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Review: Doctor Who - 6x7 - A Good Man Goes To War

Posted on June 6, 2011 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

A Good Man Goes To War

In the UK: Saturday 4th June, 6.45pm, BBC1/BBC1 HD. Available on the iPlayer
In the US: Saturday 11th June, 9pm/8c, BBC America

Well, we're here already - the previously almost unheard of on these shores "mid-season finale". Finally, we're going to get some answers about River Song, understand what's been happening all this season with Amy, learn who eye-patch woman is, see Rory grow a vestigial scrotal sack for almost a minute and finally discover what happens at the fabled "Demon's Run".

Except for viewers in America, who have their own programming. Tee hee.

Plot
The Doctor assembles an army to face the Battle of Demons Run - and River Song has something to tell him.

Was it any good?
Well, after droning on about how rubbish and uninspiring each episode has been for nearly a season, I have to say I almost unreservedly loved it. This was almost a perfect amalgam of Russell T Davies and Steven Moffat: fun, dynamic colourful supporting characters, emotion and a proper dealing with the main characters' emotions, coupled with clever plots and ideas, all wrapped up in a veil of darkness and horror.

So we have the Doctor raising an army of people he's previously helped, including a lesbian Silurian who's been off solving crimes in Victorian London, a Sontaran nurse, Hugh Bonneville from that rubbish pirate story, the Spitfires from the very rubbish Victory of the Daleks, and the big blue bloke from The Pandorica Opens. But not River Song.

Rory expends his entire testosterone level for a year on intimidating some Cybermen flying Invasion-era spaceships into telling him where Amy and his baby are and the Doctor takes his army to Demons Run, which is populated by creepy headless monks and an anti-Doctor army of clerics (as seen last in The Time of Angels) that contain two gay clerics and a Doctor Who fangirl. The Doctor fools them nicely, except it turns out all to have been a trap (à la The Pandorica Opens) and the Doctor's left holding the Flesh baby, not the real thing.

Then River Song turns up and reveals that the magic baby of Amy and Rory that's filled with weird Time Lord time-wimeyness, thanks to having been conceived in the TARDIS, is in fact her - she is the mistranslated Pond, Melody.

And then the Doctor buggers off for no really good reason. Huh. Okay.

What was there to love
So in the plus column, there's an awful lot. Suddenly, we're getting a combination of excitement and originality that we haven't been getting all season. We're starting to care about Amy and the Doctor again. Rory, for just a glimmering moment, seemed less half-man, half-advertisement for a nice, warm pair of slippers and more like an actual person, before returning to being a handy plot necessity. I loved the lesbian Silurian (a spin-off series, "Tipping the Scales", is already being requested, I understand) and the Sontaran nurse was brilliant. Not exactly sure where Bonneville and boy went to after their 10 seconds in a lift appearance, but they were actually welcome returns. The actual menace from the idea of the anti-Doctor army, as well as the scary Headless Monks, was very well handled, and I'm looking forward to seeing what happens when they return as a result. And I liked the fact that the TARDIS's translation circuits do actually translate and make best guesses and that they can't be bothered with Gallifreyan.

We don't really understand yet what's happening with eye-patch woman and the anti-Doctor army - or even what the trap really was, beyond a possible attack by Headless Monks - but at least some of the answers seem to have been in the first two episodes this season - no returning Silence yet or explanation for the exploding TARDIS, but Stevie still has a little time.

And then there's River Song. Now, there's still a lot to be sorted out here. So at last we know she's actually Amy and Rory's kiddie, infused with Time Lord timey-wimeyness and possibly able to regenerate - and have neatly side-stepped the whole issue of whether she ends up being the Doctor's wife.

But how much you could have guessed that coming is a tricky one because you're never sure when Stevie's going to double-bluff you and leave you holding the Flesh baby, so to speak. Some people reasoned she was either Amy or Amy's daughter the first time Amy's surname was mentioned. Others guessed as much as soon as Amy became pregnant.

And still others guessed just as soon as they realised that Stevie was doing The Time Traveler's Wife and to do The Time Traveler's Wife, you obviously have to have a bit where the Doctor encounters his wife-to-be as a young girl so he can groom her. Ugh.

All the same, no matter when you guessed, EVERY OVER SINGLE PERSON IN THE ENTIRE WORLD guessed as soon as the baby's name turned out to be Melody. There were people watching who couldn't speak a word of English who guessed at that point. In fact, everyone probably assumed it had to be a bluff it was so obvious. Problematically, for example, why didn't River go all squidgy with her Daddy the first time she saw him in The Pandorica Opens or even at the start of this series, rather than now? But that was a Stevie double-bluff. He's so cunning.

Is this a satisfying revelation? I think so. It makes River special; it gives her an essential humanity while giving her enough Time Lordy-ness that all but the most Loom-obsessed, anti-sex Who-er could find her an acceptable partner for a Time Lord. We still have the little issue of whether the Doctor really is grooming River - there's liable to be a little memory work needed for everything to fit together, because if that's young River Song in the spacesuit in The Impossible Astronaut, that's something she should have known was coming as her older self and could have prevented. In that case, River could still end up meeting the Doctor for seemingly her first time later on.

But we're going to have to watch Stevie like a hawk or else eww.

Possibly my one complaint with A Good Man Goes To War is as with all British action TV, playing the "this was too easy" card isn't a good plan and merely highlights the fact whenever British TV tries to create a "hard" military engagement, it still looks like a game of pat-a-cake and wooden guns. Next time we have Amy playing at pirates and we're supposed to believe she wouldn't get eviscerated in three seconds, we'll all be going "that was too easy".

But, yes, in short, loved it, particularly River's analysis of the Doctor and how he's becoming this warrior, even though he never wanted to be. And Let's Kill Hitler? I actually can't wait until the next episode - Are they just going to leave Amy's baby with the baddies, knowing that they'll see her again, all grown up in 1963? Where has the Doctor gone? And what next for River and the Doc? - which is exactly how a mid-season finale should leave you feeling.

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