Like a Bull in The Shining’s Plot

complexlogoVisually sumptuous and lovingly recreated, The God Complex is a puzzler, but a satisfying one. Here we have that old chestnut of ‘Hell as a state of transit’, inasmuch as no one goes on holiday specifically to stay at a hotel – especially not this one with its stolid lack of obvious vistas (a porthole on Gibbis’ home world excluded) and repetitive décor. The set was beautifully accurate in its detail at least, and the episode wonderfully directed, giving this reviewer at least the impression that with stories as strong as this and direction to boot, the second half of Series Six might just be the turnabout I’ve been looking for.

As with Simon Nye last year, I suspect a fair amount of Toby Whithouse’s day-job may have crept into this story. With its domestic/urban nightmare-scape and mix of the horrific with the banal, it could be an episode of Being Human. In fact, there’s little horror in it of the visual kind; the Minotaur costume is beautifully made and may be that rare thing, a Doctor Who monster which is actually better in full view than close-up. Beyond this, the nightmares themselves are amusingly mundane, albeit believable. Yes, there are the Weeping Angels, but a PE teacher? A parent’s disappointment? Adolescent girls? Truly the neuroses of the adolescent-to-middle-aged male. The ventriloquist dummies and clown on the other hand are surely box-ticking for what are now stock bogeys in film and TV (although reader, I held for several months the belief that the Clown was the Doctor in the thrall of the Complex.) As for the opener’s scare; WPC Sally is terrorised by no giant ape, but an implausible gorilla from a children’s book? Mademoiselle, I truly sympathise.

There’s black humour amid the madness – the initially sympathetic and later sinister Gibbis retreating to sneakily devour the poor goldfish the Doctor and Amy took pains to save (not a ‘noone dies tonight’ day for our hero, this time), and the faces of the various victims immortalised as portraits – was one really a Tritovore? I loved the use of silence in this – never real silence of course, but scenes without dialogue above the banal ambient music of the hotel prison. Time passes in increments difficult to measure, and locations disorientate – it is a genuine prison.

And yet it’s one with a few free exits on offer for my favourite current companion Rory. What to make of this? A joke at his constant expendability, or a foreshadowing to what could be an upsetting finale (unless you’re Al, I suppose.) Is it the end for Amy and Rory? I’d LIKE it to be, not out of antipathy for either character or actor, both of whom have impressed much more this year than last. But because proper conclusions seem t be a rare thing in modern Who. Ever since Sarah Jane stepped back into the Doctor’s life it seems the series has had a hard time properly saying goodbye to its characters, bringing each around for a victory lap (or the Doctor’s), with only Eccleston a distinct omission. And so unexpected and moving was this farewell for Amy, a resolution to her Doctor obsession in the nicest of let-downs, that I pray it won’t be undone in a few weeks’ time (although thanks to advance advertising we know it must, in some way.) If it genuinely is the send-off we didn’t see coming, then it appears Moffat has given it to a safe pair of hands in Whithouse, who is currently running strong as my preference for next show runner.


2 Responses to “Like a Bull in The Shining’s Plot”

  1. Al Says:

    Nice review. I have to confess to missing a lot of what you mention; the reason being that this is the first episode since the programme re-began that I haven’t felt compelled, or duty-bound to rewatch. I am loathe to admit it, but I think the reason for this apathy might be slight boredom.

    This is the third story in a row involving a small group of people trapped in a skewed reality, and makes most of the second part of this series feel extremely samey. A small amount of sets, no extras, very little in the way of meaningful location filming – it’s a clever way of concealing a diminished budget until you bunch three such stories right next to each other. The God Complex is a perfectly serviceable episode – a great monster, a palpable building of tension, a brilliant comedy guest appearance, but it really feels as if we’ve just been here.

    However, we do say goodbye to Rory, (no doubt temporarily) so that’s got to count for something!

  2. the_other_dave Says:

    Hey now, Rory is the new Chuck Norris…

    In the words of the last centurion:
    Perge, Scelus, Mihi Diem Perficias

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