Saturday, 4 June 2011

A Good Man Goes to War. Review (Mahoosive spoilers).

Dr Who, A Good Man Goes to War, Frances Barber, Madame Kovarian
Dr Who's first mini-series of 2011 comes to an end with a story that no one with any sense ever thought would tie up all its loose ends, and surely everyone knew would create new ones.

Having decided to rescue Amy from the evil eye-patch woman and her lackeys, the Doctor recruits an unlikely army of Silurians, a Sontaran, a blue man and some pirates before setting off to get her back. After a daring raid on the bad guys' asteroid, it seems he's succeeded but, while he frees Amy, in his over-confidence he fails to realise until too late that he's not rescued her baby, leading to the deaths of a number of his accomplices and giving River Song a chance to hand him a Davros-style lecture about his nature before she finally gets round to revealing who she actually is.

Dr Who, A Good Man Goes to War, Rory, Amy and River Song
To be honest, the River Song revelation's not that big a shock - there weren't that many people she could be and still have it mean anything in context of the show, and I think most viewers had noted the similarity between the names Pond and River. So, when it comes, it feels a bit lame especially as we're exposed to the unlikely sight of Alex Kingston claiming to be Karen Gillan's daughter. Still, at least we've finally got that mystery out of the way.

Dr Who, A Good Man Goes to War, Madame Vastra
If the thing has the air of an epic and is clearly in some places in debt to Star Wars, its main triumphs are ones of characterisation, as we're introduced to what must be the only Sontaran nurse in the universe, a lesbian Silurian Victorian super-sleuth and a young woman who's joined the bad guys purely so she'll get the chance to meet the Doctor again after once encountering him as a girl. Steven Moffat really does like to have the Doctor first encounter characters when they're children, doesn't he?

Dr Who, A Good man Goes to War, Rory and Commander Strax
Did we ever think we'd encounter a likeable Sontaran? Probably not but Dan Starkey plays the part of Commander Strax beautifully, fully exploiting the ludicrousness of a character who cheerfully threatens to kill you while also giving you helpful health advice, and you have to love his dying words to Rory; "A warrior? Rory, I'm a nurse," giving Rory as much of a reality check as the Doctor's had to receive. The episode's full of such neat ironies, including Amy's part Time-Lord baby being put in the Doctor's old cot. There's also the revelation that the Doctor can allegedly speak Baby Language.

That aside, the amount of build-up the Doctor gets in this episode's quite startling and there's no denying that, clearly starting to believe his own publicity, he needs to be taken down a peg or two - although it's hard to see how the writers can possibly turn the Doctor away from seeming like the deadliest being in the universe after all the triumphs against ridiculous odds he's had over the decades and all the ones he'll inevitably have  in the future.

Probably the weakest element character-wise is the sight of Rory being bad-ass with the Cybermen. It doesn't matter how hard Arthur Darvill tries, it's still impossible to see him as anything other than amiably inept.

If Russell T Davies got accused of sometimes trying to cram too much into his epics, Steven Moffat takes it to a whole other level as he tries to pack an entire RTD style two-parter into just 45 minutes. Largely he succeeds. Despite so much having to be fitted in, the pacing mostly feels right. At times it all seems a bit too pumped up for Dr Who - especially the Doctor enjoying the Spitfire attack on the base a little too much for comfort - but, in fairness, that issue's addressed with River Song's lecture.

So, the Doctor's succeeded and he's failed. What next? We still don't know who's actually behind the scheme to nab Amy's baby - although there's an obvious set of suspects - and how does Hitler fit into it all? We'll have to wait a couple of months to find out.

But just what was that post-credits shot all about?
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