“He will rise higher than ever before, but then fall so much further.”
I’m not a religious man at all but it was hard to ignore the religious references in this episode, from the headless monks, to sentient computers, to soldiers of God, and the most significant religious symbolism, the Fall. In the Bible the Fall of Man refers to the disobedience of Adam and Eve, eating the fruit from the Forbidden Tree, and in doing so losing their innocence for guilt and shame, corrupting the natural world, and causing people to be born in to original sin.
In A Good Man Goes to War, the mid-series finale of Doctor Who, we witness the Fall of the Doctor; a so called “innocent”, a hero, a champion, becomes exposed as a hypocrite, a man who brings with him death and destruction, a man who will lie to those on their death-bed (Lorna Bucket), a man so feared that his enemies will go to the most desperate lengths to kill him - this was truly the Doctor’s darkest hour.
Doctor Who Episode 7 Review - The Fall of the Doctor
We all should have seen the twist coming within the opening shot of the episode, the incubator marked “Melody Pond”, and in fairness, many people did predict this weeks ago. I certainly considered the option, but because it was one of the more popular theories I chose not to dwell on it, and there was perhaps a part of me hoping it wouldn’t be true. That said, the twist was delivered perfectly, coming at the end of what was a terrifically paced, epic-feel episode.
The episode begins with a little fake-out, with Amy telling her daughter that a man is coming, a man that will never let them down, the last of his kind, he’s lived for hundreds and hundreds of years, this man is your father…wait! The Doctor is the Daddy?! Oh no, it’s Rory, gotcha! It felt a stretch to make it work, and was rather pointless.
Rory, in his Last Centurion gear, is Twenty Thousand Lightyears Away, and by orders of the Doctor is there to cause some havoc for the Cyberman, and on Poker Night too, well, that’s what it looked like they were doing! “I have a message and a question. A message from the Doctor, and a question from me. Where is my wife?!” Finally, after weeks of Kenny style deaths, jealous love-tiffs, and kind-hearted stupidity, we got to see a confident, assured, strong Rory, and I liked it.
And the message from the Doctor? That can be summed up in the explosion of an entire Cyber Legion. A little extreme for the Doctor, no? But that foreshadows the Doctor’s fall later in the episode, when he is made aware of the man he has become.
At Demons Run, Amy’s daughter is taken away by the Eye Patch Lady, who we find out is called Madame Kovarian, who has formed some sort of alliance between the marines and the Headless Monks. One of those marines is Lorna Bucket, a young girl who expresses concern and sympathy for Amy, and whom claims to have once met the Doctor, albeit very briefly when she was a child.
Lorna Bucket grew up in the Gamma Forest, the place where she claims to have met the Doctor when she was a young girl, and the same forest referenced by Idris in The Doctor’s Wife: “The only water in the forest is the river.” Lorna tells a fellow marine that nothing ever happened in the Gamma Forest apart from the Doctor’s visit, and while he was there he told her to run, repeatedly. Later in the episode, as Lorna is about to die, she asks if the Doctor remembers her, which he says he does, “I remember everybody”, but then after her death the truth is revealed, the Doctor hadn’t a clue who she was, but is that because in his time-line he hasn’t met her yet?
Well done to all those that picked up the Lady Penelope/Parker Thunderbirds reference in the London, 1889 A.D scene. “Thank you, Parker, I won’t be needing you again tonight.” “Yes, m’lady.” It totally slipped me by, but references don’t get much cooler than that.
After disposing of Jack The Ripper, Madame Vestra, a Silurian living in Victorian London, returns home to her human partner Jenny, and I mean partner in both the romantic and sexual sense judging by the tongue scene later in the episode, “I don’t know why you put up with me?” Cue long tongue, and ‘you-know-what-I’m-thinking’ eyes. The TARDIS is waiting in the dining room, and it is clear that the Doctor is collecting on his debts.
