A Good Man Goes To War - Doctor Who blog
(SPOILER WARNING: The following is an in-depth critical analysis. If you haven’t seen this episode yet, you may want to before reading this review)
It’s been a long time since I’ve seen A Good Man Goes To War. I remember at the time thinking it was dumb, but I had forgotten just how dumb it actually was until now. I’ve seen bad Doctor Who before. I’ve seen stupid Doctor Who before. But A Good Man Goes To War reaches new levels of bollocks I didn’t even think was possible to reach. It’s really quite astounding.
So Amy is trapped on Demon’s Run with Eye Patch Lady about to steal her child. And already we’ve hit our first problem. I’ve mentioned in the past how rubbish Moffat is at writing female characters, and this episode is where its most obvious. Eye Patch Lady is taking her baby away and all Amy does in response is throw sassy putdowns at people. Now if someone were to take away my child, I’d be in fucking hysterics. I’d be shouting and screaming and trying to put up a fight. But as I’ve said in the past, Amy isn’t a character. She’s a plot device. And Moffat writes her as such. She is pretty much nothing but a walking womb.
Meanwhile the Doctor is travelling around time and space and calling in markers in order to save Amy. And here is our second problem. Does this sound like the Doctor to you? Expecting favours from people as a repayment for helping them out in the past? Again, I find myself asking, has Steven Moffat ever actually watched Doctor Who before? The Doctor helps people because it’s the right thing to do. He doesn’t do it with the cynical expectation that they’ll return the favour at some point down the line. It’s just wildly out of character for him.
I suppose I’d be a little more comfortable with it if we actually got to know the Paternoster Gang. Find out how they met the Doctor and why they feel they owe him a favour, but we don’t. For some strange reason people really seem to like the Paternoster Gang, but for the life of me I can’t see why. They’re complete non-entities. There’s nothing remotely interesting about them. Strax is basically just the shit comic relief, diminishing any possible threat the Sontarans could have in future stories with every unfunny one liner, and we learn precisely fuck all about Madame Vastra or Jenny other than they’re gay (on a side note, why do they keep casting Neve McIntosh to play Silurians? Don’t get me wrong. She’s a good actor, but the Silurians aren’t like the Sontarans. They’re not clones).
At this point it seems appropriate to talk about LGBT representation. Specifically how rubbish Moffat is at doing it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful that Moffat is willing to put gay characters into his stories, but the way he does it is a tad dodgy to say the least. See, when you’re writing a gay character, there needs to be a lot more to them than just being gay. Russell T Davies understood that perfectly. There were a number of queer characters during his tenure as showrunner, most notably Captain Jack Harkness, and they were all written fairly well for the most part. What I especially appreciated was how their sexuality was never the primary focus. Rather it was just another aspect to their character. Look at Jack Harkness. He’s openly pansexual, but they never make a big deal out of it. It’s just casually mentioned and treated as any other character trait. Plus there’s a lot more to Jack than just being pan. He’s an outgoing adventurer. He seeks redemption for his conman days. He puts on a cheery facade to hide the dark traumas he went through during his long, immortal life. This is good LGBT representation because what it does is it normalises his sexuality. The show treats him as any other character. There’s nothing special or different about him. He’s no different from a heterosexual person. He just has different sexual preferences, and that’s fine. There’s nothing wrong or strange about that, and so the show doesn’t treat it as such. I think that’s a really good message to send to kids.
Then we come to the Moffat era. Madame Vastra and Jenny are gay. That’s their sole defining character traits. That’s not representation. That’s tokenism. Whereas the queer characters of the RTD era felt like real people, the ones in the Moffat era feel like cardboard cutouts with the word ‘gay’ written on their foreheads. And it just gets worse when those two Cleric marines show up:
“We’re the Thin Fat Gay Married Anglican Marines. Why would we need names as well?”
Ugh! Okay, let me tell you precisely why I hate this line so much. It’s incredibly important, particularly in a kids show, to represent and normalise the LGBT community. My issue is this. If being gay is perfectly normal (which of course it is)… why is Moffat drawing so much attention to it? That would be like me making a big fuss about the colour of the sky. The only reason you would do that is if there’s something unusual about it, which is precisely the opposite thing you should be conveying. It’s heavily implied that the Thin Fat Gay Couple are the only ones who are gay, and that’s treated as a novelty. They’re such a novelty in fact that they don’t even have names. The reason I hate this so much is because they’re not characters in their own right. Rather they’re the equivalent of a carnival sideshow attraction with Moffat as the ringmaster inviting spectators to pay tuppence to poke the freaks in the cages. Rather than putting in the effort to write gay characters that are actually well developed and complex, he’s just using these shallow caricatures to boast about how seemingly progressive he is. He’s more bothered about winning brownie points and massaging his own ego rather than providing compelling representation for minority figures.
