Sunday, 5 June 2011

Doctor Who: A Good Man Goes to War review: 'Epic', ' Blimey', 'quips'


After six episodes that were criticised/praised by some for being too scary or too mind boggling, or even too mind-boggingly scary, the seventh and, for now, final episode of this series of Doctor Who was as big and mad and exciting as promised by all the thigh-rubbingly excited TV listings magazines.

We've seen executive producer and main Doctor Who writer Steven Moffat do finale episodes before of course (with last year's The Pandorica Opens and The Big Bang) and many of the same tricks were pulled from the box marked 'EPIC' in what must be Moffat's never-ending time-vortex-like brain of amazingly complex stories.

And it worked, mostly - only Rory the meek Mr Pond in a Roman Centurion outfit didn't quite manage to convince as he attempted 'anger' when he confronted some bit-part Cybermen.

I know, a fleet of Cybermen - in a cameo: that's how EPIC it was.

But with Rory, we think: 'Oh you're going to do some 'self aware' little joke to yourself any minute, highlighting your actual lameness before someone else does'.

He didn't, not this time. In fact he destroyed the Cybermen. Mild-mannered characters acting all angry: that's how EPIC it was.

'A cross Sontaran'

There's also River Song, all curly hair and pouts and space guns, with her dialogue of emotion and meaning (learned from all those years on ER no doubt) - and she got a little mid-season finale poem too.

While other familiar characters - a reward for the faithful fans who love them - unite to help fight the Doctor (as in last year's finale) or help him fight other villains who've kidnapped Amy and her baby (this year's).

There's a cross Sontaran, made to nurse the war-injured as the ultimate punishment for a race so obsessed  with combat, and that bloke from Downton Abbey ('Hugh Bonneville') who was in episode three this series popping up for a line in a shadowy corridor brandishing a pistol.

And - HRRRNKK! - spin-off potential alert! - a Silurian and her cockney maid sidekick, plucked from hunting Jack the Ripper in Victorian London by the Doctor, via what must be the only lesbian-themed oral sex joke ever in the series, involving the lizard woman's extending tongue and a momentarily suggestive smile between the two after she asks her maid, 'I don't know why you put up with me'.

But these were all cheap thrills - albeit EPIC cheap thrills - because at the episode's heart was the character-led drama.

'Could well take centuries'

It's almost all too involving and mind-boggling to go into any useful detail - you may as well just watch it - but the cliffhanger, pivoting on River Song's identity and her relationship to Amy and Rory, raises far far too many new questions that could well take centuries to unravel (never mind understand).

And the Doctor, as he rushes off to find Amy and Rory's vanished baby, leaves everyone else behind and is now not to be seen again until an adventure called 'Let's Kill Hitler!', to be shown in the autumn.

But it was odd that the Doctor, although at the heart of everything, didn't appear until 20 minutes in.

But Matt Smith has well and truly made the Doctor his own, and it's clear that many of the themes - as well as the techniques - of the Moffat era of the programme are now firmly in place.

'Quips and bluster and friends'

As well as the returning characters in relatively minor roles, and previously-mentioned events finally happening (this episode saw the battle of Demons Run we'd heard about before), there's also the recurring idea of the Doctor having become such a powerful force he makes others fear him.

He's someone to be fought, contained and defeated, but the Doctor triumphs by making the army walk away - winning a war not with violence but with only quips and bluster and friends.

But even after all of that, EVEN AFTER ALL OF THAT, the plot almost doesn't even matter - it's 50 minutes of space opera and action set-pieces unlike anything else on British tv, where you can let the intricacies of the plot whizz by like a laser bolt and just enjoy the running about and the quippy dialogue and odd explosion here and there.

The cliffhanger was great, no question, and Doctor Who remains one of the most genuinely entertaining shows on tv, but if you find it too confusing, don't worry - let the densely-plotted storyline pass you by.

And if you're worried about it being too complex: tough.

Doctor Who isn't about to be getting any simpler.

Which is why it's best just to enjoy the spectacle.

Because that's how EPIC it is.

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