A good man goes to Ikea

I should really be in bed, but I have to wait for the washing machine, and I’ve had enough Max Payne 3 for one night, so this gets written up now.

We watched ‘A Good Man Goes To War’ last night (really I suppose it’s the night before last, more or less). It is the New Who equivalent of Les Misérables. It introduces far too many characters in a short space of time, only dallying with the backstory of each. A moody, angst-ridden young man chews up the scenery in period costume. The protagonist and antagonist fight over the fate of a small child. It ends with a battle with substantial casualties on both sides, before one of the main characters reveals the hidden truth about their past. The whole thing collapses in mawkish sentiment in the final scene. Then there’s a bit of singing.

AGMGTW’s basic problem is in its structuring. It’s all over the place. It features a strong supporting cast of characters who turn up all too briefly. Arguably the most interesting (and unfortunate) is Strax, the breastfeeding Sontaran, sent to work as a nurse as penance for some unknown deed. Unfortunately Strax is the Gimli of the episode: a noble and virtuous being who is ritually humiliated as a result of shoddy writing. The Sontarans have long since been mocked for their potato-like appearance, but it does grate to see one brought so low for the sake of comic relief. As if to rub salt into the wound, I later found this in the Brilliant Book:


It’s bloody ridiculous, because everyone knows that the real Humpty Dumpty secretly survived his fall and went on to have many adventures under the name of Dizzy the Egg.


I was worried about watching with Thomas. The jokes about Stevie Wonder and the allusions to inter-species lesbianism between Madame Vastra and Jenny went over his head, and that was fine, but he hadn’t seen either of the previous two episodes. I kept having to pause the DVD player, either to explain what was going on, or to comfort Joshua because someone he liked has met an unfortunate end. Thomas wanted to know why the Headless Monks could still walk if they were headless, which I confess is something I would have thought about myself if I actually thought the Headless Monks were worth revisiting; as it stands they were just dull. The problem with any silent monster is that someone else has to do the exposition for them, but there simply isn’t time in this episode – so the Monks are just hooded figures with lightsabers, there only so that the Doctor’s gang (“it’s new”) have someone to fight in the last few minutes.

In any case, the good thing about watching these plot-advancing episodes again is knowing what’s coming while the person sitting next to you doesn’t. And while AGMGTW pulls out the rug on several occasions, its most effective scene is arguably this.


I giggled.

Joshua’s mouth dropped open.

Thomas said “Ooh look, they’ve spilled some milk on the floor”.

Categories: New Who | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “A good man goes to Ikea

  1. Michael King

    I’m with you on this episode. I rewatched it a couple of weeks ago and thought to myself–what a mess! Going all the way back to the crash of the Byzantium, we have the military chaplains who are working with the Headless Monks and how does the Silence fit into all this? We get all those new characters who seem to owe the Doctor, but no real story to explain why and then the big anticlimactic reveal by River. Then the Doctor flits off after we find out about River. Very disappointing.

    • reverend61

      I know what you mean about the Silence. I don’t like them much anyway, but what bugs me is that they’re imagined as this vastly powerful force whom the Doctor defeats with the aid of a camera phone, and then they’re never heard from again – until the final episode, where they exist in an alternate reality that is then wiped from the history books. We can only assume that it’s the military who want the Doctor dead, and they’ve allied themselves with whomever they choose in order to get the job done, and the Silence’s role is incidental. There are a mass of ideas, and some of them are good ones, but very few of them are actually explored.

  2. I totally called the big River reveal MONTHS before this episode. A friend of mine told me I was being stupid. Just like she did when I said the astronaut was going to be River.

    That being said, I like this episode, if only because I get to see Amy suffering. Bluh.

    • reverend61

      The thing is, when you’re watching a show that’s so twist-dependent you find yourself going through stuff – everything it could be – and therefore it’s likely you’ll hit on the right answer. I pegged the ending of The Sixth Sense that way. The best thing to do is to make a show that usually *doesn’t* use twists, and then drop one in at the last minute when people are least expecting it.

      I know what you mean about this episode, though – it doesn’t work, it’s all over the place, but it does have an energy and enthusiasm that I find infectious. The whole is, somehow, much greater than the sum of its parts…

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