Before we get into the meat of this recap, I’d like to pause and say just one thing: I WAS RIGHT. Sara B., who’s visiting from far away, came over to watch it with me, and we had a brief discussion on whether we’re good at figuring out what’s going to happen on TV shows because we’re smart, or if TV is just that predictable. To make ourselves feel better, we decided it was a little of column A and a little of column B.
Fair warning, this is going to be a long one. Settle in; so much happens in this story Auntie Selena is going to have to take her time to figure it all out.
When we left our heroes, Amy the Avatar had been disconnected from Physical Amy, sending her consciousness to join her body as she was going in to labor. The Doctor promised he and Rory would find her, and find her they do.
As Amy holds wee Melody Pond, who I might add is a baby with a mighty expressive face, surrounded by what we can assume are Very Bad Guys, she tells her to be brave. She tells her a story about her father, who looks young despite being hundreds of years old, and who has a name, even though everyone calls him something else, and this whole half-hearted subterfuge about who fathered wee Melody comes to a halt because she means Rory, the 1020-something-year-old plastic Centurion and Big Damn Hero.
Twenty-thousand light years away, Rory is having a come-to-Jesus meeting with an assembly of Cybermen. He tells them he has a message from the Doctor, and a question. The question: “Where. Is. My. Wife?” The message: The Doctor is going to keep blowing up their stuff.
The Doctor, it seems, is putting together an army to get Amy and Melody back, and he’s calling in old debts. First up, Madame Vastra, a Silurian warrior who’s paying her debt to the doctor by cleaning up Victorian England. She’s introduced after capturing and eating Jack the Ripper. Several other write-ups have suggested the brilliant idea of a Madame Vastra/Jenny spin-off, and I heartily second, third, whatever that idea.
Next, we’re way off in the future at the Battle of Zarathustra, where Santoran Commander Straxx is paying back the doctor by being the most badass television nurse in history. We see him healing a small boy with the wishes that he’ll soon be well enough for Straxx to defeat him in battle in glory of the Santoran empire. As he’s walking away with a soldier, the TARDIS lands nearby, and he notes that his debt may nearly be repaid.
Third up is Dorium Maldovar, the big, blue, nefarious deed-doer who gave River her vortex manipulator in “The Pandorica Opens.” He’s packing up to vanish when he’s approached by Nanny Tighpatch (technically she’s called Madame Kovarian, which is plenty evil sounding all in itself, but she’s always going to be Nanny Tighpatch to me, and since you’re all along for the ride…) He has a history with the Headless Monks, who live in a scary-ass monastery on Demon’s Run, where Amy and Melody are being held.
We learn the origin of the title of the episode and the station when Dorium explains it to Nanny Tighpatch. “Demons run when a good man goes to war.” She leaves, and Dorium continues his escape, only to find the TARDIS and the shadow of the Doctor in the parking lot.
Rory shows up at Storm Cage, where River is returning from a birthday date with the Doctor in 1814. As she does, she’s dressed in TARDIS blue. When she sees him in the shadows, she asks if the guards are dressing up like Romans, as per her memos, before Rory steps into the light. He tells her the Doctor needs her help, but she figures out it’s Demon’s Run and tells him she can’t help or even be there until the very end. Today is the day the Doctor learns who she is, but the rest of us have probably figured it out by now. She tells him that the Doctor will rise higher than ever before, before he falls harder, and she looks very, very sad.
Nanny Tighpatch is working with both the Headless Monks and the Anglican Marines, who we first met in “Flesh and Stone” and “The Time of Angels,” to create a trap for the Doctor so she can escape with Melody. Lorna, an Anglican Marine who met the Doctor when she was a child and sees him as a great warrior, sneaks into Amy’s cell to give her a prayer leaf she embroidered with Melody’s name in the language of Lorna’s people from the Gamma Forest. Lorna tells her that her people believe as long as a parent holds the prayer leaf, their child will always come back to them. Amy resists but eventually takes the leaf.
Let’s pause for a moment and stack up the Axis and Allies of this war, shall we?
Team Doctor: Rory the Big Damn Hero, Madame Vastra, Jenny, Dorium Maldovar, Commander Straxx.
Team Tighpatch: the Silence, Headless Monks, Cyberman, Anglican Marines.
On the fence due to history or relative apathy: Redshirts in the control room on Demon’s Run, Lorna, and Fat, Thin, Gay, Married Anglican Marines. Wait. Thin, Gay, Widowed Anglican Marine.
