Views from the Stalls and Views from the Sofa - My reviews and thoughts on all things theatre and television. Follow me on Twitter @LikeTheMonth_

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Doctor Who - Series 6 Episode 7 - A Good Man Goes to War - Review

What’s the Story?

With Amy and her new-born daughter imprisoned by Madame Kovarian at Demons Run, Rory and The Doctor call upon the help of a few old friends to stage a rescue. It soon appears however, that The Doctor is walking into a trap. After a battle is fought and lives are lost, River reappears and finally reveals her true identity….

What’s the Verdict?

After last weeks stunning cliffhanger, anticipation could not be higher for Doctor Who’s mid-series finale and ‘A Good Man Goes To War’ delivers a rollercoaster of an episode that answers some questions but poses so many more.

The pre-titles sequence really set the scene and Arthur Darvill made a great impression as Rory, dressed as a Roman once more, standing alone before a group of Cybermen delivering a message, angrier than ever before. The absence of the Doctor meant that when he did appear it became more of a spectacle, taking on a room of soldiers armed only with his sonic and his wit.

Smith really seems to thrive on these moments and we were shown many different sides to the Doctor in this episode. He was charming, affectionate and funny at times but overconfident, disconsolate and angry at others. His taunting of and disdain for ‘Colonel Runaway’ was a standout scene of the episode, Smith has always excelled at switching between the humour and tragedy of the Doctor and allowing the anger to overcome him in this way showed just how far he would go to protect his friends.

This certainly felt like a ‘kitchen sink’ episode, with everything thrown in and the action moving at a frenetic pace. There was a lot to love about it; THAT ending (which I’ll come to later!), Amy and Rory’s joy at parenthood, sharp and witty dialogue and a great selection of supporting characters. Some of these were given more opportunities to shine than others; we had Sontaran Commander Strax, crime-fighting lesbian Silurian Madame Vastra (someone give that reptile a spin off!) and Lorna Bucket, who we were made to feel like we knew in a remarkably short space of time, rendering her death all the more poignant.

However, with the relentless pacing of the episode it sometimes felt like there was just too much in there; it would have been nice to explore some of the moments and characters a bit more. We learnt that Amy was taken sometime ‘before America’ and that she remembered the adventures of her Ganger, but it was such a brief scene that could have given more information, although that may of course be still to come. Similarly, we did not get to know much about Frances Barber’s Madame Kovarian, other than that she wanted baby Melody to use as a weapon against the Doctor. I never really felt like the Doctor ‘fell further than ever before’, it’s a nice line but it doesn’t feel accurate given the adventures we have seen in the past.

My favourite episodes are those that tell an intricate story, this is why I loved ‘The Big Bang’ last year, and so from my perspective A Good Man Goes to War felt like a bit too much action and not enough plot. This is a personal preference of course and if the intention was to set up the latter half of the series, then Moffat certainly achieved this. My personal favourite parts of the episode however were the smaller, character moments. Karen Gillan was absolutely fantastic throughout, giving without doubt her best performance in the series to date. You really felt that she had bonded with baby Melody and it was utterly heartbreaking to watch the baby turn to Ganger Flesh in her arms. Amy, Rory and The Doctor standing over Melody was quite enchanting and the Doctors conversation with Melody funny and charming. The dialogue in this episode was fantastic, with some wonderfully poetic character monologues from River, Amy and The Doctor and plenty of sparkling one-liners.

There was always a sense however that everything was just a preamble to what was about to come, that the episode was building to a conclusion that would change everything. Personally I felt the ending to ‘The Almost People’ was more of a cliffhanger, this more of a revelation. We finally found out the identity of River Song; Melody Pond, part time lord, Amy and Rory’s daughter. With the mystery of her true identity spanning three years now, every possible theory has been discussed, so it is unlikely this reveal came as a huge surprise to anyone. Plus of course, she may still go on to marry the Doctor, who knows?! I’m sure there will be some that hated this development, but I think it is interesting and original and I for one am prepared to go with it and see what it leads to. I’ve always really enjoyed watching the relationship between Amy and River, they seemed to like each other instantly and it makes sense that there is a natural connection there. It fits with everything we know about River too and leads me to suspect Moffat has had this twist in mind since The Eleventh Hour (surely not before that? Surely?!).

