‘My friend, you have never risen higher’—Doctor Who: A Good Man Goes to War.

Previously on Doctor Who: The Almost People (2).

Right, this bit is (almost) all you’re gonna get, because I’ll go off quoting the entire episode. Because, oh, this script. These lines:

I wish I could tell you that you’ll be loved, that you’ll be safe and cared for and protected. But this isn’t a time for lies. What you are gonna be, Melody, is very, very brave.

But not as brave as they’ll have to be. Because there’s someone coming. I don’t know where he is or what he’s doing, but trust me, he’s on his way. There’s the man who’s never gonna let us down and not even an army can get in the way. He’s the last of his kind. He looks young but he’s lived for hundreds and hundreds of years. And wherever they take you, Melody, however scared you are, I promise you, you will never be alone because this man is your father. He has a name but the people of our world know him better as the Last Centurion.

I have a message and a question. A message from the Doctor, and a question from me. Where. is. my. wife?

I want you to tell your men to run away. Those words. Run away. I want you to be famous for those exact words. I want people to call you Colonel Run-Away. I want children laughing outside your door, cause they’ve found the house of Colonel Run-Away. And, when people come to you, and ask if trying to get to me through the people I love! … is in any way a good idea, I want you to tell them your name. Oh, look! I’m angry. That’s new. I’m really not sure what’s going to happen now.

But, first off: alright, I was wrong. I had thought the TARDIS would prevent anything from happening to a child conceived onboard, but if the Time Lords were once humans who had been exposed to the Time Vortex, the Untempered Schism for so long, then, well, I suppose it makes sense. Pure, sheer luck, and a lot of Moffat madness make it possible—hello, Time Head baby!

The thing is: the Doctor is sure that the girl in the space suit is Amy’s baby, and if River is Amy’s baby… then it’s River, in that suit, on that beach; unless someone traded places with her. So, I’ve always said that I don’t think it’s River in there because her reactions in The Impossible Astronaut and Day of the Moon were off—she should have remembered stuff, but it never seemed that she did. The problem is: time can only be rewritten after the Doctor was put on her scent by the older Doctor—and since we see time happening mostly from the current Doctor’s point of view, it hadn’t happened yet. That’s what the Doctor means when he says that it’s already too late—Amy told him in The Almost People that she saw him die.

This also means that the older Doctor has to die on that beach. Has to die so that these events will take place, just as River has to die in Forest of the Dead to ensure that she was even born. If the Doctor saves her now, what is going to happen to the timeline? If he changes too much, he won’t be able to find her in the first place, and then she’s in the hands of the Alliance again. Besides, the Battle of Demon’s Run is in her diary, and what happens the diary stays in the diary. So. How much can the Doctor change—River says she knows that the Doctor saved her, but when? It only makes sense if it’s all a giant plan.

If the Doctor and River planned to put a Ganger into his place, for her to stay in the suit just until after she killed “him,” and then to flee and regenerate. To have their weapon kill a Ganger—nice payback for the trap, that would be. That’s the only way I can imagine the Doctor leaving River in that suit so that the timeline of him finding Melody can stay intact; because it has to.

Just make sure that you’re on the right side when he gets here. Not for my sake—for yours.

And that’s exactly it, Amy. You scoff at Lorna calling the Doctor dark, but that’s what he is. He may open a tawdry quirk shop any intergalactic minute, but he is—a warrior. That’s the one thing Colonel Manton left out in his motivational speech to the soldiers. The Doctor may not be the Devil, not a god, not a goblin and not a trickster: but he is a soldier. Remember poor Clive in the first episode in 2005?

He has one constant companion—death.

Why would so many alliances across the universe try to fashion weapons that can bring the Doctor down? Of course, there is a great Big Bad in the background of all this, whoever controlled the TARDIS in The Pandorica Opens is behind this, and we haven’t seen them yet. The Big Bad that is using entire people’s fears of the Doctor, the terror that he spreads, to use them to build weapons. The Big Bad might just be another The Doctor is Our Enemy Let’s Kill Him So We Can Take Over the Universe villain—but the way they operate isn’t what we usually see. Davros made a start, with accusing Ten of using his Children of Time, making them into weapons to kill his enemies so he wouldn’t have to get his hands dirty. And now someone else is doing the one thing that can take the Doctor down: himself. His own fear of the darkness inside him, the way the Dream Lord tormented him is a good indicator of how frightened the Doctor is of himself—in the end, it’s the Doctor who hates the Doctor the most in the whole wide universe. This isn’t over yet, far from it. The Alliance that built the Pandorica was only one of many plans to destroy the Doctor. But why?

Doctor: Why would a Time Lord be a weapon?

Vastra: Well, they’ve seen you.

Doctor: Me…?

The Doctor is a walking weapon—and so is the child. Both represent hope to the people who are on their sides, respectively. Now, who’s right? It isn’t how we choose to see the Doctor, because we know him. It isn’t how Amy chooses to see him, but Lorna is struggling. She wants to meet him again, because he’s an adventurer and he was nice to her and he saved her, but she’s also afraid of him.

