jason stives explores ‘A Good Man Goes To War’ …
“Demons Run … when a good man goes to war …”
Okay, so let us begin to reconvene, you’re probably sitting at home in remission (those of you who scrambled to the internet after it was 7:30 GMT in Great Britain) looking for a downloaded copy of “A Good Man Goes To War,” the mid-series finale of Doctor Who. Once you did watch it, what reaction grew more attention to you, the reveal of River Song, or when the title of Doctor Who’s return episode “Let’s Kill Hitler” crossed the screens? The latter probably just made you smack your forehead as it did me, damning the title as the worst Doctor Who episode title ever. The first bit however, probably left you gob smacked unless you were like me who was part of the 12.4 percent in the world who called it mid episode, only to be mildly surprised in the end.
Now, I by no means disliked the episode, in fact it’s one of the strongest outings of the Steven Moffat-era in recent memory, and a sure-fire thrill ride none the less. I partially blame my dismay over the revelation of River Song on rumor websites that had a particular spoiler that revealed it to me. That being said with all the rich writing in this episode, I failed to think twice about it and still was in awe of the episode’s ending. As you can see, I am beating around the bush on the big reveal because this is a review of the episode not just the cliffhanger and “A Good Man Goes To War” deserves more than enough merit for its spectacular action sequences, wonderful CGI effects, and emotionally charged dialogue.
If this were a wrestling match, “A Good Man Goes To War” would be a spot match, filled with big moments to keep everything flowing, and it wasn’t short on them. The pre-title sequence alone with the Rory threatening the cybermen fleet while light years away Amy coos to her new born daughter, Melody, of not growing up in a safe world but that someone was coming to get them was heart pounding and well performed. This episode in particular for Karen Gillan may be her strongest performance in her two seasons as Amy. For those who believed her to have no emotion in her acting, the scene in which she realizes her child is nothing more than a ganger duplicate is almost unbearable to watch as she reacts in the most horrified manner.
As promised, this was indeed the Doctor’s darkest hour, and Matt Smith made sure to discard the amped emotions of David Tennant’s darkness and made him stone faced, a man to fear out of his potential, even if he is blind to what that may be. His scolding of Colonel Manton as “Colonel Runaway” showed a vindictive nature to a man revered for being a healer and wise man as his title implies.
For a show that still claims to be on a budget, the visual elements of the episode were outstanding in particular the window view of the Cyber fleet in the episode’s opening, absolutely amazing! There is also the obvious nod to Star Wars as the asteroid base known as Demon’s Run was just breathing Death Star like vibes.
As satisfying as the episode lived up to be, not all of the elements worked, and there seemed to be this air of a rushed performance. Many plot points flying at once made the first twenty minutes hard to follow but they did eventually fall into place and wrap up nicely. There was also a problem of adding texture to some of the supporting roles, mainly that of the Headless Monks and the sentimental soldier of Lorna Bucket. For the Monks, it was a matter or presentation as they seemed quite a unique foe, especially since their names have been mentioned before in the previous season. To have them be an enemy left a lot of unanswered questions of why, as if the intent of this army of Madame Kovarians wasn’t ambiguous enough. Bucket seems to have a bit more to her than was let on as her pursuit to see the Doctor one last time seemed a bit strange, especially since it meant joining an army against him. Her death in defense of the Doctor symbolizes the reoccurring theme of people willing to die in his honor, but will this ever be brought up again? Signs point to no making her role all but pointless.
So finally, we come to the big reveal and what a reveal even if you could’ve called it mid episode. At long last we now know River Song is in fact the full grown Melody Pond, Amy and Rory’s new born child. At best it is a shocking moment, and thankfully with the reveal it still leaves a strong air of mystery around River’s relationship with the Doctor. The Timelord’s reaction when it dawns on him that Amy’s child is who he is talking to is magical, with Matt Smith pouring on the giddy glee of hope, even after acknowledging how strange it is knowing that both of them kissed.
But what of that kiss? While this is the moment the Doctor finds out who she is, when does River meet the Doctor for the first time in her timeline? I assume at best, since the next half of this season will be the Doctor and company pursuing the kidnapped child that the first encounter will happen somewhere towards the Series 6 finale. Also for the 900th time it seems this season, we are still left with questions, mainly Madame Kovarian’s use of Melody, and also the knowledge of now there is a Timelord/human hybrid in the universe. Obviously, it is too much to expect these questions answered and what mattered here was the big reveal and wrapping up what has already been an extraordinary season of Doctor Who. “A Good Man Goes To War” may not be best episode of the current series, but it is completely satisfying for any conventional flaws. Looking past those flaws you get one of the most exhilarating hours in science fiction television today that will no doubt leave fans waiting with baited breath for the autumn series.
Rating: 8 out of 10
All Photos Credit: BBC America