Doctor Who, A Good Man Goes to War

Sweet zombie kittens that was awesome! The little I saw on Twitter before I wisely closed my feed for the duration suggests that the Internet may not agree, but I don’t care. I thought that was phenomenal. Somehow it managed to do the sort of motherload pay-off that RTD Who always went for and missed in the season finale. I’m stunned.

It’s a puzzle how to review this, because I’d like to avoid giving the Great Big Honking Spoilers away. Obviously the episode concerns the Doctor’s rescue mission for Amy. He basically calls in all his favours and goes to war. It all goes remarkably smoothly, and just as you’re starting to think ‘Good lord, this episode has no dramatic tension, it’s just about how awesome the Doctor is’… the game changes. And I won’t say any more about exactly how, except to say that there’s lots of fighting and it’s pretty cool, as well as sad and poignant at times. Also, at the end, we find out who River Song really is, but don’t worry, I shan’t say.

Madame Vastra and Jenny

Madame Vastra and Jenny kick butt

Despite the potential for cheese, I really enjoyed the way the Doctor’s ‘favours’ are called in. Some of the friends he calls on we recognise, some are brand new, but of races we recognise. I was particularly pleased by the Victorian silurian lady, Madame Vastra (Neve McIntosh), and her human maid (or possibly lover?), Jenny (Catrin Stewart); and the sontaran who had spliced his DNA so that he could serve as a nurse (as punishment). Both concepts could have gone horribly wrong, and the sontaran walked a very close line, but they came out on just the right side. Additionally, we saw glimpses of some awesome war scenes had on a planet where men in gorgeous period-wear shoot laser pistols. I suspect much of the budget of this half of the series went on this episode, but it was worth it.


Rory. Nuff said.

Rory was also impressively awesome. I have this feeling there was meant to be more Rory this season, and it somehow got cut out. I very much appreciated Rory wandering around in a roman uniform calling himself the Centurion, but there was no build up. We’ve had the odd reference, but I have seen others speculate that there were originally more conversations between Rory and the flesh Jennifer in which he talked about his time as a Nestine more, and that it ended up on the cutting room floor. If so, that is a shame, it would have helped pave the way for this.

I also like seeing the bad side of the Doctor. I’m always puzzled when there’s an outcry that the Doctor did something not 100% OK. The Doctor has always been morally ambiguous. At first he was simply selfish and insensitive (recall how he ended up meeting the daleks in the first place, tricking his companions into thinking the TARDIS was broken just so that he could satisfy his curiosity?), but he’s made a number of morally dubious decisions in every carnation. If anything, he’s grown: his selfishness has expanded to encompass those that he cares about, and in general he tries to help those he encounters, and to impose rules for acting when things are not so straight forward. He definitely doesn’t like guns, but he has used them in the past*. He’s committed and contemplated genocide a number of times. This is not a New Who phenomenon. All that seems new, to me, is that he is more openly concerned by the consequences of his actions. This episode was a great exploration of these complexities in his character and I loved it.

I also loved the speechifying and the poetry: not a thing you will hear me say often. This virtually never works, in Doctor Who or otherwise, but they pulled it off and deserve the credit for it.

It’s not all perfect. Whilst I enjoyed the implied relationship between the silurian lady and her ‘maid’, the relationship between the two men identified by their weight, homosexual relationship, and religion, instead of by their names, sat ill with me. It felt like it was meant to be comment on how gay relationships or religious affiliations are usually token… but it actually just felt token, and uncomfortably so. Similarly, Amy is simply the princess to be rescued, not doing anything that moves the action along at all, either when she’s waiting for her ‘boys’ to save her, or afterwards. Apparently giving birth makes you go uncharacteristically passive?

On the other hand, there was no shortage of other women kicking ass in this episode. I’ve mentioned already how much I liked Vastra and Jenny – they were awesome throughout, but especially in the fight scenes. As were the other female soldiers, not to mention Madame Kovarian (Frances Barber) and River Song. I guess it’s swings and roundabouts, it’s just a shame that the lead female had all her umph taken out of her just ’cause she had a baby. I’d have imagined Amy as a fearsome momma-bear sort, rather than a ‘hide-in-the-corner-and-let-Rory-take-care-of-it’ lady. But ho hum, you can’t have everything.

All in all, there was very much to enjoy, and only a few reservations. I thoroughly recommend it!

* For true, that man knows his way around a gun:

In case this YouTube video is juddery (as they sometimes seem to be when I embed them) please go here to enjoy it in all its glory.

10 thoughts on “Doctor Who, A Good Man Goes to War

  1. In defence of Amy, she’s just woken up a few days ago to discover that she’s spent the last nine months as a ganger and that she really is pregnant and about to give birth – I think that’s enough to send anyone into shock!

    Overall I think there were some good bits, but it was too rushed. To me it would have made more sense to make the Flesh story a single episode and this one a two-parter.

    • Oh, I agree! It’s plausible that she would be in shock, but it didn’t seem to me that that was how she was playing it. Not sure if that’s acting or scripting or both. Possibly it’s just part of me general feeling that I find KG’s acting more convincing when she’s wise-cracking and kicking butt.

