A Good Man Goes to War ★★★★★

Steven Moffat weaves magic as the Doctor and Rory assemble a posse to rescue Amy and her baby – and River finally discloses her identity

Amy A Good Man Goes to War

Story 218

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Series 6 – Episode 7

“The Doctor will find your daughter, and he will care for her whatever it takes. And I know that. It’s me. I’m Melody. I’m your daughter” – River Song

First UK transmission
Saturday 4 June 2011

Storyline
The stage is set for the Battle of Demon’s Run. Imprisoned by Madame Kovarian and her Cleric guards, Amy has given birth to a daughter, Melody, who is taken away from her. The Doctor and Rory assemble an army to storm Kovarian’s base: they include the Victorian Silurian Madame Vastra, her maid/lover Jenny, Sontaran commander Strax and fat, blue bar-owner Dorium Maldovar. The Time Lord discovers that Kovarian and the Silence plan to groom the child as a weapon to use against him. As the Doctor sets off to rescue the baby, River arrives and reveals to Amy and Rory that she is their daughter, all grown up.

Production
January to April 2011. At Lafarge Cement UK, Barry; Penllyn Castle; Uskmouth Power Station, Newport; Super Hangar, MOD St Athan, Barry; in Cardiff at the Park Plaza Hotel, Millennium Stadium car park, Westgate Street and the Maltings; Fillcare, Llantrisant; Upper Boat Studios

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

Crew
Writer – Steven Moffat
Director – Peter Hoar
Producer – Marcus Wilson
Designer – Michael Pickwoad
Music – Murray Gold
Executive producers – Steven Moffat, Piers Wenger, Beth Willis

RT review by Patrick Mulkern
“Daddy! Amy’s baby was Flesh, but it’s all right cos Melody was River Song as a grown-up!” – shrieked Rosie to my brother-in-law. My bright little niece, aged three, was totally clued up on all this episode’s surprises. And ready to explain them to any nonplussed adult.

I love watching Doctor Who with little ones: it reminds me of the magnetic hold the programme exerted over me at their age – that irresistible mix of fascination and terror. They may not grasp every nuance on first viewing, but children make the necessary leaps of faith.

“This little girl. It’s all about her!” the Doctor reminds us at the top of the episode. It was ever thus with Steven Moffat. As well as the girl in the astronaut suit (Melody/River), he’s given us a girl in the fireplace (Reinette), a girl in the library (Charlotte), the little girl who waited (Amelia Pond)… Even Blink’s Sally Sparrow was a child in Moffat’s original short story. And he kicked off his Doctor Who career memorably with a boy in a gas mask. Now we’re onto babies and Amy’s sprog dissolving into banana blancmange – a horrible image guaranteed to disturb every parent.

Although I guessed River would be Rory and Amy’s baby a while before, it’s still a pleasure to watch her divulge the information after three years of secrecy. The four leads must have been cock-a-hoop to turn these script pages for the first time, and their reactions on screen are expertly nuanced. Alex Kingston manages an extraordinary combination of teasing/relieved/happy/sad, while Arthur Darvill does something miraculous with his entire scalp in the final shot.

So now we’ve witnessed River’s death and birth, her last and first meetings with the Doctor, and many points between. I defy you to rewatch all her episodes and construct a coherent timeline.

Looking back at last year’s Flesh and Stone, we can see River was saving her own mum Amy’s life before “Melody” was even conceived. In The Big Bang, River passed by her parents’ wedding like an apparition; that was the night she was conceived, which adds a double meaning to the episode title. And now perhaps we know why she muttered, “Of course not” when she failed to shoot The Impossible Astronaut.

A Good Man Goes to War confounds expectations. You might have supposed from a photo published in RT that the Cybermen would dominate this episode. In fact they appear only in the lustrous pre-titles tease, almost panicking over an intruder at their space station, who turns out to be a mightily emboldened Rory. (Great to see the Cyberfleet retaining designs from The Invasion, 1968.)

A Sontaran becomes a nurse, and I love the idea of a lady Silurian leading a covert life as a Victorian avenger, polishing off Jack the Ripper. Vastra and her devoted maid/lover Jenny deserve a spin-off series. This lizard/lesbian undercurrent (homo reptilia, anyone?) proves that the perceived “gay agenda” of the Russell T Davies era is not dead. As do the self-declared “thin/fat gay married Anglican marines” and screamingly camp Dorium Maldovar – “I’m old. I’m fat. I’m blue!”

I haven’t done a head count but Moffat must be emulating Seven Samurai/The Magnificent Seven with this motley crew of ne’er-do-wells turned goodies.

Loads of characters turn up for a sort of “Hey presto!” flourish: Avery and son, now free of life-support tubing (RT removed their names from the cast list to preserve the surprise); “Danny Boy” and the Spitfires from Victory of the Daleks now travelling in time; and a Silurian army no longer hibernating on Earth but able to materialise on the spot. No time for explanations. It’s just happened and should be accepted as a bit of cartoonish fun.

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In all, a rather fabulous episode in which Moffat again gets to pull out the big guns. I envisage the other writers must envy him while they get lumbered with limited casts and budget. They’re like kids of yore making do with hand-me-down Lego while Steven is the little boy with the bulging, flashy toy box.