Thoughts on Doctor Who Series 6 Spring Finale A Good Man Goes to War

by Amy Yen

“He’s not a warrior.”
“Then why is he called ‘The Doctor’?”

River Song says it best in the end. Is this what The Doctor thought he would become? Feared? Stories about him whispered between soldiers? It’s not like he doesn’t know it’s happening. He says as much in “The Pandorica Opens,” stands on a rock at Stonehenge & says to his enemies above him, “Remember every black day I ever stopped you!” And finally, thankfully, somebody says aloud what we’ve all been thinking.

Is this The Doctor? Because the Doctor I remember doesn’t ever use his sonic screwdriver as a weapon, pointing it tip-first at flesh-Amy. He wouldn’t let Jack Harkness use his gun on Futurekind trying to kill them, so he definitely wouldn’t insight a gun battle between the cleric soldiers & the Headless Monks. He wouldn’t pantomime guns as Danny-Boy destroys the Demon’s Run communications array. He wouldn’t force the colonel in this episode to give the order to “run away,” just to humiliate him.

I don’t know who that is, but that is not the Doctor.

“Look, I’m angry, that’s new. I’m really not sure what’s going to happen now.” It isn’t new, not really. Remember what Ten did to the Family of Blood? I don’t know when exactly it happened, because it wasn’t simply when Eleven took over (remember he still pointed his screwdriver up to malfunction the Silurians’ weapons & even his disdain for all his enemies’ “silly little guns” in the aforementioned “Pandorica Opens” speech), but at some point, the Doctor became less empathetic, more okay with violence, okay with being feared, maybe a little too in love with being the Oncoming Storm, the last time lord. And because it’s mostly fun to watch him show off, we mostly just went with it, but I for one am relieved that it appears this was at least partially intentional, or at least that Moffatt & the producers are aware of the discrepancy, the change in this very, very established character.

River Song calls him out, in his darkest hour. And then she tells him her secret. Brings the spark back into his eyes. Makes him know, instantly, what to do next. Gives him hope.

Hopefully, it will also signal a return to the Doctor we know & love. Because it’s not like I didn’t like this episode or the first half of this unfortunately split series. But the Doctor’s empathy & kindness & mercy is what makes him a different kind of hero, & it’d be sad to lose what makes him special.

More random thoughts on “A Good Man Goes to War“:

  • So River Song is Amy & Rory’s daughter after all. Even though this was probably the most popular guess of any of the theories out there, it still gave me chills to actually hear it. Although, how does this “change everything” with the Doctor & River’s relationship? If anything, you would think it improves it, now that he knows. Then why did she spend so much time last year apologizing for when the Doctor finally finds out who she is?
  • Don’t forget, we still don’t know who it is she killed to get sent to prison. “A very good man.” Maybe one that went to war?
  • “The only water in the forest is the river.” I always thought that Amy’s last name being Pond & River’s name being River had to be significant somehow. Nice to see this pay off.
  • A lot of callbacks in this episode to previous one-off characters, much like the beginning of “The Pandorica Opens.” Of course these callbacks weren’t really that cool, since they involved sub-par episodes like “Victory of the Daleks,” “Cold Blood” & “Curse of the Black Spot.” It was kind of fun to see Dorium, the black marketer that River Song tricked into giving her a vortex manipulator last series.
  • Lorna Bucket turned out to be kind of a disappointing one-off character. Not because of anything she did, just because I kept waiting for her to turn out to be someone important, someone maybe that we already met (maybe a younger River Song). Too bad the Doctor remembered their encounter in the Gamma Forest, or else I’d think we’d see that adventure yet. As it is, I guess she’s just there for the Doctor to be sad over & to give Amy the clue that eventually reveals River’s identity.
  • The Headless Monks are not scarier than either the Silence or the Weeping Angels in concept, but in execution, they are creepy as hell.
  • Rory was kind of really awesome in this episode. Yes, having him be in the Centurion outfit is kind of random & silly, but it’s also still kind of cool. His showdown with the Cybermen was a nice moment, as was his meeting with River (although the best part is her reaction to seeing him, especially on the second watch-through when you know what she knows…this is her father).
  • The bit at the beginning, with Amy telling her daughter that her father is coming…”He looks young but he’s lived for hundreds of years”…was that really necessary? Just for that little moment before she says The Last Centurion when you think, WTF? Seriously? They’re really going to go there with it being the Doctor’s kid? Really? I just thought, OMG give it a rest already. The more they try to put tension in the Amy/Rory/Doctor “triangle,” the more irritating I find it. Just let them be! I promise you, you will find that all three characters can stand on their own now. Really.
  • Autumn 2011. Ugh!

6 Responses

  1. Great recap, especially your thoughts on the transformation of the Doctor into a warrior!

    Oh, and I think you may be able to hold out hope for a follow-up with the Lorna Bucket character, as after her death the Doctor did ask “who was she?”

    Then again, I’m not sure they will bother following up, as the moment really needed to run like that to show how far the Doctor has indeed deviated from his usual course.

    • Good point, I forgot that he said that after she died. I don’t know that it really needs to be followed up on. It just seemed weird to have so much focus on her randomly.

      Thanks for the comment!

  2. I’m not sure about Lorna ever returning. In addition to providing a couple of plot elements, I thought she was there to remind us that for every Amy, there are a hundred other children who are briefly touched by encounters with the Doctor, not always with positive results. Just as Strax – the warrior-turned-medic – was a counterpoint to Rory (and, to an extent, the Doctor himself).

    Loved Strax, by the way. By his death, it felt like he had become an old friend, not just a one-off character who had only appeared in a few scenes.

    Overall, this was fantastic stuff. I do wonder who is pulling the strings in the background, though. Kovarian is a bishop working with the Clerics, but she surely isn’t the king in this chess game.

    • That’s a really good point regarding Lorna. I always thought with one-off companions what it must be like going back to your life after spending a little time with the Doctor. How are you supposed to just go on?

      I really liked Strax too. And I don’t usually like the Sontarans, but I chuckled at each of his lines about the glory of battle. Definitely liked the connection with Rory. I think the problem with all of these side characters in this episode was there was simply too much going on to flesh them out properly.

      Thanks for the comment, Tim!

  3. I figured out the River Song thing a while back, there were all the horrible little clues, that you did an excellent job of re-capping.

    I think though that Rory is the Good man, he waited hundreds of years for the return of Amy while he was the centurion, and i think that this is what is hinting here as well. I think he saves everyone , he is a good man as he is a healer as well as a soldier, and there is that moment when Strax says he is just a nurse, i think that carries weight as well.

    So I think River kills Rory. The other things point there as she is part time Lord as well. I think when she does that she is sent away, for all the good it seems to be doing.

    So she also Kills the doctor as well, hmmmm, dont think its that simple.

    • That’s a really interesting theory about River killing Rory. I’m wondering how they can write out Amy & Rory without retreading some of the same stupid love triangle stuff they’ve been going through. It would make sense if Rory dies that Amy would leave. Plus, I really like the idea of Rory being the Good Man, the best man River ever knew.

      I rewatched The Impossible Astronaut this weekend & River is genuinely shocked to see the astronaut. If the little girl is her, would she remember it? While I like the idea of the Good Man being Rory, I also still think they might hold on to that card until Matt Smith moves on & make her be the cause of his regeneration.

      Thanks for the comment, Rob!

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