A review of the “Doctor Who” mid-season finale coming up just as soon as I speak baby…
“You can wait a long time for the Doctor, but he’s worth it.” -Amy
Boy, I really hope BBC America doesn’t again put “Doctor Who” on hold for a week based on a holiday that the US celebrates and the UK doesn’t. Not only does it seem counter to the whole anti-piracy thrust of the day-and-date scheduling this season, but it made it all but pointless for me to do a post on last week’s “The Almost People,” a very dull episode where the only thing worth discussing was the cliffhanger – and where there was no point in doing that because UK fans and torrenters would have already seen the next episode by the time “Almost People” aired here.
But moving onward, “A Good Man Goes to War” was predictably splendid enough to wipe away whatever bad taste the Flesh two-parter (and, for that matter, the pirate episode) left. The Steven Moffat era of “Who” is definitely going to have big highs and lows the way Russell Davies’ seasons did, but the highs are very, very high.
Obviously, the big thing to talk about with “A Good Man Goes to War” is the revelation that River Song is, in fact, Amy and Rory’s daughter, and I’ll get to that in a moment. But that news comes at the end of the episode, and what struck me before that was how overwhelmingly the hour was about how other people respond to the Doctor. That’s obviously a running theme of the show, particularly in the way he upends the lives of his companions, but this episode felt like it was more about that than any other point in the modern series. Even last season’s “The Pandorica Opens,” which featured every one of the Doctor’s enemies banding together to stop him, was more of a classic Moffat puzzle episode with a brief burst of commentary on how others view our hero. But virtually every scene of “A Good Man Goes to War” was about the legend of the Doctor and how everyone bends it to fit their needs. To some, he’s a hero. To others, a terrible threat. To nearly everyone – except the Doctor himself, who’s terribly heartbroken to hear it(*) – he’s the mightiest warrior the universe has ever known.
(*) Though that particular beat felt very similar to the moment at the end of the final Davies season where the Daleks point out that the Doctor has turned all of his companions into soldiers. Again, it’s a very long-running show and themes will be repeated, but it did seem like maybe he could have been less shocked that this is how his legacy is perceived.
So some strong stuff there, and a lot of cool action beats as the Doctor, Rory and their friends (the Sontaran nurse was my favorite) fought their way across the universe to rescue Amy and the baby.
And, again, it’s that revelation about the baby growing up to be River that I imagine most of us will be thinking on until the series returns with the evocatively-titled “Let’s Kill Hitler.”
River Song really being Melody Pond is fascinating on a lot of levels. The first is in the idea that the Doctor would choose to have an at least quasi-romantic relationship with the child of one of his companions. Though Moffat in the past played with the idea of Amy’s attraction to the Doctor, there’s never been a sense that those feelings were reciprocated – certainly not on the level of how Ten came to feel about Rose. And yet I can’t help playing armchair psychologist, looking at the whole River/Doctor relationship now and imagining it as his way of dealing with his feelings for the elder Ms. Pond without mucking things up between Amy and his pal Rory.
And remember River’s conversation with Rory from earlier this season about how meeting the Doctor as an impressionable girl completely reshaped her life, and how Rory recognized that as being identical to Amy’s story? Well, like mother, like daughter, even if in this case it seems as if the universe is pushing the Doctor to introduce himself to River in this way, rather than him choosing to do so.
Whether River also turns out to be the little girl in the spacesuit or not, I do get the feeling that this story is going to end with parents and baby separated, for a couple of reasons. First, it’s logistically difficult to imagine the show incorporating a baby into its usual format, so unless Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill are leaving, it just seems simpler to keep Amy and Rory childless. (Though that would significantly darken both characters, unless they’re subject to a memory wipe of some kind.) Second, and more importantly, when I think back on the scene in this episode where Rory goes to fetch River from her prison cell, it feels very much like this is the first time she’s seen her father in a very, very long time. (River says “Yes, we’ve met,” but she’s looking at him like she doesn’t remember being in his presence before, as if they were separated when she was still a baby.) And now I really want to go back and watch all the interactions between River, Amy and Rory over this past season and a half to see if there are other moments where River is clearly trying to deal with being around her parents.
But I’m trying to imagine a circumstance under which the all-powerful, never-say-die Doctor would allow River to stay kidnapped, if that’s the case. And I’m still not entirely sure why River was so afraid for the Doctor to find out who she really was, given how happy that news seemed to make him, and the way it drew him out of the funk the whole warrior business had left him in. It might be that the actions he take as a result of finding out who she is wind up causing an extended separation or some other kind of unhappiness for all involved.
Still, if the season has to take a break for now, this was one hell of an episode, and cliffhanger, to hold us over.
What did everybody else think?