A Good Man Goes to War
A Good Man Goes to War was the seventh episode in the sixth series of Doctor Who and the last episode of the spring half of the series. It was the first episode of a two-part story, followed by Let’s Kill Hitler. It revealed the identity of River Song, naming her as Melody Pond, the daughter of Amy Pond and Rory Williams. The mid-series finale also introduced the Headless Monks, a militaristic faction of the Silence, the return of Mondasian Cybermen and formally introduced the ubiquitous “Eye Patch Lady” as the malevolent Madame Kovarian. It also showed the extent to which the Doctor had become feared and the lengths to which those who feared him were willing to go to be rid of him. Equally so, it revealed how easily the Doctor could assemble a small army and counter an enemy’s force, and the severity of his anger when someone he deeply cared about was tormented to the point that irreversible damage was done to their life.
Further notable moments were the reappearances of several of the Doctor’s allies, enemies, and neutral acquaintances – and the introduction of several previously unseen friends. Three individuals who debuted in this story would later become known as the Paternoster Gang as they continued to make appearances as a collective: Madame Vastra, her lover Jenny Flint, and the Sontaran Strax. However, other allies would not live through this story, or suffer worse fates than death, such as Dorium Maldovar, who would make a costly mistake that reduced him to a mere head. However, one death would be reversed. This would happen in a mini-episode sequel set shortly after the events of this episode, entitled The Battle of Demon’s Run: Two Days Later.
This story marked the first time that the BBC Wales series had not broadcast an uninterrupted thirteen-episode run for a series of Doctor Who. As a result of its status as a midseries finale, the length and allotted run time of the episode was extended to 50 minutes. The episode was also given an ending that would allow for a reasonable time skip to take place in-universe, where the Doctor sets off on his own in search of Melody Pond. However, viewers can still watch Series 6 in full without any difference in the story arc progression. The major plots introduced at the beginning of this series were continued in the latter half of the broadcast and tied up in a standalone finale.
The practice of splitting apart a 13-episode series would be repeated with Series 7, which contained further experiments with the series format. It was comprised of two different character-related story arcs that were contained in the first and second parts of Series 7, and premiered new episodes across two years, incorporating a Christmas special in between the break that bridged the two halves of the series. The singular run format would not return until the Eleventh Doctor’s era came to a close.
On the Demon’s Run base, Amy calms her infant daughter, Melody Pond, as Cleric guards and Madame Kovarian look on. It has been some time since she gave birth to her child, and now Melody is ready to be raised by a parent. However, Amy has been denied the privilege of caring for her own baby. Kovarian has plans to enact another kind of parenthood for Melody Pond. She gives Amy two minutes to say goodbye to her child before approaching her with two armed guards. Amy tells Melody of her father. Though he looks young, he has lived for hundreds of years and he is coming for them, so their captors had better beware as not even an army would stop him.
When Amy’s time with Melody is up, Kovarian ruthlessly advances with her arms outstretched to obtain Melody by force if she has to. Crying, Amy begs Kovarian to leave the baby alone. She removes the child from her mother’s arms and puts her in a cot to be taken away. A young female soldier reluctantly watches Amy’s heartbroken reaction, and two cloaked figures from an upper balcony step forward to watch Melody being brought into Kovarian’s care.
Before her baby is completely separated from her, Amy gives Melody a kiss and continues talking about her father; though he has a name, the people of Earth know him better by a different title: the Last Centurion.
Twenty thousand light years away, on the flagship of the Twelfth Cyber Legion, Cybermen detect an intruder working his way to their command center, wreaking havoc with a sonic screwdriver. They try sealing him off, but every attempt fails. They prepare to confront him, weapons raised as the door opens to reveal Rory. Fearless, Rory tells the Cybermen that he has a message from the Eleventh Doctor and a question from himself: “Where is my wife?” The Cybermen don’t answer, prompting Rory to explain that they hear everything in the quadrant; he will leave in peace if they tell him what he wants to know. The Cyber-Leader demands the Doctor’s message and gets it: the rest of the ships explode outside the window. Message delivered, Rory asks if he needs to repeat his question. The Cyber-Leader doesn’t say anything else.
