S6(32)E07 – A Good Man Goes To War – Broadcast Discussion

4th June 2011 • Blog Post by Seb Patrick •

WHO is River Song? WHY is Rory dressed like a Roman again? WHO is Amy’s baby? WHY are the Cybermen involved? WHO is Madame Kovarian? WHERE do the Clerics come into all of this? WHY did the Doctor die in episode one? WHO was the regenerating girl? WILL we even find out the answers to all of these questions tonight? WHAT will the intensely frustrating cliffhanger that will keep us all guessing and on edge until September be? HOW fucking excited are we about this episode?

Seb Patrick once met Paul McGann, who immediately pretended to be Mark McGann. He writes for Den of Geek, BBC America, Film4 and the official Red Dwarf website, among others. He owns over thirty toy Daleks and wishes the Dapol factory tour was still open.

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38 Responses

  1. Kris Carter

    Loved that! Epic and very personal at the same time… I’d sorta guessed who River was going to be when I saw the name Melody Pond… but still, wicked episode!

    I am convinced now that River is going to be locked up not for killing the Doctor, but for killing Rory… That teaser of the skeleton hand holding the sonic – Rory used the sonic all through this. River has called Rory “brave” in previous eps. When she saw him in the opening moments, she was downright tearful. I’m calling it now. She’s going to kill her dad. Why? Well, that’s the fun part…

    And the Madame revealing the baby was a flesh avatar? I damn near fell out of my seat!

  2. Seb Patrick

    Good theories tend to be backed up with reasons rather than just being pointless speculation. Therefore, I am awarding you a Good Theory Medal, Kris. That one could very well be a go-er.

    And yes, we all saw it coming either from “Melody Pond” or from the scene with Rory, but the revelation itself wasn’t really the point of it all, was it? The point of it all was it just being a thrill-a-minute, fantastically entertaining episode. And surprisingly funny in its early part, for all that.

    Loved the Cybermen bit, and it had me wanting so much more of them later in the year (and the Flatmate clocked that the ships were basically the exact same ones from The Invasion).

    Also loved seeing Moffat actually do great things with monsters that had been in such dreadful stories in the past. Glad Neve McIntosh was brought back and given something good to do for once, although I’m sure Mad Larry will be furious that she was basically the Adventuress of Henrietta Street.

    In other news: Steven Moffat in 1995, there.

  3. Reboot

    Honestly? It felt… flat… to me. One to file under “trying too hard”, IMO…

  4. Seb Patrick

    Another point: we now know how she knew his name in Silence of the Library.

    It’s because it was written on her crib when she was a baby.

  5. Matty

    “Loved the Cybermen bit, and it had me wanting so much more of them later in the year (and the Flatmate clocked that the ships were basically the exact same ones from The Invasion).”

    A lot of people seem to have noticed that the RTD-era Cybus logo has gone as well. I think Moffat is, implicitly, retiring the parallel-universe cybermen and restoring the old Mondas ones as though nothing had happened. It’ll never be explained, of course, but removing that logo (which had become part of the cybermen’s look) is clearly supposed to convey something or other. The mention of cybermat’s last week and the old-style cyberships is another wink at the older fans, I suspect.

  6. Seb Patrick

    >A lot of people seem to have noticed that the RTD-era Cybus logo has gone as well

    Yeah, we saw that in the picture above ;-)

  7. I quite like the killing Rory theory. They’ve pulled that bait and switch a few times, including the start of this episode. And, she wouldn’t be the first.

    Except, if the baddies took Melody, put her in a spacesuit to keep her alive, and then the thing in the spacesuit shoots and kills the Doctor, then that’s just a little time travel away from being a complete story.

  8. How the actual fuck can a two-parter start with this and end with something called LET’S KILL HITLER?

  9. Seb Patrick

    I’m about 90% certain it’s not a two-parter. Ep eight will jump forwards, and be an entirely separate story, I’m pretty sure of it.

  10. I’m leaning towards the “River kills Rory” theory too: she seemed extremely shocked and emotional to see Rory when he came to recruit her, and to me that whole scene felt very much like foreshadowing for a tragedy involving him. Plus, River’s about the only person left in the universe who hasn’t had a turn at killing him yet!

    In Confidential, Arthur Darvill said something like: “It’s like when you were a kid and lined up all your different action figures from all your favourite cartoons.” He was specifically describing the scene when the Doctor’s recruited army comes together, but the playing with figures analogy also sums up the whole episode – silly, over the top, maybe trying to cram too much in for its own good (“…and then the Space Spitfires come along and shoot at the asteroid space station!”), but always great fun.

    Sontaran breast milk! The Mainframepope! Rory being a cool guy and avoiding looking at explosions! A jump cut of twenty thousand light-years! An “I’m so sorry!”

