Monday, February 25, 2013
Doctor Who - "A Good Man Goes To War"
WHOSCALE: 4 out of 10
For those who didn't see this season as it aired, Series 6/Season 32 was divided into to halves; the first half was shown in the spring of 2011, while the second half started in the fall. This episode marked what Moffat described as a "game-changing cliffhanger" for the first half.
Frequently throughout this season, I have had to re-watch these episodes several times in order to get a confident grasp of what was going on so that I can be assured that I gave it a fair review. With Series 5/Season 31 however, this was not the case. Oddly enough, that season scored higher than any other season so far. Coincidence? Probably not.
This review will no doubt be extensive, because as the score indicates, there was quite a lot about this episode that just was plain silly.
Let's start with the title. Having followed the production of the series, this episode was originally to be titled "Demons Run." That title was later changed to "A Good Man Goes To War." Now obviously, the latter is a direct reference to The Doctor, which I constantly gripe about in the resurrection - the original series seldom - if ever - made direct references to the lead characters in episode titles. Perhaps the only exception were "The Two Doctors," "The Three Doctors," and "The Five Doctors." I know I sound like I'm being nit-picky, but the original series established a kind of format for episode titles, often beginning with "The" and following with an element relative to the story's overall plot. (i.e. "The Sunmakers," "The Romans," "The Aztecs," "The Silurians,") Another format that was regularly used was the "___ of the ___" format, or something similar. (i.e. "Talons of Weng-Chiang," "Terror of the Autons," "Seeds of Death.") These titles encompassed the story as a whole, and did not reference one particular element. In the case of the new series, Moffat & Co. frequently title episodes to either deliberately mislead viewers ("The Doctor's Wife," "The Doctor's Daughter," "The Next Doctor,") or they reference something that doesn't remotely relate to the plot of the episode, but more one specific character ("Amy's Choice," "Vincent and the Doctor," "Smith and Jones," "Partners In Crime,") These titles intentionally suggest that the episode is chiefly about the characters referenced, and not about a traditional Doctor Who dilemma, although some of these episodes often do have a great story, they're just mis-titled. "Smith and Jones," for example. The hospital was transported to the Moon, where we were introduced to the Judoon. The title is a reference to The Doctor's often used alias, John Smith and of course Martha's maiden name, Jones. Ironically, there was an 80s western series called "Alias Smith & Jones," that followed the adventures of two outlaws trying to clear their records. Whether or not this was a double reference, I'm not sure.
The bottom line is, the title of this episode was a reference to one specific element - that of the old tale about why the asteroid is called "Demons Run," and as such was a poor choice.
The opening sequence of this episode was painful for me to watch. Sequences like that of Rory in Roman attire managing to break into a Cybermen ship, reach the bridge and demand the wherabouts of his wife (as if the Cybermen give a f*** who his wife is, or where she is) shows that the producers take "Doctor Who is intended to be a children's show" literally. Portraying The Doctor, as well as his ordinary human companions as "super bad asses" doesn't give a sense of seriousness at all - it just looks rather silly. Granted, The Doctor is the hero of the series, but not in the Superman, Batman, Chuck Norris or Bruce Willis sense. The Doctor is the hero of the series like Colonel Jack O'Neill is the hero of StarGate SG-1. He's the lead character, and obviously the hero, but not to the point that he looks tremendously superior to the other characters.
Blowing up a Cybermen ship just to emphasize a question? That's just ridiculous. The Doctor would never do that over something so trivial. I'm not trying to downplay the issue of Amy missing, but why doesn't he just go to the Shadow Proclamation like he did in "The Stolen Earth?" Why would the Cybermen, of all species in the realm of Doctor Who, know anything about Rory's wife? Even IF they had intercepted information about that, why would they make a note of it? It is completely, totally, utterly, IRRELEVANT to the Cybermen and their objectives! Let's not forget the fact that The Doctor as of late has longed to see the ultimate end of the Cybermen, so why doesn't he just blow them all up right then? Since they're so easy to find, apparently. On a side note, the windows behind Rory on the Cybership are the same exact windows that looked out from the flight deck of the ship in "The Curse of the Black Spot."
The episode digs an even deeper hole by introducing two completely irrelevant characters - The Fat One and the Thin One. So irrelevant, that they aren't even given proper names - just a blatant reference to their sexual preferences. Why in God's name is a gay couple relevant here?! You could have just as easily omitted that detail, and the episode would still have worked seamlessly.
Yet another character that I question is that of Lorna Bucket, the girl who apparently met The Doctor once before in her childhood in the Gamma Forests. The purpose of this character was two fold; one to provide a bit more hero worship for the viewers watching that have embraced the notion that The Doctor is Superman in a bow tie, and to help close the thread of River Song's true identity, which I'll get to in a moment. My memory is fuzzy on the Tennant years, but I think this may have been done once before. A character is introduced and claims to have met The Doctor previously, only to spend the rest of their lives seeking him. Wait...it's come back to me now. Elton from "Love And Monsters" did that.
