Monday, June 13, 2011

Demons Run When A Good Man Goes To War...

"Demons run when a good man goes to war.
Night will fall and drown the sun
when a good man goes to war.

Friendship dies and true love lies
night will fall and dark will rise
when a good man goes to war.

Demons run but count the cost
The battle is won, but the child is lost."

--River Song, "A Good Man Goes to War"

Tears still fresh in my eyes, I watched the end of "A Good Man Goes to War" in stunned silence. Excitement and surprises abound in the last episode until the end of the summer break. My only regret, as usual, is dealing with the return characters, as I may have mentioned that I haven't seen all of the other five seasons.

Basic Plot

At the end of "The Almost People", we discover that Amy is not actually aboard the Tardis, but her Flesh doppleganger has been on all of their adventures to date. Amy is in reality being held by Madame Kovarian and her allies, the Order of the Headless Monks (a group devoted to destroying the "demon" that is the Doctor). Amy and Rory's baby, Melody, conceived aboard the Tardis on their wedding night, contains both human and Time Lord DNA, something that Kovarian hopes to use against the Doctor. As the fight draws to a head, the Doctor begins "calling in favors", as Dorium Maldovar put it. Strax, the Sontaran Commander (nurse), Madave Vastra and Jenny, along with the combined effort of Silurian and Judoon footmen, wage an assault on the base called Demon's Run. Kovarian and the Doctor show down at a distance, where Kovarian blames the Doctor for the war. Kovarian has the baby, giving Amy the impression that they are in control by providing them with a Flesh baby. After Bucket (an old acquaintance of the Doctor) tries to warn them of a trap, battle ensues. Strax and Bucket are mortally wounded and Kovarian decomissions the Flesh Melody. River appears to explain to all her origins. River Song is the Gamma Forrest people's name for Melody Pond.

Cut, print, wipe your eyes, moving on!

Shockingly Sensitive
As I mentioned in the Doctor Who Double Whammy, I am a little sensitive about babies. The sight of Melody in her crib, with her name stenciled on the side, was enough to elicit small tears of joy at her healthy appearance. Kovarian's cruelty at separating her from Amy was enough to break my heart, and Amy's stalwart resolve for the sake of hear daughter buoyed my spirit. I felt so relieved as Rory and Amy seemed perfectly able to hang on to Melody despite Kovarian's obvious threats. One can then imagine my horror at discovering, along with Amy, Rory and the Doctor, that Melody was only Flesh, just as Amy had been all season long. However, all sense of horror and disgust dissipated as River Song tries to explain the name on the side of the bassinet is her name in Gallifreian. Suddenly, the thought that a very evil force was in control of her child did not seem so bad. Apparently, she would be all right and eventually meet the Doctor and fall in love, but most importantly, she would never fulfill the purpose put to her by Kovarian. She would never be a weapon to fight the Doctor. Now all that is left is to fill in the details. Unfortunately, we'll be waiting a while.

Another shocker, or something of a shocker: it seems that the Doctor has an unusual, perhaps even neurotic, sensitivity to unnecessary death, which is to say, all death is unnecessary. Each and every time someone has to die, the Doctor displays even more shock and dismay than those around him, even at times of war. In "The Almost People" he said, "Yes people die, but don't let that be in vain." However, with each death, there is always another way. Bucket's death, though she is a soldier by trade, comes as a heavy blow. An old friend, he is reluctant to think that she died for him, even if she wanted to. If I had to venture a guess as to why this is, I'd have to say its linked to the destruction he wrought on his own people. Life is sacred, even to a man who can't die. 

The Writing

There is some amazing writing in this episode. Early on, Maldovar tries to warn Kovarian and her goons that they all had reason to fear the Doctor if he began collecting on the debts owed to him. The Doctor's character is ugly as his usually good-natured humor and temper turns into outrage, then despair. His contempt and resolve are both evident as he confronts the colonel on Demon's Run, staring him down, challenging him, forcing the Headless Monks to turn on anyone firing a weapon--which is everyone. The Doctor takes an emotional roller-coaster ride in this episode, punctuating his moments of despair and anger with his usual spunk and attitude, along with a healthy dose of duplicity, as usual, for the good of his friends--or so he thinks.
Rory, The Centurion, also gets several good lines. The demand, "Where. Is. My. Wife?" goes without saying as one of Rory's shining moments. However, his fantastically relentless facade is wiped away when he first lays eyes on his child. "She's beautiful," he says, with tears coming immediately. He sobs and laments,

"I wanted to be cool. Oh God I wanted to be cool and look at me."

Strax's offer to nurse the baby, since he is a nurse, numbers among one of the best and worst Doctor Who moments, ranking as probably the most awkward moment in the history of British television.

The Phrase of The Week

is easily Maldovar's warning to Kovarian, foreshadowing the small poem recited by River Song,

"Demons run when a good man goes to war."

Knowing the phrase to hold the key to poetry as we know it, I tried for an hour to find a reference to it outside of Doctor Who. If its out there in a book or on the Interweb, I can't find it. However, the phrase adds a weight to the already very heavy atmosphere of the episode. Demon's Run is the name of Kovarian's base of operations, but the base is given the name is a moniker almost. Maldovar plays on this, and the Doctor takes advantage of Kovarian's army's fear of him, which leads us to the most important idea to be culled from Who lore.

The Word "Doctor" is changing.
To the people of the Gamma Forrest, doctor means "mighty warrior". The Doctor has both adopted this title and coined it. His seemingly magical devices and unstoppable wit makes him ideal for getting out of insane situations, and into even insaner (is that a word?) ones. River's point, however, is that the Doctor has spawned this new definition himself by his lifestyle. He cannot, and should not, be confused that the universe is afraid of him. He wiped out his own people and can wreak havoc if he chooses (and he often does). River does not say this to bring the Doctor down, rather to buoy his spirits, because if she is part of that war, then it can't be that bad.

Next Episode

Though not for a while, the next time we set eyes on the Doctor, he is on the hunt for Amy and Rory's baby, without the duo. Alone on a quest he blames himself for, the Doctor takes off in the Tardis in pursuit of Kovarian and the child she intends to use as a weapon against him. "Lets Kill Hitler" is the next must-see of the season.

The Doctor is a Time Lord of Gallifrey. Is he a monster responsible for the fear and terror of the universe, or an eccentric extraterrestrial with a time machine that knows him better than he does? In an effort to undo all the damage that he has done, the Doctor faces the greatest challenge: saving the future of the ones he loves. Killing Hitler will be icing on the cake.

Want Doctor Who reviews on time? Give the Nerd a job. No seriously, if I stop working Saturday nights, this would all be a lot easier. Or you can donate to the Doctor Who Cable Televsion fund. Proceeds go to purchasing cable television with a 300 gigabyte DVR hard drive. 

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