I’m at a loss for words frankly. Not because A Good Man Goes To War isn’t masterful, magical storytelling from Steven Moffat – it is all that and so much more, but how to do it justice. The last time I felt like this was after the last episode of Ashes to Ashes aired.
The plot is the easiest bit to deal with. Rory and the Doctor set out to raise an army and free Amy and baby Pond – Melody – from the kidnappers. They do so but walk into a trap and find that Madame Kovarian (for this is the name of Eye-patch lady) has tricked the Doctor again, stolen Melody and left a flesh avatar of the baby in Amy’s arms. How Amy is even able to stand in the last five minutes of this episode I don’t know, as motherhood is emotionally draining even when your baby hasn’t just melted into a pool of white emulsion.
It’s a flimsy little thing that plot (by Moffat standards) even with the zinger of a sting in the tale, but this episode is all about putting flesh on bones. It’s about Rory’s unswerving, 2000-plus year love for Amy. It’s about who the Doctor has become – and as has been touched on many times before – the consequences for his companions of travelling with him. It’s about River – who is she? Well, all those who said she was Amy’s daughter get full marks (me included, hurrah!). Although, presumably she’s also the Doctor’s love interest too.
This is also, let’s not forget a story in which nothing is what it seems. We open with Amy promising her baby that “someone’s coming… trust me, he’s on his way… there’s a man who’s never gonna let us down… he’s the last of his kind. He looks young but he’s lived for hundred and hundreds of years… ” and like you I was suckered by those words and that glimpse of sonic, so that when she continued with “And wherever they take you Melody, however scared you are, I promise you, you will never be alone… Because this man is your father…” I was surprised and delighted.
Even more so, when Rory (in full centurion dress) fully realises his hero potential, demanding the cyber legion tell him where his wife is. I love Rory so much now that I fear he’s not going to survive much longer.
Other things that are not what they seem:
- Sherlock Holmes is a Silurian now? And in a lesbian relationship with her maid. Marvellous.
- The Doctor could be anywhere in time and space. So obviously he’s here. Right now.
- A Sontaran nurse – great pay-off to all those times Rory has told us he’s a nurse this series. Also, loving the bed side manner: “You’re going to be fine. Ane perhaps, one day, we’ll meet on the field of battle and I’ll destroy you for the glory of the Sontaran Empire.”
- Madame Kovarian ‘running away’.
We’re also back to examining clerics (and now monks) as warriors. There’s all sorts of little details in the dialogue in these scenes that could just be throw-away background detail, or seeds of clues for the future: “Do not interact with the Headless Monks without designed permission”; “The Gamma Forests are heaven-neutral”. Moffat only knows.
And let’s not examine too deeply the ‘donation’ that the ‘fat one’ has to make to the Headless Monks. Gruesome detail to make the kids squeal with equal measures of horror and delight, or subtle comment about checking your brain in when you join a religion? Or both perhaps?
Hat Jr missed this episode tonight, but I think she’s going to love the unveiling of the Headless Monks (even before number three has 100 per cent more head than expected). I just love the Doctor when faced with moronic hoohah-chanting, gun-toting soldiers. “Please point a gun at me, if it helps you to relax.”
On the other hand, I’m not quite so keen on the cruel streak that’s revealed when the Doctor’s angry. He does have a gift for making the punishment fit the crime, but it all feels a bit vindictive and that’s not the Doctor I love. Though as he points out to Madame Kovarian, there’s good reasons why he has as many rules as he does.
Then, of course there’s the final moments between the Doctor and River. The harsh home truths and the flirty revelations, the gorgeous giggling from Matt Smith – presumably a) at the realisation he’s snogged Amy’s daughter, 2 (or b) that Amy and Rory are not going to be impressed when they find out about their daughter’s boyfriend, and three (c) that clearly he must be about to go and save her if she’s standing here now.
Stuff you may have missed first time round because your brain was hurting:
- The Doctor taking River to a 19th century frost fair to hear Stevie Wonder play under London Bridge.
- Dorium, the dodgy dealer, pleading not to be recruited into the Doctor’s army: “I’m old, I’m fat. I’m blue, you can’t need me!”
- Commander Strax telling Colonel Manton not to slump, “It’s bad for the spine”.
- The Doctor sniffing Melody and Amy (I guess the Flesh smells human too). Not to mention understanding baby gurgles… “You should call her Mummy, not Big Milk Thing”.
- That whole ‘delicate’ conversation about when the baby began. Especially: “It’s all running about, sexy fish vampires and 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 universe… long story. So technically the first time they were on the TARDIS together in this version of reality was on their … wedding night.”
- The Monks have an attack prayer.
- So we know that River Song is Melody Pond, but we still don’t know who she killed. No matter what atrocities the Doctor could commit to get Melody back (and I don’t think, given River’s speech to him, that’s what is going to happen), I don’t think that would count as ‘killing the best man she’s ever known’. I’m more worried than ever about Rory as far as this goes. Especially after seeing their encounter outside her cell at Storm Cage.
- How does this tie into the girl in the Impossible Astronaut? Because if that was Melody, why didn’t River recognise the spacesuit as one she had climbed out of? And if it was Melody, can she really regenerate?
- How exactly do the bad guys want to use Melody as a weapon?
- Not to mention, who blew up the TARDIS at the end of series 5? And, where we wrong to assume they thought the Doctor would be flying it? Perhaps they knew River would be inside…
Anyway, 1140 words isn’t bad for someone who thought they were at a loss for the blighters at the top of the page! Perhaps it will all seem clearer after some sleep – and if not we’ve got Let’s Kill Hitler to look forward to. I Can Not Wait!
Posted by Jo the Hat