Doctor Who, Reviews, TV

Review: Doctor Who: The Wedding of River Song

ACTION SHOT

More like Doctor fffffffuuuuuuuuuuuu-

But which is camper? There's only one way to find out...

Right, let’s get this over with. It’s certainly an odd one. The closest to RTD that Moffat has ever come, quite possibly – but in a good way. I mean energetic, early-new-series RTD rather than tired tiresome late-period RTD. So we’ve got a really crazy, everything-and-the-kitchen-sink beginning, which they must have paid for out of the last few weeks budgets – Steam trains through the Gherkin! Hot-air-balloon-cars! Pterodactyls in the park! (and a nice little cameo for Callow) – before we settle down to jowly Ian McNeice as Caeser-Churchill, and his Silurian assistant. They summon the Doctor* who proceeds to launch into what may – at the risk of sounding thick – have been a slightly overcomplicated explanation.

A whole new meaning to 'giving the finger'...

That’s not to say that what was being explained was itself complicated, just that the manner of telling – the nested framing devices, which seemed to get confused in places (when was he talking (or rather, what was he recounting) to the Teselecta and when to that hilarious Mark Gatiss rubber-faced Viking…thing?). This means he ends doing several things sort-of at once- playing live chess with the hilarious Mark Gatiss rubber-faced Viking…thing (that’s how I’m putting it EVERY TIME, just you try to stop me) who then gets eaten by skulls (also hilarious – they looked like they were on strings, like a faux-gothic Supermarionation sort of thing) and the Doctor has a chat with the head-in-a-box of Dorium, the fat blue guy. What this all amounts to, in the end, is that the Doctor’s death is a ‘fixed point’ in time, a phrase we keep returning to, and The Fields of Whatever It Was, the Fall of the Eleventh (sounds very RTD, doesn’t it) is where the Question Will Be Asked. The Doctor steals the head-in-a-box, and is about to run off, away from his fate, but then he gets a ‘phone call telling him The Brigadier has died, and so the Doctor decided to go and die now. Well… top marks for working real-world events into the story, Steven, but I’ll be damned if I can work out the logic behind that decision. That his death made the Doctor realise everyone’s got to go sometime? Not quite sure about that.

"I have my hair slightly too long now. Slightly-too-long hair is cool."

Then we’re back to Churchill, and there are some Silence in the rafters, then Amy and some soldiers break in and shoot the Doctor. But it’s a stun-gun, then there’s some stuff on a train, and Amy sort of remembers the ‘real’ timeline, but Rory doesn’t – he’s a soldier, in a role which does rather fit the character, especially as shown over the latest series. For some reason, there’s a secure facility in which they’re keeping the Silence, AND their control room and secret survival plan. Sensible. So inevitably, the Silence break out, make a gag about Rory dying and get shot by Amy (when apparently all the soldiers shooting them did sod-all). Not to mention all that ostentatious posing before zapping people. The eyepatches are external hard drives for your memory which let you see the Silence – well, when those preview shots with everyone wearing them came out, that became obvious (well, the seeing-the-Silence thing. Not so much the ‘external memory’ thing… oh you know what I mean), and they’re also rigged to kill or (for some reason) cause incredible pain (well, I know the reason, it just seems a little silly). And Amy sticks Kovarian’s back on**. Crikey.

"The pirate episode was the first half of the series, guys"

There’s a bit more here, actually. River’s back, being very camp and arch (though thankfully nowhere near as bad as Let’s Kill Hitler***) and she’s co-ordinating the operation. Earlier in the episode, we had a cut-away to the Doctor’s death from The Impossible Astronaut, and we now see the whole of it – River in the spacesuit, the Doctor telling her it’s fine, and initially, River refused to kill the Doctor, which lead to the creation of this parallel reality, and it seems that if the Doctor touches River, they flash back to the lake. I’m honestly not sure why they bother capturing River and putting her in the spacesuit if at that point her conditioning to kill the Doctor had been broken (apart from making her feel bad). If it’s the spacesuit doing the heavy lifting, why not just use the spacesuit? Or why not have Kovarian do it? She’s the one who’s obsessed with killing the Doctor. Then again, maybe these are all questions which are going to be answered later, seeing as we’re continuing with the Silence thing

"No, I'm not sure what purpose this serves either"