His debt collecting also takes him to the The Battle of Zaruthstra, 4037 A.D, where he calls in the favour of a Sontaran nurse, who is serving a penance for the honour of his people, and who by far had the best lines of the episode. Here’s just a few of what I like to call Sontaran Zingers:
“You’ll be up and about in no time, and perhaps one day you and I shall meet on the field of battle and I shall destroy you for the glory of the Sontaran empire.”
“I hope we shall one day meet in battle where I will crush the worthless human life-form from your chest. Try and get some rest.”
“I can produce magnificent quantities of lactic fluid!”
“I always dreamed of dying in combat, I’m not enjoying it as much as I’d hoped.”
The scene between River Song and Rory at Stormcage plays a lot differently now we know that River is Amy and Rory’s daughter. There is a strange sense of melancholy and dread. River tells Rory it is her birthday (it most certainly is!), and says she can’t come and help, not yet, because this is the day of the Doctor’s darkest hour, and the day he finds how who she is.
Dorium, a black marketeer, who we know from last series was forced to give River Song a Vortex Manipulator, is questioned by Madame Kovarian as to the whereabouts of the Doctor. Dorium explains that there are a lot of people in debt to the Doctor, and that the Doctor is calling in those debts, and building an army. Kovarian and Colonel Manton aren’t buying it, but Dorium explains to them the reason why the asteroid their base is located is called “Demons Run”, it is part of an old phrase, a very old phrase, “Demons run when a good man goes to war.”
Lorna Bucket gives Amy a prayer leaf that she has sewn, it contains the name of her daughter in the language of the Gamma people. Lorna tells Amy of how she once met the Doctor, and also refers to him as “a dark legend”, she clearly has a different perspective of the Doctor than Amy does. We later learn that the people of the Gamma Forest translate Doctor as “warrior”, a description the Doctor looks mightily uncomfortable with. This supports the theory that the Doctor has yet to meet the young Lorna in his time-line, it is a future event, and a time when the Doctor is much darker and dangerous, and I assume, that is a result of his fall in this episode.
“On this day, in this place, the Doctor will fall!” Colonel Manton states it outright, and although his fall is referring to the Doctor’s death, the fall that actually becomes the Doctor is his loss of innocence, his loss of the “good man”.
Before he unveils the hoods of the Headless Monks, Colonel Manton states “He is not a God, or a Devil, he is not a goblin, or a phantom, or a trickster,” he desperately tries to convince his group of marines, “The Doctor is a living, breathing man.” But whatever the Doctor is or isn’t, he is still capable of surprise.
The Doctor creates confusion by having the lights turned off, and hiding himself, causing the marines to shoot at one of the Headless Monks, and starting a shoot-off between the two. The Headless Monks have light-sabers, in fact, the whole episode had a very Stars Wars look and feel, and that was another sci-fi story with plenty of religious connotations.
Colonel Manton tries to regain order and tells his marines to disarm their weapons, and begs the Monks to do the same. “We are not fools,” they say, but repeating it doesn’t make it any more true. And just as they all unarmed themselves, the Doctor’s army arrives, Sulrians, Judoons, Sontarans, Pirates, and god knows who else, they surround the entire perimeter, and we even get Space Spitfires!
But everything is happening a bit too easily, surely it can’t be this simple? Madame Kovarian suggests this is all part of the plan “The Doctor must think he’s winning, right until the trap closes.” Rory stops her from leaving with the baby, and takes hold of his daughter for the first time.
The Colonel Runaway scene is one of the best of the episode, and the first sign of the Doctor’s fall. Here the Doctor is being cruel, demanding that Manton must tell his men to run away, he wants people to refer to him from now on as Colonel Runaway, he wants children to laugh at him - the Doctor has a mean-streak! “Look, I’m angry, that’s new,” the Doctor says, but it isn’t that new, he has been becoming increasingly more angry over the last series and a half, I have pointed this out on many occasions, as they are often some of my favourite parts. The Doctor is losing something of himself.
