Complex gods   2 comments

How is Amy’s faith in the Doctor so weak that a single conversation is sufficient to destroy it? She spent more than half her life waiting for him. She believes in him utterly, as we saw in ‘The Beast Below.’ We know from ‘The Girl who Waited’ how tenacious she can be. She doesn’t let go easily. (Until she does – see Rory in ‘Asylum of the Daleks.’) Up to this point we have no reason to think her confidence in him is any less solid than, say, bedrock. And we’re supposed to believe a lame half-truth would blow it all away?

I’m not a fan of religious themes, but setting that aside, I do think that Doctor Who is in a large way a show about faith. No matter what happens, the Doctor always believes in his core that everything will turn out. Time after time he wins against impossible odds. Even when there are losses to face, the enemy is always ultimately defeated, and the heroes go home better than they were before. The Doctor believes in himself, he trusts to luck, and he knows he can count on his friends in a crisis. That belief is one of the driving forces of the show.

Several episodes of the modern era specifically examine faith. ‘The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit’ is a prime example. The Doctor expresses his faith in Rose openly – “I believe in her” – but he also demonstrates faith through his actions. Specifically, he destroys the urns, supposedly sentencing himself and everyone on the rocket to death by black hole, only to come up against the TARDIS in the rubble. Rose also expresses her faith in the Doctor by refusing to leave without him. She knows he isn’t dead; it would take more than a few words from Zach to persuade her otherwise.

‘Gridlock’ is a different kind of episode about faith. The people of New Earth believe in the system; they believe someone is looking out for them, and someone will save them. The Doctor knows this isn’t true. The world above is dead, and there is no one coming. However, by his efforts he becomes that someone. Their faith is justified. It might not have been the salvation they expected, but salvation it was nonetheless. The Doctor’s hand, they may suppose, was moved by God.

Another kind of faith turns up in the same episode: Martha’s faith in the Doctor. Now some fans may feel differently, but I find this faith strangely misplaced. Like Amy in ‘The Beast Below,’ she hasn’t known him very long, but already she trusts him with her life. Maybe it’s because of that relationship she’s built up in her head. Maybe it’s bad writing. Or maybe it’s normal, and I’m just slow to trust.

Martha, and Donna after her, never lose their faith in the Doctor. Rose and Clara have theirs shaken when he changes his face before their eyes. Rose’s is quickly restored by her charming new friend, while Clara has been kept off balance all season, particularly when the Doctor abandons her in ‘Kill the Moon.’ But in each case the trial that moves the mountain has some weight. Neither would likely accept the Doctor’s words so easily as Amy.

And the truth is, neither would Amy.

‘The God Complex’ is not Toby Whithouse’s strongest script, but it is not without its moments. The idea is solid and interesting. Rita is wonderful; I agree with the many fans who wish she could have stayed, and wonder why she never even got so much as a last name. Rory, fearless and faithless, continues being great. The visuals and music are weirdly cool. The resolution – the Doctor leaving his friends behind to preserve their lives – is a new one for the show.

Maybe it’s the Doctor’s faith that was shaken. It wasn’t Amy losing her trust in him; he lost his trust in himself to keep her safe, and that’s what killed the monster. That would make a believable ending.

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2 responses to “Complex gods

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  1. Blow after blow that series. Melody and Old!Amy and then the others in the hospital… is it any wonder it takes her so little to come to that conclusion? The final straw. That’s all. Just one little straw.

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    • I’ve had some time to think about this, and I still disagree. Old!Amy certainly had reason to lose faith in her friend – but this Amy is not that Amy and shares none of her memories. At no point does Amy seem to hold the Doctor responsible for Melody. I’m not sure who ‘the others in the hospital’ are that you refer to. Rory and River are happy to lay blame on the Doctor for whatever happens, but Amy consistently does not. There is no buildup, no persistent assault on her faith to bring it crumbling down. She is unswerving, until she suddenly isn’t.

      Now, Moffat and his team habitually leave gaps in characterization, out of incompetence or laziness or a preference for putting things in the audience’s hands. Perhaps Whithouse assumes fans will make the leap you do. I suppose it’s a valid storytelling choice, but it’s not one I personally appreciate.

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