      It did feel oddly rushed in places. Part of me feels that I would like to have seen a full episode of the Doctor pulling in ‘favours’… but then, there was little to no dramatic tension in that part, so I don’t know it would make a full episode. On the other hand, if Rory was having some struggling in his quest to find her, that would have worked. Whilst the first part of the flesh episodes didn’t grab me, I’m not sure it would have worked as a one-parter – too much going on. I’d rather two two-parters… but then, I often long for proper old-style story arcs…

  2. Yes, having a baby really does do a number on your body & emotions, so that wasn’t all that shocking to me; plus, I think the unreality of Amy’s situation (gangers, captivity, baby separation, etc.) also complicated matters. But you have to love that she armed herself with a toothbrush! And I did like seeing Rory be heroic. I don’t think he gets to be awesome often enough.

    (spoilery bit follows)

    I was a bit confused by the Centurion thing myself. And hey, were those Cybermen not Cybus Cybermen? That’s a good thing, in my opinion!

    I am brewing up a fantastically complex theory about the life of River Song, which I have no doubt Moffo will destroy posthaste. Will have to while away the summer by catching up on Classic Who.

    • I can well believe that pregnancy messes with your emotions… it just didn’t feel to me as though that was how her reactions were being presented. I would have been fine with it if there had been more of an indication along those lines.

      I wasn’t confused by the Centurian thing, but I would have liked to see a lot more of it. It felt like they made a throw away line and excuse to get Rory in his Roman gear out of something that could have been awesome.

      (I must confess I am not up on my cybermen law – cybus cybermen?)

      Ooo – do tell your theory! I have been wondering if she was really Susan’s grandmother, but that’s about it…

      • (Pretty much all spoiler, sorry folks)

        The original Classic Who Cybermen started out as a planet of perfectly normal humans who gradually replaced more & more of their bodies to live longer, then found themselves to be no longer human at all…which, to me, is much more terrifying as an origin story than that of the New Who Cybermen (made by Cybus Industries on the parallel Earth of “The Age of Steel.”) So I’ve been hoping they’d bring back the Mondas (original) Cybermen somehow.

        As for River, I’ve been wondering how many regenerations she might have gone through in her periodic travels with the Doctor, and whether she’s been spending all of her lifetimes in Stormcage since shooting him as a child…if that’s even her in the spacesuit. (How long is a life sentence for someone who can regenerate?) That might be what allows her time to build her career & fame as a time-traveling archaeologist during her breakouts.

        Was River’s shooting him the first time she ever saw him? Probably wrongly, I postulate that River’s and the Doctor’s timelines are going in exactly opposite directions: that every time we see River on the show, she is younger while the Doctor is older. I am also assuming that Amy & Rory don’t get to raise her and possibly will die in some spectacular fashion in the last part of the series.

        Why did the Doctor leave Amy and Rory behind if he is presumably going to search for their child? How does River come to be imprisoned in the spacesuit? So many questions!

        At least we know (I think) that River’s eventual death in “Forest of the Dead” will give her everything she couldn’t have in life or in her marriage (?) to the Doctor: a family, friends, children to raise. Freedom at last?

        …Or I could possibly be way overthinking this. Mostly I’m still hoping that the Ganger Doctor is the one that gets it.

        • I had also wondered if it’s the Doctor’s death that she gets imprisoned for. However, in some ways it would be more awesome if it were the Ganger and they made him into a real character in his own right, first. She mentioned she had another birthday when there were two of him…

          Don’t think Rory and Amy will die, though. They’re too popular and inoffensive as companions. The husband and wife team works well.

          I’m kind of horrified by River’s end in the library, though. It’s a pretty grim ending anyway, but for someone who could regenerate… I wonder if that’s a power that runs out after a while. We know that she’s not *really* a Time Lord. Yet I also wonder if she’s Susan’s grandmother, and that’s why Susan never really seemed to be a Time Lord herself, even though she self-identified as such.

          • Supposedly, regeneration doesn’t always work if death is catastrophic enough and/or the body is destroyed thoroughly, which is why the Doctor fails to regenerate after being shot.

            Yay Susan! That would be brilliant. I’ve been wanting some mention of Susan, although I suppose she must have been dragged into the Time War like all the other Time Lords.

            • Oh, yes – I know that. I just think it would be a pretty horrible fate for someone who was used to physical near immortality.

              I also long to hear mention of Susan. Last I heard she was left behind by the Doctor on Earth. I’ve always wondered what happened to her in the Time War.

  3. I found Amy really annoying in this episode, but then I find that I like her less and less recently. I’m not sure if it’s the writing (which is otherwise absolutely bang on) or the two acting faces of Gillan- pouty annoyed or pouty confused. It’s a shame really because I really liked her at the beginning of Eleven’s run, and I do love a pair of married companions on the Tardis.

    Otherwise though, I thought the episode was brilliant fun and a fine way to leave us all wanting more for the rest of the summer.

    • I know what you mean. I LOVE haveing a married couple on the TARDIS – thy feel like 21st Century Chestertons – but although Rory’s character is consistently wonderful, Amy’s is more uneasy. I don’t know if it’s just that she’s more of a lead and therefore there’s more pressure on her or what. I adored Amy-the-child and found that Karen Gillan brought much to the role as an adult, but overall I’ve found she doesn’t do as well at the more emtional moments.

      I don’t know. Often I feel like where it falls down is when she’s asked to be the eomtional ‘heart’ or the tale – such as when she is the voice of grief in the opening two-parter for the season. To me it doesn’t seem to sit well either with the character or the actor. On rewatching, Amy’s grief on being separated from her child seems well-performed. Otherwise the character isn’t given to dramatic expulsions of emotion. I wonder if part of the problem stem from writing that deviated from the natural emotional strength and distance of the character.

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