Sunday, 5 June 2011

'A Good Man Goes to War' Review

Series 6 - Episode 7: 'A Good Man Goes to War'
Written by Steven Moffat - Directed by Peter Hoar

So we've reached it; the ridiculous hiatus. No more 'Doctor Who' until September according to Moffat, and to think I was looking forward to a solid amount of great summer television. Oh well. Anyway, the mid-series finale promised and boasted to be the ultimate 'Who' episode; the one to knock fans out of the park and show the world the massive potential of the show and it's stories, but did it live up to all it's hype?

Plot Outline:
It all ends here - River Song is identified, Amy and Rory face the realities of having a child, the Silurians, Sontarans and Cybermen unite and The Doctor is heading towards an impossible war with a deadly foe.

 Now like everyone else, I was bouncing with excitement for The Doctor's 'final' adventure and took part in my usual Saturday night routine - curtains drawn, phone off, beer in hand, friends around me, putting BBC One HD on a disgustingly high volume and anxiously waiting for my favourite show to start, but after the 50 minutes were up, I couldn't help but feel a little disappointed. 

 'A Good Man Goes to War' started wonderfully and in typical Moffat style, the viewers were launched from multiple locations and time periods within 5 minutes. Much like the opening to 'Day of the Moon', my eyes were wide with wonder and awe - Rory's spectacular entrance, Amy and Melody stuck in Demon's Run; it was brilliant. And the episode continued to be excellent for a further 25/30 minutes, but after that, it seemed to lose it's footing and Moffat's boots went from a size 8 to Bobo the Clown's - There is just so much ground to cover in the last 6 episodes that we can't really afford to have any more adventure episodes and I don't believe that 'Let's Kill Hitler' is a round-up episode from this one somehow.

 This episode had many flashes of genius especially during the sequences on Demon's Run with the 'Headless Monks' and even though it painstakingly obvious The Doctor was hidden underneath one of their robes, it was still a great entrance to the massive action that was taking place. River's entrance was hilarious too - seeing Alex Kingston floating up the halls of her prison and meeting Rory or 'The Last Centurion' made my day, and it was brilliant to see a variety of The Doctor's enemies come together and actually help him rather than attack him, however I think the lack of the Cybermen was a bit of a cheek. They were one of the main focus points for the episode in all the press write-ups and considering they only actually had 2 minutes of screen-time seemed like a kick in the teeth. SPOILER ALERT! Also for me, the biggest and best shock was the fact that baby Melody was 'Flesh' - my jaw fell to the floor and remained there for a few minutes. It was a terrific and affecting twist; an art that Steven has perfected.

 However, I feel that narrative imbalance failed the episode; there was too many 'obvious' plot points and far too much information to cause further 'confusion' and unsettling during the break. Viewers were promised they would find out who River Song is, and to an extent we did - but it wasn't a complete nor a particularly satisfying affair. SPOILER ALERT! So, we now 'know' that River is in fact Amy's daughter - it explains the 'Flesh' baby, it also explains her name - River Song/Melody Pond; it's a great connection, but we still do not know who River supposedly killed and her relationship with The Doctor is still so vague it's infuriating. She can fly the TARDIS, she's potentially part Time-Lord and she and The Doctor must have been intimate at some point in their muddled time-lines so why don't we know more for sure? Personally, I want River to become the next companion - I think she's the best character and certainly the most intriguing but until Moffat lets his fans in a little more, I think some will become slightly tired with running around the houses for clues regarding her presence.

 Personally, I embrace the suspense of the show - I love not knowing what's going to happen and being shocked at the outcome, but I wasn't shocked or very impressed with the ending of 'A Good Man Goes to War' - virtually every Whovain guessed this would happen and I imagine the majority wanted to be wrong and feel mislead in order to be fully satisfied by the 'surprise' climax, and I hope some were but I unfortunately wasn't. I wouldn't go as far as saying it was a 'Cop-Out', but I felt it was just too darn clich├ęd. 

 As I've already said though, it's not all bad; the episode had some very strong elements and tackled some tough subject matters, plus for the most part Moffat's script was very good and new director Hoar pulled out all the stops with his camera work. The episode looked beautiful and really felt like a finale setting. Also Michael Pickwoad provided yet another perfect set with Demon's Run - the man is an incredible set designer and a fine addition to the show.

 The performances were all very solid too - Smith was excellent as always and his scenes of high emotion and panic were executed with great skill. Darvill was wonderful and made a definite impact on the story thankfully. Gillan was once again the strongest performer but then again she did have more to play with than her fellow cast. The scenes with Melody were gripping and her spiralling sorrow was dramatic and moving. Kingston was fantastic as always but she had far too little screen time - I'm sorry but less than 10 minutes is not enough River. I also loved the appearances of Captain Avery (Hugh Bonneville) and his son Toby from 'The Curse of the Black Spot', however they seemed to disappear in a flash which was a shame.

 But now it's time to contemplate and we have a long time to do so - no more 'Who' for at least two months, and no DVD release until the middle of July. So it seems we'll just have to wait it out. I was hoping to be high off excitement and suspense after 'A Good Man Goes to War' but now I feel a little stretched. I'm looking forward to killing Hitler though... 

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