Doctor Who: Season 6: Episode 7: A Good Man Goes to War
Let’s get this out of the way first, the reveal had become staggeringly obvious and was in no way the game-changer we’d been led to believe. River is Amy and Rory’s daughter… And? How does that change the history of The Doctor? How does that change how we see The Doctor? How does this change the game? It’s a plot twist for the series, and for Moffat’s time on the series, and for the companions. But this reveal wasn’t the jaw-dropping, OMG! moment we’d been promised. It is interesting, especially as he’s potentially redefined Amy’s relationship with The Doctor, and if River was intended to be a weapon to destroy The Doc’ then he’s given a new twist on the events of the last series. One of the most interesting questions raised is why would someone feel the need to stop the world on Amy’s wedding day if she was going to bring forth the weapon that would bring down The Doctor? Why does that day, the day River was conceived, suddenly become that important? But it’s not like he’s just revealed the key to getting past the regeneration limit, made the Daleks scary again or wiped Love and Monsters from everyone’s memory. The reveal was entertaining, well-played and fun and could have some interesting twists with regards the current arc. Nothing more. But the fact that it didn’t change the Who-niverse forever is a fault of marketing hype, not the show itself. The episode also didn’t have the promised feel of The Doctor climbing higher and falling so much further. Yes, it was a high, but The Doc’ has done better in his time, and as for the fall. Well it wasn’t really that much, was it? We find out he comes to be feared as this great warrior, but we didn’t see that on screen, we were just told about it. The Doctor going dark was handled better by RTD with The Timelord Victorious. Again, not a fault of what happens in the episode, more a fault of the insane levels of hype this episode had been given. Any other complaints? When we meet the army that’s been assembled to fight the Doctor, well, they’re a bit of a disappointment. They’re an uninspiring bunch, led by the blustering Colonel Manton. He exists mainly for the Doctor to show just how cruel he can be when he’s angry. It’s a weak performance and a stereotypical character. Yes, it fits in perfectly with the theme of the show, but I just wish they’d done a little more with the character before he’s turned into Colonel Run-Away.
Those complaints aside, the show was pretty bloody excellent. Let’s start with that opening scene, a nice way to wrong-foot the viewers into thinking The Doctor was the father of little Melody Pond. I’ve seen some complaints it didn’t make sense. Of course it made sense. It’s already been established that Rory became a legend as The Lone Centurion, Amy is just telling her daughter about how wonderful her daddy is, of course she’s going to mention The Lone Centurion stuff. It helps the scene no end that it led in to Rory’s interrogation of the Cybermen, which of course is possibly the coolest scene in all of New Who. It was about time we saw just how much of a hero Rory can really be. Not just waiting for his wife for all those years, but standing up to all those Cybermen, was one of the most badass moments Rory fans could have hoped for. The story told to Melody shows Amy’s faith in Rory, the scenes of Rory the Roman with the Cybermen shows how justified that faith was.
The storyline, well there wasn’t that much of one, really. The Doctor calls in debts from all over the galaxy and they travel to the asteroid Demons Run to do battle with the army that have kidnapped Amy and Melody. The battle is over quicker than anyone (other than The Doctor) expected, but then there are the casualties and the repercussions to deal with. The episode was more about the effect that The Doctor has on the universe. And it’s nice to see this, but I can understand why many would feel it was anti-climactic, both because it feels different to the hype and because we have seen this more than once during Tennant’s time in the Tardis. Again, more a fault of the advertising than the episode.
It’s inevitable (and, I think, intentional) that comparisons will be made to Star Wars. From the Sith-like Headless Monks, to much of the filming style and a certain familial reveal (and how much of an opportunity did they miss by not having River say “Rory, you are my father.”?) it seemed to scream Lucas, but in the best possible way. It captured the sense of fun that vanished from that series during The Phantom Menace. The characters introduced to aid the Doctor are some of the most interesting we’ve seen since Moffat took over. The Silurian/human lesbian couple were a great double-act and hopefully we’ll see them again. I always said that Dr. Who has needed some filthy cunnilingus jokes. The Sontaran was also good value and had probably the funniest lines of the episode. Only the pirates were underused, but you have to wonder if some of their scenes ended up on the cutting room floor.
There were some fantastic character moments, such a grief-stricken Amy pulling away from The Doctor. The whole show was Gillan’s best work to date. There was also some fine geeky moments, like the origins of the word doctor, and how that could be perverted. There’s also a lot of good comedy to undercut the darkness, from The Doctor revealing he can speak baby to basically every word out of the Sontaran’s mouth, it was a very funny episode. And I don’t see why it can’t just be accepted for what it was – an incredibly entertaining, flat-out fun adventure. It wasn’t really that deep and it certainly wasn’t a game-changer, but it was one of the best episodes since Moffat took over, with all the main cast on top form and the promise of an absolutely bonkers episode for the return in the winter.