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IHC TV reviews: Doctor Who “A Good Man Goes to War”

First off: SPOILERS. While I normally try to keep my Doctor Who reviews more or less kinda spoiler free, with this episode, it’s just damn near impossible to discuss in any capacity without giving away some big plot spoilers. So if you haven’t seen this episode, get it in whatever way you can before you read this review.

So are all the people who haven’t seen this episode out of the room? Good. Here we go.

As you may know, the last time we saw Amy, it turned out she had been a Ganger for some time and the real Amy was somewhere, where she was about to give birth to a baby. This episode starts off with the birth and the weird lady with the eye patch taking the child. She’s the general of some sort of army that’s been assembled with the express purpose of killing the Doctor. There’s a huge military-religious force on an asteroid called Demon’s Run, and the human soldiers have allied themselves with a mysterious black robed Sith-like race of being called The Headless Monks. 

Here this army stands, in some corner of the universe, just waiting for the Doctor, knowing that he’s going to be coming for Amy and the baby. But before he shows up, he needs to assemble his own army. Through time and space, he goes, grabbing Sontorans, Silurians, Judoon, pirates and whoever else’s favor he can to mass on Demon’s Run. The episode starts of well, with plenty of action as the Doctor and his small army show up, quickly take control and scare the army off the asteroid. Rory’s sufficiently badass, though I would have liked to have seen maybe a little more of the “You just pissed off the wrong motherfucker” Rory from the very beginning of the episode and River Song is sufficiently cryptic, but I assume that you know why by this point, having seen the episode.

But taking Demon’s Run was perhaps a bit too easy. Hardly a battle…

As the Doctor’s allies take a short revelry in their victory, the Doctor, in a conversation over video with the evil one-eyed Madame Kovarian, realizes this whole thing was just a trap and that the baby that Amy’s been clutching to her bosom is really a Flesh avatar. Madam Kovarian has the real baby and the Headless Monks, who haven’t fled the asteroid are closing in on our heroes. But the baby is of course, safe. How do we know? Because right as Amy, Rory and the Doctor are desperate, River Song reveals finally who she is… she is Amy and Rory’s daughter, conceived in the TARDIS at just the right time, making her part Time Lord as the time vortex altered her developing DNA. Her birth name, Melody Pond, translated into the language of the Gamma Forest where she was apparently raised is “River Song”, since they don’t have a word for “lake” or “river”.

And in this, River Song’s prophecy from prison when she was talking to Rory begins to be understood— at the Battle of Demon’s Run, the Doctor will rise to his greatest heights and fall further than ever before. While the Daleks and the Cybermen zerg swarm their enemies with numbers, Madame Kovarian has been laying perhaps the most brilliant trap that the Doctor has ever faced. She’s taken one of the Doctor’s companions, made a perfect copy of her, somehow knew that copulation aboard the TARDIS would bathe the DNA in the time vortex, creating a Time Lord that she would use as the ultimate weapon against the Doctor.

And that’s also why this episode is such a pivotal one in the modern Doctor Who canon— from this point one when the season resumes in the fall— the story will be all about River Song. 

Never before has the entire life of a single supporting character been so important to the evolution of the Doctor’s story and character. This woman, born of two of the Doctor’s companions, bathed in the time vortex is both the Doctor’s greatest love and still supposedly his future murderer. So let’s put together what we know about River Song’s life so far:

-Born on Demon’s Run to Amy Pond, where she was then abducted by Madame Kovarian

-At some point, as a small child, she ended up in the possession of The Silence, who had her in an orphanage in Florida in the 1960’s. From here, they put her in a mech suit made out of the suit of an American astronaut. This is where Amy first meets young River Song, but doesn’t know who she is. At this point, Amy thinks that the girl is the one she saw killing the Doctor and she tries shooting at the girl, but misses— yay for being unable to create a time travel paradox.

-River escapes from the mech suit and somehow ends up in what appears to be New York City, still in the 1960s, where she’s fatally injured and regenerates, but we don’t know what happens to her after that point.

-Somehow, it’s implied in this episode that she ends up living in the Gamma Forest for some time, possibly this is where she is raised, where she changes her name from Melody Pond to River Song according to the local language of the people of the Gamma Forest.

-From there, there’s a good-sized gap from her childhood until she hooks up with the Doctor as the adult and they fall in love. The Doctor’s first meeting of the adult River Song isn’t known, and she doesn’t tell. Along the way, she learns how to fly the TARDIS and acquires her own sonic screwdriver.

-In the two-parter “The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon”, River Song witnesses someone in an astronaut suit murdering the Doctor. It’s been strongly implied that River will one day kill the Doctor, but is this that moment? 

