‘The God Complex’ is the intriguing title of Episode 11 in Series 6 of Doctor Who.
At first we might imagine that this refers to the simulated 1980’s style Hotel in which the Doctor, Amy and Rory find themselves unexpectedly as guests.
Indeed the Hotel is complex with rooms and hallways that shift and change their layout from moment to moment.
The Doctor and his companions quickly discover that they are not alone, bumping into other unwilling guests, Rita, Howie and Gibbis (an alien from the most often conquered planet in the universe, Tivoli) and briefly, Joe who has already succumbed to the ‘praise’ of the terrible and hungry beast that stalks the halls.
Waiting in every room is the embodiment of each guest’s worst fears, even the Doctor, though he is careful not to reveal any more than that he is not surprised by who he sees there (and then he carefully places a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on that door).
For Amy (probably, though they may be waiting for someone else) there are the Weeping Angels. For Rita, the Doctor, there is her critical father, “A ‘B’ in mathematics…you’re LAZY…”. Howie, who has not long overcome a debilitating stammer, opens the door to a roomful of attractive but cruelly laughing girls.
Only Rory finds no room of his own for a quite interesting reason as the Doctor (Who, not Rita) points out. “…you’re not religious or superstitious; you have no faith to fall back on…” so Rory keeps finding ways to leave; Fire Exits and such.
At first, our Doctor was convinced that the beast in the halls feeds on the fears of the guests, finally robbing them of life itself; “all his vital organs stopped…as if the simple spark of life; his loves and hates, his faiths and fears were just….”
Who’s solution to this sounded quite simple; “So we have to resist it. Do whatever you have to. Cross your fingers. Say a prayer. Think of a box full of kittens. But do not give in to the fear.”
It is only when he hears Amy reassuring Gibbis that the Doctor, who “has never let me down….even when I thought he had left me, he came back….and saved me…”, realizes that the beast is feeding not on fear but on faith. The fears waiting for each guest are designed to arouse their faith, whatever form it takes; for it is their faith that the beast wants to take from them.
“It’s not fear. It’s faith. Not just religious faith, faith in something. Howard believed in conspiracies, external forces controlling the world. Joe had dice cufflinks and a chain with a horseshoe. He was a gambler. Gamblers believe in luck, an intangible force that helps them win or lose. Gibbis rejected personal autonomy and is waiting for the next batch of invaders to tell him what to do. They all believe there’s something guiding them, about to save them. That’s what it replaces. Every time someone was confronted with their most primal fear, they fell back on their most fundamental faith. And all this time, I’ve been telling you to dig deep. Find the thing that keeps you brave. I made you expose your faith. Show them what they needed.”
But what is ‘The God Complex’, if it is not the Hotel itself?
Well, the other Doctor, Rita, points us to that when confronting Who about his promise to save her and all the others too. “Why is it up to you to save us? That’s quite a God complex you have there,” she says.
But, says the Doctor, I feel responsible; I brought them here, they trusted me. He says to Amy when trying to diminish her faith in him, to save her, “I stole your childhood and now I’ve led you by the hand to your death. But the worst thing is, I knew. I knew this would happen. This is what always happens. I took you with me because I was vain, because I wanted to be adored. Look at you, glorious Pond; the girl who waited for me. I’m not a hero. I really am just a mad man in a box. And it’s time we saw each other as we really are.”
With Amy’s faith diminished the beast, old and weary of its life begins to die and the Doctor allows it, translating its last words, “”An ancient creature, drenched in the blood of the innocent, drifting in space through an endless, shifting maze.” He says, “For such a creature, death would be a gift. Then accept it. And sleep well.”
Recognizing a similarity he adds anxiously, “I wasn’t talking about myself.”
But is God like that? Is Jesus like that? Has he misled us for his own sake, so that we would adore him only to find in the end that our faith has brought us to death, rather than life?
These are important questions and it is better to ask them than to not; only, better to ask them of God himself rather than others who like us struggle with fears and doubts of their own.
Knowing our deepest questions before we even ask, he has answered.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”