In a spate of morale boosting, Captain Harcourt, the leader of the Anglican Marines, shows his troops what’s under the Headless Monk’s hoods with permission from the Papal Mainframe herself. (Aw, the Catholic Church and the Church of England are going to let bygones be bygones in this future!) Under the hoods: neck knots and air. In spite of Lorna’s earlier claims that the name was a metaphor for following their hearts (faith) instead of their heads (doubt), they’re literally headless.
While we and the troops recoil in fear, the leader de-hoods a third monk to find our beloved Doctor spouting sass. Madame Vastra and Jenny take over the control room and cut the lights after the Doctor tells Amy to get her coat. After a second, emergency lighting flashes on, and the marines are pulling their guns on the monks. The monks fire up their impressive red laser combo swords and start humming (from where?) a “looks like this truce is over” tune. Panic ensues, and one monk and many marines fall before Captain Harcourt convinces them all to put down their arms. Madame Vastra worries in the control room as Harcourt regains control, but as soon as the Marines disarm themselves, an army of Silurians and Judoon materializes, surrounding both the monks and the marines.
The Doctor reappears with his handy space walkie-talkie and tells the clustered enemy that he’s the damn Doctor, thank you very much, and sends in Danny Boy to shoot up Demon’s Run a bit with his WW2-esque planes.
After the fly-by, Captain Harcourt finds the Doctor in the control room. The Doctor tells him he wants Harcourt to tell his troops to run away; more than that, he wants Harcourt to be known forever more as Captain Runaway, because Captain Runaway dared think it was a good idea to go after the Doctor by way of his friends. He’s spitting angry, and Matt Smith is fantastic and terrifying,
Nanny Tighpatch approaches from behind, and the Doctor turns his rage on her until she tells Captain Runaway to make the order. He looks pleasantly surprised at the ease of the surrender.
Nanny Tighpatch is trying to make her escape with Melody, telling her two henchmen clerics to go keep convincing the Doctor he’s winning until “the trap closes.” Lorna overhears and runs off just as Rory approaches Nanny Tighpatch with his sword drawn. She tells him it’s hopeless; she has a crew of twenty on her ship just beyond the door. The door opens, and one of her crew members is shoved out by two more old friends, Captain Avery and his son (the pirates from “Curse of the Black Spot”), who assure Rory the ship is under control.
In Amy’s cell, she grabs what is either an electric toothbrush or a white screwdriver to threaten someone trying to break in. Rory hollers back, and she tells him the bad guys took the baby. Rory opens the door, Melody in his arms, and they get all cute and squishy for a moment.
The Doctor finds them, and we learn he speaks baby. Melody doesn’t like his tie, calls Amy a “big milk thing,” and thinks Amy smells nice. It’s all really adorable and would have been hokey as hell on any other show or with any other actor. I am a Whopologist, I know not what I do.
Madame Vastra calls the Doctor over the intercom, letting him know the troops are retreating. The Doctor looks very pleased, and Vastra tells him he’s risen higher than ever before. Rory looks stricken, and the Doctor pales a bit.
In the cargo area, Amy is soothing a crying Melody, who doesn’t like the TARDIS noise. Commander Straxx offers to nurse her with his magnificent quantities of gene-spliced lactic fluid, but the Doctor emerges just in time with a simply awesome steampunk Time Lord cradle, which is what we Yanks call a cot.
Amy tucks Melody in, and the Doctor leans over to talk to her. Amy presses him about whether he has children, and he says he doesn’t, but he dodges the question when she asks if he ever did. (We know for sure he’s been a father at some point, right?) He dodges by being cute about his hair, which we infer Melody thinks is fake. Heh. The Doctor dashes off to the control room, but Amy demands at least a little information. He tells them the cot was his, which makes Amy coo over the mobile of “the Doctor’s first stars.”
As he’s walking away, she calls out to him, asking if she was here at Demon’s Run the whole time she thought she was on the TARDIS. The Doctor asks Rory for permission to hug her and tells her that her heart, spirit, and soul were all on the TARDIS, but he thinks she was taken some time before America. Rory breaks up the hugging, and the Doctor leaves.
In the control room, Madame Vastra, Jenny, and Dorium are hacking into the Headless Monks’ computer system, which is fairly easy since Dorium sold it to them. They’re concerned because Melody’s DNA is showing both human and Time Lord traits. Madame Vastra pushes him on the details of when Melody might have been conceived, and the Doctor comes to the conclusion it might just have been their wedding night, zipping through the Time Vortex in the TARDIS. Time Lords became Time Lords, Vastra tells us, because of exposure to the Time Vortex in the Untempered Schism, so it’s plausible that being conceived in a magic blue box of time traveling magic had an effect on Melody from her first moment of development. As Vastra and the Doctor spat, Dorium keeps insisting the victory was too easy, that the enemy gave in too soon and without enough fuss.
