Sunday, 2 October 2011

Doctor Who: The Wedding of River Song

Churchill: 'All of history is happening at once.'

You have to admire the ambition of tonight's episode—for fifteen minutes I just stared at the screen, both amazed and befuddled. The visuals were at times breathtaking: from the car carrying balloons, to steam trains exiting the Gherkin, to the vaguely impressive pterodactyls. (Less impressive after Terra Nova's, sadly.) I even liked the weird meld of the Tudor/Roman/post-war eras. True, we ended up with more questions than we got answers to, but this was a remarkable ending to what's been a wholly remarkable season.

Ever since 'The Rebel Flesh' I've been convinced that a ganger would die in the Doctor's stead. The real Doctor dying was out of the question, as no regeneration = no series. I completely overlooked the possibility of a Teselecta—until one turned up six minutes into the episode. From that moment onward, it became obvious how it would end. (Apparently the surprise was ruined even earlier in the season recap, but I was busy making a coffee and missed it). The Doctor didn't have to die, he just had to create the illusion of being dead. Which means his regeneration back in 'The Impossible Astronaut' was a complete fraud. Can a Teselecta fake regeneration? Evidently, yes.

In hindsight, tonight's story could've done with an extra episode. It was just too dense. River's chronology—concisely presented in Doctor Who Confidential (and partially reproduced below)—would've made for an ideal epilogue. Plus, in an episode called 'The Wedding of River Song', you could be forgiven for expecting a wedding lasting more than 20 seconds. Even Vegas would be hard pushed to match that feat. Nice setting, though—atop the Great Pyramid of Giza—but after two seasons of the Doctor thinking that girls are a bit rubbish, would he really have married River so easily? I'm not saying he didn't love her, and I'm not saying that kiss wasn't a stonker, but Eleven has never struck me as the most romantically inclined of the Doctor's incarnations. (Unless the TARDIS is involved, naturally.) Marrying River felt more like an attempt to ease River's guilt than it did an act of love.

The tribute to Brigadier Sir Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart was a lovely show moment. After Elisabeth Sladen's dedication back in 'The Impossible Astronaut', fans have been waiting for something similar for the Brig. Superb acting by Matt Smith. The Brig's death was a timely reminder of the Doctor's own mortality, and his reaction to it a touching on-screen memorial to Nicholas Courtney. (Who died earlier this year.) It was also a nice continuity tie-in with Battlefield, where the Seventh Doctor predicted that the Brig would die in his bed. Spot on, Sylvester.

According to Doctor Who Confidential, Amy killing Kovarian wasn't in the original script, but its inclusion gave us a fascinating insight into an Amy untouched by the Doctor. She didn't think twice before killing Kovarian. Mind you, Frances Barber was hamming it up so much, I dare say I'd have killed her myself. As a result of growing up next to the time rift, Amy could remember events from the aborted reality—particularly the emotional fallout. I liked the idea that, had things been different, Amy could have been that person, and that River's ruthlessness wasn't all from Kovarian—some of it was passed through the blood.

Now that the alternate reality's folded, are River and the Doctor still married? I'm guessing yes, since a wedding ceremony did actually take place—but marrying by robot proxy, in a reality which never happened, seems like a shaky start to any relationship. Is it even legal? Are Gallifreyan marriage ceremonies binding under such fractured conditions? Is there a timey-wimey clause?

With the Doctor back in the shadows, Russell T. Davies' messianic Doctor is essentially dead (or at the very least sleeping), which heralds something of a new era for Doctor Who. Hopefully they'll tone down the 'Lonely God' nonsense. I cringed at River's 'everyone loves the Doctor' speech. The Doctor was right—it was embarrassing, but it served to emphasise a point that the Doctor has become too conspicuous. Tonight the whole of the universe, past and present, affirmed their love for him—which, for a perpetually wanted man, is just too high a profile. Hopefully a change in focus will mean a season of smaller, more low key adventures. Assuming Dorium keeps his mouth shut. The man is a black marketeer. What's to stop him selling all he knows to the highest bidder? Apart from his head being stuck in a box in the Cave of Skulls.

It looks as though the Silence will be around for at least another season. Moffat seems loath to get rid of them. Which is fine by me—they're probably the most interesting foe we've had in years. We know so little about them. Seeing them hanging from the ceiling, like bats in a cave, was pretty creepy. It looks as though the eye-patches weren't just a bad-ass fashion statement, either—they were a means of remembering. And killing. Good to know the Silence have a sense of humour. I couldn't help but laugh at their 'Rory Williams, the man who dies and dies again' quip. Even the Silence are taking the piss now.

Next season looks set to revolve around what happens on the fields of Trenzalore. Will the Silence ever be defeated? Will any of us remember if they are? And will we ever know the answer to the question—Doctor who?

River's Chronology:

For those of you who didn't see Doctor Who Confidential, below is a rough guide to River Song's chronology:

—A child is conceived aboard the TARDIS. Amy's proximity to the time vortex means her baby carries Time Lord DNA.

