Bookmark and Share A Good Man Goes To War - UK Press reaction

6/05/2011 10:37:00 am - Reported by Chuck Foster

With the first half of this year's series of Doctor Who reaching its finale, the media passed their own judgement on the 'game-changing' revelations of A Good Man Goes To War. The following are some of the quotes from the UK press - click on the links for the full reviews.

Please note that the reviews discuss plot elements of the episode, which can be considered spoilers to those that have yet to watch the programme (viewers in the United Kingdom can catch up with the episode on the BBC iPlayer).



Dan Martin, Guardian:
It's as if the prospect of the Doctor getting angry, rounding up a gang and storming in to rescue his mate was considered so much of a pivotal deal that nobody remembered to pack a story. The problem was, he didn't actually go to war at all. It was an ambush at best, and remarkably for an episode with so many kitchen sinks thrown in, not very much seemed to happen. Coming off best were Madame Vastra the lesbian Victorian Silurian serial killer hunter, and Commander Strax, the emasculated Sontaran nurse. But because I know so little about what's going on, I didn't really understand, buy into or care about Demons Run or what was going on there. What was the point of the Thin Fat Gay Married Anglican Marines if you're just going to behead one of them, then forget about them? Are we supposed to invest in Lorna Bucket? The only thing stopping Madame Kovarian from twirling a moustache is that she's actually a woman. And after that fearsome and lavish pre-credits sequence, we're denied the promise of more Cybermen.

But enough gripes. The very best thing about the complexity of the arc and the arcs is they mean more Alex Kingston and more Doctor Song. That reveal was hidden in plain view from the very beginning as soon as its revealed Amy has called the baby Melody, but I didn't join the dots of Water and Music first time and so the reveal was a headspinning shock. And this is despite having wondered over a link ever since it was announced that the new companion's surname was going to be Pond.

Gavin Fuller, Telegraph:
The revelation that River is a grown-up Melody was something of a surprise, although given the tenor of the episode and earlier revelations it does make sense. However, how it will psychologically impact on Amy when she’s realised her child is still lost and is confronted with a grown-up version of the child, who she’s met before, is perhaps a narrative strand that would sit uncomfortably with a series where loss has often been brushed off as soon as the next couple of episodes.

After an iffy start, this year’s series has developed well, Matt Smith is developing a greater potency and authority as The Doctor, and making us wait for the remainder of the series, how the fate of Melody is resolved and no doubt lots more besides is somewhat cruel on the part of the BBC and Steven Moffat!

Benji Wilson, Telegraph:
I know what you’re thinking: tommyrot and bunkum. Rest assured that with Doctor Who, actually watching the thing can sometimes make matters even more confusing. Essentially, though, it didn’t matter – Saturday’s episode was all about the cliffmax. And once the big humdinger was revealed – we finally discovered that River Song (Alex Kingston) is in fact a grown-up version of Amy’s daughter, Melody – it merely led to the Doctor galloping off in to the galaxy to save someone (Melody) who, we knew, was already safe in the future. Which was the present. Got that?

Tom Phillips, Metro:
Steven Moffat has clearly gone mad. Proper unhinged, woopsie-bonkers, ‘for my next trick I shall invade France’ crackers. This Doctor Who mid-series finale chucked everything it could think of at the screen, then scraped it off and threw it again while cackling manically.

And the result was that we ended up with 45 minutes of thoroughly entertaining - if somewhat unfocused - pop sci-fi.

The episode might not have been entirely sure where it was going, but getting there was still a blast. And yes, we’re grumpy that we have to wait until the autumn for the next episode. ... Oh - and as for the key moment of the episode, the big reveal of River Song’s identity that the whole series has been leading up to? It was... well, judging by the Twitter reaction, pretty mind-blowing.

The Shropshire Star:
Sometimes I could really hate the people behind Doctor Who. All week I’ve been looking forward to a Good Man Goes to War, safe in the knowledge that this series is back on track after the disappointing/cobblers (delete according to opinion) opening two parter with its flash pyrotechnics but lack of sense or reason. After all, we’ve had The Doctor’s Wife, one of the best episodes so far, and the past two weeks have also been strong.

And then, a few minutes in to A Good Man… it seemed that, actually, I was wrong again and we were indeed back to flash effects and no logical plot.

And then – and then – about 30 minutes in we got past the bitty, the confusing, the silly, the shouty, and we got to the talky.

The episode stepped back a bit, was allowed to breathe, and we found out more about baby Melody Pond. Now it was interesting again. Suddenly, when little Melody was transformed into a couple of litres of yoghurt, this episode of Doctor Who was firing on all cylinders and playing at the top of its game. The Doctor was forced to confront what he had become, the hurt he had caused, the deaths, and I was hooked once more.

