Doctor Who Instants: A Good Man Goes to War

The idea of what we might call a half finale is certainly an innovation though with all the twists this season, will viewers actually remember much by the time we get to the second half, never mind recalling what was said last season. Now that River Song’s secret is out of the bag, it may even be necessary to re-watch her episodes to see how or indeed if it all fits.

"I can't see any spoilers with the eyepatch. You can if you click on the break..."

`A Good Man Goes to War` is an episode burdened with a responsibility it doesn’t quite support. It is striving for the sort of epic quality that `End of Time ` had but this is not the same kind of story and needs a lighter touch. There’s nothing inherently wrong with Peter Hoar’s direction but it leads to a climax that is at odds with what’s gone before. I still think last week’s shock ending would have been a better break point for the season. Also, the teasing and for some spoilering means that we might ignore much of what happens waiting for the key moments. This is probably how people watch soaps, an entirely different anticipation to not having a clue what is going to happen.
Personally, I was unable to speculate who River Song was beforehand simply because there have been no discernable clues. Even looking back to the scene where she turns down Rory’s request to join the fight, there is nothing there to suggest she is speaking to her father. I’d have to re-watch last year’s `Time of Angels` to see if there’s anything when she is introduced to Amy but the revelation does pose the question of how appropriate it is for the Doctor to flirt with his friend’s daughter or for her to do the same with a much older man! Moffat has- deliberately one assumes- led us to theorise they are / were/ will be romantically inclined so her unveiling as Amy’s daughter was certainly a surprise.
Given that she has already stated the reason for her Storm cage incarceration was killing a good man- and assuming it’s not her in the space suit in `Impossible Astronaut` shooting the Doctor- then it may be that a potential end of season scenario is beginning to form. After all, who is a better man- in heroic terms- than her own father, the Lone Centurion?  Course, I may be way off course with that one. And if it’s true people may not buy into the death of a character we’ve already seen perish three times.

"Who are you?"  "I'm....Bellal's mate!"

The drive of the episode is almost Russell T Davies fast with plenty of enjoyable character vignettes and scenarios that would make a decent episode on their own. Silurian detective in Victorian London? Laaverly. Sontaran forced to become a nurse? Very funny idea. Large blue wheeler dealer Maldovar as the Doctor’s temporary companion? Sounds cool. Pity then that these plus the funny Fat / Thin couple and some Cybermen - get shunted in and out rather too quickly, like the Xmas shark they are concepts deserving of more of our time. As for the headless monks- built up to be something rather dangerous- they turn out to be literally headless therefore how do they see where they are going? Small thing. Important thing though.
It is difficult to form an opinion on a half finished story especially when we know nothing of Kovarian or her aims but the further we go into this season the more it seems Steven Moffat is really going to have to pull something momentous out of the bag come episode 13 because anything less than a superb pay off now is going to feel like a cheat.

1 comment:

  1. It was a strange episode for me. I liked it, but felt strangely unsatisfied - mainly for the reason it is deliberately telling half a story. This is either a stroke of genius or a brave move. The 8 year old's may grow up hugely in 3 months, but they can also forget a lot of plot points. The average 40 year old seems to struggle to remember plot points from one end of an episode to another!

    The other strange thing about this was watching Moffat channeling Davies. To my taste he did it better, with more - well, taste. But it is hard to see how anyone missing Davies could complain about the 'everything but the kitchen sink'+'gay agenda'+'soap opera/family' elements combination in this one. From the position of someone liking neat Moffat, I wished for a bit more plot, but hey...
    I loved some of the characters - is he setting up a whole new collection of sidelines for Big Finish here? The Victorian couple are indeed a delight (and offer some typical Moffat subtle but rude humor - 'I don't know how you put up with me' indeed!). And our Big Blue Friend Maldovar seems less of a cartoon than he could have been (although his apparent beheading seemed pointless and rather thrown away). The character that seemed to be rather thrown away is Lorna Bucket. I know she was there to show how contact with the Doctor does not always end well and to resonate with Amy's story, but she seemed underused. Odd name, Bucket, by the way for a people whose only water is in the river!

    In all, I think you nailed the main points, though I must say even on a second viewing, the episode just flew by, so I am less concerned with the bash-crash beginning and the slower unraveling and reveal with which it concluded. I share your concerns for poor Rory (and have done all series), but would you really kill him every other week if you want to shock of killing him in the end? River's shock at seeing Rory might be a sign that the 'unfortunate event' (TM Mayo and Kermode) was in her recent past, but one would like to think there is another way out of this (and another skeletal hand to hold a dying sonic screwdriver....)

    Time will tell. It always does.