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New Series Episode 89:
The God Complex
The TARDIS brings the Doctor, Amy and Rory to what appears to be a hotel on Earth in the 1980s. But the rooms and corridors in this hotel move about, and the doors and windows open onto walls. Soon they encounter a small band of human and alien survivors, and learn that somewhere in the hotel is a room containing each person's darkest fear. Once they find it, they will inevitably begin to worship a mysterious entity which stalks the hotel, killing those who praise it. One by one, the hotel claims its victims... and even Amy cannot resist its lure.
In 2009, Toby Whithouse was commissioned to write a script for Doctor Who's thirty-first season. As a starting point, executive producer Steven Moffat suggested a story in which the Doctor becomes trapped in a maze-like hotel, with its geography constantly shifting. While travelling, Moffat had often found staying in a hotel to be a disconcerting experience, which suggested that such an environment could be effective in Doctor Who. He was eager to avoid the cliche of an eerie old Victorian hotel, and so Whithouse drew upon dreadful family vacations of his youth and instead opted for a tacky Eighties establishment.
The labyrinth setting inspired Whithouse to include a Minotaur-like character in the adventure. Doctor Who had featured similar monsters in the past (in 1968's The Mind Robber, 1972's The Time Monster and 1979's The Horns Of Nimon) but the writer was keen to put his own spin on the concept. In particular, the notion of the mythological Minotaur being offered tributes in the form of Athenian youth prompted the idea that those trapped in the hotel would come to worship and feed Whithouse's creature.
Whithouse's story, entitled The God Complex, was planned to be the sixth episode of Season Thirty-One. However, during the writing process, it was decided that the labyrinth element of The God Complex mirrored too closely the Maze of the Dead in the preceding story, The Time Of Angels / Flesh And Stone. Moffat asked Whithouse to instead work on a new script to replace The God Complex; this would become The Vampires Of Venice. The intention was to resurrect The God Complex for Season Thirty-Two, and Whithouse duly returned to work on the script in late 2010. It was now positioned as the tenth episode of the programme's 2011 run, although the addition of The Girl Who Waited to the schedule ultimately pushed it to the eleventh spot.
Throughout The God Complex, Whithouse wanted to illustrate examples of faith besides the purely religious; hence Joe was associated with luck and Howie with conspiracy theories. Nonetheless, the writer also intended to include a prominent and sympathetic character who would exhibit a more traditional faith in God. Although Whithouse was not particularly religious himself, this would buck the often cynical trend in modern fiction of portraying devout individuals in a negative light. He considered having this character be a Christian, but felt it would be more interesting to portray a different religion, inspiring Rita's adherence to Islam.
Originally, an additional human character was Edward, a conservative blowhard who placed his faith in authority. To provide more variety, Edward evolved into the alien Gibbis, who exhibited more extreme and comical versions of the earlier character's traits. The policewoman in the pre-credits teaser was initially called Lucy Miller. Her surname was changed to Hayward to distinguish her from Lucie Miller, one of the Eighth Doctor's companions in audio plays released by Big Finish Productions.
A late change to The God Complex came in January 2011, when executive producer Beth Willis voiced her concern that the story relied too much on abstract concepts. To take better advantage of the hotel setting, Whithouse introduced the notion of there being a room assigned to each denizen which contains his or her worst nightmare. This was partly inspired by his work on Being Human, where the third season premiere had depicted characters in Purgatory and suggested the notion that every person has his or her own version of Hell. Amy's room was specified as Number 7, reflecting her age when she first met the Doctor at the start of The Eleventh Hour.
Nick Hurran was assigned to direct both The God Complex and The Girl Who Waited as Block Five (although this was actually the sixth production block of the 2010-2011 recording schedule). Together, these two stories would bring about the next stage of the Doctor's relationship with Amy and Rory, with the companions leaving the TARDIS after the Doctor concludes that he can no longer tempt them into danger. One of the first tasks which fell to Hurran's team was to collect the photos which would appear on the walls of the hotel. These were a mix of doctored publicity photos (for monsters such as a Sontaran, a Judoon and a Catkind) and new photos taken of BBC Wales staffmembers, including Willis, producer Marcus Wilson (“Royston Luke Gold”) and petty cash buyer Kate Wilson (“Lady Silver-Tear”).
Recording began with two days of corridor scenes, taped at Upper Boat Studios on February 16th and 17th. The 18th was spent at the Seabank Hotel in Porthcawl for material in the reception area. Next up were sequences in the dining room and the kitchen, filmed at the Manor Park Hotel in Cardiff on February 21st and 22nd. The schedule then brought cast and crew back to Upper Boat on the 23rd and 24th, where sets in use included the corridors, the security suite, the titular “god complex” environment, and the hotel bedroom which was dressed as both the Weeping Angels room and Amy's Room 7. Reprising her role as the young Amelia was Karen Gillan's cousin, Caitlin Blackwood, who was returning to Doctor Who for the first time since recording The Big Bang in January 2010.
Two additional days at the Seabank Hotel were scheduled for February 25th and 26th, covering the remaining action in reception and on the stairs. The 28th saw the beauty salon set in use at Upper Boat; this was dubbed the Pasiphae Spa as an allusion to the mother of the Minotaur in Greek mythology. On March 1st, Amy and Rory's new home was actually a dwelling on Bute Esplanade in Cardiff Bay. It differed from Whithouse's original conception of the scene which envisioned them moving into an idyllic cottage, reflecting the fairytale theme which Moffat had woven into the Eleventh Doctor's era.
All further filming for The God Complex then took place at Upper Boat. Sequences outside the salon were taped on March 3rd, followed by all of the remaining hotel bedrooms the next day. Various pick-up shots were completed on the 14th and 15th. This left only the remaining security suite material and the concluding TARDIS scene, which were completed on March 18th. However, while Amy and Rory appeared to have left their lives as the Doctor's companions behind them, they were still very much a part of the future of Doctor Who...
|Updated 22nd July 2014|
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