A Good Man Goes To War
So. The finale of the first half of this year’s season of Doctor Who. “A Good Man Goes To War”
I’m really not sure where to start. There was so much that was brilliantly good, but some that was quite astonishingly bad. It’s difficult to know what to tackle first.
Maybe I’ll just start with the plot. Amy is still captured with her baby, daughter Melody, and we see Mrs. Eye-Patch taking her away from her. But Mrs. Eye-Patch is nervous because it’s been a whole month and the Doctor hasn’t appeared yet. She has an army ready for him but he doesn’t appear to be doing anything.
He is, though. A whole host of people across the universe owe the Doctor a debt; he’s raising an army of his own. The Doctor’s army overpowers Mrs. Eye-Patch’s army, and Amy is reunited with Melody and Rory. Personally I would have been out of there as soon as Melody was safe, but the Doctor doesn’t want to leave until he knows why Mrs. Eye-Patch wanted her.
He discovers that Melody was conceived inside the TARDIS mid-flight. Time Lords were created by thousands of years of exposure to the time vortex, but being conceived in it has a pretty similar effect and Melody has Time Lord DNA — meaning she can quite possibly regenerate. Then the lights go out, the doors lock, and everyone rushes to protect Melody from whatever baddies are coming.
Mrs. Eye-Patch then appears on a screen to the Doctor and explains she wanted Melody so she could nurture the Time Lord part and make her a weapon against the Doctor. In fact, she still has Melody; the baby that Amy is cuddling suddenly melts and we realise that she was a Flesh copy the whole time. Meanwhile, the baddies are killing most of the Doctor’s army.
It seems all is lost. Everyone, especially the Doctor, is miserable. Then River Song turns up and tells the Doctor that this, all of this, is his fault; he’s becoming a terrifying warrior and people are reacting because they’re scared of him. Then she finally reveals who she really is.
River explains that in the language of the forest people, there is no word for Pond (“the only water in the forest is the river”, if you remember “The Doctor’s Wife”). When Melody Pond is translated into this language, it becomes River Song. River is Amy and Rory’s daughter.
(Did anyone else not really, REALLY see that coming? Judging from Twitter everyone was really surprised, but as soon as Amy mentioned she was pregnant I was joining dots in my head about Amy and River and the little girl in the astronaut suit)
Anyway. That’s what happened. It’s actually quite astounding how a plot with so much potential ended up being so rubbish.
A lot of time is spent building up to the Doctor actually going to war. People are terrified. Sontaran warriors and sword-wielding lizards are being recruited. A whole fleet of Cybermen is blown up. It all seems so tense and exciting — but then nothing happens.
Literally, nothing. It’s a mark of pride for the Doctor that not a drop of blood is spilled and I’m glad about that, I really am — I love having an action hero on TV that actively tries not to kill people — but it’s just dull. Three minutes and the whole flipping “war” is over. That’s it. Done.
And the anger? The legendary anger of the Doctor? The anger I was certain would explode in delicious and terrifying glory all over my screen? There was about twenty seconds of it. Where the Doctor gave the general in charge of the army a stupid nickname. That was it. That was it.
That was the problem with this episode. It’s the only problem, but it’s a pretty huge one. This is supposed to be a series finale. It’s supposed to be spectacular. I want Rose sucking the time vortex into her head. I want the TARDIS appearing at the last second. I want Donna being zapped by an electricity gun, Martha with a gun to her head. I want action. And this episode delivered little of it.
That being said — and it needed to be said — I loved this episode.
What carried this episode is the characters. Oh, the characters. Rory, who I usually love for his kindness and goodness, is kick-arse awesome all the way through. Alex Kingston deserves every accolade we can throw at her for her performance as River here: she is in turn giddy, solemn, fierce, and joyful, all whilst being cooler than a Slush Puppy in space.
I haven’t even started on the supporting characters. Sweet Lorna Bucket, the soldier who joined the army just so she could meet the Doctor again. Mr. Fat-Blue-Man who is pompous, cowardly, shrewd and utterly delectable. The Victorian sword-wielding lizard detective and her girlfriend maid with their slightly risque banter. The Sontaran soldier, forced to be a nurse as punishment, who has genetically spliced himself so he can breastfeed any creature in the Universe. Just wonderful. Joyous, in fact. Every second of this episode is a joy to watch because of the wonderful characters in it.
And I must admit, although the war itself was rubbishy there were a lot of thrilling sequences too. Melody melting away in Amy’s arms as people died for her in the next room. Pretty much any scene with Rory was a delight. Although not exciting, the opening with Amy talking to Melody was utterly beautiful, as Rory being reunited with Amy and Melody. And the reveal of River as Amy’s daughter? Perfect. Utterly perfect.
Like I said, even though I was frustrated with the lack of action I loved this episode. Whilst not as exciting as I would hope for a finale, it was definitely very dramatic. And I suppose that it isn’t an entire series finale, only a mid-series finale. Maybe they’re just waiting to pull out all the stops for next semi-series.
As for next series, we’ve got a whole summer to ponder a whole host of questions. Will there be a baby on the TARDIS? I don’t think so, the Doctor is wary enough about allowing adults on with all the danger in his life. So what does that mean for Amy and Rory? Will they be leaving? Or maybe instead they don’t get Melody back until she’s older — which would make sense if she is the child in the astronaut suit. But then they don’t get to see their daughter grow from a baby to a child, which is really sad.
But is the child in the astronaut suit Melody? River showed no recollection of it when she was scanning the astronaut suit, so unless she’s a really good actress maybe there’s another child...
It’s all very confusing. But very interesting, and I’m looking forward to the next half a series. Overall this half-series has been a good one — not brilliant, but definitely good — and I’ve enough evidence and enough hope to expect the next half-series will be utterly amazing.