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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

‘Doctor Who’ blogging: “A Good Man Goes to War”

(all spoilers! don’t read till you’ve seen the episode! this is a love fest only — all complaints and bitching must come from a place of love / previous: “The Almost People”)
Okay, so, Melody Pond = River Song?

Except it doesn’t. Not quite.

I am not convinced that everything we see here is totally kosher or, you know, real. There’s a whole lotta stuff going on here that is about names meaning different things, and things not needing names because it’s completely obvious what they are, or things appearing to be one thing and turning out to be something else entirely. Like this:

He looks young but he’s lived for hundreds and hundreds of years…

And Amy’s actually talking about Rory, not the Doctor, even though Amy’s extended seethe about how he is coming, etc., could just as easily apply to the Doctor.

Like this:

Hello, I’m the thin one. This is my husband, he’s the fat one. –the thin one

We’re the thin-fat gay-married Anglican Marines. Why would we need names as well? –the fat one

This bit is so meta that it practically jumps out and strangles you. It might be a clever bit of commentary on how tertiary spear-carrying characters get short shrift by writers and scant attention from audiences, but still: of course these two have names. They weren’t always the thin-fat gay-married Anglican Marines, in their own lives. In the context of this story, they are real people.

Unless they aren’t. Unless they aren’t real people. Unless they’re spear-carriers in a story within a story. Like a story being told in the Doctor’s own head. Or Amy’s own head. Or — for pete’s sake — it could be in the head of absolutely anyone. Maybe in the head of a companion to the real Doctor, traveling off somewhere else while his Flesh avatar is in the Matrix. Or something.

And then there’s the bit about how what the Doctor has done has come to infect language across cultures across the universe:

Doctor. The word for “healer” and “wise man,” thoughout the universe. We get that word from you, you know. But if you carry on the way you are, what might that word come to mean? To the people of the Gamma Forests, the word doctor means “mighty warrior.”

Combine River’s words with the fact that the Doctor is absolutely horrified to learn that it is clearly his own actions that have inspired his enemies here with the notion that a Time Lord can be a weapon, and I think we have the suggestion here that the Doctor is headed for some sort of reboot of his life, or his ways, or something. Maybe that just means the Doctor changes how he behaves in the future so that he doesn’t inspire people in the wrong direction.

But this is Doctor Who. This is Steven Moffat’s Doctor Who. It thinks really big. Like reboot-the-universe big. Could we be headed for another reboot of the universe to rectify events in which the Doctor has become a “dark legend”? Could a fake Flesh avatar Doctor leave the Matrix and join up with his real self in the real universe? Or something?

There do seem to be hints that things are so seriously messed up already anyway, even if we are in the real universe. Like the whole problem of River Song. The Doctor meeting someone out of order isn’t supposed to happen for him at all (at least as the old series established things). Of course, we’ve seen the laws of time being contravened in all sorts of ways by New Who, but things are even worse here.

And things are even worse even grading on the established River Song curve.

How can River know Demons Run is next in her personal timeline if she hasn’t experienced it yet? It’s the Doctor’s own rule about not spoiling, we’ve been told, so he won’t have alerted her about the disaster that is Demons Run in her personal future. She may know, once she’s in a situation with the Doctor, where he is in his personal timeline and what’s to come for him, but she shouldn’t know what is what’s about to happen for herself. “I’m from his future. I always know,” she says. But that’s bullshit. She’s not from her own future.

(On the other hand, the Doctor obviously told her something about Donna Noble, because River knew who Donna was, and that something bad was in Donna’s future, when they met.)

How did Demons Run get its name? “Demons run when a good man goes to war” is the “old saying” Eye Patch Lady and River refer to… and the fact that it’s an “old saying” suggests that place was named for a battle that would happen in the future. Which can’t be unless something is really really wrong with the timelines.

Sometime is seriously messed up, timey-whimey-wise, here.

When does River find out she’s the child of Amy and Rory? Is it possible she has not known her whole life? Could she have learned this at some point in between when we first met her, in “Silence in the Library,” and now? She never seemed all that concerned about it before. She never behaved so self-consciously with Amy and Rory before:

How would what’s written on the cradle mean anything to the Doctor’s and River’s relationship?

Dammit, I thought for a moment there that River was saying that she was the Doctor’s mother! Which would have been deeply creepy, because, as the Doctor noted, they’ve smooched. At a minimum. We know they’ve done more. All those quips from River about handcuffs and such. (“I bet I like you!” “Oh, you do.”) There is definitely stuff and very sexy shenanigans in store for the Doctor with River.