On Demon’s Run, The Fat One and the Thin One discuss the Doctor and how he scolded the Atraxi after scaring them off a planet. The Thin One reminds the Fat One that they’re being paid to fight the Doctor. Praising costs more. A Cleric named Lorna overhears them, smiles, and continues to sew on her break.
This is seen on a security monitor by two guards in the control room, Dominicus and Lucas, who are practicing how to tell the difference between psychic paper from actual identification. Lucas incorrectly chooses the psychic paper, and Dominicus reminds him he has to look for the psychic fractals to recognize which ID is real. However, Dominicus is too bored to care because the Clerics have been on Yellow Alert over three weeks.
The Thin One and the Fat One talk about the Headless Monks that they are sharing the base with, pondering if they are truly headless. Lorna overhears them and explains. They believe “the domain of faith is the heart and the domain of doubt is the head”, hence the name “headless.” They introduce themselves by their nicknames and reveal that they are married. Lorna asks if they have real names, but the Fat One rattles off a large number of labels that make them too easy to identify regardless of who they are. Three Headless Monks show up and leer in the direction of The Fat One. He leaves with the monks to complete a conversion tutorial.
The Thin One deduces that Lorna has met the Doctor; he is right. Lorna met him when she was a little girl in the Gamma Forests, something that made her join the Clerics, despite her planet being “heaven neutral”, as the Doctor’s time there was the only exciting thing that happened. When asked what he’s like, Lorna mentions the Doctor said “Run” a lot.
Elsewhere, the Fat One is taken to the Headless Monks’ headquarters and told by an automated voice that they hold a tradition for visiting armies of other faiths to offer individuals for conversion to the order. He has been selected for conversion to their faith and must make a donation. The Monks advance on him with an empty box. The Fat One figures out that this “donation” is more malicious than he made it out to be and the Monks have the intent of bagging his head. In the meantime, the Thin One closes an inspection hatch in a manner resembling a metaphorical guillotine drop, unaware of his husband’s fate. He asks Lorna why she thinks the Doctor isn’t at Demons Run yet. She guesses it’s because he can be anywhere in time and space.
London, 1888: a woman returns home and informs her carriage driver she won’t be needing him again that night. She enters and greets her maid Jenny, telling her to send a telegram to Scotland Yard informing them Jack the Ripper is dead.
When asked how she found him, the woman reveals herself to be a Silurian named Vastra, saying, “Stringy, but tasty”. Jenny then takes her to the drawing room, where the TARDIS has materialized. Vastra knows the time has come to repay an old debt to the Doctor and tells Jenny to pack.
In the 41st century Battle of Zaruthstra, Commander Harcourt heads to a medical tent to inform Madame President Eleanor that they must leave a child behind as the enemy is closing in and the nurse has yet to arrive. Just then a Sontaran named Strax enters and does a medical scan on the boy, telling him that he will soon be well. Upon leaving with his work done, Strax is questioned by Harcourt about why a Sontaran is serving as a nurse; it’s a penance to restore the glory of Strax’s lost clone batch. Upon seeing the TARDIS arrive, Strax sees his penance is over, telling Harcourt to get some rest.
In the Stormcage Containment Facility, a tipsy River Song returns from one of her “outings” with the Doctor and sets off the alarm. Calling the guards to tell them that she is returning to her cell, River notices someone in Roman garb in the shadows; it’s Rory. After confirming she knows who he is, River quickly looks in her diary to know why he’s there: Demons Run. Rory explains the situation, asking River to come help with the others the Doctor is recruiting. River explains that the Battle of Demons Run is when the Doctor will finally know who she is and that she cannot be there until the very end. It is also the day the Doctor rises higher than before, but falls lower than that.
