Aired 4 June 2011
Considering the fairly intricate and twisting plots Steven Moffat has presented in many of the episodes he has penned, ‘A Good Man Goes to War’ surprisingly offers a more straightforward tale as Doctor Who concludes the first half of this series. Still, there is an epic blockbuster feel to proceedings and a heavier dose of action than recent episodes have featured, and events easily weave their way to the cliffhanger ending that sets up the concluding run of episodes nicely, offering some much needed answers along the way.
In a bit of neat role reversal from ‘The Pandorica Opens,’ the Doctor calls in several favours to assemble an army of his own following the revelation at the end of ‘The Almost People,’ affording him a tremendous victory- though perhaps not as epic as the fates had proclaimed. The trap that is set as well as the creation and use of another Time Lord of sorts to destroy the Doctor is certainly a unique and fascinating plan of action, though it does seem quite circuitous and present just to serve the plot going forward. Still, it’s hard to argue just how incredibly effective and shocking the faux baby melting away is, proving that Madame Kovarian is most definitely a force not to be taken lightly in the future.
Still, Matt Smith portrays a much darker and more ruthless version of the Doctor here than is normally present, demonstrating just how seriously he is taking the situation and just how much it has affected him personally. There are overt flashes of cruelty as well, certainly a rarity for the character, as he quickly destroys a Cyber legion and relentlessly taunts his foes. Even if by story’s end this rage has subsided- thanks in part to the victory but more largely due to shocking and touching revelation that River Song is, in fact, Amy’s daughter Melody Pond- this is a fascinating potential thread to explore in future episodes.
Likewise, ‘A Good Man Goes to War’ also starts to explore the concept that perhaps the Doctor is becoming too powerful and too much of a force for the universe. This is something that has gradually been introduced over several preceding episodes, but with such an overt display of power as he forms his own army, surely the ramifications of this power and fame will be felt at some point.
As good as Matt Smith is at portraying his very personal animosity, Karen Gillan is equally effective in her role, arguably giving her most powerful performance as Amy Pond yet. There is a lot asked of her in terms of the emotional burden she has to portray, but Gillan rises to the task spectacularly as her character goes down an incredibly complex path. And as the Doctor races off to find and save her baby, the scene is certainly set for the back half of this series.
‘A Good Man Goes to War’ is not the most mind-bending or classic of episodes to air, but it certainly ties together a lot of lingering plot threads while bringing up many more questions. River’s identity has been revealed, though it still seems there is a deeper connection to the Doctor, and the budget is clearly stretched to its maximum to allow such momentous battles to be realized so fully. If ever Doctor Who were to be compared to an action franchise, this is certainly the epitome of that claim; yet, as always, it’s the characters and their emotions who provide the true driving force for the narrative, and their emotions have never been more heightened than during and following these events.