TV Review: “A Good Man” Is Hard to Swallow

Wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey spoilers ahead! A time head ahead!

Faith. Faith is a concept that has always eluded me. I think if I could turn off the annoying perpetual motion machine that is my mind for just five minutes, I might be able to experience it. I suppose what fascinates me about superheroic icons is the promise that, no matter what happens or how bad things get, there is this one person you can count on. It’s a deeply satisfying feeling, and I imagine it’s akin to what religious people feel in their own faiths. So, in the mid-series finale of Doctor Who, “A Good Man Goes to War,” when Amelia Pond tells one of her captors that, oh yes, the Doctor is coming for her, it’s with the kind of certainty that only the truly faithful can experience.

Since her debut as a new companion for a new Doctor, Amy has always been about faith. “The girl who waited.” Everyone else dismisses her raggedy doctor as imaginary, but she knows. No matter how long it takes, the Doctor will always come for her. It’s quite a complex to saddle a child with, but in the absence of parents and emotional certainty, is it any wonder the Doctor becomes the center of her world?

But all that is ancient history. At some point after her wedding, but before the trip to America, Amy is kidnapped by a mysterious military operation with a grudge against the Doctor. Who they are and when/where they’re from still requires some clarification (for me, anyway), but one thing is clear: they don’t like the Doctor. Amy’s capture motivates him to raise an army, call in favors all over time and space and use deadly force against the Cybermen. But why?

Are these actions purely the work of a man desperate to find his friend? Are we seeing remnants of David Tennant‘s final days as the Doctor, when he found it easier and easier to break his own rules and interfere beyond what was required to maintain the correct historical timeline? Or is River Song right? Are we seeing the consequences of hundreds of years of meddling? If you’re the hero who saves the day, that generally means someone loses. It’s certainly conceivable that the Doctor would gain a reputation as a conquerer and not just a savior.

Now…about River Song. And stop right now if you haven’t seen this episode. River has been a fascinating and beguiling character since her debut in series four. She is strong, intelligent and beautiful; plus, she interacts with the Doctor in ways we’ve never seen anyone else even try. When she was first conceived as a character, are we to believe that Steven Moffett had the whole River Song/Melody Pond/Amy Pond connection sorted out in his head? I’m not entirely convinced. River proved to be a popular character, so they brought her back. If the audience had hated her, would she have become integral to the Amy Pond mythos? These are all questions Who fans can debate endlessly forever, so there is value in that, if nothing else.

Still, what I was looking for was a good old, “Oh my god! Of course!” moment, instead of a somewhat flat, “Oh. Huh. Really?” moment. The emotions, the performances and the intent were all there, but it just fell short of being a wonderful revelatory moment for me. I’m definitely going to go back and watch the River episodes from last season again, to look for any clues. Plus, the mystery of whom River killed still remains. I suppose it’s going to be Rory.

The goo has become a rather important plot device in recent episodes. I’m going to take a wild guess here and assume Amy is right about the goo version of the Doctor being the one who is killed in the series six opener. He would have had to download himself into a new, stabilized body, but compared to the acrobatics of the River Song plot, that should be a fairly easy bit to accomplish.

I’m also curious to see if we get the backstory on all the Doctor’s champions from this episode. I suppose it would have been too much to ask for some of Tennant’s heroes to appear. Still, it says a lot about the love (and faith) we have in the Doctor that all he has to do is point out his allies, and we like them, even if we’ve yet to learn anything about them.

I was also pleased with the LGBTQ quotient in this episode. We get not just one, but two gay couples. First, the cute, but doomed Fat One and Thin One. Then the Silurian and her servant girl/companion. And if you think for a moment they weren’t a couple, just watch that scene again where the Silurian asks her, “Why do you put up with me?” and the obvious answer that follows.

We now have a summer hiatus to discuss and debate the heck out of this episode and the first part of this season. Here are a few questions to get us started.

When/how was Amy taken? Did we witness it?
Can’t the Doctor go back to the Library and download River into some goo flesh?
What happend in the Gamma Forrest? Will we meet young Lorna?
Will Rory continue to dress as a Roman? Because I would like that very much.
Can the Doctor find a way to reverse his negative reputation among half the universe?
What did you think of “A Good Man Goes to War?”