Why do all of the supporting characters in the new series have this overwhelming obsession with The Doctor? It's obvious that the production crew are attempting to create a link between the series and the avid fans of the show. In other words, they're blurring the lines between Doctor Who reality, and that of actual reality. I do not understand why this is necessary. If you need that to relate to the show, how the fudge did you watch "The Prisoner?"
Moving on. Another element that I found completely distasteful was that of The Doctor raising an army. OK, let's put this in perspective: Amy Pond, a girl who has been The Doctor's companion for less than 2 years, has been abducted since the events of "Day of the Moon." To find and rescue this companion - one who has spent less time in the TARDIS than Jamie - The Doctor blows up a Cybermen ship, and travels throughout the universe recruiting those he's saved in the past so that they can repay their debt to him. First of all, when did The Doctor expect some sort of repayment for what he does? I don't think The Doctor ever felt like the universe "owed him a debt," even though he may have joked about it from time to time. Strangely enough, he only recruits characters as far back as Series 5/Season 31 - The Judoon, the Silurians, the Sontarans, Danny Boy from "Victory of the Daleks," and Captain Avery from "The Curse of the Black Spot." How convenient. The Doctor has faced more menacing odds in the original series, and wiggled his way out of the situation without having to ask a favor from the universe. First he's so bad ass that he can blow up a Cybermen ship to ask a question, then he can't even rescue his companion without raising an army. I could go on for two more days ranting about how out of character this behavior was for The Doctor, so I'll leave it at this. I think I've made my point clear: Raising an army out of previous characters was not the route to go.
There are other moments that just made me want to face palm. For example, a scene that first shows the Headless Monks is conveniently accompanied by an overhead speaker system saying, "Reminder: It is a level 1 offense to remove the hood of a Headless Monk," or something to that effect. Immediately following this, one of the two gay couple asks aloud, "I wonder why they're called "headless monks? They can't actually be headless." REALLY?! Could you have made it more obvious? The entire audience was quietly wondering this until you wrote this first-year student shit. Now it's OBVIOUS: The Headless Monks are actually HEADLESS.
Speaking of the Headless Monks, way to rip off Star Wars again by making them look like Sith Lords wielding lightsabers. I know people may call me lame for making that reference, but let's be honest: No matter what you're doing in a series, if you present a weapon that's a glowing sword of any kind, people are immediately going to think "Star Wars."
By this time, I was getting sick of how River Song always has to be so cryptic with her dialogue. Never a straight answer to anything, and always riddles as answers. "He will rise higher than he's ever risen before, and then he will fall so much further." Damnit, if she feels she can't disclose any information about Demon's Run because of timelines and all that junk, why not just NOT SAY ANYTHING?! Just tell Rory that you can't say anything because it's his future and your past! This kind of crypto-clue talking was nice in "Silence In the Library," and maybe even in "The Time of Angels," but now you're just dragging it out. and it's annoying as hell.
As usual, the music was well overdone.
Yet another bit that makes me want to cringe is when Dorium just waltzes out to greet the pissed off Monks, thinking they will spare him because of previous dealings, even though he's just sold them out to The Doctor. This mindless sequence was done simply to emphasize that the Monks will chop your head off. Thanks Moffat, but we figured that would be the case when we saw them wielding swords. We didn't need to see someone just outright commit suicide to work it out.
Which brings up another dummy mark: Demons Run is occupied by an entire army of Silurian soldiers, but magically, a few Headless Monks (who can't inflict damage except at close quarters) manage to reduce the entire army to that of just Rory, The Doctor and Amy. Even the Sontaran Strax and Bucket are killed.
Is this even remotely supposed to be believable?
What about how the communications array gets taken out? Seriously? Danny Boy from "Victory of the Daleks?" I thought all the Dalek tech was destroyed in that story? So how does Danny Boy still have space flight capability on his Spitfire? To say nothing about how he managed to get from 1940s WWII torn Earth, to the Demons Run asteroid in the far flung future.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment for me was that of River Song's identity. Are you telling me that a character who possesses the ability to time travel via a vortex manipulator, has dated androids, knows The Doctor's real name, is a professor of archaeology in the future, has dealt with Weeping Angels more than once, has the ability to regenerate and is in StormCage prison for killing The Doctor is simply Amy and Rory's DAUGHTER?! At this point, I was utterly disgusted with the series. The show had officially become entirely about the supporting characters. It was then that I realized that this entire episode was in fact about Amy and Rory. If you read by blog, or if you watch my YouTube rants, you know that is a total turn off for me as a Doctor Who fan. When you devote a thread that's spanned three seasons to character development in a series that's about traveling through time and space and saving the universe from menaces like The Daleks and The Ice Warriors, you lose all respect from me as a contributing writer.
We're only half way in to Moffat's second season, and already I want him gone.
So far, this was perhaps the lowest scoring episode of the new series, save for "Love and Monsters." A shame that it had to come from Steven Moffat, of all people.