory feels earned. There’s no denying that traveling with the Doctor can be an incredible experience, but it’s high time the Doctor recognized the cost of these adventures on his many companions.

I also quite liked the concept of the Doctor being forced to shatter Amy’s faith in him in order to save her. Faith and belief form the thematic underpinning for the episode, which I think had a lot of potential for exploring the perception of the Doctor as a god. I like this idea that the Doctor quite possibly has too much power and isn’t responsible enough to use it properly; that he routinely abuses his power and the people around him (either intentionally or unintentionally).

Unfortunately, I thought the integration of the faith/belief theme into the episode left much to be desired. It all felt a little too obvious for my tastes. Where it worked best, of course, was in the above-mentioned scene in which the Doctor must give Amy the cold, hard truth about himself: that he’s deeply flawed and often disguises selfish motivations as nobility. It does feel a bit unbelievable that a simple confession would actually work, given the nature of religious faith (which one could describe Amy’s faith in the Doctor as), but it was a nice emotional moment for both characters and served as a good preface for the separation scene.

Of course, it seems extremely unlikely that this is the last we’ll see of Amy and Rory, but I did rather like how the parting was handled (aside from one or two odd lines). We all know that Rory and Amy can’t go on traveling with the Doctor forever. The Doctor knows this all too well, and this time he’d prefer to part ways with his companions while they’re still breathing. It’s refreshing in that it seems to indicate that the Doctor is maturing, in some respects.

The Doctor may always be a semi-tragic figure, given that he must inevitably continue onwards in spite of the perpetual sense of loss he feels over past friends and companions, which threatens to become a very stale and predictable story element at this point. So I’m glad to see that Steven Moffat is attempting to expand on the Doctor by taking this familiar aspect of the character and using it to progress an actual arc for the character.

The Silence represents the greatest culmination of this idea, in that we finally have an enemy that is a direct result of the Doctor’s reckless mission to right the wrongs of time and space. I don’t think that the Doctor will ever stop with this mission, and I dare say few of us would want him to, but I do very much like that Moffat is forcing the Doctor to face the fact that, if he’s going to continue traveling through time and space, things are going to need to change.

There’s bound to be loads of speculation over what the Doctor saw in the appropriately named Room 11, which is probably exactly what Moffat and Whithouse were hoping for. And for that matter, what, or whom, does the Doctor himself apparently have faith in? The best answer I could come up with for both questions was “himself”. Though, as well as the two answers seem to fit, they do seem to contradict each other a bit.

To summarize, I’d say that this is the weakest episode of the season, thus far. But much like the ending to the Silurian two-parter in the previous season, the ending of “The God Complex” cements this episode as an extremely important step in the long-term story of the series. And there are enough interesting ideas in play, as well as some strong emotional moments, to make the episode a flawed, but worthwhile experience.

Rating: 6/10

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog