"There's a room here for everyone, Doctor... even you."
This week the Tardis Trio find themselves checked into the hotel from hell, where your standard accommodation problems like dirty bed linen and poor plumbing are replaced by rooms filled with your deepest fears, a shifting labyrinth of landings and a horned beast thumping along the corridors. Fawlty Towers this ain't...
The Doctor and the Ponds find themselves among a disparate group of reluctant guests, like David Walliams' cowardly Gibbis and stuttering blogger Howie, all being forced to face their own, personal demons, before giving up their faith and their lives to the lord of the labyrinth. The nightmares in the hotel rooms all seem small-scale ( a sad clown, chattering ventriloquist dummies, angry PE teacher ) but they are all geared to pushing the guests over the edge. As the Minotaur claims more and more victims, the Doctor and Amy have to both face their own fears and come to a turning point in their relationship...
While not a classic, this episode is a lot of creepy fun from professional scarer, Toby Whithouse. The seedy, 1980s hotel is a wonderfully garish backdrop to the nightmares ( Weeping Angels, disappointed dads, brutish apes, Cloister Bells... ) and the Minotaur is a triumph of costume design and execution. The ruminations on fear and faith give this story a depth and poignancy when it could have been just a runaround; and there's a standout performance by Amara Karan as another doomed potential companion. David Walliams, however, is mostly wasted as mole-like, cowardly alien comic relief Gibbis and only really shines in one scene when being upbraided by the Doctor. Maybe he should stick to swimming through sewage :-)
The last scenes of the Doctor saying goodbye to Amy and Rory are quite touching... even though we all know they'll be back very soon.
4 Out Of 5 Bow Ties
Finally, I'd just like to say how satisfying it is for old Fourth Doctor fans like myself to hear that this story's excellent monster is related to corny, pantomime villains, the Nimon - who lived in a Power ( not God ) Complex and were endearingly crap, back in the days of wobbly sets and even wobblier special effects.
Soundtrack: Sorrow, Diamond Dogs and Rebel Rebel by David Bowie