Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Summer DVR Dump: Doctor Who 6.07: "A Good Man Goes to War"

“Good men don’t need rules. Today is not the day to find out why I have so many.”
-The Doctor

“A Good Man Goes to War” ended the first half of “Doctor Who” series 6 on a fairly strong note. I think it would have been stronger, however, if the story told in “The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People” had been condensed down into one episode, and this story had been given the breathing room of two episodes. A lot of big events happened in this episode, but the whole thing seemed to lack any depth. It felt more like moving the chess pieces than a real, heartfelt story. There were some good efforts by all the actors, especially Arthur Darvill as Rory, but it still wasn’t quite enough. The big reveal at the end of the episode especially could have used more build up, although once you know the fact that is revealed at the end, many of the earlier scenes become much more poignant, especially an early scene between Rory and River. That scene really takes on layers of meaning once the characters’ true relationship is revealed, and creating those layers is the result of some excellent work on the part of Alex Kingston and Arthur Darvill.

The episode opens with Amy at a base in Demon’s Run (some sort of asteroid field, it looks like). She’s holding her daughter, who she has named Melody, and she is surrounded by soldiers. She’s telling Melody that she needs to be brave, and that a good man is going to rescue her. She goes on a long description of this good man that makes him sound like the Doctor, but she ends by saying he’s called “The Last Centurion,” so she’s obviously referring to Rory. The little fake out wasn’t really appreciated by this viewer, at least. We know Amy loves Rory. We’ve been told so many, many times by this point. Poor little Melody is content as can be to be held by her mother, not realizing that she’s about to be taken away by the creepy eyepatch lady.

We next see a regiment of Cybermen at some sort of base. They appear to be under attack and completely freaking out. Rory then arrives on the scene, decked out in his Centurion outfit and acting all badass. It’s really quite awesome and gave me a whole new appreciation for the character. He tells the Cybermen that he has a message from the Doctor and a question from himself. The question is “,” and the message is a whole bunch of explosions going on out in space. It’s glorious. We also meet a bunch of other recruits of the Doctor’s. There’s a female Silurian detective and her maid in 1888, who are probably the most developed characters of all the recruits. A spinoff focusing on them would be a lot of fun, I think. There’s also a Sontaran nurse, which cracks me up. He’s saving a little boy’s life when the TARDIS arrives, even though he says he’d rather be in battle. Elsewhere in time and space, the eyepatch lady and a cleric are talking to Dorian, the fat blue alien River spoke to in the series 5 two-part finale. He warns them that if the Doctor is collecting on his debts, he could be a truly formidable threat, because the Doctor has many debts to collect. Almost immediately after the eyepatch lady and cleric leave, the TARDIS appears. Clearly the Doctor has a debt to collect from Dorian, too.

Back at Demon’s Run, two cleric soldiers are swapping legends about the Doctor. They’re fighting against him now, unlike when we last saw them in series 5. They’re a gay married couple, one fat and one thin, and they’re kind of entertaining. There’s also a female cleric named Lorna. She tells the others that she met the doctor She says the Doctor told her to run, which made me laugh. The fat married cleric has been selected for “conversion” to the order of the Headless Monks, who seem to be running the anti-Doctor show along with eyepatch lady. The conversion seems to be quite literally to make the converted headless. I thought that was just plain gross. Too gross to be creepy, especially when we see the headless necks later in the episode.

We next visit Stormcage, where River is dressed up in Victorian gear. She’s in a cheery mood as she informs the guards that they can turn off the alarms. She’s breaking back into her cell, not out. Rory appears, and River, who softens when she sees him, says that she’s just been on a wonderful birthday date with the Doctor. Rory asks for River’s help, but she says that she can’t, because it’s “Demon’s Run.” She can’t show up until the very end of whatever is about to go down. She gets all Prophesy Girl on Rory, saying that the Doctor is about to climb higher than he ever has before and then fall farther than he ever has. She also says that this is when the Doctor finally finds out who she is.

Back at Demon’s Run, the clerics are having a big pump-up anti-Doctor rally. Instead of going to the rally, Lorna visits Amy. She gives Amy a prayer leaf with Melody’s name written on it in the language of her people. Amy is understandably frosty towards Lorna until Lorna reveals that she met the Doctor when she was a little girl, too. Down at the rally, the cleric Colonel reveals what’s under the hoods of the Headless Monks. Like I mentioned earlier, they are literally Headless, and it’s really gross. There is a big surprise, though. The Doctor (head in tact) is under one of the hoods as well. One of the things that is fascinating about this episode is that this is the first we’ve actually seen the Doctor, even though his influence has driven everything we’ve seen in the episode thus far. The Doctor gets the clerics and Monks to start fighting against each other, but it doesn’t last for long. The Colonel starts to get the situation back under control by having everyone chant “we are not fools.”