Elsewhere, at the Maldovarium, Dorium Maldovar is closing down his bar in a hurry, out of fear of something. He is caught by Colonel Manton and Madame Kovarian, who ask him what he knows; they have been on Yellow Alert for three weeks and the Doctor hasn’t done anything. Dorium explains that there are numerous people throughout time and space that owe the Doctor a debt for helping them; he’s gathering an army. Dorium explains the stories about the Doctor are true and not myths. Seeing they are getting nowhere, Kovarian and Manton leave. Dorium prepares to follow suit, but finds the TARDIS has landed in the backroom of his bar. As the Doctor’s silhouette bears down on him, he pleads, “No. No, no, please. Not me. You don’t need me. Why would you need me? I’m old, I’m fat, I’m blue. You can’t need me!”
At Demon’s Run, Colonel Manton speaks to the assembled Clerics and Monks about the Doctor. They are told not believe any of the stories they’ve heard about him; the Doctor is neither a goblin, trickster, god, nor devil, but a living, breathing man. He then tells the Clerics that they are going to fix that.
Amy watches from above, in her cell. Lorna enters, apologizing and offering a prayer leaf with Melody’s name sewn on it in the language of her people. Amy becomes annoyed with Lorna, asking for her gun if she keeps talking. Her focus then goes back to how the Clerics react to the Doctor. Lorna explains that he’s seen as a “dark legend”, earning a scoff from Amy, who asks if she’s met him. To her surprise, Amy learns Lorna met the Doctor as little girl as well. Seeing that Lorna is genuinely being compassionate towards her, Amy accepts the gift, but warns Lorna that the Doctor is coming and that she needs to be on the right side.
Lorna hurries to the speech, arriving as Manton says he has received divine permission to lower the hoods of the Headless Monks. He reveals knots of skin in place of a neck and head, making the Thin One horrified about what happened to the Fat One. However, as Manton explains what the lack of heads gives the monks, the third one lowers his own hood to reveal himself to be the Doctor. Everyone is shocked while Amy and Lorna smile. The Doctor invites the Clerics to point their weapons at him if it helps them relax.
In the control room above the hangar, Vastra and Jenny hold two technicians at sword point, much to their horror. Vastra encourages them to resist being held hostage as she’s hungry for “ape”. Jenny then politely asks them which button controls the lights. In the hangar, Colonel Manton tells the Doctor that he will be taken into custody. However, the Doctor mumbles, “3 minutes 40 seconds”, before yelling for Amy to get her coat. The lights go out as he puts his hood back up.
When the light come back on, the Doctor has disappeared from the stage. His voice echoes through the room, informing them that he is amongst the monks. The Clerics begin panicking and wondering which of the monks is the Doctor. One of the Clerics shoots a Monk, who turns out to be headless. This causes the monks to begin killing the Clerics and vise versa. Lorna spots a monk using a sonic screwdriver on a door across the hangar and follows it out. Madame Kovarian also leaves with two Clerics.
In the control room, Vastra comments on the Doctor’s brilliance, accidentally insulting Jenny. Apologizing, she quickly knocks out one of the hostage Clerics with her tongue to prevent him from tripping a lock-down button.
Back in the hangar, Manton regains control, ordering the Clerics not to fire. He removes his weapon pack and drops his gun as a show of good faith, urging the Clerics to do the same. However, as soon as they’re all disarmed, an army of Silurians and Judoon materialize. Commander Strax holds Manton at gunpoint, claiming the base. Manton says his fleet will come to help if Demon’s Run goes down.
However, the Doctor announces from the speakers that their communications relay can’t work if it’s taken out, explaining that they’ve got incoming. Danny Boy radios the Doctor and is order to “give ’em hell”. Outside the base, a group of Dalek-upgraded Spitfires attack and disable their communications. Upon hearing that they’ve succeeded, Manton is at a loss for words.
Elsewhere, Kovarian gets to her ship with Melody in a portable cot. She orders her aides back to the hangar, saying the Doctor must think he is winning “until the trap closes.” Unbeknownst to them, Lorna is listening. She runs off. Rory appears and confronts Kovarian. She taunts him, asking how he will take her ship. Henry Avery and his son Toby exit the ship with a captured crewman; Henry points his blunderbuss at her, declaring, “The ship is ours, milady”.
