Demons Run When A Good Man Goes to War
“A Good Man Goes to War” was one of those episodes of Doctor Who that I was really looking forward to more than usual. I was excited to see him call on his friends, to see Rory be a hero, to find out what was happening with Amy, and to learn more about the mysterious River Song. I was also counting on this episode to make the last few rather weak episodes really count for something, justifying them in a way so long as they satisfied the greater whole with this one.
“A Good Man” was a peculiar episode of Who where nothing really happened, but the premise and the hype called for massive movement. The set up in the episode seemed quite grand but when it came down to the action not much really went on. At first glance the episode is exciting but great deal less impressive upon a second look and further discussion. It’s like Moffet got caught up in the timey-whimy fun and the misdirection and let the point runaway from him.
River promised that this would be the Doctor’s darkest hour. After meeting the Doctor in its latest incarnation with Eccleston’s fun yet contemplative Doctor then meeting Tennant, a younger actor who played the part with an old soul both full of hope, but equally full of rage, guilt and regret giving Matt Smith an episode meant to go darker than either of his predecessor’s is a tall order and something better left unsaid unless you’ve got a damned good script to back it up.
Tennant’s Doctor had more darkness in his converse sneakers on a good day than Matt Smith had in “A Good Man Goes to War”. I like Smith’s Doctor, he carries a nice balance of a younger, goofy man with the old soul required of the Doctor, but if he has the capacity to play dark and angsty like Tennant I’ve seen no proof of it yet, and he, with no help by the script was not able to live up to the impossible promise of him delivering “the doctor’s darkest hour”.
There’s a man who’s never going to let us down, not even an army can get in the way. He’s the last of his kind. He’s young but he’s lived for hundreds and hundreds of years … This man is your father.
This episode plays with our expectations and mostly disappoints. The first part of the hour is the magnificent set up. Rory is running around in Centurion dress intimidating Cybermen while Amy is making another one of her speeches where she speaks about an amazing man to her daughter, a vague sort where we don’t know whether it’s the Doctor or Rory she’s speaking about (this bit has gotten old). We watch as the Doctor’s rag-tag army comes together. Then by means of quick deception and humiliation the battle is over so quickly.
The real meat of this story is about who the Doctor really is, the name he has made for himself through his rage and anger and his role in the war. I wish more time was spent on this, and it was handled with more care, because this is good. Through his actions taking a strong arm, using fear and intimidation and the grand speeches Matt Smith was so good at to fight for what he believed was right, the Doctor changed the meaning of his name.
We’re not sure what came first, the Doctor coming to mean healer in languages or vice versa, but now in many languages across the universe the Doctor has become synonymous with Warrior. Where Eccleston’s Doctor preferred to stay in the shadows, Ten spread his name far and wide, by Martha creating the legend whispering his praises across the world, and in the impression he left on his own and the stories spread by those who met him.
The Doctor is so proud of fixing things now known for the fear he instills in not only his enemies, but whole populations to the point that they are preemptively raising armies to fight him. Creating and stealing a Time Lord child to develop as a weapon against him. These are extremes, he has gone from the savior to the enemy, the good man has fallen and he didn’t even realize it had happened. If this fall to a man of fear and terror is his darkest hour then I’m on board.
Bucket is the cannon fodder for the evening because we can’t lose any of our main characters, not yet. She met the Doctor in the Gamma Forests, he pretends to remember her, she looks up to him, he took her hand. She knows Amy must be very special because the Doctor remembers her. As she dies in battle she tells the doctor that in the Gamma Forests, her home they got the word doctor from him, and it means Warrior.
She’s not the only other one who sings his praises, he is admired, but still as a warrior by some of the soldiers on the fleet. They must be careful though, they are paid to fight him, not praise him. An entire army raised to protect against the Doctor, for what? Survival?
This is the story, this is the meat of it and we’ve wasted the hour on misdirection, goo babies and the victimization of a once strong female character, Amy.
