If you value your sanity you will stay away from Doctor Who internet forums for the next week or so. Those things will be frothing, hissing and spitting with venomous bile and fizzing adoration in (probably) equal measures.
I suspect for many people it won’t have been an entirely satisfactory ending. It works, when you’ve mulled it over, on many levels, but it works better on second viewing (especially without a six-year-old child noisily worried that there will be no more Doctor Who ever). Naturally the residents of Hat Towers are delighted that Matt Smith will be back for Christmas.
I could sing the praises of Steven Moffat for hours on end, but one thing that stands out as I rewatch these episodes is that they have been written with rewatching in mind. This man has two versions of the story running in front of you, and you will never see both versions on your first pass. The first line we hear after the recap is a reference to a heartbreaking conversation we’re not going to hear for another 40 minutes or so, but there is no way you could know that until it’s explained.
Steven Moffat will use every trick in the book and then a few new ones he’s invented while on the train to Cardiff to deliver brilliant surprises, and I love him for it. (Sorry, made the mistake of reading the Grauniad’s Is Doctor Who becoming too complex? article, and I’m still a bit tetchy.)
So, back to the matter at hand. Time is broken, and only one man can fix it. And there’s only one way he can do that; by dying on the edge of Lake Silencio at 5.01 on April 22 2011. This is both true and untrue. And the path to most of the answers is a typically twisty one.
Considering how much story there is to cram in here, it’s done remarkably well with both the soothsayer Doctor and our Doctor laying it out for us in two separate tales. And we’re still kept guessing right to the very end.
There is probably some frothing going on somewhere about the Doctor’s first words in reply to Churchill’s question: “What happened to time?” (A: “A woman”). Here’s (briefly) why I don’t think this is sexist. 1. You could insert ‘a giraffe’, ‘a Dalek’ or even ‘a cucumber’ in it’s place and (if you wrote the rest of your story appropriately) it would be fine. It is an accurate description of the reason for time being broken. 2.In River Song and Amy Pond, Steven Moffat has written two exemplary female role models for the girls (and women) watching this. 3. Women frequently get to save the day in the Whoniverse, so I think occasionally one can break all of time too.
We get most of the answers we’ve been waiting for. Why the Doctor invited his friends to see his death (“I had to die. I didn’t have to die alone”), who River Song is to the Doctor (though we still don’t know what she whispered in his ear in the library – perhaps that was his name, she might now it after all that time),what the eye-patches are for (an i-something that Apple won’t be making just yet), how River could murder the Doctor and how the Doctor avoids his certain fate.
What we don’t know is who blew up the Tardis at the end of series 5 – or what the fields of Trenzalore are going to bring. If the Eleventh is going to fall there, I hope we don’t find out for a very long time.
And the multiple callbacks – too many to list in full – the penmarks on skin, Malokeh the Silurian, a shooting that isn’t what it seems, a monster begging for (and expecting) mercy from a Doctor’s companion – but not getting it, the Teselector, the power of love saving the day…
The only really bad thing here is that we now have to wait until Christmas to get another fix of the Eleventh Doctor. Never a time machine around when you need one…
The best bits of The Wedding of River Song:
- Better even than pterodactyls in Hyde park, is the ‘Do not feed the pterodactyls’ sign.
- The Christmas special gag – Charles Dickens on the BBC Breakfast sofa. Also recognition that TV is exactly what Dickens would have been writing for if it had existed in his time (or, perhaps, more accurately, if he lived in our time).
- That in the broken version of reality Winston Churchill is a Roman Emperor.
- The Doctor flicking through ‘Knitting for girls’ while he waits for the Teselector to turn up.
- You have to (unwillingly) proofread chess magazines to really understand how much I love the idea of 4million volts running through a chess piece. If live chess was really like this, I might like it a little more.
- The Indiana Jones vibe to the Headless Monks’ storage vaults, not to mention the nod to Indy’s ophiophobia with the “I hate rats” line, the horrifying carniverous skulls, the trap and the excited trumpets.
- Dorium is still with us. Sort of. And still blessed with a sense of humour.
- We have the fields of Trenzalore to look forward to – ‘at the fall of the Eleventh, when no living creature could speak falsely or fail to answer, a question will be asked. A question that must never ever be answered’.
- The Doctor’s response to Dorium telling him to stop running away: “Things to do, people to see, there’s always more. I could invent a new colour, save the dodo, join the Beatles! I’ve got a time machine Dorium. It’s all still going on. For me it never stops. Liz the First is still waiting in a glade to elope with me. I could help Rose Tyler with her homework. I could go on all Jack’s stag parties in one night.” Dorium: “Time catches up with us all Doctor!” The Doctor: “Well, it’s never laid a glove on me!” And then the suckerpunch… his old friend Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart has died. Stupidly I was even more moved by the passing of this fictional character than I was by the death of his actor Nicholas Courtney.
- The Doctor forgiving River by the lakeside. Such lovely acting from Matt Smith and Alex Kingston and such wonderful writing too. It’s not everyone who can segue from tragedy to comedy in one beat…
- Amy’s James Bond moment (again with suitable matching, soaring strings for those who like a musical joke.)
- The Doctor’s earnest, and completely unnecessary, attempts to convince Amy that she’s his friend.
- The drawing of her missing love, Rory, that looks nothing like Arthur Darvill, and more like a composite of several boy band members.
- The Doctor (changing clothes): “You can turn round now.” Clearly Amy wasn’t averting her eyes. Again.
- The Doctor’s well-meaning but utterly terrible attempts at matchmaking Rory and Amy: “She said you were a Mr Hottie…ness and that she would like to go out with you for texting and scones.” It’s a chat-up line I might actually use…
- … if I can find a man to flirt with like River and the Doctor flirt.I think without the predilection for handcuffs though.
- A gentle dig at us from River: “There are so many theories about us…”
- And the idea that the Doctor considers archaeology to be idle gossip.
- Rory’s saving Amy again. And she’s saving him right back.
- Amy, leaving Madame Kovarian to her fate: “River Song didn’t get it all from you … sweetie.”
- Steven Moffat’s love letter to the Doctor moved me to tears. Twice.
- The wedding using a ‘piece of cloth – about a foot long’ (aka a bow tie) for handfasting. The subtle sleight of hand that’s so much fun to watch second time round. The being no closer to understanding how he’s getting out of this…
- How Amy’s joy after River explains the Doctor’s last secret to her makes me cry all over again.
- My joy at being duped to expect one doppelganger (a Flesh one) and getting a different one – the Teselector with a beaming Doctor waving from inside.
- And the Doctor’s tiny smile as he contemplates the answer to the question that must never be asked… Doctor who?
Posted by Jo the Hat