Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Doctor Who: A Good Man Goes to War

You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown.

I usually don't worry about spoiler alerts. However, this episode has not aired yet in the US, so I kind of feel guilty in not warning people that there will be spoilers in this review about this episode. So, if you don't want to know about Amy's baby and River Song, you should probably stop reading.

Anyhow, so the Doctor finally decides to rescue Amy Pond after melting the ganger that was sitting in her place. However, he realizes that he'll need an army to help him "go to war". So, who does the Doctor round up to help him in his epic battle where he will "rise higher than he's ever risen before"? Well, he checks out the wardrobe and raises an army based on the extra costumes they have laying around.

Really, none of these people gathered were of any importance to the Doctor. At least not from the viewer's perspective. There is no Captain Jack, Leela, Ace, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart leading a squad of UNIT commandos, or any other warriors or fighters that would make sense in a time traveler's continuity to bring along with him. Instead we get random lesbian Silurian and her lover maid, a lactating Sontaran and that blue guy that was in a fraction of a scene last season. Oh, plus he also grabbed the pirates from the siren episode and Danny Boy and the space Spitfires (you know, because they are so much more effective than actual ships designed to fly and operate in space).

These are the people that owed the Doctor the most? These are the Doctor's trusted army? No. These are what was in the wardrobe and the actors who aren't too old to play their old roles now. So that was rather disappointing.

But anyhow, for all of the hype of River's speech, "The Doctor will rise higher than he ever has before, then fall to his darkest place," it actually played out rather undramatically. The Doctor falling was apparently him being annoyed and frustrated and giving up for half a minute. For all of the focus on that speech, there was not much pay off in the story's drama.

As far as the revelation that River is Amy's daughter? That was inadvertently guessed at the start of this episode for us. When Amy's daughter was shown I read the name of the crib to Molly, "Melody Pond." Molly then asked, "What's a melody?" Jessica responded, "It's a song." Then woosh. It clicked for me and we figured it out. And in our second viewing the relevance of River's two birthdays was not missed.

There was a lot of flash, but little substance to this story. I hate that I keep delaying my reaction to see how these two-parters will conclude, especially with Moffat's style, but we'll see. Really not much happened in this episode. It was a big build up with fewer answers given about anything other than who River is. However, that was an exterior question and wasn't really a question that I had about this episode's plot at all (such as, who the hell is the eyepatch lady and who is she working for?).

However, there are a few things I would like to comment on:

The Headless Monks. The moment you introduce characters in heavy robes with their hoods up and make a point that you are not allowed to look under their hoods, you just know it is a matter of time before the Doctor, Rory, River or whomever pops back the hood and yells surprise. However, their use of light sabers and shooting Jedi bolts out of their hands was really just a little silly and over the top.

I'm wondering if River's prison sentence is for killing the Doctor, since she may have been the one to do it when she was younger and in the space suit. I believe at one point she said that she was in prison for killing "a good man".

The best moment of the show was when Rory was tending to the dying Sontaran. Rory was in his "war" garb and as he tried to comfort the dying Sontaran as the Doctor listened in, the Sontaran tells him that isn't really a warrior. He's a nurse. That is the same for Rory. The Doctor turned his nurse into a centurion warrior and the moment was probably the most interesting one in the episode. And it isn't the only time that the Doctor has had this effect on people. Look at Martha the doctor and what she became. I've come to really like Rory. He's developed and become interesting. I'm rather impressed, since I really thought that they didn't know what they were doing with him and he was just "tag along" at the start of this series.

But overall, the episode didn't explain itself. It was too fast and furious and relied on too much flash over substance. What could have been a good story was lost in the process as new characters were introduced to die valiantly (with no audience connect because they are new characters that we have no attachment to their sacrifices) and no time was taken to explore and reveal anything from the current story. Villains need motives and backstories. This one doesn't have any.

And one last annoyance that I had. They had to open with one last "is the Doctor the baby's daddy?" moment as Amy was talking to baby Melody. Hopefully that was poking fun at themselves and they've move beyond any need for this in the future.

Episode Highs:
*The scene with Rory and the dying Sontaran made the episode and helped build Rory's character.
*Rory now has kept his no-dying streak to three episodes now!
*The lactating Sontaran was actually kind of cutely funny.
*Seeing the reveal of the next episode's title made me chuckle.

Episode Lows:
*The Doctor's army was really uninspired and was a hodge-podge of "what's available in wardrobe".
*The story was lacking in explanation and depth and the only question answered this episode was really one that wasn't even brought up by this episode or story arc at all. So it was a misdirection as they "satisfied" us with a reveal of something that wasn't even pertinent to the current story.
*So the Doctor isn't just older than River, but knew her and interacted with her when she was a wee baby. Doesn't that just make their romance all the more... creepy?

Molly: (As usual Molly is beside me as I write this. Her portion of the review will be in Q&A form and I will transcribe what she says and format it later.)

Note: Molly was rather down and a bit dour in giving this review. Apparently she was really affected by the death of Commander Strax in the episode, even to the point where we had to pause it and talk to her because she was crying. She apparently wasn't too happy with the death of the lactating Sontaran.

