Doctor Who – The Wedding of River Song

I was worried in advance, I’ll be honest.

I found ‘The Impossible Astronaut’ / ‘Day of the Moon’ to be both invigorating and frustrating in equal measure, a great, dark, bold introduction with many strengths but also too full of narrative tricks and setting up one too many questions and time paradoxes. That’s particularly true when you add River’s backwards interactions with the Doctor to all the other elements.

‘A Good Man Goes to War’ was an enjoyable romp, and a neat revelation, if little more.

‘Let’s Kill Hitler’ was like all the bad bits of the opening two-parter, and Moffat’s writing in general, for me. Glib, superficial, overstuffed with incident, silliness and cleverness in such a way as to utterly drown its own story and emotional arcs. Taken out of context the scenes of the Doctor facing death in that episode are affecting and well-played, but from start to finish the script was trying much too hard. It’s also full of answers but structured in such a head-bending way that they feel more like questions.

‘The Wedding of River Song’.. well, it had me from the gleeful, science fantasy opening. At times feeling strangely like a re-write of ‘The Big Bang’ this has the bombast of that episode and ‘A Good Man Goes to War’, the inventiveness of ‘Let’s Kill Hitler’, and the cleverness of the opener, but it tells a coherent, intelligible story and it provides more answers than questions.

I was sailing along very happily letting it take me where it will, and it nearly took me all the way to the conclusion, but… the fact that it’s a double of the Doctor at Lake Silencio – no matter how you spin it, how you slice it, no matter that the Doctor was really there – still feels like too much of a cheat. It’s that one element in the whole episode that felt like a let down, and it slightly soured me on what was otherwise a wonderful, confident finale.

My other criticism of the episode is that in painting River as *so* devoted to the Doctor, so single-minded and disregarding of everything else in the Universe, she becomes utterly dependent on the Doctor for her identity. We’ve already seen this in Let’s Kill Hitler where on the basis of not very much except being trained since birth to kill him she falls for him hard and intends to devote the rest of her life to finding him. But there I felt we had some wiggle room. Here (and in last week’s epilogue) we see that this is exactly what she did. She appears to have no life outside her love interest. It’s a monomania that lessens her as a character in my view.

There are many other things that are noteworthy:

* The opening is, start to finish, bonkers and wonderful, from the Dickens cameo to the sheer, wild implausibility of it all, it felt like Torchwood in a really, really good mood.
* The fantastic moment of pathos about the Brigadier, and the perfect decision (and perfect performance from Matt Smith) to have it be an emotional turning point.
* The idea that the Doctor needs to step back from his own legend, get back to basics is one that chimes strongly with me.
* The ultimate question to life, the Universe and everything being “Doctor Who?” is oh so nearly too meta for its own good but I like it, and it does hang together within the continuity of the series if you accept that calling yourself “The Doctor” is an open question hiding in plain sight.
* Why “Doctor Who?” must never be answered is of course another bloody arc thread, but one it feels unlikely we’ll ever get an answer to. I hope.
* Quite how the Doctor expects to go around saving people and not be noticed is another question entirely. I suppose a version of him exists at all points in time.
* Finally we see some emotional fall-out from Amy over the loss of her baby. It’s long overdue, disconcertingly so, and fairly brief, but it rings true and it just shows that you don’t have to exhaustively deal with such feelings, just acknowledge them.
* Madame Kovarian remains the most one-dimensional Blake’s 7 villain imaginable. But at least we understand the broad outline for why the Silence want to kill the Doctor. Heck, he agrees with them at first.
* The Silence (or whatever they’re called) remain a very effective monster.
* Loads of other things I can’t remember because I’ve only seen it the once.

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