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Published on June 16th, 2011 | by Christian Cawley

War…What is it Good For?

So you’ve had just over ten days to catch up with the fascinating results of the Doctor Who Series 6 Episode 7, and as a concession to our American readers watching the show on BBC America we’ve left it a little later than usual to bring you our roundup of reaction and reviews to A Good Man Goes to War from around the web.

Before continuing, SFX have reported this week that the episode was viewed 7.57 million people, a big step up of over 2 million on the initial overnight figure of 5.5 million, although with the UEFA Champions League Final and Britain’s Got Sheepdogs on ITV, the audience share was down to 31%. Nevetheless, this is once again a strong showing from Doctor Who.

Many thanks to Kasterborous contributors Andrew Reynolds, Patrick Riley and Mez Burdett for helping me to compile the following, comprehensive and in many ways ultimate review roundup for the Doctor Who Series 6 mid-season finale A Good Man Goes to War!

In addition to suggesting that A Good Man Goes To War was a beacon of hope at the end of a run of mostly ho-hum episodes, SFX points out that the Grand Moff seems to have returned to his pre-Who roots with this story, and then proceeds to count some of the many instances within the forty-five minute span when a joke was told or a gag was performed that might have passed over the heads of the children watching.

“…typical Steven “Coupling” Moffat! A lot of us – doubtless not purer-minded youngsters of course – could be forgiven for thinking “Incest!” (when it’s hinted that River might actually be the Doctor’s mother) and “The Doctor is Melody’s dad!” (on a few occasions, including when he says “It’s mine”, although he’s referring to the cot) – plus there’s the reptile woman and her female companion, which is a first even for this most omnisexual of television shows; it felt like Moffat was feeding fan fiction/spin-off writers with that pair. The centralness to the plot of Melody’s conception and its timing might have raised the odd eyebrow in the odd house too.”

Crave Online highly praises the episode, but that doesn’t stop its reviewer from pointing out a couple of plot holes regarding the River reveal that many of us have likely thought of by now…

“I’m not sure if Moffat has entirely played fair about River’s true identity. I think that he did know she was part Time Lord in her first appearance, since he went out of his way to suggest that no Time Lord could survive what ultimately killed River. But River was pretty nonchalant around Amy last season and she didn’t seem to know who Rory was in the fifth season finale. For that matter, how could River have stayed in the timeline when Rory was erased from history? That would take some explaining if Moffat or the other writers ever decide to address it.”

Doctor Who - A Good Man Goes to War
This piece from Examiner.com commits the cardinal sin of spelling Stephen [sic] Moffat’s name wrong (quit staring at me like that!) and actually is more post-episode speculation than review.  But it does raise a good point about why River is addressed the way she often is, which harks back to the recently-reported news that the Moff’s idea of the word “Doctor” not being original to humans and other civilizations has been in his head for a very long time.

“[River] is called Doctor Song, which we learn from this episode that Doctor is another name Great Warrior.  I always wondered why she was called Doctor Song.”

There were never going to be any straight answers. River Song’s true identity has been canonised and like anything that wraps itself in the far too long to be practical scarf of Whodom; it’s ripe for a discussion or twelve! Let’s make it feel welcome…

In ushering in this new, exciting facet to the Whoinverse Big Shiny Robot have taken a moment to tackle the issue of Amy Pond: Have the events leading up to and including the heartbreaking moment of the second ganger double cross reduced her to little more than a victim?

“Amy was pregnant, kidnapped, and held against her will. There was not a whole lot she could do to get herself out of the situation without getting herself killed. The Doctor promised her he’d find her, and he did. If Rory needed rescuing, Amy would save him. Amy is strong and assertive, and “victim” is one of the last words I would use to describe her. One of the best lines in this episode is when Rory says “Melody Williams” and Amy’s response is “Ugh. Melody Williams is a geography teacher, Melody Pond is a super hero”.

Of course we still don’t know how willingly Amy was taken. Did she fight back against her as yet to be seen captures? Assuming that Madame Kovarian is just a front for something far more sinister…perhaps something more Silent?

Doctor Who - A Good Man Goes to War

Looking at the wider issue of companion relationships Buzz Focus lets slip its own dirty little secret:

“Now, I’m going to say something controversial, something that might not endear me to fellow Whovians: I’ve never been wild about River Song. Sure, since her introduction in Season Four’s “Silence in the Library” she’s been set up as a love interest for The Doctor but love interests and The Doctor don’t usually mesh well dramatically, in my book, since the stakes have always been about the relationships and not about THE END OF THE UNIVERSE AS WE KNOW IT (and those relationships tend to be ones that The Doctor could easily walk away from, which is why Catherine Tate’s Donna Noble, who was a friend first and foremost, was the best Doctor’s companion until Amy Pond).”

Newsarama have been plotting new unseen adventures and would definitely like to see more of the show stealing pair of Commander Strax and Madam Vastra:

“Much like The Corsair from Neil Gaiman’s episode, they appear fully formed, with an apparent complete but never revealed history, and leave the viewer salivating for more details. They are both similar in that they are members of races that view The Doctor as an enemy, but are unique in that they have both been given by him either a penance or a punishment, depending on one’s point of view. Strax clearly sees his as a punishment, being made to serve as a nurse to “lesser races”, but serve he does, and judging from how good at it he is, he’s putting his heart (and apparently, breasts) into it.”

So as you can see, the reviews and reputation of A Good Man Goes to War seems pretty is generally high.

Tor.com was especially happy:

“The best thing about the episode was the feeling that we’re involved in an Epic Story. From the rapid-fire opening to the revelation of River’s parents, from Rory’s heroism to The Doctor’s comeuppance, to the entire thing revolving around a fought-over child, this episode felt like a Big Story that is passed down from generation to generation. It felt like a fable that should have always existed, and now does. Moffat used a made-up nursery rhyme in “The Beast Below” in Series 5. Here, he has River recite a poem about Demon’s Run, which adds to the feeling of this being an actual legend.”

Doctor Who - A Good Man Goes to War

Meanwhile, SlantMagazine.com enjoyed the epic scale of the episode:

“Another excellent piece of acting from Matt Smith, as the Doctor is brought up sharply against the idea that he has raised this enemy up against himself without knowing it, simply by being who he is. Kovarian interrupts his musing, and tells him that the child is “hope. Hope in this endless, bitter war…against you, Doctor.” She gloats that she has fooled him twice with the same trick, sending him running back to where his allies (joined by Lorna) are under attack from the Headless Monks.”

And Hollywood.com was almost crying with good things to say about A Good Man Goes to War, praising Steven Moffat to the heavens:

“This was a fantastic episode. A+. 10/10. Everything Moffat teased and I hoped for, happened. It was glorious. It simultaneously began in the middle of action, answered major questions, gave us more questions, and then set up the series for YEARS to come. How could I give it anything less than my best?”

What did you think? Did A Good Man Goes to War deserve such high praise? You can see what Kasterborous thought of the adventure in our review, or by listening to last week’s podKast.

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About the Author

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A long-term Doctor Who fan, Christian grew up watching the show and has early memories of the Graham Williams era. His favourite stories are Inferno, The Seeds of Doom and Human Nature (although The Empty Child, Blink and Utopia all come close). When he’s not bossing around the news team, Christian is a freelance writer specialising in mobile technology and domestic computing, and enjoys classic rock, cooking and spending time in the countryside with his wife and young children. You can find him on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.




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