Doctor Who A Good Man Goes To War, the mid-season finale, attracted 5.5 million viewers according to overnight figures. The long-running secret of River Song‘s true identity was finally revealed. Viewers also learnt more about Amy‘s baby, and why she is so important to the Doctor’s enemies. It also saw returns for many of the show’s monsters and allies from recent years. Above all it tells an epic tale that spanned the vastness of space and time. So did Steven Moffat’s story intentions win the war? Or did it fail to translate from script to screen, just like the Tardis translation circuits did in this episode?
"Would You Like Me To Repeat The Question?"
The pre-credits sequence opened by answering the question viewers were awaiting with it’s first shot, the name of Amy‘s baby, Melody Pond. It’s so obvious now, when you know the revelation of River Song, but even this went over my head at the time. I was wrapped up amidst the excitement and anticipation that A Good Man Goes To War created after last week’s cliffhanger. And also some of the hype given to it by the BBC and the show’s lead writer, Steven Moffat.
And that’s one of the reasons I liked the answer to the question, and Moffat’s writing style in general. He’d already given you all the answers there onscreen to lead you to the answer. And as is quite often the case, the most obvious answer ends up being the one it has to be. Of course Moffat had held just enough information back to cloud matters, namely seven very important words. And those words are “they don’t have a word for pond”. Therefore this completes the mysterious message given to the Doctor by the Tardis at the end of The Doctor’s Wife.
So the reveal finally came, and for me it worked perfectly. Many fans had speculated that River Song was Amy Pond‘s daughter for some time, but the idea had seemed a little ridiclous to me. However the explanation that her name comes from a language imperfection rather than some mysterious ancient prophecy was much more preferable to my tastes. It was the obvious answer after all, and it probably gets Steven Moffat out of a couple of holes he’d dug himself. Therefore it allows the possibilty of more future appearances from the character and Alex Kingston. Silence In The Library/Forest Of The Dead had given her a set in stone “timeline” from death (in that episode) to her first meeting with the Doctor in the future.
"Demons Run, When A Good Man Goes To War"
The other aspects of A Good Man Goes To War set out to be truly epic in style. And I think that it succeeded in that respect. The CGI elements were some of the best I’ve seen in modern Doctor Who. The locations looked good and were used to great effect. There was plenty of humour to be found in it’s dark tones. In addition I loved the Sontaran nurse Commander Strax, Lady Vastra the female Silurian Sherlock Holmes and her valet. Also the Doctor being able to “speak baby”. And the Headless Monks were very unnerving and scary. A welcome addition to show’s gallery of foes.
The conscious decision to have the Doctor not appear until almost twenty minutes in was unusual at first inspection. But it tied in with Moffat’s themes running throughout his era of fairytale, myth and legend. You didn’t need to see him, that was the point. God help his enemies, and god help his debtors. It also played nicely in to the unmasking as one of the Headless Monks. A clever plot device to create a hiding place for the Doctor after being namechecked seemingly in a throwaway manner in last year’s Weeping Angels story.
Matt Smith was brilliant thoughout, and continues to show new aspects and touches to his acting. In particular the scene where his angers flows out at “Colonel Run Away”, or the death scene of the young girl from the forest. I think many of his predecessors would have struggled to convince with the same material.
"Time Runs Out"
So no more Doctor Who now until later this year (Autumn 2011) when it returns in the interestingly titled Let’s Kill Hitler. The show takes a mid-season break for the first time in it’s history. For that reason, some people saw this week as being a “mini-finale”, and for many of them it may not have delivered that promise (or hype). But taken as an episode seven of a thirteen episode series, it offered far more than any prevous year. And I believe this is the best way to view it.
A short teaser trailer after the credits finished gave us the strapline of “Time Runs Out”. An image of a smouldering corpse still grasping a dying sonic screwdriver as it’s light flickers for the last time. Knowing what we know from The Impossible Astronaut and seeing the Doctor’s (apparent) death, it’s impossible not to attempt to link the two things. Coupled with some of the dialogue contained in A Good Man Goes To War, I think I’m finally starting to see where this series is going, after the opening two episodes raised a mutlitude of confusing questions.
What are the implications of the Doctor being known throughout the universe as a “great warrior”? And is he maybe thinking of finally “giving up” as he snaps at Lady Vastra in defeat. It’s obvious we’ll be seeing more of the villainous Eye Patch Lady (or Madame Kovarian as we learn she’s called), but I also suspect we haven’t seen the last of The Silence. Why did they take what we now know to be the ‘flesh’ Amy, and why did they give her the post-hypnotic suggestion to tell the Doctor she was pregnant, if that indeed was their intention. And who will Amy‘s “timebaby” regenerate into? Will Moffat again give us the obvious answer, or something that just raises more questions? We’ll have to wait and see…