Warning: contains mild spoilers
With “The God Complex,” writer Toby Whithouse and director Nick Hurran have delivered an episode that is as visually minimalist as Hurran’s previous episode “The Girl Who Waited” and, for that minimalism, is incredibly sophisticated. There is a claustrophobic menace to this innocuous-looking hotel from the first frame.
There’s also plenty of surface horror to go around. From Weeping Angels to sad clowns and ventriloquist’s dummies, Whithouse and Hurran are pushing all the creepy buttons. It’s an And Then There were None scenario, with Hitchcock-style forced perspectives and more than a little borrowed from The Shining.
I’m not sure if it’s a good or bad thing that nearly all of the dialogue is superfluous. There are points made so subtly and points made on a purely visual level that works, but it’s also a little hollow. The episode is all about the last ten minutes. There are interesting questions raised about the nature of faith and fear. Treating belief as a double-edged sword when it’s Amy’s belief in the Doctor that allowed the universe to be rebooted (“The Big Bang”) and when that belief must now be fractured in order to save Amy herself, is more than a little mind-bending.
Doctor: (to Amy) “I’m not a hero. I really am just a madman in a box. And, it’s time we saw each other as we really are: Amy Williams, it’s time to stop waiting.”
Rory: (to the Doctor) “I’d forgotten that not all victories are about saving the universe.”
Amy: (to Rory) “He’s saving us.”
I’ve had a strong impression from the beginning of this series that context within the story arc is paramount. We’ve got two episodes to go and the thematic pingbacks are becoming stronger as we go along. “The God Complex” plays its part in this well of echoes, but other than beautifully frightening visuals, that’s all it does. All the momentum in the second half of the series seems to be driving towards the Doctor’s return to Lake Silencio in episode 13.
Until then, all I can say about “The God Complex” is that it is gloriously cinematic and I wouldn’t watch it with the lights out.