Chuckie: So, what did you think about the episode, "A Good Man Goes to War"?
Molly: It's Doctor Who.
Chuckie: Yes, but that's what the episode of Doctor Who was called.
Molly: There was... um... their pirate friends came.

Chuckie: But how did you like it?
Molly: I liked it and don't like it.

Chuckie: Okay. What did you like about it?
Molly: That there was... um... the Doctor in it.
Chuckie: Anything else?
Molly: No.

Chuckie: What didn't you like about it?
Molly: There was fighting and people died.
Chuckie: I know, that made you sad, didn't it?
Molly: Mm-hm.

Chuckie: Well, let's talk about the story. What happened in the episode?
Molly: Um, the Doctor came down the stairs and the baby wasn't real. It was really a... what's the melting white stuff called?

Chuckie: Gangers?
Molly: No, the white stuff.
Chuckie: Flesh?
Molly: Yeah. The flesh... The baby wasn't really real because it was made of flesh.

Chuckie: Anything else happen?
Molly: I don't remember anything else.

Chuckie: Really? Not even anything about River?
Molly: She's really the baby.

Chuckie: What baby?
Molly: Rory's and Amelia Pond's. (She looks at her kitten that she's named Pond.) And not you, Pond. It's a different baby.

Chuckie: So, how is it that she's their baby?
Molly: Amelia had a baby.

Chuckie: But how did it end up being River?
Molly: Crap.
Chuckie: (Laughs.)
Molly: What? Well they didn't tell us about it good enough so its crap. Time box?
Chuckie: What about time box?
Molly: Well, I thought that was the reason she was her baby and old. She traveled through time.

Chuckie: You kept saying that you were confused during this episode. Was the storyline too confusing for a four year old to follow?
Molly: No. Remember there was two rivers?

Chuckie: What two Rivers?
Molly: The baby and the one who was older.

Chuckie: That wasn't too confusing for you?
Molly: That part was.

Chuckie: Okay, well, did you think that this episode was good for kids?
Molly: No.
Chuckie: Why?
Molly: Because somebody died.

Chuckie: Fair enough, Pixie. So, how would you rate this episode?
Molly: Good. I mean bad.
Chuckie: Which one?
Molly: Bad and good. There was some good parts and a lot of bad parts.

Chuckie: Did you want to give it stars?
Molly: Um. One.
Chuckie: Wow. That's not many.
Molly: Because I really didn't like this episode.
Chuckie: Out of how many?
Molly: Two.

Chuckie: Okay. Any moons?
Molly: I don't want any suns, Daddy. Just one moon, Daddy.
Chuckie: Out of how many?
Molly: Six.

Chuckie: So anything else--
Molly: Daddy. I'll give it suns.
Chuckie: You don't have to, Sweetie. That's fine.
Molly: I'll do it for you.
Chuckie: Really, Pixie. It's up to you.
Molly: Okay. Then I'll give them.

Chuckie: Alright. How many suns?
Molly: One.
Chuckie: Out of how many?
Molly: Nine.

Chuckie: Okay, so, who do you think would like this episode?
Molly: Everybody except Ava at my school and Karlie from dance.
Chuckie: Why wouldn't they like it?
Molly: Fighting and killing and all that stuff.

Chuckie: Okay, fair enough. Anything else you want to say about this episode?
Molly: I liked seeing the pirates again.
Chuckie: The Black Spot pirates?
Molly: Yeah. I liked that one. No one died and there was much more no crap in it.

So, that's our review. I thought that it was all-flash with little substance. Sure, questions were answered, but just not the ones posed by this story arc. There were a couple of good moments in it, but it set up a few moments for the characters to reflect what they have become, but also for the series to reflect on what it has become. From the Doctor being known to the soldier for being a mighty warrior and saying "Run!" to the Doctor being a name feared throughout all times of the universe, perhaps the show has gotten away from itself. Just as the Doctor was given the moment to reflect about what the nurse Rory had become under him, hopefully this is a chance for Moffat to reflect about what the Doctor has become under him. Hopefully River's words about the Doctor falling so far were meant for Moffat. It shouldn't be all running from monsters, explosions and action-packed battles-- I mean, the show began with the Doctor being fucking ancient. Hopefully River's words will be heard and things will be tempered a bit from this point on.

But I doubt it. The show isn't a kid's show anymore, but rather a show for those who remembered it as kids. But it still has its moments.

Anyhow, I give it two and a half out of five stars. The episode was entertaining, but it was lacking substance. Moffat was too busy giving us set-up moments to milk the last bit of "the Doctor is really the baby daddy" plot dry to give us actual character development, background and real plot. (Though I'm certain the fan-fic writers are doing a fine job of continuing the Doctor is the baby-daddy thread along)

Molly gave it one out of two stars, one out of two moons and a very reluctant one out of nine suns. This was definitely her least enthused review because of the death of Commander Strax. However, she was at least a little pleased to see the pirates make a return, as ridiculous as that may have been.

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