Friday, 8 November 2013

A Good Man Goes to War

I think this was the first time I was disappointed by one of Moffat's stories. I don't want to overstate that, I mean it in the mildest possible way, and I certainly enjoyed the episode. I suppose disappointed is the wrong word. Whereas previous episodes of his, especially the big, important ones, had been outstandingly brilliant, this was only very good.

Lots of lovely elements and moments of course. Strax, Madame Vastra and Jenny are all instantly likeable and will quite rightly come back in the future. Rory's Roman assault on the Cyber fleet is just awesome, and the Doctor running rings around the Church troops is splendid. Lorna Bucket is a wonderful character, another of those potential companions that never gets their chance, like Lynda-with-a-Y. But that's the problem: all these fantastic ideas feel too hastily assembled, like songs from a Greatest Hits when we haven't heard the original albums.

Then there are the more familiar add-ons. Dorium's Sidney Greenstreet schtick is welcome, Avery turning up is a nice surprise, and I suppose I can't complain about getting some more use out of the Silurian costumes - but the Spitfires are definitely over-egging a pudding that is already in severe danger of turning into an omelette. Apparently the script originally made space for Captain Jack as well, and that would have been interesting. I think I would have liked a link, like that, between the RTD and Moffat eras - there is a sense in which a steel shutter came crashing down with the regeneration and Jack is the obvious man to crash through it. (River, of course, is aberrant in the other direction, being a Moffat creation who happened to invade RTD's show from the future.) As much fun as that would have been, one can't help but wonder what would have been cut to accommodate him.

But it's all enjoyable isn't it, and evidently heading towards one of those inspired, everything-you-know-is-wrong twists. Except that it isn't: the reveal that River is Melody is barely surprising, let alone mind-boggling.
This is a story that starts by throwing lots of new things into the mix, underdeveloped, and then proceeds to a conclusion that folds the series inwards. What I wanted, I think, is a story where we started with our known, familiar characters and a universe that was then expanded or changed by a revelation that moved us into new territory. In the context of Series Six, and of what happens even after that, this episode makes a lot of sense and is lots of fun - but taken as a standalone story, and especially on a first viewing, it appears to lack the ruthlessly-watertight plotting we've come to expect from Moffat.

Last of all, I was irked by the final caption announcing the title of the next story. Let's Kill Hitler! If there wasn't actually an exclamation mark on screen then surely it was because it was superfluous. It seemed to me to be the most brazen, desperate, look-at-me bit of publicity so far and, stupidly I spent much of the mid-season break worrying that things were only going to get even sillier. What I didn't know, what I should have guessed, is that everything that I didn't like about A Good Man Goes to War was going to be fixed by Let's Kill Hitler, and that it would be one of Moffat's best episodes yet.


No comments:

Post a Comment