Friday, 10 June 2011

Bad Girls Go Everywhere [Review: A Good Man Goes To War]

The Doctor's finest hour? Or his greatest fall?

The Doctor, backed by a rag-tag crew of companions and allies, takes on a powerful military-religious establishment to rescue Amy and baby Melody. Naturally the entire set-up is a trap ready to spring shut, and the evil Madame Kovarian is a serious threat. The Doctor is on the warpath, more violent than ever, at one point destroying a Cyberman fleet just to persuade their leader to cooperate with Rory. However the main story is the cat-and-mouse interplay between the Doctor and Kovarian.

This episode provides a lot of answers, not just limited to the story arc - in fact these are the least surprising twists. The Doctor's full name is finally revealed, at least for those of us who read Gallifreyan. I have been waiting for this since 1963 which is in itself an achievement since I wasn't born until the following decade.

The script is also full of red herrings and misdirections - is it wrong of me to say that I was disappointed to learn that Professor River Song is not a later incarnation of the Doctor? (This would have implied that relationships of this type are quite OK for Time Lords.) Madame Vastra and Jenny are a joy to watch and definitely spin-off material, and there are some truly memorable, utterly bonkers moments.

Rory (to Sontaran Commander Strax): "You're a warrior!"
Commander Strax (dying words, to Rory): "I'm a nurse."

In addition, it's clearer than ever that Moffat is bringing a much darker tone to Doctor Who: non-human deaths are emphasised, characters are given fake deaths over and over again, and interrogation, torture, humiliation, and slavery are constant companions. The new monsters are extremely sinister and the so-called Headless Monks are no exception.

Amy's treatment in this episode and, it turns out, the whole series, has been particularly cruel and there's an ongoing discussion about treatment of women in Doctor Who over at io9. OK. It could be worse - at least these days they don't get asked to do this [1:45]

[The Time Warriors, Sarah Jane Smith's first appearance.]

As a whole, A Good Man Goes To War was a daring and horrific episode, a real classic Doctor Who moment. But I don't buy the statement that this battle is the Doctor's finest hour, or his greatest fall - for all the climactic music it's still just another verse in the legendary ballad.


Conor said...

Has the episode Neil Gaiman wrote aired yet this season? I've meant to finally get into Doctor Who this season and I really want to check that episode out. Great review btw.

Sci-Fi Gene said...

Thanks! Neil Gaiman wrote "The Doctor's Wife" (episode 4.)

Maurice Mitchell said...

One of the best episodes of the season. It could have been a trip payer but I'm glad it wasn't. Dr. Song's origin was with the wait.