A Good Man Goes To War

Doctor WhoThe Doctor and Rory hunt tirelessly through time and space to find the real Amy Pond: the Amy who has been aboard the TARDIS since the trip to America has been a Ganger all along. Enlisting the help of unlikely allies – a Sontaran pressed into service as a combat nurse, a Silurian at large in Victorian London, even a fleet of Cybermen – the Doctor gathers an army to help him rescue his kidnapped companion. Held captive by the mysterious Korovian, Amy has already given birth to a daughter, Melody. Fully expecting the Doctor’s arrival, Madame Kovarian has assembled an army of her own, with the deadly headless monks to strike fear into anyone who doubts their duties. Just when the Doctor thinks he’s rescued Amy and her baby without any bloodshed, Kovarian springs her trap: the baby that the Doctor has rescued is a Ganger as well, and Kovarian has Amy’s real baby: a human child with TARDIS-altered DNA that can be traced back to Gallifrey itself, a child Kovarian intends to raise as the perfect weapon to fight the Doctor. Little do the time travelers know that they’ve already met Melody Pond, all grown up.

Order the DVDDownload this episodewritten by Steven Moffat
directed by Peter Hoar
music by Murray Gold

Cast: Matt Smith (The Doctor), Karen Gillan (Amy Pond), Arthur Darvill (Rory), Alex Kingston (River Song), Frances Barber (Madame Kovarian), Charlie Baker (Fat One), Dan Johnston (Thin One), Christina Chong (Lorna Bucket), Joshua Hayes (Lucas), Damian Kell (Dominicus), Neve McIntosh (Madame Vastra), Catrin Stewart (Jenny), Richard Trinder (Captain Harcourt), Annabel Cleare (Eleanor), Henry Wood (Arthur), Dan Starkey (Commander Strax), Simon Fisher-Becker (Dorium Maldovar), Danny Sapani (Colonel Manton), Hugh Bonneville (Henry Avery), Oscar Lloyd (Toby Avery), Nicholas Briggs (voice of the Cybermen)

LogBook entry & review by Earl Green

Review: A classic example of a strong build-up to a decidedly strange ending, A Good Man seems like it’s building up to something huge, and even manages the neat trick of assembling a group of guest characters we’ve never seen before who seem like old friends by the end of the hour. The Doctor is back to being mad, bad and dangerous to know, and Rory’s back in the ridiculous Roman gladiator outfit. What’s not to love?

The episode does an awful lot of backtracking to make sure we know that we haven’t really seen Amy this season – at all. Amy, in this season, has been a Ganger since somewhere between A Christmas Carol and The Impossible Astronaut, and we haven’t seen the real Amy until the shock ending of The Almost People. That she’s had to give birth in captivity is pretty heavy stuff for family-hour viewing.

But the bad guys’ reason for hatching such a grand scheme against the Doctor seems like a rehash of some Russell T. Davies-era material. They just assume that the Doctor will be the end of them unless they beat him to the punch, kidnapping Amy and Rory’s child – who, since she was conceived aboard the TARDIS, apparently has Time Lord DNA (apparently the TARDIS’ walls have more organs than just ears) – and programming her A Good Man Goes To Warfrom infancy to track down and kill the Doctor. When we learn that the child will grow up to be one River Song, the rest of the season’s story arc falls into place. But the strange cliffhanger ending practically has River seeing off the Doctor with a wink and a nudge before revealing her identity to her parents, resulting in what may be the most bizarre cliffhanger since Sylvester McCoy dangled over a sheer drop from his question mark umbrella in 1987’s Dragonfire. It isn’t much of a shocking, tune-in-next-time moment – the revelation and the Doctor’s strangely relaxed exit suck any built-up tension right out of the story.

There’s a lot to like in A Good Man, though, and oddly it’s nothing to do with the main characters. An assemblage of guest characters turns out to be ridiculously appealing, almost to the point that I would rather have spent the episode learning more about their backstories. (When we spent two entire episodes setting up the Gangers, is this too much to ask?) The strange conundrum of a Sontaran pressed into service as a combat medic makes for a memorable character with scene-stealing lines, repeatedly stitching up human patients while reminding them that he’d happily see them dead on the field of battle. And one of history’s darkest characters is dispatched humorously – and off-screen! – by a human/Silurian couple (and a lesbian couple, no less) living in Victorian times. The notion that the Silurian half of that couple has just gotten back from the small task of disposing of Jack the Ripper is one of the show’s bigger laughs. These characters are all recruited by the Doctor to march into danger with him, and by the time they stand alongside him in the fight, we really care what happens to them. (It’s perhaps no small coincidence that there’s been a lot of speculation about the viability of a spinoff series about Madame Vastra and Jenny, even within the ranks of the BBC itself.)

It’s those characters and their moments which are the most enjoyable elements of A Good Man Goes To War. And again, let’s see if the pitch is as good as the wind-up.