In the cargo bay, Commander Staxx drags in Lorna, who he found listening at the door. She explains that they’re all in the middle of a trap. As she does, we see the Headless Monks silently approach the Silurian warriors and presumably kill them all. The lights cut out and a force field encases the TARDIS, and the doors from the cargo bay are locked as the monks approach our heroes, singing an attack prayer, which I assume makes the monks’ enemies shit their pants in fear before they arrive with the laser swords. Amy grabs Melody, and Rory takes her to hide when she tells him to let everyone else die first. He joins Straxx, Vastra, Jenny, Lorna, and Dorium, but Dorium thinks he can talk some sense into the Headless Monks. Turns out, not so much. They lop off his head, and he begins approaching on our heroes with the rest of the monks.
The group moves to join everyone else in the cargo bay when Nanny Tighpatch appears on one of the screens. The Doctor is flashing back to the scene when River explained how strong the little girl must have been to escape the astronaut suit the Silence placed her in, slowly putting the pieces together. Nanny Tighpatch taunts him and tells him the child is to be a weapon to end a long and bitter war between herself and the Doctor. The Doctor is angry again, and she sends him running when she tells him that fooling him twice in the same way was particularly satisfying.
Amy hears the sword fall on Dorium and clutches Melody close as the baby cries. She hears the battle begin, we see Lorna shot and Straxx about to be sliced down from behind. Nanny Tighpatch uses her slide window to peek in behind Amy, cooing “wakey wakey” at wee Melody. The Doctor is running through the corridors at full tilt, calling Amy’s name. With a snap, Nanny Tighpatch closes the door, and Melody turns to Flesh, leaving Amy with an empty blanket in her arms. She screams out for Rory, who runs to her.
The Doctor comes to the last door, yelling that Melody is an avatar as he sonics his way in. A circle of fallen monks is splayed out on the floor with a few of our heroes, and Rory tells the Doctor they know. Straxx is dying, leaning against a pile of cargo. Rory tells him to hang on, but Straxx dies after telling Rory he (Straxx, and possibly Rory) wasn’t a warrior, he was a nurse.
The Doctor goes to Amy, who’s being comforted by Jenny. He apologizes, but Amy recoils. Jenny reminds her it’s not the Doctor’s fault, and Amy agrees but still can’t be near him. Vastra tells the Doctor Lorna wants to speak to him. He scans her and rubs his eyes until she opens hers. He thanks her for helping his friends. She tells him they’ve met before, in the Gamma Forests, but he probably doesn’t remember her. He tells her he remembers everyone, and that they ran and ran, which is a lovely call back to River Song’s last lines in “The Forest of the Dead.” She dies, too, and he asks Vastra who she was. Vastra only knows she was brave, and the Doctor says, “They always are.” He’s ready to give up, feeling responsible for everything, when we hear the snap and zing of River’s vortex manipulator. He’s initially angry, asking her where the hell she’s been when he’s been there every time she asked. She says she couldn’t have prevented it; he tells her she could have tried. She counters that he could have, too, by not being someone to fear, someone who convinced whole worlds he was a warrior instead of a healer. We’ve been here before, with Ten, and it’s kind of refreshing to see Time Lords learn from previous mistakes as well as humans, which is to say not so well. He demands to know who she is, and she pulls him over to his/Melody’s cot. He demands again; she tells him to read. His face lights up, her face lights up, there is adorableness and kissy faces and a little entendre.
The Doctor turns to Amy and Rory and tells them their daughter will be fine, and he’s going to go find her. He bids Jenny and Vastra goodbye and tells River to get them all home before he darts into the TARDIS. (After he first disables the force field with the sonic.) Amy yells after him, and he pokes his head out of the door to point admirably at River.
When he takes off, Amy turns on River, demanding to know what River told the Doctor. River tells her to be calm, and Amy calmly snatches up a gun to point at her. Rory intervenes, but River tells him it’s OK, that Amy is fine. She tells her she needs to concentrate so the TARDIS translation matrix can work.
Amy glances at the Gallifreyian writing and says she still can’t read it; River hands her the prayer leaf Lorna sewed for Amy. She tells her it’s her daughter’s name, but “There’s no word for “pond” in the language of the people of the Gamma Forest, because the only water in the forest is the river.” The stitching twists into River on one side and Song on the other.
River: It’s me. I’m Melody Pond. I’m your daughter.
And with that, we have to wait until an episode provocatively titled “Let’s Kill Hitler” in the fall. Watch this space over the summer, we’ll be going back to the first episodes of Modern Who, starting with the yummy Christopher Eccleston, in the next couple of weeks to help kill time until season 6.5.