    I suppose the reordering of episode 6.03 is to blame for the pirate captain and his son only appearing in one shot rather than playing as central a role as the other recruits?

    But of course, the very best thing about the episode – even overshadowing the River revelation – was the moment the next episode title whammed into the screen. What a title! Puts you in mind of “If you could go back in time and kill Hitler as a baby…” – but is he literally going to be the subject of the episode, or is it an indication that the episode will tackle the more general theme of the limits of meddling with time travel?

    Regarding the 1995 rec.arts.drwho post Seb linked to, it’s interesting to click on his profile page and look at some of the other Usenet posts he made: in a thread about his 1996 TV project The Office he makes a comment on the distinction between audience and canned laughter (responded to a few posts later by MJ Simpson of Douglas Adams biography/HHGTTG movie review fame), and elsewhere he has a neat little way of cutting perennial fandom debates down to size: “Why all this fuss about canon – and, indeed, continuity – in a show about a man who changes history for a living?”

  11. ChrisM

    Spoilers! ETC.

    I rather enjoyed that. I don’t remember all the army recruits, but my brain can be a bit of a sieve sometimes. Have we met them before or did those particular adventures happen off screen? I know the episode with that particular breed of Silurians was set in the future…

    I seem to remember the blue man appearing in a past episode with River Song (didn’t he give her a time-displacement device?) and the Sontaran Colonel’s name rang a bell. Also… since when did the space-spitfires get turned into time machines? Mind you I suppose it’s possible they were transported by some of the Doctor’s allies time travelling allies.

    As for the twist, I’ve seen that theory (out of many) but it was satisfying.

    One thing that bugged me a bit. Rory had the eye-patch lady at sword point. Then later she turns up on screen delivering that last rather wonderful twist. So Rory just let her get away when he got the ‘baby’? I think they could have come up with something better than that. Her actually managing to escape for example.

    Despite those criticisms, it was a great episode. I wish more of the army should had been characters we’ve met before… but maybe I just forgot them, as I said. They were great characters though; the Lady Silurian character and the Sonttaran in particular. His comments provided some great comedy.

  12. The Flatmate Of The Site

    Very good, although not flawless like The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon. (This isn’t a particularly strong criticism; I happen to regard those two episodes as the finest work yet from the best writer the show’s had.) What really surprised me was how consistently funny it was. I laughed my head off for the first thirty minutes of the episode, a state of affairs when resumed after the cliff-hanger, as I had missed “Let’s Kill Hitler!” being rumoured as an episode title. I agree with Seb that Moffat’s selection of returning enemies was motivated by a desire to redeem classic series foes who’ve had underwhelming appearances in the new incarnation of the show. It’s surely no accident that the most brilliant of the characters was the Silurian, the monster whose ball was fumbled on Moffat’s watch last year.

    The two niggles I had were the use of the Clerics and the fact that the Doctor’s “darkest hour” was a bit underwhelming. As a practicing Anglican who’s been a fan of the show for many years, I agree that there’s a very interesting story in the idea of the church taking against the Doctor and making a stand opposing him. Sadly, though, we weren’t given any reasons for their actions. They appear to be a mercenary army here, with confirmation that Madame Korvarin had simply hired them as muscle for her plan, and the lack of any ideologically-derived reason for them to stand against the Doctor. It’s arguable that this is a point in the organisation’s history where they’re a religious body in name only (when The Fat One and The Thin One ask Bucket why she enlisted, they’re clearly not expecting religious fervour as the reason), but it would have been nice to have this explained.

    When considered in the light of day, the events certainly qualify as the fall of the Doctor. After his quick-witted and thoroughly Doctorish disarming of the Clerics and the Monks, he locks them in a room with the platoon of vicious Silurian warriors who he’s brought to massacre them. His recent conduct has resulted in an organisation who during Time of Angels were shown to be a force for good being willing to go to any lengths to destroy him. Even worse, his underestimating his foes leads to the deaths of those who he called in for no gain, with baby River being long gone. His lying attempt to comfort the dying Bucket is the nail in the coffin for the reputation of omniscience he’s been trading on. But the episode can’t let us feel the scale of the defeat. With the Doctor about to take a two month break from our screens, Moffat is unable to leave use with a broken and defeated hero, and so keeps these elements as thematic underpinnings rather than a truly devastating blow.

    By the way, can we please have the Cyber-epic that Moffat’s obviously itching to write?

  13. si

    My ‘wasn’t expecting that’ moment (‘Let’s Kill Hitler’ aside) was actually hearing Mark Gatiss’ voice. Now, was that specially recorded, or just a repeat from last year?