Afraid of his name. Now, why would killing that man mean hope in an endless war? He does it to save the universe, but that’s still blood on his hands. So much blood. He is called the Oncoming Storm, and not for nothing. That’s what he’s been running from. Because a part of him feared that this would happen ever since he started making enemies, so he ran. And Eleven is running the fastest, because Nine was born in battle, of blood and anger and revenge, and he threw his name into the Dalek’s face, unable to deal with his fury any other way; and Ten was suffering so openly from what happened in the Time War, from what he did to his own people, and he got so angry, too. And when Eleven came along, when regeneration was so violent, when there was nothing else on his mind than CHANGE, GODDAMMIT—he did just that. Ten was probably the most human Doctor there’s ever been, but Eleven, oh no, he’s very alien. He still understands humanity, and aspires to it, but he’s different. The anger we saw in this episode was the first anger of this kind in his lifetime. That anger that Nine lived with every second, that anger that Ten spewed at Harriet Jones on his first day. Sure, Eleven has threatened enemies before, for example in his There’s one thing you should never, ever put in a trap speech, and he’s gotten angry before, in The Beast Below and in Victory of the Daleks. But that wasn’t this cold-hearted anger with which he ridicules his opponents. He tried to become another man, which is why he is so damn quirky and perky and behaving like a toddler in space. He will never forget, and he will probably never be forgiven, let alone forgive himself entirely. But he deals with it differently, he has to, because he is forced to acknowledge what caused all this 700 years ago. Not just this, but his role in the Time War itself. And maybe, just maybe, if he can make things right, then he can find peace. But he needs help.

They’re always brave.

Yes, they are. And they love him, and they never blame him—but Amy has been struggling with that, just a bit. When he left her alone for 14 years, when he couldn’t save Rory in Amy’s Choice, and now, when her child is gone and he walked into the same trap twice. When she backs away from him at the end of this episode, won’t let him touch her—that breaks him. That, right there. He has lost their trust, and that’s the worst thing that can happen to him. Because if he loses his companions’ trust, then who is right? The Doctor, or the ones that want to kill him? The Doctor’s image and, more importantly, self-perception are changing. He chose his name, chose to be the Doctor, but what has he done, and what will he do if no-one can stop him? Of course he didn’t want it to ever come to this, but it did.

All that hatred, all that fear—when all he wants to do is make love to the stars and the universe. As I said when I took a look at the series trailer and saw the Doctor dressed up as a clown, looking miserable—there are so many people with clown phobias out there. What’s loved be some, is feared by others. What’s some people’s dream—can be someone else’s nightmare.

And the Doctor is shattered by this, he despairs as he’s never despaired before; and he takes it all out on River, because he’s always come when she called, and he’s going to take her out for her birthday, but this time, when he needs all the help he can get, calling in debts throughout space and time—she’s not there to fight at his side. He’s confused, and hurt and he feels so betrayed because who the hell is she to tell him that he’ll trust her more than anyone else in the universe one day when she can’t come to call now, when he has to save his best friends’ child?

Demon’s run, but count the cost.

The battle’s won, but the child is lost.

There is nothing more beautiful than that moment when he realizes who she is. Why she couldn’t be at the battle of Demon’s Run—because she was already there. When he finds out who she is, the pain doesn’t matter anymore. Because he has found the person he was yearning for. Someone to trust, someone who wouldn’t wither and die before his eyes—and, unlike his TARDIS, someone he can talk to, someone he can bloody well kiss if he wants to, when he wants to. The daughter of his best friends, now in-laws, the girl who was stolen to destroy him and who fell in love with him.

That is the bitter-sweet thing about River: she’s not just a love story, she’s a warning. She’s the only one who can make the Doctor see.

And all the little things that suddenly make sense—why she knows how to fly the TARDIS, why she uses the blue stabilizers (baby Melody doesn’t like the noise, remember?), why the TARDIS reroutes phone calls to her and trusts her, why she says, ‘I hope my old man didn’t see that, he gets ever so cross,’ in Day of the Moon, after killing just about a dozen Silents. Rory. Her dad, her old man.

It’s the classic story—the assassin that falls in love with the target. And it’s one of the most amazing stories I’ve ever been told.

Oh, and can I just say: it’s not just the acting, the script, the everything—it’s the music that makes this so amazing. The fact itself that River is Melody has been guessed by many, it was pretty much obvious when people learned that the baby’s name is Melody, but this doesn’t take away from the emotional impact, the importance, and the beauty of this episode at all. It’s not about River herself, in the end it’s always about the Doctor, about who he is, about what he learns about himself in this story. But I digress, what I meant to say was this: the music. That simple, haunting melody (well, sorry, what word am I supposed to use? ;)) in the background as River confronts the Doctor about how high exactly he has risen, and in how much danger he is of falling; as the writing on the prayer leaf changes, as Amy realizes that her daughter will survive—so soft but tragic, and so beautiful. Murray Gold, you are a god.

There is so much more to be said about this episode: the characters. All the characters, so many of them, and they were nicely fleshed out, at least mostly, which isn’t always a given when there are so many people to be introduced.

There is a gallery on the BBC’s website with all of them, but I’m going to mention a few of my personal favourites:

Strax. The Sontaran nurse. Who still dreams of the glory of battle and dying in a war, but who later finds that being a nurse has changed his perspective on things. But still, the charming things he lets fly at the beginning of the episode are too good to be ignored:

I hope someday to meet you in the glory of battle, where I shall crush the life of your worthless human form. Go and get some rest.

Madame Vastra and Jenny. An interspecies lesbian couple posing as a mysterious detective and her maid in Victorian England—did I mention that Vastra just ate Jack the Ripper? These two are amazing, and I’d gladly vote for a spin-off, thank you, Moffat. Oh, and I’d almost forgotten: the way she questions the Doctor about Melody’s… heritage is hilarious. Melody Pond, conceived on the TARDIS, during her parent’s wedding night, in a bunk bed.

The Doctor speaks Baby. Of course he does—he’d make the perfect babysitter. Also, River has been insulting him since her day of birth.

There is hardly anything more adorable than the Doctor making himself presentable for his in-laws. 🙂

Next: Let’s Kill Hitler.