He treats his female characters the same way. He boasts about how strong Amy and River Song are, but they’re really not. Yes they’re seemingly independent at first glance, but they very frequently fall into the same, tired old sexist tropes we’ve seen dozens of times before and we never actually learn anything significant about them outside of their lives with the Doctor. Look at this very episode. Amy loses her baby, but she never reacts in a believable or empathetic way. She just resorts to her sassy putdowns and pointing guns at people because that’s the only way Moffat knows how to write women. In fact Amy isn’t even that independent. In a rather telling scene, the Doctor asks Rory’s permission to hug Amy as though she’s Rory’s property as opposed to the strong, independent woman she apparently is. Moffat keeps insisting he’s a feminist and yet he doesn’t see anything wrong with a woman not being able to hug another man without her husband’s permission first.
This is the biggest reason why I hate Moffat as a writer so much. It goes beyond the plot hole riddled stories, the convoluted series arcs and the bad characterisation. Moffat is a man more concerned with looking progressive rather than actually being progressive.
So anyway, the Doctor and Rory (who is dressed in his Roman gear for some stupid reason) manage to save Amy without a single drop of blood being spilt (you know, if you don’t count the Clerics that got killed by the Headless Monks during the Doctor’s deception or the millions of Cybermen that the Doctor kills just to make a point. Brief side note, why would the Cybermen know or care where Amy is? Okay their Legion monitors everything in that particular quadrant, but somehow I doubt that extends to pregnant women. Plus it’s highly unlikely the Cybermen would want to divulge any information after you’ve just blown them up).
Actually it’s a shame that the Headless Monks were wasted on this stupid series arc because I actually thought they were a pretty cool idea. The theology is well thought out and it could have potentially served as a damning criticism of organised religion (thinking from the heart as opposed to the head. I like it). Instead we get treated to more bollocks. So the Monks, Clerics, Silence and Eye Patch Lady have all teamed up to kill the Doctor because apparently he’s a very bad man. Why do they think that?
I don’t know! I’ve got no fucking idea! I mean I’m not going to pretend that the Doctor is a saint, but if you want us to believe he’s a dangerous warrior, you’re going to have to show us some actual evidence. And that’s the problem. There isn’t any. Yes the Doctor has killed, but it’s always been for the greater good. To help others who couldn’t defend themselves. He may not be perfect, but he’s a good man at heart. Unless you give me a compelling reason to believe otherwise, I’m just going to snort and roll my eyes. Obviously Moffat isn’t giving us the full story until much later, but all it does is negatively impact this one. Basically, in this episode, the only reason we’re given as to why Eye Patch Lady thinks the Doctor is evil is ‘trust me. He just is.’ Not good enough.
Also, if you want to kill the Doctor, WHY NOT JUST KILL HIM?! He’s standing right there! Don’t let him finish his monologue! Just shoot the fucker! (Also raise your hand if you saw the Flesh baby plot twist coming. If you didn’t, you’re lying).
And it just gets worse when River shows up at the end to lecture the Doctor about how he’s too violent.
Now I’ll repeat that.
River Song, the gun toting archaeologist who massacred a bunch of Silence in her last appearance and clearly enjoyed every minute of it, is chastising the Doctor for being too violent. Fuck off!
And then the moment none of us have been waiting for. Who is River Song? She’s Amy’s daughter.
Um… I mean… OOOOOOH! Well I did NOT see THAT coming! And here’s me thinking she was Rassilon’s second cousin! Silly me!
Yeah, not only was this head thuddingly obvious what with the aquatic surnames and everything, but also Moffat gave the game away right at the beginning. Melody Pond. get it? Give me fucking strength.
What’s even weirder is that the focus is all out of whack. The reveal is directed more at the Doctor than Amy and Rory (you know, her parents). But why would the Doctor care? And more to the point, why should we care? Okay, River Song is Amy and Rory’s daughter. That’s some interesting information, but that’s hardly mid-season finale material. What we really care about is who River is in relation to the Doctor. And I suspect that’s what the Doctor is more concerned with too. And while I think of it, how is the Doctor learning about River’s true parentage constitute as ‘his darkest day?’ He doesn’t seem to take the news badly or anything. In fact the opposite.
It’s all so mind-bogglingly stupid. A Good Man Goes To War represents the point where Moffat officially starts to disappear up his own arsehole, weaving a convoluted web of bullshit whilst forgetting all the ingredients that make a good story. The answers we’re provided for some of the series arc mysteries are painfully obvious, unsatisfactory and just plain daft, none of the characters act like actual people or behave in a believable way, and crucially I don’t give a shit about anything that’s happening onscreen because at no point does Moffat ever give me a reason to care. Better get used to this folks because these issues are going to become the staple of the Moffat era going forward.