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Doctor Who XXXII.7: A Good Man Goes to War

June 5th, 2011 (12:50 am)

I won't be undertaking a long review yet, as I've been invited to contribute an article on both this episode and the next to another blog. A few thoughts, nonetheless...

The series of vignettes which made up the first few sections of the episode were well-crafted tales in miniature, packing in detail. Amy about to be separated from her infant daughter, telling her a story of the baby's father which teases with audience expectations but also underlines how many parallels there are between the Doctor and Rory. Madame Vastra, more than the sum of her parts which are themselves a series of allusions: she's introduced in Robert-Holmesian-Victorian London as a cloaked Lady Penelope with her own Parker (and he doesn't quite say "Yus, m'lady"), has a homosexual relationship with a servant like Mark Gatiss's Lucifer Box, whose dress sense recalls the television adaptation of Tipping the Velvet. We later learn Vastra was uncovered by London Underground tunnellers (though I don't think the term 'London Underground' had been coined then - she'd have referred to either the Metropolitan or the District railways) like the Martian capsule in Quatermass and the Pit.

The Harcourts are a prominent English landed family at their most politically influential in the eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. There's a Captain Catherine Harcourt in the Temeraire novels. It's no surprise to find a Captain Harcourt in early nineteenth-century military dress on what looks like the set of Sharpe with a few Blackadder Goes Forth touches. However, the captain is dodging laser blasts, and his wife (recalling one of those invaluable, resourceful naval wives like Betsey Fremantle) is tending their ill son without medical help - until the nurse arrives, and he's a Sontaran. I didn't like Dan Starkey's somewhat bland Skorr back in 'The Sontaran Stratagem'/'The Poison Sky', but his Strax is very finely judged, recalling Linx in The Time Warrior but to different purpose. A glance across the Sontarans of the years shows they are physically varied despite their clone nature, but Strax, insisting he is performing a penance but always betraying his instinctive comfort as a nurse, demonstrates their characters are capable of moral development too.

I wasn't quite clear why the Doctor needed Dorium along; it was unnerving to see him recruited to the headless monks, presumably as an emergency lay brother (so whatever animates them is easily fitted).

There has to be a limit, too, to the number of times the Doctor can turn up in the midst of his heavily armed enemies and witter on as they look at him dumbfounded, allowing him to put into play the next phase of his plan; at least there could immediately have been some disturbance among the troops... I can't have been the only one waiting for the unhooded Doctor to explain that he was neither a devil, nor a god, etc, but a mole who lived in a hole; perhaps the rights to the line weren't obtainable.

The number of informed and quasi-informed speculators who had said that River was the daughter of Amy and Rory was large, and given the events earlier in the season it was difficult to see who else River would turn out to be, though I was open-minded as to whether she would be the little girl too despite logic leading that way. River has been nursing her whole timeline, withholding information and keeping what has already been called the best poker face in history, and it now makes sense that she should turn up in 'The Big Bang' where she belonged, on Amy's and Rory's wedding day. Questions remain as to why she should need to, how her relationship to the Doctor develops, and what the role of the Silence in the whole affair is.

Eyebrows were raised when it was revealed the Doctor was to meet someone as nefarious as Richard Nixon, but we are being tempted with the idea that the celebrity historical is about to enter a new league of notoriety. 'Let's Kill Hitler' - but whose was that skeletised hand in the CGI graphic following the credits, holding the sonic screwdriver? How, too, will the Doctor mitigate the damage he is doing simply by being who he is? These questions, and many others, may or may not be answered in the autumn's first episode of...

Comments

Posted by: Ordinary Girl, Extraordinary World (ogew)
Posted at: June 5th, 2011 06:47 am (UTC)

Dorium was doing the hacking of systems (easier for him because he sold them the damn things.)

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: June 5th, 2011 01:40 pm (UTC)

Of course he was. Thank you.

Posted by: Susan (lil_shepherd)
Posted at: June 5th, 2011 07:28 am (UTC)

Just to remark that you ought to qualify the Quatermass and the Pit reference - it was the underground only in the film, not the TV serial.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: June 5th, 2011 01:40 pm (UTC)

Thank you - I should have remembered that given that I've watched the television series and only read about the film, and yet there were still images from the film in my head. It was late, I plead...