Just when things seem to start going south for the Doctor and crew, the Doctor’s massive army appears, consisting of more Silurians, Jidoon, and all manner of beasties. Danny Boy, the Doctor’s fighter pilot buddy from series 5’s “Victory of the Daleks,” takes out the communications ray. The eyepatch lady tries to escape Demon’s Run with Melody, but Rory appears, armed with a sword. The fact that the space pirates from episode three have taken over the eyepatch lady’s ship doesn’t help her cause, either. The Doctor revels in his victory a bit (perhaps a bit too much), giving a big speech where he tells the Colonel that he should take his troops and runaway, and history should remember him as Colonel Runaway. The eyepatch lady interrupts, and after planting the thought in the Doctor’s head that he’s really not good, she tells the Colonel to go ahead with the retreat as the Doctor requested.

Rory finds Amy, and when he appears in the room where she has been waiting, he’s holding Melody. There’s a very tearful Williams-Pond family reunion naturally. And the Doctor isn’t too far behind. Melody seems to take a shine to him right away, probably because the Doctor, naturally, “speaks baby.” The Silurian detective says that all the clerics and other enemies are leaving Demon’s Run, and not a drop of blood has been spilled. She says this is the highest the Doctor has ever climbed, which gives Rory pause given what River told him. They all start arguing over what Melody needs, and the Doctor says she’s tired and finds a cradle for her to use. It turns out that it used to be his cradle when he was a baby Time Lord.

Once Melody is down for her nap, the Doctor talks to the Silurian and Dorian. They want to know if Melody is human. Scans of her that were done by the eyepatch lady show she has a combination of human and Time Lord DNA. Meawhile, Lorna arrives on the scene and warns of a trap that has been set. When her motives are questioned, considering she’s a cleric and all, she says she joined the clerics because it seemed like the best chance for her to see the Doctor again. She says that the Headless Monks are approaching, and they don’t register as life forms, which explains why they’re so stealth. The Silurian interrogates the Doctor about when Melody was conceived. There doesn’t seem to be any belief that the Doctor could be the father, but apparently Time Lords were first created through some sort of interaction with the time vortex. It turns out Melody was conceived on Rory and Amy’s wedding night, when they would have been in the time vortex. The Silurian says that the clerics et al want her for a weapon. The idea that he himself could be viewed as a weapon upsets the Doctor. Then he realizes that Melody is the little girl in the space suit from the series opening two-parter.

That’s when everything starts to go crazy. The eyepatch lady appears on a screen, and she says there’s hope in the war against the Doctor. At that moment, a forcefield goes up around the TARDIS. The all-out battle begins to rage, and the casualties are numerous. The first casualty is Dorian. The eyepatch lady mentions fooling the Doctor twice, and the Doctor, realizing that things are even worse than they seem, runs for Amy. While he’s running, baby Melody, who was actually a Flesh doppelganger, disintegrates in Amy’s arms. The Sontaran nurse is the next to die. Rory, trying to comfort him, says he’s a warrior, but the Sontaran says he’s just a nurse. Rory looks pensive, wondering if he, as a nurse as well, should really be gallivanting across the universe. Lorna is the next to die, and the Doctor comforts her while it happens. He says he remembers her, but it turns out he really doesn’t. Matts performance in this scene reminded me very much of David Tennant- I’m not sure why. Perhaps it was the Tenth Doctor’s quiet, seething reaction to violence done in his name that was evoked here.

Finally, River makes her appearance. The Doctor is extremely angry at her for not helping sooner, considering he always is there when she needs help. River warns him that he’s heading in a very dangerous direction. There’s one culture that has adopted the word “doctor” to mean warrior instead of healer thanks to the way he’s been acting. They look at the Doctor’s cradle, and the Doctor suddenly realizes who River truly is. He’s all giddy about it, and he runs off in the TARDIS. River then shows Rory and Amy the prayer leaf. The closest translation to “Melody Pond” (Amy though using her own surname made the baby sound like a superhero) in the language of Lorna’s people is “River Song.” River is Amy and Rory’s daughter. And I’ll leave you with that bit of knowledge until this weekend when I recap “Let’s Kill Hitler,” which kicks off the second half of series 6.

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