Doctor Who “A Good Man Goes To War” – TV Review

The start of the beginning of the end of the start

6.07 “A Good Man Goes To War”
Writer: Steven Moffat
Director: Peter Hoar

THE ONE WHERE The Doctor calls in some favours to help him rescue Amy and her baby, Melody, from the grip of Madame Kovarian on the Demons Run space station. He is, however, in for a surprise or two…

VERDICT Well, that’s series six saved. “The Doctor’s Wife” aside, Steven Moffat’s second season as showrunner has been slightly underwhelming by Who’s high standards. There have been no bad stories, of course (although “Black Spot” may well be Matt Smith’s weakest story yet), but the consensus seems to be that it didn’t quite hit the highs that Tennant’s era frequently did. Can we now say “A Good Man Goes To War” provided essential resuscitation? It certainly offered a pretty darned good time.

Perhaps we should now recognise Moffat-as-writer as what they call in sport a “big-game player”, meaning he finds his best form on the important occasions (although the Scot has a habit of turning all his stories into big occasions). He packs this 50 minutes with an awful lot of things, and most come off splendidly. He also does his usual trick of making plot development impossible to predict: here it’s 19 minutes before the Doctor turns up! Before he does the episode is reminiscent of “The Pandorica Opens”, as we flit through time and space meeting unexpected characters in incongruous situations, the prelude to the Time Lord’s cunning plan (and isn’t that one of the GREAT things about this show that we can have a scene set in foggy Victorian London followed by one set in a far-future space station?!). The cynic might say, “Oh they’re just getting those old monster costumes out of the back of the cupboard again,” but the idea of debts to the Doctor is both original and believable and comes with not a little humour, while the Doctor’s triumphant rescue of Amy is one of the most fun things about the episode.

Fans were looking for answers here, and we got a fair few: Amy was cloned before going to America; Rory is the father of the baby; River Song is Melody, Amy and Rory’s child. But how close to edgier, sexual, darker things many of these revelations were – typical Steven “Coupling” Moffat! A lot of us – doubtless not purer-minded youngsters of course – could be forgiven for thinking “Incest!” (when it’s hinted that River might actually be the Doctor’s mother) and “The Doctor is Melody’s dad!” (on a few occasions, including when he says “It’s mine”, although he’s referring to the cot) – plus there’s the reptile woman and her female companion, which is a first even for this most omnisexual of television shows; it felt like Moffat was feeding fan fiction/spin-off writers with that pair. The centralness to the plot of Melody’s conception and its timing might have raised the odd eyebrow in the odd house too.

It was a satisfying slice of fantasy television which ticked lots of boxes: it featured dashing, daring storytelling that was bold and confident; it looked fantastic (how awesome were those scenes with the Cyber-ships?), there were some hilarious lines (my favourite has to be the Stevie Wonder one – genius) and the performance of the star upped his wattage a couple of notches once again. But we’d be gushing too much if we said it was perfect – the Headless Monks didn’t quite satisfy as baddies (but were close), and their battle with Rory and co near the end had the director struggling to make the combat especially convincing or expansive. For a foe that was bigged up not long before by the Colonel they seemed to go down quite easily. Also, I can’t help but worry that general audiences might be a little bamboozled by convoluted episodes like this. And there are still those unanswered questions – why did Melody, aka River, kill the Doctor (and which Doctor?) in “The Impossible Astronaut” for one – but we trust those will be answered in the autumn. For now, Moffat and friends have thrown us enough enjoyable scraps to make us feel very happy going into the summer months.

DID YOU SPOT? The little nod to Thunderbirds – Madame Vastra thanks chauffeur Parker who responds, “Yes mi’lady.”

ON THE AGENDA After largely eschewing the “gay agenda” during his first series in charge, Steven Moffat appears to be trying to out-RTD in this one. The Thin and Fat couple are spectacularly superfluous – but that’s probably the idea, it’s likely The Moff was taking the mickey. They’re not as pointless as that pair of Judoon who turn up, though – what were they doing there?! (Some might also nitpick that the Silurians and Judoon, who both turned up in “The Pandorica Opens” to usher their “enemy” the Doctor into his prison here show up to assist him.)

THE FORCE IS STRONG IN THIS ONE The ep’s very Star Wars-ish, even more so than last season’s “The Beast Below”, including everything from the window shapes to the corridors to the Headless Monks and their lightsaber things. Let’s hope George Lucas wasn’t watching, stroking his figure of the Emperor and feeling in a litigious mood.

EPISODE 8’S TITLE! If “Let’s Kill Hitler” didn’t make you roar with laughter check your pulse.

NITPICKS AND QUERIES Can we believe that the Cybermen – whose micro appearance revealed the pre-publicity to be a red herring – wouldn’t kill Rory when he shows up at their gaffe? How does Amy translate the words on her gift after the TARDIS has dematerialised? Why was the Sontaran so helpful? Why does the Doctor not want to tell Amy he was a father when he told Donna in “The Doctor’s Daughter”?

MMM, CURIOUS… Our old mate Henry Avery (Hugh Bonneville) and son turn up to help out also, but wasn’t “The Curse Of The Black Spot” meant to be shown in the second half of the season until recently? We’re guessing the scene was a hasty last-minute addition to “Black Spot”’s shooting schedule.

BEST LINES A fair few good ‘uns, so here’s a selection.

The Doctor: “You really should call her mummy, not big milk thing.”

Amy: “What are you doing?”
The Doctor: “I speak baby.”
Amy: “No you don’t.”
The Doctor: “I speak everything.”

Commander Strax: “Give her to me, human fools. She needs changing.”
Amy: “I think she might need a feed.”
Strax: “A feed, of course. I’ll take care of everything.”
Rory: “I really don’t think you will, actually.”
Strax: “I have gene-spliced myself for all nursing duties. I can produce magnificent quantities of lactic acid.”

The Doctor: “Rory wasn’t even there at the beginning. And 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 was on their we…”
Madame Vastra: “On their what?”
The Doctor: “…on their wedding night…”
Strax: “It’s strange, I’ve often dreamed of dying in combat. I’m not enjoying it as much as I hoped… I’ve had a good life, I’m nearly 12.”

Kovarian: “Give the order, Colonel Runaway.”

Russell Lewin