I’ve spent a good chunk of this season wondering what was going on with Rory. After the first season of playing a backseat to Amy, in the second Rory begun to sneak onto centre stage, acknowledging his insane sacrifice and honour spending 200 years as a Roman Centurion guarding Amy. Making sure the audience understood that he and Amy are really in love, and that he is really a fantastic guy worth her notice and not someone who could be pushed aside for the glamour and excitement the Doctor has to offer.
Rory’s role in A Good Man Goes to War was excellent. I finally really liked Arthur Darvill in the role, he felt useful and real, and he was a good man going to war. He carried the rage and the love and the willingness to do anything to save Amy and their daughter Melody.
Watching Rory on the ship with the Cybermen with a question and a message I was so proud of him. He asks “Why is my wife” and he means it. The message? He stands facing them while their fleet explodes, never flinching, nor does he turn around for a second.
Would you like me to repeat the question?
He was like the show’s secret weapon. Amy was always a fun kind of awesome but hasn’t really changed all that much since we met her. Rory has grown, experienced become a new person, stronger and quite impressive. I never realized that this would happen. I sincerely hope that the writers notice what a fantastic character Rory has become and use this, instead of dropping it as they are occasionally prone to do. I’m officially on team Rory and it feels good.
It’s always enjoyable to meet old friends of the Doctors, from the time-fighting man-hating aliens from 1888 England with amazing swords who just killed Jack the Ripper, to the Sontaran nurse who was being punished by the Doctor. Later we’re even joined by the crew of Pirates we just met this season, because once you can steer a ship…
I do adore River much of the time, like when she’s flouncing in from a vacation in a lovely dress braking back into jail. It was her birthday and she spent it in 1814 with the Doctor of course. Rory approached her and told her that the Doctor needs her. From that moment she knew it was the day at Demon’s Run, she can’t be there, not yet anyway.
This is the battle of Demon’s Run, the Doctor’s darkest hour. He’ll rise higher than ever before and then fall so much further and I can’t be with him until the very end.
Because this is it. This is the day he finds out who I am
I’m not at all satisfied with the explanation of who River really is and I’m certainly not at all content to believe that that’s all there is to the story; the reveal was pretty weak too. I just can’t wrap my head around how River could possibly be Melody Pond, and that’s before I try to wrap my head around the timey-whimyness of how that works.
Instead I’ll ask the questions, is River really the same girl who escaped from the spacesuit? Is she really Amy and Rory’s daughter? I’m not done, who really is River Song, and what is her real story. Mostly that I can’t really believe that River was really Melody Pond. I just absolutely can make zero sense of it in my brain, at all.
Still where did they meet? When does the baby really start and are we just going to skip the whole childhood thing?
There was the flash bang of the episode that made it fun. There are human soldiers filling the ship alongside headless monks. A General who refuses to stand down until tricks of light and sound get him caught and he is forced to declare himself as General Runaway.
Amy, Rory and the Doctor have a homecoming, Rory cries and the Doctor smells them both. It’s quite sweet really. He gives them a crib, which he reveals once belonged to him. The TARDIS translates the prayer leaf Bucket gave to Amy with Melody Pond on it. River Song, the only river in the forest.
But it’s a trap, and the Doctor falls into it mightily. They distract him with the peaceful win, meanwhile the second line is called in and Eye-Patch and her posse have escaped with the real baby leaving Amy and Rory with a bundle of goo.
Notes & Quotes:
I loved the Doctor miming the kisses and other actions when he discovers River’s identity as he wonders if it’s totally weird that he has a love affair in the future with Amy and Rory’s child.
We’re the thin fat gay married Anglican marines, why would we need names as well?
Amy was right, her baby really did end up with a time head
Why are they called the headless monks? They can’t really be headless. Well yes they are with their little twist tie necks.
Amy on Rory’s battle plan towards the end:
Amy: You let them all die first
Rory: You’re so Scottish
I’m really hoping that Doctor Who will pick up after the break retooled and ready to tell stories with heart, that mean it without the messing around and making characters seem pointless. There’s nothing wrong with the Doctor being silly, or the stories being outrageous as long as they’re told well. I felt let down by the first half of the season, and I want it to return telling me amazing stories, finding Amy and Rory’s child and having fantastic adventures.