The God Complex, by Paul Driscoll

Second paragraph of third chapter:

One of the more plausible interpretations of The Shining covered in the documentary movie, Room 237 (2012), is that the movie is a reworking of the Theseus and the Minotaur myth. At the end of the film Jack dies inside a hedge maze, a location that Kubrick added to King’s novel. The association of Jack with the Minotaur is foreshadowed elsewhere in the movie: there are moments when Jack appears taurine-like – as if he’s a bull about to charge; there is a poster of a skier who looks like the Minotaur beside another of a cowboy riding a bull; and in another scene, Jack’s wife, Wendy, makes a comment about leaving a trail of breadcrumbs, reminiscent of Ariadne’s thread. The God Complex is far more explicit in its mining of the Minotaur myth, but its association with The Shining extends far beyond this shared mythical inspiration.

Next in the sequence of Black Archive monographs on individual Doctor Who stories, which I am reading at the rate of two a month in an attempt to catch up. (Both this and the next one in sequence are numbered #10 on the cover, but it seems that this is really #9.)

The God Complex is one of my less favourite episodes in one of my less favourite series of New Who, and I didn’t write it up at the time, nor did I recommended it in my epic “Which New Who to Watch” post. In case you need your memory refreshed, here’s the “Next Time” trailer:

It’s the one where the Doctor, Amy and Rory are stuck in a hotel with a few other characters, of whom the best developed is Rita, played by Amara Karan; but it turns out that the hotel is a prison for a Minotaur. Personally I didn’t feel that the plot held together at all, and the scene at the end, where the Doctor basically kicks Amy and Rory out of the Tardis to start their lives without him, was disappointingly underdeveloped. But others differ; here, for instance, is Matt Smith reflecting on what the story might have told us about the Doctor:

Driscoll is clearly also a fan of the story, finding a lot more depth to it than I had imagined was there. The chapters are as follows:

  • The symbolism of the Minotaur, and modern treatments of the story in and beyond Doctor Who;
  • The roots of the story in Orwell’s 1984 (surveillance in particular);
  • The roots of the story in The Shining, film rather than book (hotel horror, obviously, though he also blames it for the weakness of the closing scene);
  • The roots of the story in previous Who stories about bases under siege and about religion (though I think he misses a couple of interesting examples on religion);
  • A rather good chapter on fear and terror as storytelling devices;
  • A more confused chapter trying to work out what the story is trying to tell us about faith and religion;
  • A long chapter on the Doctor’s fallibility as a hero;
  • A chapter on the role of the companions in Doctor Who;
  • a concluding short chapter wondering what the hell the symbolism of the fishbowl is meant to be?

Driscoll likes the story more than I did, but is not unaware of its flaws. I went back myself and watched it again to prepare for this post, but I think it will be a while before I repeat the effort. You can get Driscoll’s book here.

The Black Archives
1st Doctor: Marco Polo (18) | The Massacre (2)
2nd Doctor: The Evil of the Daleks (11) | The Mind Robber (7)
3rd Doctor: The Ambassadors of Death (3) | The Dæmons (26) | Carnival of Monsters (16) | The Time Warrior (24)
4th Doctor: Pyramids of Mars (12) | Image of the Fendahl (5) | Full Circle (15)
5th Doctor: Black Orchid (8)
6th Doctor: The Ultimate Foe (14)
7th Doctor: The Curse of Fenric (23) | Ghost Light (6)
8th Doctor: The Movie (25)
Other: Scream of the Shalka (10)
9th Doctor: Rose (1)
10th Doctor: The Impossible Planet / The Satan Pit (17) Human Nature / The Family of Blood (13)
11th Doctor: The Eleventh Hour (19) | The God Complex (9)
12th Doctor: Dark Water / Death in Heaven (4) | Face the Raven (20) | Heaven Sent (21) | Hell Bent (22)

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