Kovarian and Manton are brought to the Doctor, who has joined Vastra and Jenny in the control room. He then laughs, saying it took him “3 minutes 42 seconds” to take the base. Strax tells Manton to order his troops to retreat, but the Doctor decides to punish Manton by having him be famous for instead saying, “Run away”. He intends to slap Manton with the label for life so that everywhere he goes, he’ll be called that name, and children who find his house will laugh outside his door knowing it belongs to “Colonel Runaway”. Explaining why, the Doctor says it’s a warning for those who try to get to him through the people he loves. The Doctor bellows with anger as he says this, becoming so enraged that he notices it is a new sensation and doesn’t know what is going to happen next. Manton refuses to retreat until Kovarian tells him to do so, harshly applying the Doctor’s humiliating nickname: “Give the order, Colonel Runaway.”
In her cell, Amy hears someone trying to get in and realizes it’s Rory, who asks her to wait as he unlocks the door with the sonic and he enters with the baby in his arms. They reunite tearfully as the Doctor enters, trying to excuse himself as it’s an emotional moment. However, Rory orders him in. The Doctor talks to Melody, claiming that he can speak baby. Madame Vastra enters, telling the Doctor the Clerics are leaving without any bloodshed. When she gloats that the Doctor has never risen higher, Rory remembers River’s warning.
The group, minus Dorium and Vastra, gather in the hangar, preparing to leave the base, but the Doctor does not want to leave until he figures out why the base was used in the first place. There is a debate as to why Melody is crying. The Doctor emerges from the TARDIS with a cot, saying the baby is sleepy. Rory and Amy try to come to terms with what has happened and why Amy was kidnapped; the Doctor knew, but didn’t tell Rory in case they were listening in on them. Vastra calls the Doctor to the control room. Before he leaves, Amy implores him to tell them something about their baby. The Doctor says the cot he’s letting Melody use was once his.
In the control room, Dorium hacks into Kovarian’s files and finds scans of Melody’s DNA, which contain traces of Time Lord DNA. Vastra wonders where Melody was conceived, knowing that Time Lords became what they were through exposure to the time vortex and the Untempered Schism. At first, the Doctor does not want to think about the event in question and goes off on an awkwardly spun tangent to avoid the touchy subject. However, his avoidance of the question leads him straight to the answer. Figuring out his huge blunder, he stops dead in the middle of his yammering, leaving Vastra to prompt him to finish his sentence and Dorium inquiring, “Mmm…?”. The Doctor remembers that the first time Amy and Rory were together on the TARDIS in this version of reality was on their wedding night. Knowing he left the couple alone and this is his fault, the Doctor gawks with his mouth agape and a giant blank stare. Vastra deduces that Kovarian wants a part-Time Lord to turn her into a weapon. Dorium fears that victory came too easily and something is wrong; Vastra agrees. The two hurry back to the hangar. The Doctor, scowling, stays, remembering the little girl from 1969 America and the super-human strength with which she escaped from the astronaut suit. Kovarian appears on a view screen in the control room. When he asks what the baby is for, Kovarian says Melody is hope in their endless, bitter war against the Doctor.
In the hangar, Lorna is captured by Strax, who found her eavesdropping. She warns them of Kovarian’s trap, but they refuse to believe her, given her uniform; she only joined the Clerics to meet the Doctor, a “great warrior.” When Amy tells her the Doctor is not a warrior, Lorna confusedly asks why he is called “the Doctor.” The lights in the hangar switch off and Strax scans the area, confirming there are no life forms on the base apart from them and the Silurians. Lorna tells him the monks aren’t alive, so they don’t register. Elsewhere, the monks kill the Silurians.
Rory ushers Amy and Melody to safety before joining the others as the real battle begins. As Vastra and Dorium join the others, a force field surrounds the TARDIS and the hangar doors lock. Dorium identifies the Monks’ chant as their attack prayer and steps forward, hoping to negotiate with them as their old friend and business partner, but Rory warns him that he just sold them out to the Doctor. Dorium foolishly walks up to the Monks as their swords are blazing with electricity, and Vastra desperately warns him to come back. A loud, swishing metallic slice connects in the darkness and a thump is heard: Dorium has been beheaded. His body joins the Monks as they advance on the group.
