Sweet zombie kittens that was awesome! The little I saw on Twitter before I wisely closed my feed for the duration suggests that the Internet may not agree, but I don’t care. I thought that was phenomenal. Somehow it managed to do the sort of motherload pay-off that RTD Who always went for and missed in the season finale. I’m stunned.
It’s a puzzle how to review this, because I’d like to avoid giving the Great Big Honking Spoilers away. Obviously the episode concerns the Doctor’s rescue mission for Amy. He basically calls in all his favours and goes to war. It all goes remarkably smoothly, and just as you’re starting to think ‘Good lord, this episode has no dramatic tension, it’s just about how awesome the Doctor is’… the game changes. And I won’t say any more about exactly how, except to say that there’s lots of fighting and it’s pretty cool, as well as sad and poignant at times. Also, at the end, we find out who River Song really is, but don’t worry, I shan’t say.Despite the potential for cheese, I really enjoyed the way the Doctor’s ‘favours’ are called in. Some of the friends he calls on we recognise, some are brand new, but of races we recognise. I was particularly pleased by the Victorian silurian lady, Madame Vastra (Neve McIntosh), and her human maid (or possibly lover?), Jenny (Catrin Stewart); and the sontaran who had spliced his DNA so that he could serve as a nurse (as punishment). Both concepts could have gone horribly wrong, and the sontaran walked a very close line, but they came out on just the right side. Additionally, we saw glimpses of some awesome war scenes had on a planet where men in gorgeous period-wear shoot laser pistols. I suspect much of the budget of this half of the series went on this episode, but it was worth it. Rory was also impressively awesome. I have this feeling there was meant to be more Rory this season, and it somehow got cut out. I very much appreciated Rory wandering around in a roman uniform calling himself the Centurion, but there was no build up. We’ve had the odd reference, but I have seen others speculate that there were originally more conversations between Rory and the flesh Jennifer in which he talked about his time as a Nestine more, and that it ended up on the cutting room floor. If so, that is a shame, it would have helped pave the way for this.
I also like seeing the bad side of the Doctor. I’m always puzzled when there’s an outcry that the Doctor did something not 100% OK. The Doctor has always been morally ambiguous. At first he was simply selfish and insensitive (recall how he ended up meeting the daleks in the first place, tricking his companions into thinking the TARDIS was broken just so that he could satisfy his curiosity?), but he’s made a number of morally dubious decisions in every carnation. If anything, he’s grown: his selfishness has expanded to encompass those that he cares about, and in general he tries to help those he encounters, and to impose rules for acting when things are not so straight forward. He definitely doesn’t like guns, but he has used them in the past*. He’s committed and contemplated genocide a number of times. This is not a New Who phenomenon. All that seems new, to me, is that he is more openly concerned by the consequences of his actions. This episode was a great exploration of these complexities in his character and I loved it.
I also loved the speechifying and the poetry: not a thing you will hear me say often. This virtually never works, in Doctor Who or otherwise, but they pulled it off and deserve the credit for it.
It’s not all perfect. Whilst I enjoyed the implied relationship between the silurian lady and her ‘maid’, the relationship between the two men identified by their weight, homosexual relationship, and religion, instead of by their names, sat ill with me. It felt like it was meant to be comment on how gay relationships or religious affiliations are usually token… but it actually just felt token, and uncomfortably so. Similarly, Amy is simply the princess to be rescued, not doing anything that moves the action along at all, either when she’s waiting for her ‘boys’ to save her, or afterwards. Apparently giving birth makes you go uncharacteristically passive?
On the other hand, there was no shortage of other women kicking ass in this episode. I’ve mentioned already how much I liked Vastra and Jenny – they were awesome throughout, but especially in the fight scenes. As were the other female soldiers, not to mention Madame Kovarian (Frances Barber) and River Song. I guess it’s swings and roundabouts, it’s just a shame that the lead female had all her umph taken out of her just ’cause she had a baby. I’d have imagined Amy as a fearsome momma-bear sort, rather than a ‘hide-in-the-corner-and-let-Rory-take-care-of-it’ lady. But ho hum, you can’t have everything.
All in all, there was very much to enjoy, and only a few reservations. I thoroughly recommend it!
* For true, that man knows his way around a gun:
In case this YouTube video is juddery (as they sometimes seem to be when I embed them) please go here to enjoy it in all its glory.