And that River Song revelation? I’d guessed. I think most of us had (River Song/Melody Pond – s’obvious, innit?), but it was nice to have it confirmed. (Although it’s slightly Woody Allen/Soon-Yi, if you think about what happens between them.) And wasn’t Matt Smith brilliant?


The online presence of specialist magazines and sites also published their own reviews of the episodes.

Simon Brew, Den of Geek:
A Good Man Goes To War was, at it turned out, one of the more straightforward stories of the run. In a couple of ways, it was Steven Moffat leaving the intricate story weaving to the side, and for at least half of the episode's running time, just having some fun. It's hard to argue with that at Saturday teatime.

It was, for me, the closest episode in feel since he took over to the Russell T Davies era on the show (and that's not for the gay joke at the start), with a real blockbuster feel to large parts of it. That's why we got spitfires, a nursing Sontaran and the Silurians all thrown into the mix.

Plus, and I imagine it wasn't lost on many, there was a heavy coating of Star Wars, from the white birth room of Amidala through to the look of the headless monks. George Lucas would be proud.

After the weeks of quite brilliant, weaving storytelling, it did, in truth, feel a little different to have some of that taken away here, and A Good Man Goes To War, for all its many high points, isn't up there with the best Steven Moffat-penned episodes on Who to date (some might argue it could be his worse, I'd suspect). That said, it still sets a high standard, and there's some lovely writing and moments in it. It just, on reflection, felt a little like fifty minutes building up to a revelation that approximately 12.4 percent of the Internet (at least) had guessed at some point over the past year or so. The other 87.6% just had their heads blow, mind.

Dave Golder, SFX:
It was a satisfying slice of fantasy television which ticked lots of boxes: it featured dashing, daring storytelling that was bold and confident; it looked fantastic (how awesome were those space scenes early on, particularly the ones with the Cyber-ships?), there were some hilarious lines (my favourite has to be the Stevie Wonder one – genius) and the performance of the star upped his wattage a couple of notches once again. But we’d be gushing too much if we said it was perfect – the Headless Monks didn’t quite satisfy as baddies (but were close), and their battle with Rory and co near the end had the director struggling to make the combat especially convincing or expansive. For a foe that was bigged up not long before by the Colonel they seemed to go down quite easily. Also, I can’t help but worry that general audiences might be a little bamboozled by convoluted episodes like this. And there are still those unanswered questions – why did Melody, aka River, kill the Doctor (and which Doctor?) in “The Impossible Astronaut” for one – but we trust those will be answered in the autumn. For now, Moffat and friends have thrown us enough enjoyable scraps to make us feel very happy going into the summer months.

Morgan Jeffery, Digital Spy:
One of the most interesting aspects of 'A Good Man Goes To War' is the attempt it makes to question The Doctor's actions. It's certainly a bold move to point out the inherent flaws in the character's persona, but it begs the question, where do we go from here? It's all very well to criticise The Doctor for his increasingly violent ways, but ultimately the character's attempts at peace have to fail, and he has to battle the monsters. Otherwise, we're left with a very dull show indeed. Nonetheless, as events begin to spiral out of control for the overconfident Time Lord, the episode does well in slowly building a sense of impending dread.

A Good Man Goes To War' is not without its flaws, but it is still a terrific 50 minutes of entertainment. There's the odd plot oddity here and the occasional lack of clarity there, but ultimately this mid-series finale is thrilling, shocking and the cast give it their all. It's important here to give one last shout out to the main man, Matt Smith, who has truly excelled himself in these seven episodes. His performance displays a fantastic range and constant surprises. As for Who head honcho Steven Moffat, it's clear that he's going to be spinning this particular yarn for a little while longer yet, but enough answers have been provided for now to keep this reviewer satisfied (just about).

David Lewis, Cultbox:
If this is Doctor Who’s finest hour - and until the final five minutes, it was shaping up that way - the show, like its lead character, has never fallen so far so fast. River starts spouting uncharacteristically prosaic dialogue about her relationship with the Doctor and tells Amy that everything’s going to be alright. The Doctor dashes off in the TARDIS to save Melody and River reveals, as had become uncomfortably clear, that River Song and Melody Pond are one and the same person. It’s not a bad ending; it just feels wrong. It’s not like being given a plastic comb for Christmas when you were expecting a Scalextric; it’s like being told on Christmas morning that it’s actually Ash Wednesday. It’s not disappointing or disillusioning; it’s oddly desensitizing, leaving a bewildered sense that this just can’t be it.