Yep, it’s another one where I had absolutely no idea which episode this was in advance, and even after I’d ascertained that it was the one with the creepy hotel, I barely remembered a single detail from six years ago. If you’d have asked me prior to today whether David Walliams had been in Doctor Who, I’d have had to really wrack my brains, and then I’d have said that I didn’t think he had.
So I was excited at the prospect of uncovering another hidden gem, but it really wasn’t to be on this occasion. It’s clearly a good idea for an episode – escape from a creepy run-down travel tavern with someone’s personalised hell behind each door – but in practice it’s just a big mess. The idea of the hotel changing its layout is again good in theory, but it ends up being a real hindrance, with the inconsistent geography making it all vaguely incoherent whenever the monster emerged. It jolted from one freaky nightmare sequence to the next, which soon became tiresome and repetitive, leaving the plot aimless.
We never really care about the guest characters either. Walliams does a decent job at playing the amusing concept of an alien who is bred to surrender, but he’s just the comic relief. The Doctor quickly becomes infatuated with a young woman who becomes this story’s surrogate companion, and as Rory points out, that’s obviously going to end badly for her. But because the progression of the story is so confusing, I didn’t feel like I went on a journey with that character – it was more like I was just seeing fleeting glimpses of her journey – and so I didn’t really care when she snuffed it.
I ended up feeling a bit ripped off by the concept too, like they didn’t use it to its full potential. It was great to see the Weeping Angels make a cameo, but they were very quickly revealed to just be a projection. But given that the image of an Angel becomes an Angel, then surely they should have been there for real? And the most obvious question that you want the show to answer (ie. if everyone’s room contains their greatest fear, what’s in the Doctor’s room?) is skimmed over, with just an enigmatic “oh, it’s you” in reaction to someone or something that we’re not privy to seeing. What a swizz.
And if we’re being pedantic, how come only the Doctor could understand what the monster was saying? Where was the translation circuit? Because there’s a reason that the baddies usually speak English, and it’s to make them more interesting to the audience. I already had very little investment in the episode, and then it lost me completely when they started talking about faith being a form of energy. Sure it is, pal. And sure, the monster is a distant cousin of the Nimon. I can see the family resemblance – they’re both incredibly boring and they both star in tedious and barely coherent stories.
So I was already fairly down on this episode before the final scene. Maybe this is the reason I couldn’t remember this one – my brain has rejected it, because it refuses to accept that the Doctor would just dump Amy and Rory like that. Just as I was saying this is one of my favourite TARDIS dynamics of all time, it gets unceremoniously chucked away. I know they’re not actually leaving the show for some time yet, but things are never the same again from this point on.
I’m strongly against the idea – which has been the norm for the remainder of the show to date – of companions living separately from the Doctor. If you’re a companion, it should be all or nothing; lurching from one journey to the next, sharing every waking moment with this amazing madman, being as important to him as he is to you. Not getting picked up when he needs help and then dropped home in time for tea. Companions are our way in to the Doctor’s world, and they can’t do that for us if they’re not a full time part of it.