  14. Thor

    I’m seriously doubting that when Ten said there was only one time somebody would know his real name was actually if River was a future companion’s offspring.

    So, either the “one time” was if they became lovers (which they almost certainly are) or it’s something entirely different which River bluffed about because she knew his name (from the crib) and it was all she could think of to earn some trust.

    I’d be interested to know how far back the plan of River being Amy’s child goes. The name Pond was almost certainly deliberate, I’m sure. But was River always planned this way since Silence In The Library?

    I’ve also been thinking about River’s name, specifically why she doesn’t go around calling herself Melody. I can think of two reasons:
    1. She spent a lot of time growing up in the Gamma Forests and thus took it as her name, only learning afterwards that she’s actually called Melody Pond.
    2. The first time she met the Doctor he recognised her as River Song, so she always introduces herself to him with that name. (Perhaps, even, on his say-so to avoid those dreaded spoilers.)

    Is anybody else expecting us to be taken to the Gamma Forests in the remaining six episodes, perhaps meeting a young girl there who will run?

    Oh, and I enjoyed the episode.

  15. Hendiadys

    Regarding “Let’s Kill Hitler”, I’m with Nick R; it’ll hopefully be about the limits and rules of the Doctor, and the ethical implications of the adage, which I’m assuming will be known by the characters in the episode. RTD had “fixed events in time” that couldn’t be changed, but since Moffat has taken a more relaxed approach to rewriting time it’s necessary to revisit the problem. The writers of the supremely shit Superman 4 felt they had to ask why Superman wasn’t making nuclear weapons go away, like after a while any franchise with a moral guardian of the world has to address the limits of its fictional bubble.

    I suppose it’s a reversal of themes being presented in this episode and others, where bad things happen because of the Doctor’s historical importance. It would ordinarily be a bit Godwin’s Law to make such a trite Hitler connection, but I’m fine with it in this case because the famous adage is about Hitler!

  16. Seb Patrick

    I’m seriously doubting that when Ten said there was only one time somebody would know his real name was actually if River was a future companion’s offspring.

    Nooooo no no no no. The Doctor could only THINK of one time somebody would know his name, and so has been working on the ASSUMPTION that she’s possibly his future wife. It would never even have OCCURRED to him that another way she might know it would be to read it on his cot, because (a) what’s the expected chance of him showing his cot to anyone, and (b) he thinks there’s nobody left in the universe who can read/speak Gallifreyan.

    The writers of the supremely shit Superman 4 felt they had to ask why Superman wasn’t making nuclear weapons go away, like after a while any franchise with a moral guardian of the world has to address the limits of its fictional bubble.

    Well, Christopher Reeve was a massive hippy dippy liberal, and only agreed to do Superman IV if he had a hand in the plot. So all the nuclear stuff comes from him.

  17. Tce

    I really enjoyed that. Had me leaping out of the sofa and punching the air like a schoolboy at several points.

    I also quite appreciate Moffat’s balls in pulling the same “Ganger” twist two times on two different characters in two consecutive episodes. Except this time it was a hell of a lot more disturbing.

    Yeah, I guessed the reveal beforehand like a lot of people, but I adored the delivery. (Never leave, Murray Gold.) The Doctor tracking down kid River, the “weapon”, and possibly becoming a mentor to her, is a prospect I’m eager to see elaborated on. Plus we still need all that Silence business sorted out…

    …but not before “killing Hitler”, of course.

  18. Hendiadys

    Something I could do with clarification on: was the Doctor reading the writing on the outside of the cot, or the lettering on the fabric when he came to the revelation of who River is? The camera showed us the writing on the cot at that point, but what was he thinking about then? So I’m assuming he was reading the lettering on the fabric, and we were being misdirected, or Amy and Rory received a totally different story to the Doctor.

    Also, up to this episode River seems to have been apologising about the day the Doctor discovered who she was. A lot of foreboding was attached, leading many of us to assume we’d learn she was a baddie. Why? Was she apologising in advance for the day she would let him down to secure the history that created her?

  19. Something I could do with clarification on: was the Doctor reading the writing on the outside of the cot, or the lettering on the fabric when he came to the revelation of who River is?

    Moffat’s confirmed on Twitter that he was looking at the prayer leaf:
    http://twitter.com/#!/steven_moffat/status/77285930418970624

  20. Si

    >Had me leaping out of the sofa and punching the air like a schoolboy at several points

    As opposed to leaping out of the air and punching a schoolboy like a sofa.

  21. Si

    Couple of things I noticed – 1) added TARDIS Sound FX in the opening titles – added some scale, I felt. I approve. 2) “Ood and Judoon created by Russell T Davies” in the closing titles – I watched for a third time this afternoon, primarily to look for any Ood I hadn’t noticed when I watched last night. There was no Ood in A Good Man Goes To War, so why the credit?