(Deleted comment)
Posted by: nineveh_uk (nineveh_uk)
Posted at: June 5th, 2011 08:48 am (UTC)

That's what I've been assuming really. On the other hand, if it's a throw-away line by Desert Fox's General Rommel who has teamed up with the Doctor to fight aliens landed in the desert and been inspired as a result, I won't be sorry.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: June 5th, 2011 01:33 pm (UTC)

Posted by: widsidh (widsidh)
Posted at: June 5th, 2011 04:38 pm (UTC)

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: June 5th, 2011 05:05 pm (UTC)

Posted by: widsidh (widsidh)
Posted at: June 5th, 2011 06:49 pm (UTC)

Posted by: daniel_saunders (daniel_saunders)
Posted at: June 5th, 2011 09:14 pm (UTC)

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: June 6th, 2011 01:08 am (UTC)

Posted by: daniel_saunders (daniel_saunders)
Posted at: June 6th, 2011 11:21 am (UTC)

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: June 6th, 2011 11:42 am (UTC)

Posted by: widsidh (widsidh)
Posted at: June 6th, 2011 10:43 pm (UTC)

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: June 6th, 2011 11:01 pm (UTC)

Posted by: widsidh (widsidh)
Posted at: June 6th, 2011 11:11 pm (UTC)

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: June 6th, 2011 11:13 pm (UTC)

Posted by: widsidh (widsidh)
Posted at: June 6th, 2011 11:17 pm (UTC)

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: June 6th, 2011 11:17 pm (UTC)

(Deleted comment)
Posted by: widsidh (widsidh)
Posted at: June 5th, 2011 09:20 pm (UTC)

Posted by: alephnul (alephnul)
Posted at: June 5th, 2011 10:33 am (UTC)

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: June 5th, 2011 12:40 pm (UTC)

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: June 5th, 2011 01:38 pm (UTC)

Posted by: sensiblecat (sensiblecat)
Posted at: June 5th, 2011 10:13 am (UTC)

Wasn't there a Captain Harcourt in one of the Jane Austen novels?

Also, I want two things:

a) spin-off for Vastra and Jenny, loved the sexy subtext there. (And a remake of Casablanca staring Bright Blue Rick would be nice. He definitely occupies a similar moral universe).

b) a Gallifradle for my first grandchild

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: June 5th, 2011 01:27 pm (UTC)

I don't know Austen's works that well, and the Harcourt name rings a bell, but I can't find one by Googling beyond a Sir George Harcourt in her juvenilia Henry and Eliza.

Vastra and Jenny deserve more attention, and I hope we get a full story with them.

Gallifradles are surely the essential accessory for the parent of the would-be time-travelling infant, and I'm sure someone somewhere will make one.

Posted by: segh (segh)
Posted at: June 6th, 2011 09:13 am (UTC)

Are you possibly thinking of Captain Harville in Persuasion?

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: June 6th, 2011 10:28 am (UTC)

Posted by: Kargicq (kargicq)
Posted at: June 7th, 2011 08:41 pm (UTC)

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: June 7th, 2011 11:26 pm (UTC)

Posted by: manylelephants (manylelephants)
Posted at: June 5th, 2011 03:38 pm (UTC)

It does seem that Moffat is deliberately fighting against his enemies in spoilerdom given that I was told the BBC very obviously gave away last week the appearance of the cybermen in this episode and we subsequently found out that they only appear very peripherally at the beginning.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: June 5th, 2011 03:39 pm (UTC)

Simple and effective misdirection!

(Deleted comment)
Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: June 5th, 2011 04:47 pm (UTC)

Posted by: widsidh (widsidh)
Posted at: June 5th, 2011 04:51 pm (UTC)

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: June 5th, 2011 04:54 pm (UTC)

Posted by: widsidh (widsidh)
Posted at: June 5th, 2011 04:47 pm (UTC)

(Deleted comment)
Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: June 5th, 2011 07:09 pm (UTC)

1) If Captain Harcourt had tried to offer a woman to Strax in payment...

2) There's something there though - clean honest British decency embodied in a straightforward blade, versus souped-up Sith rip-offs.

(Deleted comment)
Posted by: Andrew Gray (shimgray)
Posted at: June 5th, 2011 08:16 pm (UTC)

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: June 5th, 2011 08:34 pm (UTC)

Posted by: elegaer (elegaer)
Posted at: June 6th, 2011 02:43 pm (UTC)

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: June 6th, 2011 03:10 pm (UTC)

Posted by: elegaer (elegaer)
Posted at: June 6th, 2011 03:21 pm (UTC)

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: June 6th, 2011 03:28 pm (UTC)

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: June 5th, 2011 08:35 pm (UTC)

(Deleted comment)
Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: June 5th, 2011 08:31 pm (UTC)

Interesting - thank you.

Posted by: widsidh (widsidh)
Posted at: June 5th, 2011 09:19 pm (UTC)

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: June 6th, 2011 01:10 am (UTC)