-At some point, River ends up in prison for “killing the best man she ever knew”, again, implying that she was the one that murders the Doctor, but if it was River that killed the Doctor in “Day of the Moon”, was she arrested? By who? In any case, she murdered somebody and is serving a life sentence in the prison, the Stormcage, from which she easily escapes whenever she wants to travel with the Doctor.

-After perhaps centuries of River and the Doctor snogging and traveling through time and space, she encounters the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) in the two-parter “Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead”, where she’s now an archaeologist. This is what the Doctor thinks is their first meeting, but it’s actually their last. She dies, sacrificing herself to save everyone, and I suppose she’s dead dead, as she had said that if the Doctor had sacrificed himself by hooking himself up to the core of the Library would incinerate both of his hearts, making it so that he can’t regenerate.

There were some big questions answered in this episode, but there were more questions raised than were answered. Now that we’ve seen River Song’s birth and earlier we saw her death, there’s an entire possibly very long life in between. How do the Doctor, Amy and Rory get baby River Song back? How does she end up in the Gamma Forest and why isn’t she raised by Amy and Rory? How does Amy feel now that she knows that the Doctor is fucking her daughter?

River can regenerate, but if she’s half Time Lord, can she regenerate the same number of times as a full Time Lord? If so, the future for Doctor Who is exciting. This means that the awesome River Song can be on the show for a very, very long time, even after Alex Kingston decides to give up the part somewhere down the line. There could be a point, when there’s a 12th Doctor, that there could be some earlier regeneration of River Song traveling with him in all those adventures in written down in that diary of hers.

This was a fucking fantastic episode and a great, if nail-biting way to break the season for the summer. I love this show the most when they blow their budget on going full out sci-fi like this. I loved seeing the return of so many characters (especially Simon Fisher-Baker as the trader Dorium Maldovar). I loved how Stephen Moffatt’s been building this intricate trap for two seasons that all leads up to this amazing point in Doctor Who where I feel the show’s about to break some things wide open. 

So when the season resumes in the fall with the episode titled “Let’s Kill Hitler”, what is to be expected?

There’s the rumor that the season will end with a three-Doctor episode, with David Tennant and Peter Davison joining, but what about before that, and what it means for the larger story? There’s obviously still so many questions to be answered about River Song, and there’s a lot of questions about Madame Kovarian and how she’s been able to put together this perfect plot to trap the Doctor. How long has this been going on? How long has this been planned? Who is she really working for? What does she have to do with The Silence?

Here’s my theory. So I’ve talked about how much I want to see the Time Lords return, and it’s something that is probably on Stephen Moffatt’s agenda, since unlike Russell Davies, Moffatt is unafraid to make big and daring events part of the Doctor Who universe. If the Daleks could escape the time-locked Time War, than so can Time Lords. Hell, Time Lords should be able to escape more easily.

In the Time War, Gallifrey was destroyed as were all the Time Lords except for the Doctor. Or so he assumes. Maybe he killed a hell of a lot of them, but there’s got to still be some out there somewhere. Maybe they’re in an alternate universe or in some universe bubble that the Doctor’s not aware of, but they’re out there somewhere. And they’re pissed. The Doctor, since he stole a TARDIS (or a TARDIS stole him), has always been an outcast to Time Lord society, but they’re still his people. But they are very likely really pissed off at what he did in the Time War, and perhaps that’s who Madame Kovarian is working for. Perhaps, somewhere out there are the last few Time Lords from the Time War, feeding her information to set this trap to kill the Doctor before they return.

I think we can get a bit of a clue with the name of the second part that will air in the fall. “Let’s Kill Hitler” sounds like a cheeky one-off romp to World War II, but we know that it’s part two of this two-parter, so will follow directly on the events of this episode. So this isn’t a fun romp back to 1940s Europe, and while the Doctor does interfere a little with the time line (which is why the old Time Lords didn’t really like him), he tries really hard to not interfere with “major” and established events. 

But I think he’s about to break that rule. It’s become one of those things with time travel, that given a time machine, most people would want to go back in time and kill Hitler, but as noble as that would seem, killing Hitler or somehow otherwise preventing WWII and the Holocaust would be a major shift in the time line that would have trillions of untold consequences. The Doctor didn’t stop the eruption at Pompeii and he wouldn’t go back in time to kill Hitler— unless he had a damn good reason. A damn good reason like trying to shake the tree and see what comes out. Like Time Lords in hiding perhaps. Or to “test” his time line to see if it’s real, or to shake things up quite a bit and see what happens. 

It’s also possible that whatever scheme Madame Kovarian and whoever else has set up extends all the way back to the first Matt Smith episode with the crack in her wall and the Doctor saying that she was a very special child. This could perhaps be the Time Lords in alliance with others to directly influence and get to the Doctor through a companion— that Amy’s whole life and her adventures with the Doctor was just a scheme to get this Time Lord-ish child to eventually murder the Doctor.

Maybe? It’s gonna be a long wait till fall to find out these answers.

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