Doctor Who (6.7): More twists than a twisty-turny thing

Put a finger on your lips and breathe one word: “Spoilers”.

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.

Outstanding business:

  • 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

10 Comments

Filed under Dr Who

10 responses to “Doctor Who (6.7): More twists than a twisty-turny thing

  1. Tim

    “Where. Is. My. Wife?”

    And “Would you like me to repeat the question?” Yay Rory! 🙂

    1,140 words was a lot more concise than I managed! (Although, to be fair, I did try to review the entire half-season in one go, in a review-that’s-bigger-on-the-inside sort of way.)

    I’ve watched the episode twice now and I’m still giggling with every new revelation I’d missed on first viewing. I wonder whether “killing the best man I’ve ever known” was a reference to killing the Doctor by the lake, which we know was done by the impossible astronaut girl, which we now know was in fact River/Melody. (That’s right, isn’t it? I’m so confused …)

    Do we really have to wait three months for Let’s Kill Hitler? (Seriously, where does he dream up these episode titles?!?)

    http://slouchingtowardsthatcham.com/2011/06/05/doctor-who-mid-season-6-review/

    • My first thought on seeing Let’s Kill Hitler was that Stephen Moffat has been reading Making History by Stephen Fry – in which it turns out that preventing the birth of Hitler leads to a much worse outcome to the Second World War. Surely WWII is a fixed point in time, or the Doctor would have intervened before now? Gah – my head’s hurting already and that’s based on nothing more than the title. *shakes fist at Stephen Moffat for hundredth time*
      Supposed to be gardening, but just going to take a quick peek at your thoughts. The plants aren’t going to die in the next fifteen minutes are they?
      Also, Melody was specifically being turned into a weapon – this can’t be unrelated to her killing “the best man she’s ever known”. It would be good, if it was the Doctor at the lakeside (as clearly Mr M has a plan to get out of that corner – perhaps via the Gangers, but that may be too obvious), but I’m still very worried about lovely Rory. There’s nothing been said that she wanted to kill this man, it may have been beyond her control…

      • Tim

        Oh no, not more wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey. I’m not sure how fixed WWII is – certainly we saw in Victory of the Daleks that certain elements of that timeline can be interfered with by the Doctor.

        I’m with you. I fear for Rory. He has now been firmly built up as a hero, and with Amy’s story surely nearing an end, what more fitting way for him to go out than valiantly defending his friends one final time?

  2. Robert

    I almost posted last week to say two things. First, thank you for the blogs as you often highlight lines I’ve missed when I watch it first time through. Second, I was going to say that I think that this has been the most consistent series since the revival, building on last year’s series. One of the problems I’ve had with ‘nu Who’ is the single episode stories with their rapid set up and resolution. I’ve felt this season has resolved this problem by having the one over-arching atmosphere (I think it is a bit more than a story) where the everyday adventures sit against the wider backdrop.

    So general thumbs up, however, I thought last night’s episode was weak. I think one thing we have learnt from Doctor Who is that the less is often more and whenever a big set piece battle is in the offing it is usually the time to head behind the sofa. Given the mighty warriors lined up on both sides the resolution seemed a bit too easy. One speech from the Doctor and everyone buggers off, if only we could send him to Libya.

    I’m guessing this will work better in the series as a whole, but as a stand alone I was distinctly underwhelmed. However we cackled with delight when we saw the Hitler episode title, so we will be back in front of the telly whenever it returns. I don’t really know what is going to happen, and my head hurt a bit when I tried to work it out, but I’m sure it will be fun.

    One final thought, when River Song slayed a lot of baddies in the second episode of the season and said: “Did the old man see that?” Or something like that. Was she talking about Rory?

    • A cynical person might suggest that defeating the base without spilling a drop of blood in battle saves on budget… On a more positive note it put more focus on the smaller, deadlier battle between the Doctor’s friends and the Monks, which I did think made a nice change from a sky full of exploding Dalek saucers.
      This isn’t the first time the Doctor’s appeared to have conquered all with one speech (see The Pandorica Opens) only to have misjudged his enemies. I suspect Stephen Moffat is nudging us towards accepting a new kind of Doctor, given River’s big speech last night. I do hope he doesn’t have to regenerate any time soon to do that though. Adore Matt Smith’s Eleven.
      As to River slaying the Silence, I think what she said was “My old fella didn’t see that did he? It makes him really cross.” I too was pondering that last night, do people call their dad ‘old fella’ or is it just husbands? I still think River is both a daughter and a lover (like people in the real world are!).
      Lastly, but not leastly, thank you for your kind words – always appreciated!