“Good men have too many rules,” says Kovarian, implying that the Doctor doesn’t have what it takes to defeat her, and perhaps she is right, perhaps to beat her the Doctor needs to become someone different, darker, dangerous, maybe he needs to become a “warrior”, and I think we will see this in the latter half of the series when the Doctor goes on the search for baby Melody.
The scene with Amy, Rory, the Doctor, and baby Melody was really sweet, and Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill really upped their acting game. We also learned that the Doctor can understand baby speak, “Don’t call her Big Milk Thing,” and that Melody isn’t fond of bow-ties, “No it’s not, it’s cool.” It was the happy-ending that they wished for, but unfortunately for them, things weren’t over.
The marines walk away, no blood was shed, Madame Vastra tells the Doctor that he has never risen higher, but remember, the higher they rise, the harder they fall.
Even Time-Lords sleep in cots, and the Doctor produces his very own cot from the TARDIS and gives it to Melody Pond, if it’s good enough for one Time-Lord then it’s good enough for another. The Doctor explains to Amy that her heart and mind and soul was on the TARDIS, but physically she was at Demons Run, and that she must have been taken just before America, so that blows my theory that she was swapped during the missing three months in The Day of the Moon. So, if she was taken just before they were in America, does that mean it happened last series? Or does it mean it happened off-screen?
While looking at a scan of Melody, Vastra and Dorium discover that her DNA isn’t just human, it is “Human plus Time Lord.” Dun Dun Dun! Vastra explains that the Time-Lords became who they were because of prolonged exposure to the time vortex, and it suddenly hits the Doctor that the first time Amy and Rory were on the TARDIS in this version of reality was on their wedding night, and that means Melody was conceived on the TARDIS, on bunk-beds I presume. Amy worried earlier in the series if the TARDIS would effect her baby, worrying that it would give it a Time Head.
The Doctor still doesn’t understand what they’d want with a Time Lord, and Vastra suggests to use as a weapon, “How can a Time-Lord be a weapon?” “Well, they’ve seen you.” And that’s the first moment of realisation, the Doctor is becoming aware of his power, not only his power for good, but his power for chaos and destruction.
We flash-back to the Little Girl in the spacesuit from The Day of the Moon, and unless it’s the biggest red herring ever, then surely this means the Little Girl and Melody/River are the same person? But that Little Girl had an American accent, and she was living in America when we first saw her, so I’m guessing that’s where Madame Kovarian is taking her, to that creepy orphanage. I have another theory regarding the Little Girl that I’ll explain later.
Madame Kovarian tells the Doctor that the child is hope (aka weapon) in this bitter war, and when the Doctor asks “What war?”, she replies “The war against you, Doctor!” Moment of realisation number two, people are willing to steal a new-born baby and turn her in to a weapon just to bring down the Doctor because of the fear he instills.
Meanwhile the Headless Monks are performing their “attack prayer”, surely that’s an oxymoron. Lorna returns to warn Amy and co, and they do their best to protect the baby in a fairly impressive battle scene, but its futile, because the baby has already been taken.
Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. I felt just as stupid as the Doctor in this moment, because I fell victim to the same trickery as last week. I really should have seen it coming, but I’ll admit, I didn’t even consider once that the baby was a Flesh Baby.
As the Doctor arrives in the aftermath of a vicious battle, and sees his comrades dead, wounded, beaten, with a distraught Amy clutching on to the Flesh of what she believed was her daughter, it is moment of realisation number three, where he can see the physical example of the destruction he leaves in his path.
Then comes River to hammer that point home, and reveal some secrets. She tells the Doctor that he could have prevented this. It’s worth reading back everything that River says about the Doctor because I believe it is significant foreshadowing of the type of Doctor we will see throughout the latter half of the series:
“When you began all them years ago, sailing off to see the universe, did you ever think you’d become this? The man who can turn an army around at the mention of his name. Doctor, the word for healer, and wise-man, throughout the universe, we kept that word for you, you know, but if you carry on the way you are, what might that word come to mean? To the people of the Gamma Forests the word Doctor means ‘mighty warrior’, how far you’ve come. And now they’ve taken a child, the child of your best friends, and they’re going to turn her in to a weapon just to bring you down, and all this, my love, in fear of you.”
