This was much more to my liking than the previous episode. The Doctor and Ponds arrive, unexpectedly, in a rather bland hotel with irritating lobby music and three terrified, paranoid people (a conspiracy theorist geek, a mostly normal Muslim nurse and a habitually surrendering alien played very well by David Walliams).
It soon transpires that the hotel is filled with rooms, and in each room is a bad dream. After someone finds their specific worst nightmare they end up praising a minotaur, which then feeds (metaphorically) upon them, leaving the body intact but killing the worshipper.
The Doctor manages to chat, briefly, with the minotaur, and discovers that the beast is running on instinct, feeding when it can but not desiring life any more.
The Doctor initially advises everyone to focus upon their faith, but shortly thereafter realises that that’s the problem. Most of the people captured (Rory being an exception) have strong faith systems, whether luck* (one of the early victims was a gambler), religion or, in Amy’s case, in the Doctor.
Amy starts to praise the minotaur, and they manage to manhandle her into a room, which happens to be her own (with a young Amy Pond). The Doctor tells her that he didn’t want her, he just wanted someone to admire him because he was vain, and destroys her faith in him. The minotaur collapses due to lack of food and slowly dies, as the hotel around it is revealed to be a kind of holo-deck in a floating prison.
The minotaur tells the Doctor of an ancient creature travelling the universe in a shifting maze prison, desiring nothing but an end and suggesting that it speaks not only of itself, but of the Doctor too. At the end of the episode the Doctor drops off the Ponds at a nice little house with Rory’s favourite car, and leaves them because, as he tells Amy, “You’re still… breathing”.
There’s a lot to like in this episode. The concept was simple but quite cool, and it was moderately disturbing to see the sensible, intelligent nurse descend into a mindless, rapture-ridden worshipper, eager for her own death. Serious questions were raised about faith and the Doctor, and I rather liked it.
But, there are some flaws as well.
*Firstly, I’d disagree that gamblers believe in luck. I’d say they believe in analysis, knowledge, and weighing up of probabilities.
Secondly, it was suggested that the minotaur was imprisoned and ejected from its original home because the people became more secular and scientific, but a liberal religious perspective is entirely compatible with a scientific way of thinking.
However, those didn’t materially affect anything and I did enjoy the episode. It’s the best one since the mid-season break, I think.