—The baby is born at Demon's Run and given the name Melody Pond.

—Melody is kidnapped by Madame Kovarian, a servant of the Silence, and taken to an orphanage on earth. She's raised with the sole purpose of killing the Doctor.

—Her first attempt at killing him is thwarted by Amy. She manages to escape her space suit, and is forced to live on the streets, where she eventually dies and regenerates.

—A regenerated Melody grows up alongside Amy and Rory. She gets shot by Hitler, before regenerating into the woman we now know as River Song. Later, she tries to kill the Doctor with a kiss poisoned by the Judas Tree, but saves him after realising how much he means to her. The Doctor leaves her a TARDIS journal, which they later use to sync time lines.

—River goes on to become an archaeologist. Kovarian returns, and River ends up in a space suit under Lake Silencio. She manages to defer the Doctor's death by discharging the space suit's weaponry. Time starts to falter.

—The Doctor manages to avoid annihilation using a Teselecta double. Time restarts again, but River must keep his survival a secret. She ends up imprisoned in the Storm Cage for killing the Doctor.

—The Doctor learns River's true identity in 'A Good Man Goes to War'. From that moment on, their time lines start to run in opposite directions.

—The Doctor invites River to watch him die at Lake Silencio.

—In 'Day of the Moon' she travels back into her own past, examines the empty space suit at the orphanage, and pretends to know nothing about it. She has her last kiss with the Doctor.

—She travels back in time and lives the events of 'The Pandorica Opens' and 'The Big Bang'.

—The crash of the Byzantium. She lives the events of 'Flesh and Stone' and 'The Time of Angels'.

—She travels back in time and lives the events of 'Silence in the Library' and 'Forest of the Dead'. At this point the Doctor doesn't know her any more. River sacrifices herself for the Doctor. The Doctor manages to upload River's data ghost into the Library's computer, where she's reunited with the rest of her crew.

Other Thoughts:

—This episode should have been called 'Three Weddings in Three Finales'. Donna got married at the end of season four, Rory and Amy got married at the end of season five, and tonight the Doctor and River tied the knot.

—Evidently, the Doctor didn't whisper his name to River. He must have told her it at a later date.

—Nice cameo from Simon Callow. He first played Charles Dickens in 2005's 'The Unquiet Dead'. He even publicised 2010's 'A Christmas Carol.'

—I say, Trevor. Doctor Trevor.

—'I hate rats' was a nice tip of the hat to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. They were in an Indiana Jones tunnel, after all.

—I loved that Rory's still going along with anything Amy says. Even in a world without the Doctor, he knows who's boss.

—Rule #1 - The Doctor lies.

—A cameo too from Doctor Who/Sherlock writer and actor Mark Gatiss. He played the unfortunate Gantok. Him sinking into those skulls was just plain freaky. Did you see his hat vanish and then reappear again?

—Someone should have told Simon Fisher-Becker to keep his head still. Dorium's head was all over the place. Worse severed head acting ever!


Churchill: 'What happened to time?'
Doctor: 'A woman.'

Dorium: 'Time catches up with us all, Doctor.'
Doctor: 'Well, it has never laid a glove on me.'

Doctor: 'If it's time to go, remember what you are leaving. Remember the best. My friends have always been the best of me.'

Doctor: 'A needle stuck on a record.'
Churchill: 'A record? Good lord, man. Have you never heard of downloads?'
Doctor: 'Said Winston Churchill.'

Amy: 'You look rubbish.'
Doctor: 'You look wonderful.'
Amy: 'So do you. But, don't worry. We'll soon fix that.'
Doctor: 'Oh, Geronimo.'

Amy: 'What's wrong with you?'
Doctor: 'I'm still alive.'

Doctor: 'Why do you always have handcuffs?'

Rory 'What exactly did she say?'
Doctor: 'She said that you were a Mr. Hottie... ness. And that she would like to go out with you for texting and scones.'
Rory: 'You really haven't done this before, have you?'
Doctor: 'No, I haven't.'

Kovarian: 'Oh, why couldn't you just die?'
Doctor: 'Did me best dear, I showed up. You just can't get the psychopaths these days.'

River: 'Am I the woman who marries you, or the woman who murders you?'
Doctor: 'I don't want to marry you.'
River: 'I don't want to murder you.'

Amy: 'So, me and you should get a drink sometime.'
Rory: 'Okay.'
Amy: 'And married.'
Rory: 'Fine.'

Rory: 'I'm not sure I completely understand.'
Amy: 'Er, we got married, we had a kid, and that's her.'
Rory: 'Okay.'

River: 'You may kiss the bride.'
Doctor: 'I'll make it a good one.'
River: 'You'd better.'

Amy: 'Are you sure?'
River: 'Of course I'm sure. I'm his wife.'
Amy: 'And I'm his... mother in law.'
River: 'Father, dear. I think Mummy might need another drink.'

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