The Doctor’s allies prepare for battle. Vastra tells the group to protect Amy’s child at all costs. Rory unsheathes his sword and draws a gun, taking the lead position. Strax, Lorna, Vastra, and Jenny train their own guns on the Monks.
In the control room, the Doctor angrily tells Kovarian that a child is not a weapon. Kovarian gives the Doctor a cruel reply that Melody can be and will be. The Doctor fiercely states to her hologram that he will never let her near Melody again after she lost her in the battle. Kovarian gleefully informs him that fooling him once was a joy, but fooling him twice in the same way is a privilege. She ends her message with a with a very hateful tone and a cold-hearted glare.
The Doctor remembers the moment he learned Amy Pond had been replaced with a Flesh duplicate, and immediately connects the dots. Realising that Kovarian has made a Ganger of Melody, the Doctor rushes off to warn Amy. Rory, Vastra, Jenny, Strax and Lorna battle the Headless Monks while Amy waits, holding a crying baby. As the monks are slain, they manage to inflict devastating blows to Strax and Lorna that leave each of them on the verge of death.
As the fighting continues, Melody, looking over her mother’s shoulder, sees a slot open in mid-air through which Kovarian whispers, “Wakey wakey”. Melody dissolves into Flesh and Amy tearfully screams for Rory.
The Doctor arrives at the battle as it ends. A sullen Rory informs him they know Melody was Flesh. The Headless Monks have been defeated, but Lorna and Strax are fatally wounded. Rory goes to help Strax, who dies happy as it was in battle. The Doctor tries to comfort Amy, but she backs away from him. Vastra brings the Doctor to Lorna. She says they met once and she fears he does not remember her; the Doctor quells her fears, saying he remembers everyone and that he knows they ran together. She soon dies. The Doctor is profoundly saddened to see Lorna pass away in front of him. After asking Vastra who she was, Vastra replies that Lorna was very brave. The Doctor agrees that everyone who dies for him is always brave. Vastra wonders if the Doctor is going to pursue the Silence in search of the real Melody. She believes with great certainty Melody was taken to Earth, where the Silence would raise her in a proper environment. However, to her surprise, the Doctor declares, “Yes, they did. And it’s already too late.” Sickened by his failure, the Doctor walks away without another word. Vastra protests that he never gives up, but the Doctor retorts, “Yeah, and don’t you sometimes wish I did?”
As the Doctor considers quitting his pursuit of the Silence, River Song appears. He angrily confronts her, demanding to know why she did not come when he asked as he’s always been there for her. River replies that she could not have prevented the battle. The Doctor tells her that he didn’t want this, but River says it’s exactly like the Doctor; his legendary adventures have made others frightened of him. She asks him if this is how he pictured things turning out when he first took off to see the universe, explaining that the word “Doctor” comes from him. However, the Gamma Forests translates “Doctor” as “Mighty Warrior”, reflecting how he defeats foes and the reason Lorna sought him out.
The Doctor, tired of her riddles, demands to know who she is. She runs to his cot and directs his attention to it, asking him if he can read what’s down there. Once he does, his expression changes from anger to joy. He asks River several incomplete questions, all of which are answered, “Yes”, even those that obviously seem to be about their relationship. He bids Vastra and Jenny goodbye, orders River to get them all home safely, and takes off in the TARDIS despite Amy’s protests.
Amy points a gun at River and asks what she told the Doctor. River calmly hands Amy the prayer leaf Lorna sewed for her, which lies in the cot. It is Melody’s name in the language of the people of the Gamma Forests. They don’t have a word for “Pond,” since the only water in the forest is the river. Amy and Rory watch as the TARDIS translator kicks in, and the stitching on the prayer leaf changes to words they can read: River Song. Overwhelmed with emotion, River confirms she is their daughter. They can only look on in shock.