If you haven’t seen this episode yet, skip to the end. There’s some stuff in here that I’m sure you wouldn’t want spoiled.
As a viewer of Doctor Who, it’s sometimes easy to get distracted by the “professor with the mind of a child with ADHD travelling through time and space” persona of the Eleventh Doctor, which leads to forgetting that Matt Smith can actually act and inject emotion into his words. So when this week’s episode brought that knowledge to the forefront of my mind again, I was pleasantly surprised.
The episode is an interesting take on the Minotaur and the Labyrinth legend, as it takes place in an alien ship that is designed to look like a bad ’80s hotel in which everyone has a room that contains their own worst fear. As a result of this, just like a stay at Travelodge (other hotels are available and indeed recommended), the guests feel a justified sense of dread. Admittedly, they then start rambling and get possessed one by one, which is less likely to happen in your local chain of choice. This is all part of a reluctant, instinctual plan on the part of a Minotaur that stalks the hotel-ship thing.
The other guests were quite interesting (with the exception of the Muslim character, who I felt was just too smart to live, was a bit of a know-it-all and existed solely to give a title drop for “The God Complex”), especially David Walliams’ alien character Gibbis who comes from a species which lives to be conquered. I feel that it’s oddly fitting that the coward survived the episode, since it’s basically what his species does.
What annoyed me about this episode was the buildup to the Doctor’s room (including the question in the programme synopsis on the iPlayer, “What lies in wait in the Doctor’s room?”), which let us down by not actually showing us the room in question. We just saw the Doctor’s face as he looked inside it and heard the cloister bell going off before saying “Who else?” Naturally this was supposed to cause speculation but it just annoyed me.
A movie which I didn’t expect to be seeing similarities to in this episode is Predators. The overall plot of both is that many different people get yanked from their lives and introduced into an alien yet oddly familiar environment where the tall alien menace is trying to kill them. Along the way, they get the low-down from people who’ve been there for longer than them, before they start getting picked off one-by-one. And yes, I realise that probably describes a lot of movies but Predators was the one that immediately leapt to mind.
As I mentioned earlier, this episode really brought the fact that Matt Smith can damn well act to my attention again. He was good throughout the episode but what makes me say that is the powerful final scene, in which Amy and Rory leave the TARDIS before their travelling kills them or changes them irreversibly (as happened with Donna, Rose, Adric…the list goes on). It was one of a few out of many supposedly emotional scenes in Doctor Who that nearly moved me to tears (which is rare, to say the least). Probably what stopped me from breaking down entirely was the presence of an 1970s E-type Jaguar roadster (not my favourite model but certainly my favourite car), which shows that Rory and I share a taste in cars. As a result, I was rather distracted from the rest of the scene as I wished to see more of the car (indeed, I was practically pawing at the screen).