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20 June 2011 @ 07:02 pm
A Good Man Goes to War  
I liked that.

I can see that it has many of the flaws of the RTD style finale. There is a lot of sound and thunder. It is, in places, rather more portentious than it can really carry. It's not clear that what has already been established about River Song on screen adequately supports what we get here but...

I loved the way we got a whole new set of people from the Doctor's past and how they all managed to establish themselves with a personality in a very packed 45 minutes. Obviously none of them have great depth, but not a single one was faceless and bland in the way that some of the characters from The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People managed to be with twice the time available. And they were fun which was important, otherwise the whole episode could have become too grim. I was very interested that Moffat here managed to push so many of the "returning character!" buttons while using new characters. Thinking of the Doctor's explicit rejection of a lengthy flashback sequence at the end of last season (where he's talking to Amy in her sleep) I think this demonstrates something of an agenda on Moffat's part not to become too trapped into referring backwards where he can introduce something new.

The same, of course, is true of the revelation of River's origins. Setting up and then satisfactorarily resolving a long running mystery in a television (or other) series is notoriously difficult (The X-files springs instantly to mind here). I felt this did pretty well. Obviously we don't yet have the full story of River's relationship to the Doctor but we know now why they're so close and why she seems to have super-powers (albeit ones she singularly failed to demonstrate in her first appearance) and all this has been done without the necessity of harking back to Who lore. I liked the fact that the resolution was actually set up after the mystery had been proposed. It shouldn't have worked but somehow it did!

I still don't much like River, to be honest, much preferring Amy and Rory (and I'm getting quite worried about poor Rory). Most of that is performance, I think, though I'm also not that keen on the way she's transformed from practicing archeologist to super-powered time baby con-woman. I thought this episode was good for both Amy and Rory. I said earlier in the season that I wished Amy showed a little more self-awareness and Rory a little more backbone and I felt the balance was pretty much perfect in A Good Man Goes to War. They were still recognisably the same characters but it was easier to see what was special about them and why they worked as a couple than it has been in some other stories.

The accusation that this "wasn't a story" can be levelled at this episode just as it was at The Doctor's Wife. This was all middle with no real beginning or end. I regret that, in a way, because I enjoyed it so much I would like to be able to watch it as a standalone but it's so tightly connected to everything around it, I don't think that is really possible. That's the price you have to pay, of course, for arc plots that are more tightly integrated into a season than a simple recurring word or motif. On the whole I think I can live with that.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/46117.html.
parrot_knight: DavidIconparrot_knight on June 20th, 2011 07:37 pm (UTC)
I need to rewatch River's 2008 appearances (and what a long time ago that suddenly is); she's certainly played slightly differently, from what I remember, and the exotic backstory is at most the germ of an idea, but at present I think it's possible to reconcile that River from the one we have learned about since.

Otherwise I generally liked 'A Good Man Goes to War' too; the Doctor's 'fall' is seeded throughout, and I'm interested to see how themes and characters are developed in the setting of 'Let's Kill Hitler'.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on June 21st, 2011 08:02 am (UTC)
I don't think River's appearances are directly contradictory at all, but I think careful rewatching would probably suggest that Moffat has changed whatever it was he had in mind for her back story. The original story suggests an emotional connection between her and the Doctor and doesn't suggest there is anything remotely "timey-wimey" about her biology.
Susan: Riverlil_shepherd on June 20th, 2011 07:50 pm (UTC)
I liked this episode very much. Like parrot_knight I need to watch River's first appearances (and I love River, actually) and have done what I said I wouldn't do and bought a DVD from that season (which I loathed, on the whole) so I can. Admittedly, it cost me very little as the 3-episode DVDs are now exceedingly cheap from Amazon. (This means I own all the Moffat episodes from Tennant's tenure but very few others, which is how I like it.)

I'm convinced that this whole arc is about identity, and this fits that theme very well. It is also about time the Doctor was called on Tenish behaviour, which is also part of Moffat's re-imagining of New Who.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on June 21st, 2011 08:08 am (UTC)
I read a very interesting analysis somewhere (probably the Jade Pagoda) which suggests that River is Moffat's critique of the whole "super-Doctor"/Lonely God thing - she ends up (in her first appearance) as an explorer, poking away at interesting things, but not the sort of person who makes empires tremble in fear or demonstrates any super-powers. As we move back in her life she's becoming more arrogant, doing swirly shooting things manoeuvers (which I can't spell), meddling in the affairs of empires and so on. This is the opposite journey to the Doctor. The thesis there was that Moffat had concluded he was, broadly speaking, saddled with the Doctor-as-superhero trope but that he could subvert it using River.

I'm not sure I necessarily buy that, but it's an interesting take on what we see and makes River's presentation appear more logical across the stories.

I think you are right about the theme of the season.
Susan: wholil_shepherd on June 21st, 2011 09:42 am (UTC)
That's an interesting theory and I shall watch Silence in the Library onwards with that in mind.

I'm not sure that Moffat hasn't already punctured the "lonely God" and the "oncoming storm" good and proper in this episode. I hope so.

(Edited for various typing fails.)

Edited at 2011-06-21 09:43 am (UTC)
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on June 21st, 2011 09:58 am (UTC)
I suppose my vague reticence here is that the Doctor has been called on the whole Lonely God thing several times already, both on the show and in the books, and yet the trope persists. Obviously we've got a different production team and they may have an interest in making the signified change stick but I suspect (and it wouldn't surprise me if Moffat also suspects) that the weight of audience and writer expectation is pulling against them. People like the story of hubris coming before a fall, and the idea of the Doctor as, at the very least, someone incredibly clever who topples evil regimes isn't going away and very naturally leads into the concept that he would be well known and, in some cases, feared which in turn naturally leads into the pride-before-the-fall arc plot. I think you can put a brake on the cycle of doctor gets too arrogant->doctor gets called on it but I'm not sure now that the juggernaut can be stopped without a genuine back-to-basics reset of the show.
joereavesjoereaves on June 20th, 2011 07:53 pm (UTC)
I want a spin off about our Victorian crime busting Silurian and her human companion :D

And honestly I'd find it hard to be disappointed in any episode that starts with Rory BAMF :D (Would you like me to repeat the question?)
bunnbunn on June 20th, 2011 09:06 pm (UTC)
I want a spin off about our Victorian crime busting Silurian and her human companion :D
+1 !
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on June 21st, 2011 08:11 am (UTC)
The episode is hugely crowd-pleasing in lots of ways, and as I say does so without having to gold mine continuity too heavily.

Lots of people want the spin-off. There's a comm lizardladylove, though I have to say that none of the fiction there so far has really done it for me.

Edited at 2011-06-21 08:13 am (UTC)
athene: doctor elevendeinonychus_1 on June 20th, 2011 08:19 pm (UTC)
The fact that it was the first episode of DW ever to make me write post-ep fanfic probably says by itself how much I liked it. Although mostly what I loved about it can be summed up in one word - Rory.

Oh, the story was good, the Doctor was great, Amy was great, River was great, the supporting characters were both fun and tragic when necessary. But right from the line, 'Would you like me to repeat the question?', for me this ep belonged to Rory.

Which is only going to make it more horrible if (as seems ever more likely) Rory is the 'good man' that River spoke of :-(
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on June 21st, 2011 08:13 am (UTC)
I wonder if Rory is too obvious, though if you exclude the Doctor and Rory (the obvious candidates) then it's not clear who else it could be. Though, of course, Moffat has already demonstrated that he can post-seed these things quite successfully.