Doctor Who – The God Complex Review (or “Too Soon”)

In my opinion, visuals play a big part in the success of a Doctor Who story.

Remember all the way in the Classic Era Reviews, I discussed how I felt that authenticity was a big thing; if it looked good, then it felt good.

In Modern Who, authenticity isn’t a major factor because everything looks good. With greater budgets, better camera work, a higher standard of direction and more location filming, it’s not like a story will look bad.

But as you’ll also know from three of my most recent reviews, the look played a big part in my enjoyment or lack there-of.

I can’t abide grim, post apocalyptic stuff, so I was put off by The Doctor’s Wife (although in fairness, the story wasn’t up to much either)

I thought Night Terrors’ well told story was helped along wonderfully by the eerie darkness of the visuals. Note: It’s not the darkness I don’t like about The Doctor’s Wife, but the way its all so washed out and colourless.

And I loved the bright contrast to that story in The Girl Who Waited.

But don’t misunderstand me; visuals can only take you so far.

Which brings me to The God Complex.

Doctor Who – The God Complex Review: What’s This One About?

An alien who feeds on faith traps people in a ship designed like a 1980s hotel along with their greatest fears.

Thoughts – Style Over Substance

The ultimate goal of The God Complex is to engineer a situation that allows The Doctor to temporarily say goodbye to Amy & Rory.

This episode rests entirely on imagery like this. All style, no substance.

This episode rests entirely on imagery like this. All style, no substance.

The reason they are there is because of Amy’s undiminishing faith in The Doctor.

So he must break that to free them, and it occurs to him that his companions won’t be safe if they travel with him.

And that’s fine, but it means the rest of the story lacks a bit of substance.

It’s 35 minutes of shallowness to try to get to a punchline.

So what do they do in those 35 minutes?

They fall back on style.

The God Complex is an episode where design is there to compensate for a lack of plot.

Setting it in an old 1980s style hotel is a cover. Set the same thing on a generic alien space craft and people would notice the lack of anything particularly interesting happening.

Similarly, the compensation comes in the form of eerie things waiting in rooms like Weeping Angels and a Clown with a balloon.

When I watched the trailers for that season, I said “I can’t wait to see the episode with the clown in it; it looks great”. And I said that purely on the basis of that frame.

And that’s the point; the style of this one far exceeds the quality of the plot.

That’s not a good thing.

It’s Too Soon To Do This Again

Another problem I have with The God Complex is that it comes too soon after Night Terrors.

Oh look, it's David Walliams dressed as a mole. What fun.

Oh look, it’s David Walliams dressed as a mole. What fun.

To an extent, both stories play off the same principle – someone’s fears being brought to life.

Do we need two stories with that theme, a mere two weeks apart?

I don’t think so.

And maybe that also counts against it. If Night Terrors hadn’t done that same type of story – and done it better – a couple of weeks earlier, I doubt I’d think of it in as negative a way.

Don’t get me wrong; The God Complex isn’t crap, but it feels lacking, especially in comparison to that story.

Writing Amy & Rory Out

In my review of The Hungry Earth, I complained about the scene where Amy gets sucked into the Earth. I thought it tried too hard to pluck on the heart-strings when everyone knew that she wasn’t going to be dead. It cheapened scenes of genuine emotion.

The scene where The Doctor says goodbye to Amy & Rory at the end of this is similar.

Not being someone who reads spoilers (I don’t even read the names of upcoming stories), I asked my brother when this was first broadcast “Is that them written out then?”. I genuinely thought it was, based on the way it played out.

“No,” he said “as far as I’m aware they are in the last two episodes of the season”

I can't look at one of these without thinking of The Toymaker in the Big Finish story "The Magic Mousetrap". "Gottle of geer, Doc-tor" Check it out

I can’t look at one of these without thinking of The Toymaker in the Big Finish story “The Magic Mousetrap”. “Gottle of geer, Doc-tor” Check it out

I felt mugged.

Writing in that way is false advertising. It’s the boy who cried wolf.

For a guy like Moffat, who creams his jeans about spoilers, why write stuff designed to mislead the viewers? It just means that when characters like Amy & Rory do leave, they only way the viewers will believe it is when the press leak it first. And that goes against what he wants.


Random Observations

  • I like David Walliams in Britain’s Got Talent, but when it comes to “talent”, I don’t think he has much as an actor. Whether you watch him on BGT, The God Complex, Big School or any other show he’s on, it just seems like he’s got one solitary style of acting; upright and camp. Dressing him up to look like a mole won’t make his character seem any different; it just becomes David Walliams in a funny costume.
  • And what’s the point of his character anyway? He doesn’t move the plot along, he doesn’t die, he doesn’t do anything; he’s just there, presumably to add to my point of style over substance
  • I imagine The Doctor’s fear was himself. What happened to fire and Sensorites?
  • It’s another story written by Toby Whithouse, so it’s no surprise it’s not up to much. At least this one had a different plot from his usual one though, eh?
  • I like that Rory had no fears, although if you think about it deeply that’s not very realistic, is it?
  • I think we’ve had enough appearances from Young Amelia now.
  • Watching this has made me go back and re-write part of my Girl Who Waited Review. I stupidly wrote that it was called The Girl Who Waited as a play on The Boy Who Waited. And yet obviously The Boy Who Waited was a play on The Girl Who Waited – i.e. Young Amelia. How foolish of me.
  • The monster in this story at least had a point to it.
  • Today’s “Cheap Pop” – a Nimon reference. That thing wasn’t a patch on the Nimon
  • I can’t look at wooden puppets without thinking of the Seventh Doctor Big Finish story, The Magic Mousetrap. Incidentally, that story is much better than this.
  • DWM Mighty 200 Ranking: N/A

Doctor Who – The God Complex Review: Final Thoughts

Although isolated this might seem ok, even if it is a case of style over substance, the big issue with it for me is that it comes too soon after a similar – and better – story in Night Terrors.

Ultimately though, as a Toby Whithouse effort, you can’t expect miracles.


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