REVIEW: Doctor Who – A Good Man Goes to War

Posted by under *like, Television |

For the record, I hate this “mid-season finale / Summer break” business we’re getting with this season of Doctor Who. The only upside is that we’ll technically get two season premieres and two season finales. If the close of the season is anywhere near as exciting as A Good Man Goes to War, it will all be worth the wait.

Spoilers, deaths, births and revelations ahead.

The episode hits the ground running as The Doctor and Rory put their plan in motion to find and rescue the very pregnant Amy Pond from the forces of The Church, the 51st century military power first encountered in The Time of AngelsFlesh and Stone. While The Church serve as the episode’s antagonists, the story does feature the return of “the Alliance” that imprisoned The Doctor in the Pandorica as teased in the preview, but not in the way you’d expect. Cybermen, Sontarans, Silurians and a host of others who owe The Doctor a debt are called in to make good and lend a hand. The quick introduction and assembly of The Doctor’s team is handled brilliantly and is one of the key strengths of the episode.

We are also introduced to another new villain in the Headless Monks that have aligned themselves with The Church to end The Doctor. This is the first appearance of the decapitated Jedi, although they were mentioned briefly in The Time of Angels. The Monks are a creepy (yet somewhat silly when you consider their hoods stay up despite the lack of a head to fill them) addition to the Church’s ranks along with the zealous Colonel Manton, the Papal Mainframe giving them their orders, and the mysterious Madame Kovarian who is finally given a name in this episode.

As the Church is making preparations to take on The Doctor, we’re given an inside look at their motivations through the eyes of Cleric Lorna Bucket. Their desire to destroy The Doctor is in sharp contrast to her agenda as she reveals that she encountered The Doctor as a child and only joined the Church’s ranks in hopes of meeting him again. When the conflict begins, her conscience wins out and she helps save the heroes in the end, but not before being a part of the episode’s big revelation. Lorna embroiders a prayer leaf with Melody Pond’s name, Amy Pond’s daughter, as a gift in the language of her people. She counts herself among the People of the Gamma Forests and we come to learn that this is the “forest” the TARDIS was referring to in The Doctor’s Wife, and the quote that “the only water in the forest is the river” is finally given meaning as Melody Pond translates to River Song. Not only is River revealed to be Rory and Amy’s daughter, but as she was conceived in the time vortex she is also the regenerating “timelord” child seen at the end of the season opener.

Given that we’re witnessing the earliest events of her life and she is the catalyst for most of the action, it’s fair to say that the episode primarily focuses on the mysteries of River Song despite Alex Kingston only appearing in the opening and closing scenes. We learn River’s origin, but we still don’t know who she killed that led to her being incarcerated in the Stormcage facility (which seems to do a really poor job of keeping her confined). She described the man she killed as the “greatest man she’s ever known” and it could absolutely be The Doctor, but my money is now on Rory Williams. River’s dramatic reaction to his arrival at the Stormcage could have easily been the result of knowing they were about to discover her true identity, but I think it’s more likely that she’s moved by seeing her father and knowing his fate at her hands.

Rory and The Doctor have been equated in many ways since last season, and we get more of that here in a way that I didn’t see coming. In Day of the Moon, it’s deliberately unclear whether Amy is talking to The Doctor or Rory after she disappears, and the same is true when Amy describes her baby’s father in A Good Man Goes to War. It’s amazingly misleading whether she’s referring to The Doctor or Rory as she describes that he’s the last of his kind, he looks young but he’s lived for hundreds of years, and he’ll always come to save her. She’s talking about Rory, but I think the same misdirection applies to the man River has described from her past.

Amidst all the action and revelations, an element I love most about the episode is the way the very meaning of the word “doctor” has transformed in the eyes of The Church from “man of healing and wisdom” to “mighty warrior” as a result of the Doctor’s actions. River points out that both definitions have always referred to him through history and his actions going forward will only serve to change of reinforce that. He does exhibit some wanton destruction here and that’s a bad sign. The violence level has been upped in recent years and I’m glad to see it’s a plot point that’s being addressed rather than an attempt at a new direction for the show. After all, Doctor Who is supposed to be about the triumph of intellect and romance over brute force and cynicism.

A Good Man Goes to War is another strong episode in an incredibly strong season. It has only left me wanting more, and it’s frustrating that I can’t seem to find information on how long we’ll have to wait for the season to continue. I’ll be sure to update this post once I get this information. In the meantime, it’s never too late to catch up on this and previous seasons. BBC America, Netflix, and iTunes allow access to every episode of the series and I give it my highest recommendation. I just hope my provider adds BBC America in HD before the show returns this Summer.

Read more Doctor Who on MyLatestDistraction,
including reactions to each new episode on BBCAmerica.

The Almost People / Let’s Kill Hitler (coming late Summer 2011)

Related Posts with Thumbnails

  • Ryan said,

    I think the show is also flirting with The Doctor possibly going to the dark side. Maybe not Vader bad, but bending rules. He blew up a fleet of Cybermen, he killed nearly all of The Silence on Earth in ep 1 of the season, and he had no problem exploding fake skin Amy Pond, after spending an entire episode explaining why the skin was sentient. Oh well… We will wait and see

Join the Discussion

Mentioned in:

  1. The Quotable Doctor Who » MyLatestDistraction
  2. REVIEW: Doctor Who – Let’s Kill Hitler » MyLatestDistraction
  3. REVIEW: Doctor Who – Closing Time » MyLatestDistraction