Saturday, May 25, 2013

A Good Man Goes to War - "We are soldiers of God. We are not fools."

A Good Man Goes to War - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Series 6, Story 7 (Overall Series Story #218)

Here we have a grandiose title, and there's a Kipling-esque bit of poetry to go with it:

Demons run when a good man goes to war
Night will fall and drown the sun
When a good man goes to war

Friendship dies and true love lies
Night will fall and the dark will rise
When a good man goes to war

Demons run, but count the cost
The battle's won, but the child is lost
It's asking a lot for a 45 minute show to deliver the bombast and the drama we expect from an historic battle. But we're only going to be disappointed if we expect an all out war the legions rushing into bloody combat. Demon's Run is a different sort of a battle, one fought with the element of surprise, one where the lights go out, where factions are played against each other, and most of the troops are ordered to run away. There are a few casualties, but it's more about information and discovery, and it's what our heroes do with that information that will propel the action forward.

Translation in progress ...
Series 6 is not a favorite of mine. In terms of the overall arc of the season story, I just never bought in. When you know the overall mystery of the series has to be resolved in a certain way, no matter how many attempts to feint and dodge the writers throw at you, they all feel like cynical bits of manipulation, because we know all along that the Doctor did not come to his final end at Lake Silencio. We know that the series is going to continue with the Doctor, the true Doctor, not a clone or copy that we're asked to accept as being as good as the original -- which, I think, was the whole point of the Flesh, to try to dupe us into thinking it's a possibility things will go that way -- and so we are left with just watching to try to guess how the illusion was constructed.

We enjoy illusions when we are shown a trick and then defied to figure out how it was done. But if we ever are shown how it was done, the whole thing becomes a hollow exercise. It's only enjoyable as long as we are challenged. What Moffat was trying to do here was tell us: "I'm going to show you an illusion, that you know is an illusion, then ask you to watch how we show how it was done. We're going to tease you with clues and red herrings, then pull back the curtain and show you. After you see how we did it, you'll say, 'Oh, that was clever!'" That's neither good showmanship, nor good drama.

We can still enjoy moments, elements of the spectacle, and care about the characters within it, but it's not the same thing as enjoying the storyteller's art. Because we care about Amy and Rory, it is deeply satisfying to see her tell her newborn daughter that a man is coming to rescue her, and for it to sound like she's describing the Doctor, but then have it be Rory.

Rory has message and a question.

But the problem of Series 6 as a whole only nibbles at the edges of this episode. Within this episode the symptom we see is deliberate murkiness the kind you get when characters don't disclose and speak truthfully for the purpose of keeping writer's secrets, when they are vague and cryptic because it suits the needs of the story, not because it serves the characters actually speaking. Those quibbles though largely wash away though because we're invested in the characters and we just learned enough be excited to what they're going to do next to address the latest revelations.

One of the larger themes of the series we're asked to explicitly consider in this episode is the weaponization of the Doctor, and the Doctor's weaponization of his companions and friends. The thing is, while interesting, it's resolvable. The companions are part of the structure of this particular mythology. There will always be companions as long as there's a Doctor. The fact that exploration is inherently dangerous will not change, there'd be no story to tell if it did. So we can ponder on it all we want, but any conclusions we reach, any lesson we might learn hits a natural wall at the understanding that we have have to risk pain and loss in order to grow. Which is a plenty fine lesson to learn. It's just one that's suits that narrative better as background, implied, if you will. When we open that up and start unpacking it, we can't change anything about it, so drawing attention to it in the course of the story is forcing us against a wall.

I rather wish the focus had been shifted, and there had been more focus on (here we go again, you could reasonably be thinking, on the humanist/atheist/secularist kick again) why are the headless monks such a powerful force, why are the marines clerics, what does the religion-soaked milieu of the 52nd century tell us about why a war is being fought against the Doctor? It's just background here, largely unexplored except for the brief explanation of why the monks are headless (head is home of doubt, the heart the home of faith) which is good stuff ... but it's crumbs.

"We are soldiers of God. We are not fools."- Col. Manton AKA "Colonel Runaway," a fool.

Worth nothing that this episode is, if not the inception of the Paternoster Gang, at least the first meeting of Strax with Vastra & Jenny.

Vastra & Jenny via Black Distraction's Lair

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