Saturday 4 June 2011

Doctor Who: A Good Man Goes To War

Unchained Melody

Doctor Who: A Good Man Goes To War
Airdate: June 4th 2011. UK. BBC1

Warning: I kinda already spoiled this on Twitter when I figured out who River Song definitely was last night and tweeted it this morning... if you even think like this review is even going to be possible to write without spoilers now that I've actually seen the episode then think again... not only will you know everything but I’m going to give in to some cold, hard speculation so you might get the ending of the other half of the series spoiled too for you if you haven’t already figured things out. Fair warning and here I go...

Ok... a long, long time ago, I think last year when I first started writing this blog... I’m sure I mentioned that Moffett liked watery names such as River and Pond and expressed that they could be one and the same person or perhaps somehow related... well that has now come to pass.

In what is probably the best and most postmodernistically (is that even a word?) referential episode of the so called "sixth series" so far, all was revealed... it was a bit like a big chocolatey dessert served up as a little treat for the fans. Now I’m sure if you’ve not been following the show thus far for the last seven weeks (let alone since the first appearance of River Song in the Tennant/Tate years of the show) then you’ll probably have found this episode mostly as dull as dishwater... even with the great one liners. It’s almost like it's a little bit of an episode which is there to just answer questions for regular viewers and tie up everything in one big package which is clearly labelled, “For Fans Only... Have A Merry Christmas, Love Steven Moffett.” So it’s much like the fifth of the sixth of Kevin Smith’s Jay and Silent Bob movies, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back... so self referential that if you don’t appreciate or at least know of the foundations on which it is built... the whole thing will fall over for you like an unsteady house of cards. But if you’re in on the joke... well... I was really happy with this one.

So what we have here is a very fast paced, blink and you’ll miss another surprisingly consistent dose of all round episode seven goodness... and when I say surprisingly, believe me nobody is more surprised than I that Moffett could deliver such an entertaining slice of the Doctor Who cake after what I see as a mostly poor performance last season. Yeah, I moaned and whined a lot about it last year and doubtless I’ll moan and whinge a lot more later in the year if he lets me down again... but this one was just great. I’m going to have me a mini River Song season next year when all the DVDs are out.

Okay, so the Doctor raises an army in this one, wipes out petty much a whole fleet of cybermen to demonstrate the non-emptiness of a threat and generally gets as close to being a warrior as we’re ever likely to see him. This episode is full of drama as we see Moffett push the Doctor into places he’s not really been before... well... I say that... not really been in a long time may be a little more accurate but what the hell. I only finished watching it a half an hour ago so I’m still caught up in things (glad I didn’t have that second glass of wine now).

On the way to the final revelation, which picks up from the set-up of Amy having been a replicant version of herself with her mind beamed into her fleshy husk (see the previous episode, reviewed here), we see the Doctor raise an army against... um... some shady people aligned with some Headless Monks (the shady people are a bit UNIT like and I’m wondering if they’re anything to do with the plot lines established in The Death of the Doctor episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures last year - reviewed here) and pretty much become a very un-Doctor-like warrior figure... calling in debts from various races and with the appearance of some rather whimsical and utterly delightful creations such as a Sontaran Warrior-turned-Nurse and a warrior Silurian and her human lesbian lover who has been hobnobbing around London in the 1880s... particularly the Whitechapel area because we meet her just after she’s despatched Jack the Ripper as it happens (oh well... there’s another potential historical figure The Doctor won’t get to meet now unless there are some pretty grim continuity errors). She would have been awesome giving Leila and The Doctor a helping hand against that giant rat in The Talons Of Weng Chian methinks.

Added to the mix of action and adventure are some really funny lines and references to past episodes (those bloody laser cannon spitfires are back again) and it’s all wrapped together in a little bundle which has the final revelation (or not if you’ve been concentrating throughout the series) of River Song’s identity. So last spoiler warning right now for all who haven’t seen the episode yet... here are the facts and also a little bit of speculation.

1. River Song meets The Doctor and pretty much dies - Silence In The Library and Forest Of The Dead.

2. River meets grown Amy but doesn’t really say "Hi" or anything much to Amy on meeting her as I recall. Anyone else remember that... kept thinking, this is not the first time she’s met Amy... wonder how longs she’s known her and why is she’s staying quiet? Anyone else remember that? Now we know for sure. And by the way... it’s River who doesn’t give up on Amy and rescues her from the angels in that one! - The Time Of Angels reviewed here and Flesh and Stone reviewed here.

3. Amy is replaced by replicant Amy pre-Series Six.

4. After a few more adventures with the Matt Smith incarnation of The Doctor, River shoots at a little girl in a spacesuit after that little girl kills an older version of The Doctor. SPECULATION: The little girl is Amy and Rory’s daughter Melody Pond (the name you see written in the first couple of minutes of the latest episode and which gives you the answer right from the start... after all, how can River Song know about the events at Demon’s Run when she’s not technically there at that age in her timeline unless she’s heard of things from her mother?)... trained by the ones we shall call, for the time being, “the bad guys” to be a weapon to kill The Doctor. Which she does but somehow gets damaged (we’ll find out later in the year, don’t sweat it) and regenerates to heal (because she was conceived in the TARDIS so has timey-wimey DNA) and probably regenerates into a slightly older looking version of herself... like the River we all know and love? - The Impossible Astronaut reviewed here and Day Of The Moon reviewed here.

5. And then tonight... Amy has given birth to her and Rory’s daughter Melody Pond... who it transpires is young River Song and is a bit timelord in her make-up due to being conceived on the TARDIS (I think I’ve got that right) and is substituted for a replicant Melody/River and kidnapped by “the bad guys” and... SPECULATION: is trained as the perfect weapon and kills The Doctor (which I’ve no doubt he’ll get out of at some point later in the year). She then goes to prison and carries on seeing The Doctor whenever she can. And, of course, she is trained to be a very good killing machine, hence the Dalek begging for mercy in the last episode from last series called The Big Bang... and reviewed here.

And there you go. All wrapped up in a nice little bundle. The Doctor goes off to rescue young Melody while older, wiser River stays to comfort her mum and dad, Amy and Rory, at the end of this episode.

And, of course, being as it’s Moffett, this all raises a whole load of other perfectly reasonable questions with which Moffett can tease us with for a while... but we can easily see the light at the end of the tunnel on this one now so I’m feeling a little more relaxed about the whole thing. Especially seeing that the next episode after the mid-season break will be called Let’s Kill Hitler and especially since we had such a great little teaser trailer for the next half a series in the form of a cold, skeletal hand clutching a sonic screwdriver. Way to treat us to some iconic Doctor Who imagery which I suspect is going to stay with a lot of the little kiddies (and possibly some of us much older kiddies) watching this show for quite some time.

And that’s me done with the current show for a while.. obviously... and I’ll miss reviewing the show live on a Saturday night until the next half a series starts later on in the year. However, please stay tuned if you’re Doctor Who fans because I’m really not done with The Doctor just yet. First up I’ll be reviewing legendary sci-fi/fantasy writer Michael Moorcock’s take on the good Doctor with a little look at his novel Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles. Then at some point soonish I hope to be viewing and reviewing the Doctor Who classics The Claws of Axos and The Dominators. And I might also get to work on a little time-line illustration project at some point soon on one of the characters who has been featuring regularly on the series at various points over the last three or four years... I wonder who that could be then?

Thanks, as always, for reading. It’s always very much appreciated and I’m very grateful to my readers for taking the time to stop here.

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