Doctor Who: The God Complex ★★★★

Toby Whithouse creepy-hotel episode offers a Minotaur and touches of 1984 and The Shining

552
4.0 out of 5 star rating

Story 222

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Series 6 – Episode 11

“They certainly didn’t mention that in the brochure” – the Doctor

First UK transmission
Saturday 18 September 2011

Storyline
The Doctor, Amy and Rory are trapped in labyrinthine domain that looks like a down-at-heel 1980s hotel. They befriend a small group of humans and a timid mole-like alien, Gibbis, and try to prevent them from being killed one by one. A Minotaur roams the corridors and behind each door is a room that contains the residents’ greatest fears: a gorilla, a morose clown, Weeping Angels…Failing to save the humans, the Time Lord reveals the hotel is actually an automated prison ship and that the beast is feeding off the faith of its victims.
Fearing for Amy and Rory’s future, the Doctor drops them in London, where he’s bought them a new house. He travels on alone.

Production
February to March 2011. At Seabank Hotel, Porthcawl; Manor Park Hotel, Cardiff; Bute Esplanade, Cardiff Bay; Upper Boat Studios.

Cast
The Doctor – Matt Smith
Amy Pond – Karen Gillan
Rory Williams – Arthur Darvill
Lucy Hayward – Sarah Quintrell
Rita – Amara Karan
Howie Spragg – Dimitri Leonidas
Joe Buchanan – Daniel Pirrie
Gibbis – David Walliams
PE teacher – Dafydd Emyr
The Creature – Spencer Wilding
Rita’s father – Rashid Karapiet
Amelia Pond – Caitlin Blackwood
Gorilla – Roger Ennals

Crew
Writer – Toby Whithouse
Director – Nick Hurran
Producer – Marcus Wilson
Designer – Michael Pickwoad
Music – Murray Gold
Executive producers – Steven Moffat, Piers Wenger, Beth Willis

RT review by Patrick Mulkern
“How scary is this week’s Doctor Who?” asked my younger sister on behalf of her kids – aged seven and ten in autumn 2011. They’d given Mark Gatiss’s Night Terrors a wide berth after its overt scare-the-kiddies stance and “Save me from the monsters!” trailers.

The ads for The God Complex were similarly unnerving, and I forewarned my sis: It’s got a stalking Minotaur, a creepy clown, rooms full of ventriloquist dummies and Weeping Angels… It taps into our deepest fears with hotel corridors lined with bad dreams… It toys with the concept of faith, and the dependable Doctor is obliged to shed his mantle as a reassuring hero. Plus, there’s a poignant ending…

So yes, the kids must watch it! I’m a cruel uncle. Besides, I must say, my other sister’s two, even younger (then four and nearly six), would sit through all these terrors and psychodramas impervious and enthralled.

This is a third stab at Who for Toby Whithouse, the mastermind behind Being Human. He also penned 2010’s enjoyable romp The Vampires of Venice and 2006’s School Reunion with Sarah Jane Smith, which I adored. “Of the episodes I’ve written,” he told me, “this is my favourite by a mile. The cast are wonderful and isn’t the direction stunning?”

I’d agree with that, and believe Whithouse’s script is clever and original, although of course you don’t have to be particularly alert to spot allusions to Greek mythology (the Minotaur in a labyrinth), George Orwell’s 1984 (Room 101 containing Winston Smith’s worst fear) and to the eerie hotel in The Shining. Even that movie’s carpet-level tracking shots are re-created here.

Fans will know that the Minotaur has shown up in Doctor Who before, fleetingly – and in hilariously duff costumes – in The Mind Robber (1968) and The Time Monster (1972). Bull-headed aliens also appeared in 1979’s The Horns of Nimon. That was the nadir for fourth Doctor Tom Baker, yet it’s pleasing to hear the 11th Doctor refer back 32 years when mentioning this Minotaur is “a distant cousin of the Nimon”.

David Walliams is endearing as Gibbis, a craven-hearted critter from Tivoli, “the most invaded planet in the galaxy”. Though larded with latex, he’s still very David Walliams and reminds me of Jonathan Harris as the lily-livered, screamingly camp Dr Smith from Lost in Space.

The God Complex is a clever title. It sums up the story’s milieu and pinpoints the Doctor’s Achilles heel. His need to impress and fashion new acolytes (including Rita) is thrown into sharp relief when he has to demolish Amy’s faith, and it feeds neatly into the sorrowful severance from Amy and Rory. “Amy Williams. It’s time to stop waiting,” he tells her, as he sets the couple on a new life. I must say I was thrown by their departure, but knew they’d be back for the season finale.

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We’re on a roll here. As well as the impressively intricate season arc, these fabulous standalone episodes make the series feel more and more like a high-class sci-fi anthology.