Landing the TARDIS in the middle of a strange hotel, our wayward heroes find themselves mired in a new mystery involving fear and faith. The Doctor is excited to find a replica of a hotel in the middle of space, but when they come across a group of terrified “guests,” they quickly realize that there is something sinister at work. Of course, if you’re in an empty hotel that is more than a little reminiscent of the Overlook from ‘The Shining’, there is certain to be something sinister behind the walls.
The three people they encounter are named Rita, Howard and Gibbis. Rita and Howard are human, and Gibbis is an alien from a world that is known for quickly surrendering to invading forces. Rita informs the Doctor that the rooms of the hotel contain “bad dreams,” and that one of their companions, Joe, has lost his mind and they had to tie him up. Laughing like a madman in a room filled with creepily laughing ventriloquist dummies, Joe tells the Doctor that he no longer is afraid of them. He has found salvation in something new, and is filled with religious ecstasy. He is repeating the phrase “Praise him.”
On top of the rooms filled with personalized nightmares, there is something stalking the group in the halls. Joe manages to escape and run towards the thing in the halls, welcoming it with open arms. Whatever it is, this is what he is now worshiping. But rather than bring him salvation, it kills him.
One by one, everybody in the first group of guests run into rooms with nightmares made specifically for them. Slowly, they begin to lose their minds and succumb to the religious zeal that stole Joe away. Eventually, Amy and even the Doctor find their rooms and face their fears. Rory is the only one who doesn’t seem to find his room. Instead, he keeps being shown exits.
Eventually, while everybody does their best to resist the ecstasy they’re feeling, they manage to trap the creature that is stalking them. It is a minotaur. It doesn’t feed on fear. It feeds on faith, and the best way to get faith out of somebody is to pit them against their most primal fears. When the minotaur comes after Amy, the Doctor realizes that her faith is in him. To help her break her faith, he very brutally tells her about how selfish and vain he is, and that he is no god or hero.
It turns out that this entire time, they have been in a prison for the minotaur, and that they had been transported to it as food for it. Breaking Amy’s faith and the food supply, it could finally die. In its final moments, the minotaur says that an ancient creature, drifting through space, drenched in blood should see death as a gift. It then says that it wasn’t talking about itself. Once again, we have a cryptic reference to the Doctor’s impending doom.
In the end, the Doctor makes the difficult decision of taking Amy and Rory home and going off on his own. He has realized that, at some point, he will have to see them die, and it will most likely be his fault. In a tearful but tastefully understated good-bye, the Doctor leaves the two of them behind.
This was one of those episodes that started off in one direction and then unexpectedly veered off in another. This is not necessarily a bad thing if handled properly. With the writing of Toby Whithouse (creator of ‘Being Human’), this episode manages to take what starts out as a creepy stand-alone episode and transform it into a major turning point for the overall story. While this episode certainly has its holes and flaws – the creepy nightmare rooms kind of take a back seat to the minotaur story about halfway through, and the function of the minotaur’s prison feels a bit cobbled together – where this episode really shined was when it finally highlighted the dysfunctional relationship that the Doctor and Amy have. It is the kind of relationship that is doomed to end tragically because both parties are in denial about their real roles. Only when confronted with the reality of it, does the Doctor finally see how selfish he has been and attempt to right it.
Another shining point of this episode is the character of Gibbis, played by David Walliams of ‘Little Britain.’ He injects just enough comic relief to keep things light but not so much that he’s overly goofy or distracting.
While this episode may not go down as one of the best or most memorable outside of the dramatic plot shift at the end, it was still enjoyable to watch. With only two episodes left to go, it’s time to really get back into the main story and discover the mystery of the Doctor’s death at Lake Silencio. Next week, however, doesn’t look like it will be doing that. Instead we will see the return of Craig from last season’s ‘The Lodger’ and the overused Cybermen.
If you missed last week’s episode be sure to read our ‘Doctor Who – The Girl Who Waited’ recap to catch up.