  22. Pedantic Butright

    You have to watch the episode at least seven times before it becomes visible.

  23. An Ood Man Goes to War

  24. Hendiadys

    Quite funny direction this series has, I think, and I don’t mean in a bad way. There’s the “is the Doctor reading the cot or the prayer leaf” moment, but there are many others. One off the top of my head, in this episode again (and I hope I’m not misremembering the scene), is the way Amy says “what are you doing?” before the Doctor starts interacting with the baby and he makes the joke about his bowtie. As written (not that I’ve seen it written) her question appears to be one about the way the Doctor’s engaging with the baby. As directed, Amy appears to be asking why the Doctor thinks he’s standing there during an intimate Amy-Rory moment.

  25. Karl

    1. I called River to kill Rory months ago (Si should confirm this). Although i’m less convinced now, unless it’s a) by accident b) or she has to choose between saving amy/the doctor or Rory.

    2. Her name is that way around just because it’s cooler.

    3. Flatmate, your points are all invalid. The Sontaran was clearly the best guest character.

  26. Pedantic Butright

    Why would the name of a person be translated into a different language anyway?

  27. Si

    Karl – I confirm what you done said.

  28. ChrisM

    >Why would the name of a person be translated into a different language anyway?

    Do you mean by Lorna Bucket sewing the leaf thing, or the Tardis translation matrix, thing?

    With Lorna it was a traditional thing. Her people have their own language and traditions and so they do their prayer leafs in their native language. She could have done it in English, (or the future equivalent) for Amy’s sake but she wanted to give Amy a gift that was more personal to her.

    That’s the in-world explanation anyway.

    Apologies if I misunderstood what you meant.

  29. ChrisM

    Sorry for repeating the word ‘thing’ three times in two consecutive sentences…

  30. Pedantic Butright

    Well, what I mean is (and I’m only referring to Earth culture here, um, obviously) is that the names of people don’t tend to be translated in other countries. A name is a name.

    For example; in England we don’t refer to Pierre Curie as “Peter Curie” just because it’s a French name. We take the name as it is. Likewise, Joe Cole isn’t referred to as Giuseppe Cole in Italy.

    Yes, alien cultures blah, blah, blah…but Lorna seemed pretty humanoid and not particularly alien.

  31. Rosti

    A reasonable explanation would be the alphabet used – if you’re using different a symbol set with limited correlation you can transliterate and try to match the sounds or translate wholesale. It happens often enough on Earth that I’m happy to see it in space :)

  32. It doesn’t matter what it said on the crib, because Baby Melody never saw it. Her ganger was near it for maybe four minutes but she didn’t grow up in that cot.

  33. Seb Patrick

    Um.

    You might want to take another look at how the gangers, you know, work.

  34. Seb Patrick

    Besides which… River saw it as an adult. Before she met the Tenth Doctor. So it could still quite easily be the reason for her knowing his name further down the line.

  35. Quick thought: When River saw the spacesuit kill the Doctor, she was already in Stormcage — ergo, she had already killed the good man. BUT she was surprised by the whole spacesuit thing — ergo, that wasn’t her in the suit, or at least, that wasn’t what she was imprisoned for. QE to the D.

  36. Hendiadys

    ergo, that wasn’t her in the suit, or at least, that wasn’t what she was imprisoned for. QE to the D.

    I’d guess that her entire first body – from the baby to the girl regenerating in the alleyway (or at least her whole time inside the spacesuit) – is something of which she has little or no personal memory. So when she shoots the girl in the suit she thinks it could be herself she’s shooting at (she’s aware that the girl is her), but she’s not certain.

    I don’t think she was imprisoned for shooting the Doctor on the beach anyway, though. And I don’t think the “good man” refers to the Doctor. My guess is that she kills Rory, in her Alex Kingston body, some time towards the end of the series we’re in now, and that’s why she ends up in the Stormcage.

  37. ChrisM

    Not exactly on topic (but Who related) but I thought these were great. Basically the eleven doctors and a Master, Southpark style.

    http://www.bleedingcool.com/2011/06/17/eleven-doctors-and-a-master-south-park-style/

  38. I’d guess that her entire first body – from the baby to the girl regenerating in the alleyway (or at least her whole time inside the spacesuit) – is something of which she has little or no personal memory.

    That’s a good point. When she inspected the empty suit in “Day of the Moon”, she didn’t seem familiar with it. Either she doesn’t remember, or she’s far, far better at concealing spoilers than we ever guessed. I guess we just have to trust that Moffat knows what he’s doing. :-P

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