Then we go up on the roof****, where the Doctor tries to persuade them he has to die, and wouldn’t be missed if he did (I’ll say that’s an indicator of the Doctor’s mental state – he’s convinced himself no-one wants him around – almost suicidal. Quite interesting, really.) but it turns out River’s been sending out a message saying that the Doctor needs help, outside the ‘bubble’ which Earth’s trapped in (not quite a Chronic Hysteresis, but a distant cousin – history crammed into a few repeated seconds) and they’ve all come to say they will help, they do want the Doctor around and… the Doctor changes his mind. We’re never actually shown any of them, we’re just told, so River could just be making it all up, really. Then the startlingly abrupt, perfunctory wedding, considering it’s what gives the episode its title, and we’re back. Amy sipping some white wine with River in the garden, and… it turns out the Doctor’s still alive (and Amy’s his mother-in-law). Well, of course – and it was the Teselecta, with the Doctor inside which got shot on the beach, so he was there, just inside the Teselecta, as him. Makes the Doctor’s salvation a literal deus ex machina, right?

"Eaten alive by carnivorous skulls! The ignominyyyyy..."

Now we have the most interesting part of the episode – it appears to be doing a ‘soft’ reboot, in perhaps the cleverest way possible – the Doctor’s still around, and all the continuity is still there, but everyone thinks he’s dead, so he hopefully won’t be able to carry on pulling that speechifying, run-away-I’m-so-great bullshit (of which Moffat has been the worst proponent). The next episode is the Christmas special (I confidently predict ‘average to poor’, as seems to be the way with all Christmas specials since The Runaway Bride (The Christmas Invasion was actually rather good) – not that far away now, which is an odd thought – then Series 7, which should be OK, provided we don’t have River as a permanent companion. More importantly, as the Doctor returns the head of Dorium to its place in the Headless Monks’ crypt, though, we finally find out what The Question is. ‘Doctor Who?’. For goodness’ sake.

INTENSE FACE

I liked this episode – as an episode. As a finale, however, it did fall a little flat. Seriously, two series buildup for a knock-knock joke? I’m starting to wonder whether we’re actually seeing the Chris Carter Effect in action here. Mind you, there was never going to be a particularly satisfying Question, and this is probably the best we’d have got. Now we’ve got foreshadowing for the fall of the Eleventh (the Eleventh what? I’m going to go out on a limb and guess it’s probably not ‘legion’) at ‘Tranzelor’ (good grief, it’s almost Shadow Proclamation territory. Wait, I’ve mentioned this). The potential return to something a tad more low-key is a welcome prospect, especially where the finales are concerned. So, the conclusion stands thus: very good. Certainly problematic, but it was entertaining as an episode, and not ‘interesting’ as part of the Big Story. Jolly good show. Let’s Kill Hitler had me worried, but I’m now looking forward to the next series. Roll on Christmas!

"Until next time..."

*by the way, those of you who complained about RTD doing the whole messianic-imagery thing, at least he never gave us Jesus-Doctor.

**Is this the first time Kovarian’s been named in-episode? I’d also like to know how they captured her, but she’s dead now, so who cares really?

***Weirdly enough, after re-watching Let’s Kill Hitler, Rex’s line from Episode 3 of Miracle day about not liking people in their forties behaving like they’re in their twenties sprang to mind.

***Anyone remember the CITV morning show Up On The Roof? No?

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3 thoughts on “Review: Doctor Who: The Wedding of River Song

  1. Pingback: Doctor Who: The Wedding of River Song | Exploring Our Matrix

  2. Not as good as last year’s finale, but still pretty satisfying – not least because Moffat deceived most people into thinking it would be the Ganger Doctor at Lake Silencio and not the Teselecta. I did love the little dedication to the late Nicholas Courtney, and its use as the moment when the Doctor realises it is time to face the music.

    Overall, I’m happy with the season – I could watch The Girl Who Waited forever – and I’m interested in the reboot. I think it’s a good decision for Moffat to break away from what has increasingly become the an entire universal alliance/conspiracy against the Doctor as a season finale. If that gives us more character-driven pieces next year, so much the better.

    My thoughts on the season as a whole:
    http://slouchingtowardsthatcham.com/2011/10/02/doctor-who-season-6-review/

  3. That was extremely disappointing. Moffat didn’t answer any of the questions he had raised, and chose to raise new ones instead (like Lost!).

    It was a crazy mess with two many balls in the air and not enough chance to breathe (and it was oddly expository, when normally finales are action-packed?)

    Five Questions raised in the last episode (along with theoretical answers!)
    http://theoncominghope.blogspot.com/2011/10/five-questions-raised-by-doctor-who.html

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