Not that complex…
…but still surprisingly good! I mean, not a patch on last week’s tour de force, but good nonetheless. A good celebrity appearance (though probably improved by Walliams being buried under layers of latex), a good monster, and a The Horns of Nimon reference – find me another episode which does all that! Thankfully, my earlier Twitter joke came to pass – it seems Mr Whithouse has managed to get out of his rut whereby he wrote the same episode over and over again* – no heroic tertiary character blowing up some explosive barrels to save the Doctor et al. Thank goodness.
Before I get started, some real-world stuff. I think the filming order has rather messed up the Doctor’s wardrobe change – either that, or these episodes are ‘out of order’ (with regards to Let’s Kill Hitler), which would be … interesting, to say the least. Possibly Moffat’s playing a ‘costume continuity’ game, as with Flesh and Stone, with the whole series? It might explain why everyone’s suddenly stopped giving a shit about River. Or maybe they all realised that I was right, she’s an annoying psychopath, and decided they were just better off without her. The other thing : a genuine question here - was all the music this episode recycled? I could swear it’s all been used in other episodes.
The idea at the heart of the episode – a monster that feeds on faith – was quite interesting, and as it began with the ‘fear’ concept, and managed to do it far more interestingly in the first half than was managed in all of Night Terrors. While some of the rooms were just (entertaining) window-dressing (the clown, the PE teacher, the man in the gorilla suit), the people’s actual fears (doctor lady’s father**, Amy’s fear of being left behind) were done surprisingly well (and the Doctor’s… well, I think we can probably assume it’s him, can’t we? Him or the Master or something like that. I mean, I’d like it were it something less obvious… any ideas?).
Then, it turned out it’s really about faith, though they adressed it in a nice, non-judgemental way – the Muslim doctor lady’s faith was presented as a strength, only subverted when it was taken to extremes – when overriding fear forced everything else out, and the same with Amy’s faith in the Doctor It was wonderfully constructed - the whole episode was seeded with Amy reassuring everyone that the Doctor knew how, the Doctor would be able to save them, and then, in order to save her, the Doctor had to break Amy’s faith in him, to admit that half the reason he has people following him around is so he can be told how wonderful he is, and that he needs to let her go before she gets killed. It was an episode about the small – a few people trapped in a hotel/holodeck being picked off one-by-one, rather than galaxy-ending catastrophe, as highlighted by Rory’s line ”I’d forgotten that not all victories are about saving the universe.”
It was also very funny in places – the Silurian in a shirt and tie picture on the wall in the background made me laugh, for instance, but the David Walliams character – who just wanted to be invaded and subjugated (‘we just finished planting trees, so the invading armies can march in the shade’) – was really tremendous. As I said, a celebrity cameo which works (perhaps the first since John Cleese). I’m still not sold on the idea (that episode with Kylie still weighs the scales pretty heavily against), but this came together admirably, and for once, the talent of the guest could be utilised without it feeling like it’s been tacked on (qv.Katherine Jenkins).
Problems were fewer, but still present – Whithouse still suffers from broad-brush characterisation issues – this is most noticeable where the ‘conspiracy theorist computer nerd who stammers and is scared of girls’ character is concerned. I also felt some aspects of the episode didn’t make a tremendous amount of sense – not that it affected the episode itself tremendously, but I did wonder why, for instance, the place looked like a hotel, how the Minotaur’s food was chosen, why, if the people who used to worship it stopped, why did they bother keeping it alive and fed – feeding off apparently random people (though they all had faith)?
Then we had the ending. Another great ending – this time, lonely-Doctor-fade-to-black. Rory and Amy have a house and a car*** (one of them will presumably have to find a job at some point, unless the Doctor’s left a stack of cash in one of the rooms). It’s nice, in a way, to see a conclusion, albeit a temporary one****, to Amy and Rory’s story with the Doctor. As their relationship has developed from rather poorly drawn earlier on to actually really good (especially over this series’ run, culminating with the last episode).
Next week: Craig! Cybermats! Cybermen! See you then!
*well, twice, but permit me a little rhetorical leeway here
**I’d just like to point out that if she got onto a medicine course with a B in maths, she’s obviously doing something right.
*** “How did you know this was my favourite car?” “You showed me a picture of it once and said “This is my favourite car”
****An awful lot of people seem to be saying that this is ‘the end’ for Amy and Rory. This would seem to be a rather foolish assertion. Not only have Gillan**** and Darvill signed on for the next series, the Doctor said that this isn’t the last they’ve seen of him (‘bad penny is my middle name’), they’re clearly just getting rid of them for another Doctor-and-Craig episode, and the finale, let us not forget, is called ‘The Wedding of River Song’.
*****Go back through my reviews and see how many times I’ve accidentally written ‘Kieron Gillen’. Go and do that.