Doctor Who Series 6 Episode 7 review: A Good Man Goes To War

Posted: 20 June 2011 in television
Tags: , , , , ,

Demons run when a good man goes to war.

Doctor Who: A Good Man Goes to War

On paper  the mid-season cliffhanging “A Good Man Goes To War” had all the hallmarks of a RTD season finale – game-changing events, multiple monsters, continuity references galore. In three of his four season finales RTD used the Daleks so full marks to Steven Moffat for avoiding that temptation and inverting expectations by making the “monsters” the goodies and the vast majority of the humans the baddies.

That’s not to say that the Daleks might not ultimately be revealed as the masterminds behind the scheme involving Melody Pond – despite comments from the production team that the pepper pot terrors will not be appearing this series it seems almost insulting not to make them the architects of this plan against the Doctor given its breadth and audacity across time and space. And, let’s face it, as villains go Madame Kovarian and her army of the church are adequate antagonists but not the stuff of nightmares (though no one sane would want her as a relative, midwife, or nanny).

If the Daleks are not behind this then the obvious candidate is The Silence and its minions The Silent. Steven Moffat has stated in interviews that The Silent are merely the foot soldiers of something far more vast and dangerous. What is The Silence and why did it destroy the TARDIS in series 5? Many of the threads for series 6 were laid in series 5 and are now coming home to roost. The biggest story thread to have come home is the mystery surrounding the identity of River Song. Though in true Moffat fashion not all the questions have been answered despite revelations to make the audience scream out “What? What??? WHAT???!!!”

Amy, Rory and Melody Pond

The moment the name of Amy and Rory’s baby was revealed as Melody the penny should have dropped, but as it came in the midst of so many other occurrences it passed through the mind quickly. Instead it was left to a beautiful reveal where the Gamma forest language on the prayer mat made for Melody was translated by the effect of the TARDIS. As “the only water in the forest is the river” the word “Pond” became “River” and “Melody” the closest equivalent of “Song”. Melody Pond is River Song! Ok, strictly speaking Song River but that’s not as cool. Matt Smith and Alex Kingston played the scene where the Doctor realises the identity of River Song beautifully. Within the space of seconds the Doctor goes from fury, to realisation, to embarrassment, to schoolboy giggling about what lies ahead for him. And he’s quite clearly lying about the cot being his – his offspring have been aboard the timeship in centuries past.

Smith and Kingston are an electric combination and despite their age difference make the relationship between the characters utterly believable in every scene they share. Despite himself the Doctor knows that this woman is going to be a hugely important part of his lives, and River is utterly devoted to this mad man with a box. They are the perfect married couple. Despite all the anger and mistrust there is a fundamental connection between them that can never be destroyed no matter what the other does.

The most refreshing part of the Doctor/River relationship is the lack of jealously emanating from Amy. In previous series since “Doctor Who” returned there would most likely have been resentment from Amy about the attention that the Time Lord was paying this other woman, but not so with Moffat in charge. Amy has the love of her life in the shape of Rory and now has a daughter to protect – she doesn’t need to mope after a 907 year old alien. Though she may be having words about the fact the Doctor is going to be her son-in-law one day…

Despite all his best intentions and plans to seize the Demons Run base without bloodshed it’s the Doctor’s own arrogance and overconfidence that causes his downfall is this instance.

Demons run when a good man goes to war
Night will fall and drown the sun
When a good man goes to war

Friendship dies and true love lies
Night will fall and the dark will rise
When a good man goes to war

Demons run, but count the cost
The battle’s won, but the child is lost

Madame Kovarian turns the fury of the Time Lord back upon him and this results in the heartbreaking scene where the baby in Amy’s arms dissolves into Flesh. That poor girl is going to need serious therapy when she returns to Earth. First she spends 9 months thinking she’s aboard the TARDIS and now her baby has been taken away from her. Is series 6 going to conclude with the departure of the Ponds from the TARDIS? Having a married couple living on the timeship is one thing, but an entire family…

A problem with the 21st Century version of “Doctor Who” is the way in which the Doctor is becoming an integral part of the mythology of the universe. The word “Doctor” has been adopted by many cultures to mean “healer” and “wise man” and his exploits have become legend – this is all a far cry from the Hartnell/Troughton eras where the Doctor was a totally unknown factor and could come and go like a summer breeze (as the 5th Doctor puts it in “Frontios”). By all means make the Doctor capable of fury and anger beneath his clown-like exterior (which should shock and terrify his friends when it occurs) but I’m not so sure about making that the stuff of legend throughout time and space. I prefer the original concept of the Doctor as an eccentric Victorian-style scientist exploring time and space in his magical box to the more elemental force of the universe that he has become of late.

In this instance the Time Lord’s cleverness in assembling an army of allies to take the base was anticipated and used against him, resulting in a massacre by the Headless Monks (the sight of the tied-off stumps of neck when the hoods were lowered was bound to garner complaints but what’s a little horror at a Saturday tea time). The production team had clearly been raiding the costume department for available aliens/monsters. Great to see the Cybermen back – thankfully minus the Cybus symbol and therefore the cyborgs of this universe – and in vast numbers. It’s about time they made a proper return to the series (something like Big Finish’s “Sword of Orion”, “Kingdom of Silver” and “Cybermen” mini-series would be a good template to work to for future tales with their mixture of intrigue, politics and tombworlds).

Madame Vastra and Jenny

The further adventures of the 19th Century crime fighting Silurian Madame Vastra and her human companion Jenny are crying out to be made. The lesbian connection between the two is so obvious it can’t be classed as an undertone in any shape or form. Period crime fighting with sci-fi elements and hot lesbianism between Homo reptilia and Homo sapiens, now how could this possibly fail? Plus, Captain Jack Harkness was around in that period so you could always throw him into the mix.

In the back of my mind I have the outline of the full adventure of the back story that Vastra relates about being found by the Doctor in the London Underground. It’d be the 6th Doctor that finds her as I love the idea of his multi-coloured coat against the green of the Silurian and piercing through the gloom of the London fog…

“Let’s Kill Hitler” is an intriguing title for the next story when the series returns in September. It may not be as literal as it seems. Is the Doctor going to get involved in a plot to kill Adolf Hitler or is there a more oblique reference to be teased out? One of the classic dilemmas associated with time travel relates to knowing how events unfold and being powerless to prevent them. For instance, if you were able to travel back in time and met Hitler as a child would you have the ethical right to kill him in order to prevent the rise of Nazi Germany and all the evil associated with it? At that point in time Hitler would be an innocent child, and even if you killed him would that stop Nazi Germany from being or would someone and something far worse come along? It may be that “Let’s Kill Hitler” refers to the scheme to use Melody Pond as a weapon against the Doctor and his dilemma about what to do. Although the child could potentially destroy him what right would the Doctor have to curtail her life?

September 2011 and the remaining 6 episodes of series 6 seem an awful long way away…

  1. isabellerogers says:

    Wait, in your last paragraph are you suggesting that the Doctor, when deciding what to do, just thinks “Oh, to hell with it, let’s go kill Hitler!” Because … what the hey, that’s not a bad plotline! After all, the Doc’s always been one for the running.

    I agree with most of the review, and Vastra and Jenny could totally be a Big Finish spinoff, methinks.

    Lastly, I love the crib. He’s lying, and that was so Susan’s crib. Or Susan’s mom’s crib. Probably both. Two generations, both (likely) born on the TARDIS… all I can say is that that would make a great sitcom.

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