**Warning! Here there be spoilers! DO NOT read ahead if you have not watched through Series 6, episode 7 of Doctor Who. If you have, or don’t care, read on, but don’t get mad…**
“This is the Battle of Demon’s Run, the Doctor’s darkest hour. He’ll rise higher than ever before and then fall so much further. I can’t be with him until the very end…This is the day he finds out who I am.” — River Song
We don’t pick up this mid-season finale immediately after “The Almost People,” as this begins with Amy picking up her newborn daughter, Melody Pond, and giving a really touching speech about how there is someone who will never stop searching for her in order to rescue her. She says he the last of his kind, and that he’s Melody’s father though the people of Earth know him by another name: The Last Centurion. I love this slight reversal; we think she’s talking about the Doctor for awhile there, but it’s Rory in whom she’s placed her faith, as he’s literally stood by her for millennia.
Once again, this is a solid, impressive opener by Moffat. Amy is at Demons Run military base, surrounded by more of the clerical soldiers (from “Flesh and Stone” and “Time of the Angels”) from last season, as well as Eye-Patch Lady. We realize that Amy is saying goodbye to her daughter, that they are forcing her to give Melody up, though Amy does not give up without a fight.
Meanwhile, we cut to the Cybermen, who have made an appearance in awhile, and Rory steps in wearing his centurion armor and demanding to know where his wife is—as the Cyberfleet explodes in space behind him. Seriously! This is something I wanted to see since last year’s finale: I wanted to see Rory as the centurion. Rory is a strong character who, though he is often shuffled aside, has been given larger plot threads of late. Here, he and the Doctor have done something similar to “Bad Wolf,” the penultimate episode of series 1: they’ve pulled out all the stops, ready to unleash hell upon those who have taken Amy.
The Doctor is collecting allies, creating an army people who owe him a debt of some kind. He needs all the help he can get, as the army of clerics has assembled its own massive army, and they’re out to kill him. They rescue Amy and Melody and take Demons Run station under their control. Then Eye-Patch Lady (Madame Kovarian) reveals her plan: this was a trap for the Doctor all along. Melody has been duplicated with The Flesh, just as Amy was, and in the heat of a second wave of battle, she dissolves in Amy’s arms.
This entire scene, cutting between the battle and Amy with Melody was brilliantly executed. The battle goes poorly for Rory and his allies, while the Doctor is occupied with being duped. During this time, as the Doctor realizes what has happened, River, in a voiceover, reads this poem:
“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 is won but the child is lost.”
As the Doctor reaches the room where the fighting has just ended, Rover has arrived, and she tells the Doctor why this is happening. She says that he has made enemies in his time. He started out carefree, out to explore, and now his name is synonymous (literally, in some cultures) with warrior or fear. His name can cause armies to stand down. He no longer represents what he started out to be. Yes, he does good, but he inspires fear as well as hope.
The Doctor: “You think I wanted this. I didn’t do this. This–this wasn’t me!”
River: “This was exactly you, all this. All of it. You make them so afraid. When you began all those years ago, sailing across the universe, did you 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 get that word from 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 into a weapon just to bring you down. And all this, my love, in fear of you.”
We know he has at least as many enemies as he has friends, and his friends have a hobit of dying in his name. It made me think of “The End of Time” where the Doctor and Wilf are sitting on a ship and he says, “That’s how the Master started. It’s not like I’m an innocent. I’ve taken lives. And I got worse, I got clever. Manipulated people into taking their own.” This is exactly what has happened here. He rounded people up from the far reaches of time and space to rescue Amy, yet many died in the attempt. How many races has he defeated (or wiped out of existence), when he was supposed to be an explorer? I thought that this is a wonderful new facet that we’ll get to explore, this wounded man who has made some horrible decisions with terrible ramifications. What has he done with that? Look at his life; look at his choices.
This battle is only partially finished, as the Doctor still needs to get Melody. Before the battle began, he brought out a cradle for Melody. It is quite old, and the Doctor revealed that it was his as a child. He asks River who she is, and she tells him to read the High Gallifreyan inscription on the cradle. He figures it out–in a wonderfully giddy moment, a sigh of relief after all this, as the Doctor now knows exactly what to do here. He leaves Amy and Rory with River, saying that everything is going to be OK–essentially: “Trust your Doctor.”
River shows Amy and Rory a piece of cloth given to Amy as a gift by a sympathetic soldier with Melody’s name sewn into the fabric. This soldier knew the Doctor once, and she was from the Gamma Forests.
“It’s your daughter’s name in the language of the forest…except they don’t have a word for pond, because the only water in the forest is the river. The Doctor will find your daughter, and he will care for her, whatever it takes.
“And I know that, because I’m Melody. I’m your daughter.”
Now, I’ve had my own theories about River’s identity, as did some friends of mine, but I never thought about this. I’m completely OK with River as Melody, though now I need to go back and see the seeds for it earlier on in the series. This was a huge reveal–one of the questions we’ve had since “Silence in the Library” during series 4. This was on par with the girl–River/Melody–regenerating at the end of episode 2. Seeing as River was a character I really did not like in series 4, and did not trust throughout series 5, I love River now. With the series 5 finale I grew to trust her and enjoy her, and throughout this season she has grown more and more interesting and complex. I cannot wait to see what they’ll do next.
I will say, I’m a little wary of the fact that the Doctor and River have some kind of romantic relationship–they’ve kissed multiple times, reinforced by all the “my loves,” etc. Yet I assume that when he rescues Melody she’ll be the little girl we saw regenerate previously, or maybe a little older. Maybe by the time he gets to her, she’ll be played by Alex Kingston. This could get a little awkward that the Doctor has a romantic relationship of some kind with Amy’s daughter, particularly if he knows her as a little girl (otherwise we have a whole new young Amy growing up to be infatuated with the Doctor in an unhealthy way).
I’m very happy with Matt Smith’s performance. I have liked him from the start, though I know many people have really had to warm up to him. We know that he’s a wounded man; we’ve seen that through Eccleston and Tennant, who demonstrated gravitas, intensity, and thorough believability from start to finish. I think Smith and Moffat have chosen to play the Doctor as using bravado to mask his pain–he’s a man nearly fraying at the seams, and that has begun to catch up with him. Despite all these loose, dangerously fascinating threads left dangling in front of us at the close of this mid-season cliffhanger, I trust Steven Moffat, and I trust my Doctor.
Favorite Quotes (not to mention all the quotes I’ve already used):
“Don’t interact with headless monks without divine permission.”
“All those stories you’ve heard about him. They’re not stories they’re true. You’re not really telling me you don’t know what’s coming.”
“I speak baby…I speak everything.”
To be continued after the summer hiatus: “Let’s Kill Hitler!“