Of course, there’s also this question: Why would the Doctor’s own cradle, the one he slept in as a baby himself, be on the TARDIS? The random TARDIS he stole (okay, the random TARDIS that stole him)? It wouldn’t be. He’s lying. Again.

What does the untranslatable Gallifreyan inscription on the cradle read? Could it be that the Doctor and River have a child who slept here… and the inscription somehow incorporates their names? (The Doctor pauses before he answers No to Amy’s “Do you have children?” and doesn’t say anything to her question of “Have you ever had children?” Why hesitate in this instance when we’ve already seen him casually tell Donna, in ”The Doctor’s Daughter,” that he has had been a father?

More evidence: If “you can’t just cook yourself a Time Lord,” but that does indeed seem to be what has happened, then perhaps this is not the real reality. Perhaps the Doctor’s reboot of the universe — which he refers to in this episode — went wrong somehow?

Perhaps the entirety of what we have known as the Doctor’s story — since, you know, like, 1963 — is taking place in a misbegotten reboot of a universe. I cannot be the only one who hears this line:

I’m not a phantom. I’m not a trickster. I’m a monk.

and thinks, Whoa. Meddling Monk? The Who sorta-villain of old whom some fans have believed is the Master… could he be the Doctor himself, intruding from some sort bubble alt-reality… the alt-reality we’ve been seeing since, I dunno, Ten regenerated? Or even earlier?

Ack.

“He is not the devil. He is not a god. He is not a goblin or a phantom or a trickster,” Colonel Manton says about the Doctor. Could the Doctor be not even the Doctor? Could there be a reason beyond his age and the horrors of the Time War and such why he’s no longer a “good man”?

Questions we definitely have, and definitely have to wait till the autumn to find answers to:

1) When was Amy taken? Just because the Doctor believes it was “just before America” doesn’t mean that’s the case.

2) Who is Eye Patch Lady, who are the Headless Monks, why do they want the baby, and where have they gone?

3) Who is the larger entity waging the “endless, bitter war” against the Doctor, and why?

4) Is Melody really River, and is she/they really a Time Lord?

Gonna be a long summer.

Random thoughts on “A Good Man Goes to War”:

• Is this the most visually ambitious episode of Doctor Who ever? It’s big like a feature film:

Oh, it’s big like Star Wars!

Doctor Who needs a copyeditor/subeditor. That is not how you spell override:

• Aww, what’s in the box?

• This is something I have always wanted to say (though I didn’t know it till just now):

Send a telegram to Inspector Abberline of the Yard…

This too:

Pack the cases. We’re going to need the swords.

• Speaking of which: kickass Silurian babe Vastra and her kickass babe sidekick Jenny are the stuff of fanfic heaven:

It’s pre-slashed for your entertainment!

• “The papal mainframe herself” sounds like a Level One Heresy itself…

• Ah, but which Doctor took River ice skating on the frozen Thames in 1814?

• Great quotes:

“Oh, turn it off. I’m breaking in, not out.” –River, on the klaxon alarm at her prison

“That’s a whole different birthday.” –River, on the prospect of there being two Doctors

“Anger is always the shortest distance to a mistake.” –Vastra (quoting the Doctor)

“They’re always brave.” –the Doctor, about his companions (no matter how short their time with him)

“Please, point a gun at me if it helps you relax.” –the Doctor

“There are people all over this galaxy that owe that man a debt… If that man is finally collecting on his debts, God help you. And God help his debtors.” –Dorium, about the Doctor

“A crying Roman with a baby. Definitely cool.” –Amy, about new dad Centurion Rory

“Melody Williams” –Rory, about the baby’s name
“Is a geography teacher. Melody Pond is a superhero.” –Amy

“‘Run away.’ I want you to be famous for those exact words… I want people to call you Colonel Runaway. I want children laughing outside your door because they found the house of Colonel Runaway.” –the Doctor, to Manton — humiliations galore!

(next: “Let’s Kill Hitler”)


viewed at home on a small screen

official site | IMDb
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  • Nadfairfax

    He did have children. Infact his first companion was his grandaughter susan nd her teachers barbra and ian. 1 episode ever susan reveals that she named the Tardis. But I’m sure you know that by now. :-) there are a few other things that could be answered if you gave the old suff a once over. But they are incredibly hard to find and even hardet to watch.

  • Doctor80

    One of the best jokes is between Vastra and Jenny
    Vastra to Jenny: am I being rude again? I don’t know how you put up with me.
    After which she knocks out a cleric with a three meter long tongue and Jenny smirks:-)

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