  3. Paul

    “Do not interact with the Headless Monks without designed permission”

    Sorry to be picky – but I heard that as “Do not interact with the Monks without DIVINE permission”. Then there was the stuff just before the Doctor appeared about how they had got permission from “the computer-pope herself” or something along those lines, which seems to me to confirm what my ears told me.

    Loved the way you only saw him in silhouette until the moment he took off the monks hood and said “surprise”

    Not sure if I heard this or made it up myself – but I had some kind of understanding that baby Melody, given the circumstances of her conception, and the way that the Silurian lady was asking, that Melody might have the ability to regenerate just the once (we know she CAN regenerate at least once) – which would make her only a partial time-lord because of her exposure to the vortex.

    I also now think, given that the Doctor was suspicious about the Amy replacement all along, that the whole thing of being killed and burning the body (remember, some people would start wars for a few Timelord cells) might have been mostly for the benefit of Eye-Patch lady – so that the scene at the picnic in America might have a sequel in the season finale once the girl HAS been rescued.

    I will be a tad disappointed, however, if it does turn out to be the (or a) flesh-Doctor who died there, so that the pay-off to the Doctor getting fooled twice is that she (Eye-patch) gets fooled herself the same way – but only because I now think that that being a flesh-Doctor is the most obvious way out and I hope for something more surprising than that.

    I now don’t believe that River will kill Rory, because I can’t believe that Steven Moffat would be so cruel as to make River have to kill her own dad.

    I also think that, even if it was a long time ago, River would surely remember being trapped in that spacesuit, and even given that she’s not allowed to give the game away would not have been quite so ignorant-seeming about the whole thing.

    • I’ll have to go back and listen again – confess to having subtitles on to help with scribing dialogue for the blog, but doesn’t mean the word shouldn’t be ‘divine’. Would certainly make more sense!
      Liking your plan for how things should pan out too.
      As for River, it seems unthinkable that she would willingly murder anyone – she’s pretty much a hero. Which leaves us with her sacrificing someone for a greater cause or being used as a weapon. I hope you’re right, I think patricide might be overstepping the mark for a kids’ show. And I love Rory. Something which seemed unthinkable back in The Eleventh Hour.

      • Tim

        I heard it as “divine” too.

        I’m with Paul – a Flesh Doctor would be way too obvious now, and I think planting the seed of “this might not be the end” with the Flesh Doctor & Cleaves was just a massive double-bluff.

        I do still fear for Rory, though. It would be unspeakably cruel if River had to kill her father for some reason. But no more cruel than having what you think is your baby exploding into goo in your arms …

  4. Rien

    Did anyone else notice how in River’s first scene she doesnt recognise Rory at all until he reveals his name and then becomes quite emotional at meeting him.

    I get the feeling, given that River’s timeline is heading in the opposite direction to the Doctor’s, that in any further adventures the Doctor may have with River Rory will not be present. River’s lack of recognition and emotional reaction to meeting Rory could be because A) he died when she was too young to properly remember him, possibly he was the good man that she murdered, or B) in her timeline he has by now died of old age and the last time she saw him he was looking a lot older.

    I’m seriously hoping for the B scenario.

  5. remotecontrolled

    I have two theories both probably too complicated (certainly the latter).

    If the little girl could only regenerate once then maybe she won’t remember after she regenerates – she regenerates into Rover Song after having killed the Doctor and only finds out afterwards about it without any memory of what happened. Even more far-fetched (thought admittedly I think it’s because I thought I heard things that I don’t think actually did happen after having read reviews) but how about River and Doctor having a baby who turns out to be the girl in the astronaut suit. Doesn’t explain at all who River kills (unless she does kill Rory) and probably doesn’t explain most other things but I’m just looking for a further complete twist. Admittedly though this is the first series I’ve ever watched so may be really missing some important things about whether or not the Doctor could have a baby.

    Still, fab twists and fab reviews!

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