The Doctor has done so much good, he has acted in the name of goodness, but he underestimated just how powerful he is, just how much hurt and agony he can create, and how much fear he causes in those he encounters, and in this, his darkest hour, he is a fallen man.
While at this point it was pretty obvious that River and Melody were one in the same, she didn’t say it outright to the Doctor, and I thought for a minute they were going to end the episode without proper confirmation, and that would’ve really irked me. What the Doctor learned returned him to a chipper attitude, but how long will that last? He knows that Melody is safe because River is safe, but that doesn’t explain just what the Doctor has to go through, and what he has to do, in order to make sure she is safe, but I’m betting we’ll find out in the Autumn.
But like the audience at home, Amy wasn’t satisfied with that, she wanted to know what River told the Doctor. River tells Amy to read, and then there was an awkward bit of direction that didn’t really make things clear. The camera zoomed in on the Gallifreyan etched in to the cot, and it made it appear River was talking about this, when in fact she was talking about the prayer leaf that was inside the cot - it just didn’t come across that clearly, especially when you watch it for the first time. I don’t know what the Gallifreyan said, maybe the Doctor’s name, and that’s how River knew it?
It wasn’t the Doctor’s name that was important in that moment, it was River Song’s name. The prayer leaf had the name of Amy’s daughter sewn in to it in the language of the Gamma People, and as River explains, the Gamma People don’t have a name for Pond because “The only water in the forest is the River” (aha!).
Pond = River. Melody = Song. Melody Pond = River Song. It was nicely handled, whether people predicted it or not. But what does it all mean?!
I’m still trying to get my head wrapped around Melody Pond, River Song, and the Little Girl all being the same person, but I don’t think this episode could have made it any more obvious that they are all one in the same.
So, if we look at when we first saw the Little Girl it was in The Impossible Astronaut/The Day of the Moon, an episode set in America in 1969, and here she was inside a spacesuit that was acting as a life-support machine. In the Day of the Moon Amy searched an orphanage and found a room that contained framed photographs of the Little Girl, including a picture of Amy holding a baby (the same Little Girl), which suggests the Little Girl was held at that orphanage for a period of time. Is this where Madame Kovarian took her? In trying to hide Melody from the Doctor, did she take her to late 1960s America and shove her in an orphanage? That’s what it seems like, but why?
The Little Girl/Melody must have become weak, hence why the spacesuit was built, but because she is part Time Lord, she still had the ability and strength to break free from the spacesuit, and escape. Her escape took her to the back-streets of New York, but without the spacesuit she was dying, and this is where we saw her begin to regenerate, and that leads me to my new theory, so ignore all my previous ones up until this point. I believe in this moment that the Little Girl regenerated in to River Song, in the form we know her now, or failing that, she regenerated in to a form we have yet to see, but who then later regenerates in to the Alex Kingston form - understood? It could explain the American accent of the Little Girl, but the British accent of River Song.
River, in her new form (current form) travels back, meets the Doctor, and sets in motion the events we have seen up until this point.
It was a cracking mid-series finale, and I can’t believe we have to wait until Autumn for the brilliantly titled “Let’s Kill Hitler”. I’m off to New York for a week now, but I will be back in a couple of weeks with a series-so-far recap and theories leading in to the latter half of the series, like what was the deal with the skeleton hand holding the sonic screwdriver, dead Doctor?!
See you all soon!
by Martin Holmes
The Impossible Astronaut Review: http://bit.ly/esSJmD
The Rebel Flesh: http://bit.ly/k6qbKl
The Almost People: http://bit.ly/k4xiCu
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