As a whole, A Good Man Goes To War felt like a good but not great episode, sprinkled with moments of brilliance that really elevated it onto another level. I have no idea whatsoever where it is going to go from here, it seems as if Amy and Rory may be coming to the end of their time in the Tardis, a thought which makes me realise how much I have grown to love this set of companions. Although billed as a finale, we still have six episodes of Series 6 to go and it really feels like the possibilities are endless. First, ’Lets Kills Hitler’ shall we? (Best. Episode. Title. Ever!)

Best Scene

Again, there’s only one real contender here, and after three years of build up, the reveal of River Song’s identity was always going to be something special. The question was, whether it would be a disappointment or a triumph. As a scene, I thought it was executed superbly, keeping you guessing right up to the moment River said the words, ’I’m Melody’. As she and the Doctor gazed at his cot, there were still a few options open and their dialogue was wonderful, drawing out the mystery but confirming the truth all at once. Smith and Kingston have a great chemistry together and the Doctor’s reactions were perfect. Incredulity, happiness and then brief concern, as he looked back at Amy and Rory and realised he’d been kissing their daughter! Amy and Rory’s stunned expressions were the right place to leave it, but with the Doctor’s departing full of joy, rather than despairing for the characters loss, we can go into the break feeling that things will all work out in the end.

As a scene therefore it was perfect, we now know River’s identity and how she knows the Doctor’s name. Revealing River’s identity could have ended her mystery and thus made her redundant as a character, but in fact, it has only created more questions and ensures we keep looking forward to her appearances.

Best Lines

River  :  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’ - River does make wonderfully poetic speeches doesn’t she?

Thin One  -  But what's he like, The Doctor?
Lorna -    He said, "Run"

Thin One  -  Just "Run?"
Lorna  -   He said it a lot.

The Doctor  -  Hello everybody! Guess who?! Please, point a gun at me if it helps you relax.  You're only human. The Doctor: (to Melody) That's okay, she's still all yours. And really, you should call her "Mummy," not "Big Milk Thing."
Amy: Ok, what are you doing?
The Doctor: I speak Baby.
Amy: No, you don't.
The Doctor: I speak everything. Don't I, Melody Pond? (adjusts bow-tie) No it's not, it's cool.

Lorna: Well, how else do you meet a great warrior?
Amy: He's not a warrior.
Lorna: Then why's he called the Doctor?

The Doctor: Well, how would I know? That's all human and private stuff. It just sort of goes on. They don't put up a balloon or anything.
Vastra: Could the child have begun on the TARDIS? In flight, in the Vortex?
The Doctor: No, no, impossible! It's all running about; sexy fish vampires, blowing up stuff, and Rory wasn't even there at the beginning.Then he was dead, then he didn't exist, then he was plastic, then I had to reboot the whole universe. Long story. So, technically, the first time they were on the TARDIS together in this version of reality was on their...
Vastra: On their what?
The Doctor: On… their… wedding nigh

Amy: Rory, no offence to the others, but you let them all die first, ok?
Rory: You're so Scottish.

Strax  -   I have gene-spliced myself for all nursing duties. I can produce magnificent quantities of lactic fluid.
The Doctor: Hello.
: Hello.
The Doctor: But that means!
River: I'm afraid it does.
The Doctor: Oo. But you and I, we've...

River: Yes.
The Doctor: How do I look?
River: Amazing.
The Doctor: I better be.
River: Yes, you'd better be.

River -  
Except they don't have a word for pond. The only water in the forest is the river. The Doctor will find your daughter. And he will care for her, whatever it takes. And I know that. It's me. I'm Melody. I'm your daughter.

Most of the questions we’ve had all series still apply but now we can add lots more…Who kills the Doctor and how does he presumably survive? Who is Madame Kovarian, is she working for someone or alone? How did she know to take Amy’s baby? Will Amy and Rory get Melody back (you know, to maybe take some photographs?!)? If Melody is the girl in the spacesuit does she shoot the Doctor and has she always spent her life away from her parents? If she is the girl in the spacesuit, did River remember as she watched the Doctor be shot? How did Melody/River spend her childhood? How strange must Amy and Rory feel knowing River is their daughter?! There always seems to have been ‘something about Amy’, is there more to her? Are The Silence still around and if so what are they plotting? Will we perhaps meet Lorna Bucket’s younger self, given that River must have spent time in the Gamma Forests in order to take the name River Song? Ultimately, just how much more tragic and heartbreaking does River’s death seem knowing what we know now?
I can’t wait to see just how many of these questions are answered in the second part of the series…
Rory  -  'Would you like me to repeat the question?

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