I’m very lucky that I can compartmentalize. A lot of reviewers don’t do this, and when their viewing experience is hampered by unfortunate conditions, it often taints their reviews, which reflects negatively on a show/film that might otherwise have been considered very good. You’ll be hearing about my hampered viewing experience in another post, which I believe will also reflect the viewing experience of many people on this side of the (Amy) Pond.
However, I am happy to report that the final episode in the first half of Series 6 of Doctor Who was solid, both from an emotional and a plot standpoint. It also featured a big reveal that wasn’t really as big a reveal as all that, a couple of gay soldiers, and a lesbian Silurian.
After the troubling cliffhanger at the end of “The Almost People,” “A Good Man Goes to War” shows Amy having given birth to a baby girl she names Melody (Pond! Oh, poor Rory…). She’s being held prisoner by Madame Kovarian (the artist formerly known as Silver Eye or Eyepatch Lady, played by Frances Barber) along with her soldiers and the Headless Monks (great band name) on an asteroid base called Demon’s Run, so named for what happens when a good man goes to war (the demons, they run).
Speaking of good men who make people run, The Doctor, in his effort to save Amy and her child, enlists the help of beings from many different species who owe him a favor. These include a Sontaran nurse; Silurians led by Madame Vastra and her human companion, Jenny; a couple of Judoon; and an old, blue black market trader, Dorium Maldova. Meanwhile, Rory discovers Amy’s location by being a badass and storming a Cyberman base by himself in his Centurion garb (he should only wear that ever). The Doctor attempts to recruit River Song to his effort, but she doesn’t go, telling Rory that this is the day The Doctor finds out who she is. The Doctor’s army gains some unexpected help from one of Kovarian’s soliders, Lorna Bucket (Christina Chong), who had met The Doctor when she was a little girl growing up in the Gamma forests. She makes Melody a good luck cloth with her name written in the language of her people and gives it to Amy, who accepts it after initial skepticism, and warns Lorna to be on the right side of The Doctor when he inevitably comes for her.
Just when The Doctor thinks he’s outsmarted Kovarian and her forces, he realizes that Amy’s baby isn’t actually Amy’s baby, but a Flesh baby. He tries to warn Amy, but not only gets to Amy too late to warn her, but too late to prevent much of his forces from suffering fatal injuries. When River appears, The Doctor is furious at her for not having arrived to help sooner. That is, until she reveals who she really is, which makes him darn near giddy with delight.
River is Amy and Rory’s daughter.
She also has Time Lord DNA, was likely the girl in the spacesuit in “The Impossible Astronaut” and “The Day of the Moon,” and can regenerate.
But we don’t really know that for sure. All we know for sure is her parentage, and that she and The Doctor have a romantic relationship. We still don’t know why she will be so important to The Doctor beyond that romantic relationship. Does she kill him in “The Impossible Astronaut?” Is that why she ends up in the StormCage, or was it something else? And in what incarnation has The Doctor been going on all these trips with her?
I love how Steven Moffat tells us huge things without really telling us anything at all.
Kudos to Moffat for including not only a gay couple (Thin One and Fat One), but also a lesbian couple (Madame Vastra and Jenny). Especially wonderful was the raunchy humor he managed to sneak in. When Madame Vastra says to Jenny “I don’t know why you keep me around,” she then flicks her ridiculously long, reptilian tongue out to kill someone, then retracts it and looks knowingly at Jenny. I died. Also, I’m one of many people in the camp that believes that Madame Vastra and Jenny should have their own crimefighting spin-off show. Expect a “Moffat’s Women” column about them soon.
The best thing about the episode was the feeling that we’re involved in an Epic Story. From the rapid-fire opening to the revelation of River’s parents, from Rory’s heroism to The Doctor’s comeuppance, to the entire thing revolving around a fought-over child, this episode felt like a Big Story that is passed down from generation to generation. It felt like a fable that should have always existed, and now does. Moffat used a made-up nursery rhyme in “The Beast Below” in Series 5. Here, he has River recite a poem about Demon’s Run, which adds to the feeling of this being an actual legend.
One of the big differences between Series 5 and Series 6 so far is that Series 5 seemed to be more fairytale-like. It felt more like Peter Pan. So far, Series 6 feels more like The Odyssey.
Moffat gave us, in Lorna Bucket, a wonderful counterpoint to the argument River makes against The Doctor at the end about the perils of what his being The Oncoming Storm mean. Yes, to Lorna, “Doctor” means “warrior,” but it doesn’t inspire fear in her, it inspires hope. The title of the episode is “A Good Man Goes to War,” and The Doctor is that good man.
And here is the tricky thing, which a friend of mine brought up and has given me much food for thought, because it seemed out-of-character to me, too, when watching the episode. River makes a huge production about how all of these horrible events are The Doctor’s fault, and how he needs to change his behavior or things are going to get worse. Yet, the fact of his being The Oncoming Storm is something that she’s bragged about before in her future (his past). Also, let’s remember that the species he stops are often doing horrible wrongs and, if left to their own devices, would leave the universe worse off than when they found it. It seems strange for River to lay blame at The Doctor’s feet knowing that, and having been his #1 cheerleader up until this point. It could be that in her future, because she’s older, she’s better able to reconcile his contradictions. Still, she has that special diary of hers. It isn’t as if she doesn’t already know what happens and how The Doctor will act in key situations. Perhaps she’s making this argument on purpose to get him to do something she knows he needs to do? It was the one moment in the episode that felt false, but Moffat usually doesn’t waste words, so I anticipate that there is a reason for this “mistake.”
The performances were amazing across the board. Matt Smith continues to soar as The Doctor, and Karen Gillan’s Amy was heartbreaking. We’ve seen Amy be on her guard before, or suspicious of the world, but here we see her absolutely defeated. Hollowed out like a Halloween Jack-O-Lantern only to be slapped in the face by life again, this time with the happy (if weird) surprise that River is her daughter, meaning that her Melody will be kept safe. Alex Kingston as River did something beautiful here that we’ve never seen before. For the first time, when she is looking at Amy and Rory, we see innocence and openness. She’s still a mystery wrapped in an enigma, but we see in her face as she reveals herself to her parents the little girl she talks about when she talks about her history with The Doctor; the little girl that’s going to be swept off her feet one day. Lastly, Arthur Darvill as Rory was a revelation. He was at once an action hero and a sensitive father. The scene when the Sontaran nurse is dying and Rory insists that he’s a warrior only to be told “I’m a nurse,” was breathtaking. In Rory’s face we see the determination of a man who believes that being a nurse and being a warrior are not mutually exclusive. Rory is a man who is both.
And now, we have to wait all summer for the rest of this tale, which is just as well as there’s already plenty here to sink our teeth into! Here’s to killing Hitler in the fall!
Teresa Jusino wants a Rory in Centurion Garb of her very own. She can be seen as the teen geek in the current Bordertown book trailer. Her “feminist brown person” take on pop culture has been featured on websites like ChinaShopMag.com, PinkRaygun.com, Newsarama, and PopMatters.com. Her fiction has appeared in the sci-fi literary magazine, Crossed Genres; she is the editor or Beginning of Line, the Caprica fan fiction site; and her essay “Why Joss is More Important Than His ‘Verse” is included in Whedonistas: A Celebration of the Worlds of Joss Whedon By the Women Who Love Them, which is on sale now wherever books are sold! 2012 will see Teresa’s work in two upcoming sci-fi anthologies. Get Twitterpated with Teresa, or visit her at The Teresa Jusino Experience.