Saturday 1 October 2011

The Wedding of River Song. Review. (Spoilerific).

Dr Who, Wedding of River Song

Everyone loves a good wedding and everyone loves a good song. Personally, after my last bout with the insane scourge of Weil's disease, I'm not so keen on rivers. But, as that great philosopher Meatloaf once said, "Two out of three ain't bad," and, "Objects in the rear-view mirror may appear closer than they are."

Actually, Meatloaf was one of the few people who didn't turn up in this episode as Steven Moffat repeated his trick from The Pandorica Opens of bringing back old faces for a finale.

So it was that we got Churchill and the dodgy fat blue bloke with the money, the crew of the Teselecta, River Song, Madame Kovarian, the Silents, Rory and Amy. We even got a sort of appearance from the Brigadier, even if it was only in the form of a slap-in-the-face announcement that he'd died.

Dr Who, the Wedding of River Song. River Song with Madame Kovarian

But this was a different world from the one we know, as River Song broke free of her programming to refuse to kill the Doctor, causing a collapse of the barriers of time that left all eras of human history mangled up, with the Pyramids in America, pterodactyls in London and Charles Dickens on TV.

Dr Who, the Wedding of River Song
Can the Doctor do anything to sort out this interminable tangle?

Of course he can. He can get River Song to agree to kill him after all. And, after he sort of marries her, she does just that, making everything right with the world.

Well, apart from the fact our hero's dead.

Except he isn't - because he's been sneaky and, instead of sacrificing himself, has instead let River Song shoot Let's Kill Hitler's Teselecta, disguised as him to fool the Silence into thinking he's dead.

Just one look at the episode's opening sequence, with its shot of cars flying over the Gherkin while suspended from balloons, reminded us the Grand Moff likes to keep the big budgets for his own episodes, and so we got a curious kind of epic that managed to often be big in visual scale while small in mind-set, a kind of sci-fi version of those Agatha Christie scenes where Miss Marple stands in the drawing room and explains just who did what and how.

Despite all Moffat's weavings, twistings and turnings, you can't escape the feeling of a cop-out. After all, in order for Time to be put right, the Doctor has to die.

But he didn't.

It was the Teselecta that "died". A robot that looks like him might fool the Silence but it surely wouldn't fool Time itself. A lot of fans had speculated that the Doctor killed in The Impossible Astronaut was a ganger duplicate which, while it would've been more obvious, would've made more sense in the context of the story as, physically and mentally, it would've been the same being as the Doctor. On top of that there's the question of exactly how the Teselecta started to regenerate.

River Song in the closing moments really does come across as unacceptably smug with her revelation that she knew what was going on all along in The Impossible Astronaut and Day of the Moon but was just pretending she didn't. A cynic would suggest she acted like she didn't know because Moffat at that point didn't know either.

Either way, the happy as Larry, "I'm so clever," way she made this revelation to Amy really did make her come across as a total bottom-hole. If I'd been Amy I'd have put her over my knee and given her a good spanking.

Dr Who, the Wedding of River Song, a captive Silent

Coming across much better was Amy in the alternate time-line, now in charge of Area 51 and its battle with the Silence, happy to give Madame Kovarian a good comeuppance with her own murderous eye patch. That's the sort of thing I like to see in a drama.

Alternate Rory was great too, showing his never-ending loyalty and willingness to endure agony and death for the cause. You did have to feel sorry for him as the Silents taunted him about his tendency to die more often than a bad comedian at the Glasgow Empire.

Not so good were the killer skulls in the catacombs of the Headless Monks. Skulls might be scary in theory but they tend to just look plain silly when they're wobbling about on a shelf, trying to eat you.

Dr Who, the Wedding of River Song, a gaggle of captured SilentsSo, now we have to look forward to the Christmas Special and next year's season, wondering just what form the show'll take from now on. There was a strong hint that the tendency to make the Doctor the centre of the universe is to be scrapped, with him returning to the more anonymous figure he was in the days of Hartnell and Troughton.

For some of us this can be no bad thing, as I've complained in previous reviews about the show having become too insular under Moffat, with seemingly everything that happens in all existence coming down to the Doctor and his companions. Call me old-fashioned but I tend to take the view that the universe is a big place and the heroes shouldn't be bigger than it.

Even now there're unanswered questions. We still don't know exactly who the Silence are or just what's behind them. Nor do we know the significance of the revelation that the oldest question in the universe is, "Dr Who?" Will these matters be carried on into a future storyline or simply forgotten?

Only time will tell.

But then, Time can't even tell if the Doctor's dead. Sometimes Time, like rivers, can be a very big disappointment to you.


Ben said...

I think it's actually Area 52, which is rather funny!

Steve W. said...

It was? I knew I should've taken more notes. :(

Mike M said...

"River Song in the closing moments really does come across as unacceptably smug with her revelation that she knew what was going on all along in The Impossible Astronaut and Day of the Moon but was just pretending she didn't. A cynic would suggest she acted like she didn't know because Moffat at that point didn't know either."

When river see's the astronaut kill the doctor, she tries to shoot it herself, and when she can't says "of course not" that is because she knows it is a younger version of her.

Steve W. said...

But in those two episodes, she also claimed not to know who the girl was in the spacesuit or what the suit was for or to know anything about the Silents. Whereas in this week's episode she claims that she knew all that stuff all along and was just pretending not to, to avoid revealing "spoilers".

Anonymous said...

Er, also remember that way back in series five (the weeping angels two-parter) Moffat had it stuck in her dialog that she'd killed "A very good man." The best man she'd ever known. And as he said in a Confidential, we always kind of knew that the best man River had ever known was the Doctor - no matter how many people protested that it could be Rory. I mean, what was she supposed to do - hang back smugly on the beach while she watched the fake death of the doctor and simply arch her eyebrows and turn away when discussions about the mysterious little girl were going on? Yeah, the audience wouldn't have suspected a thing.
And there's a distinct possibility she wouldn't have remembered the silence. Or the "murder" for that matter - the details anyway, as the doctor intimated as much on the beach.
I agree about the fixed point in time stuff - I think Moffat overdid the "only the doctor's death will solve the problem" in his eagerness to put us on the edge of our seats as to the episode's resolution. However, I think the fixed point in time was the "idea" of the doctor's death, the death confirmed by the Tesselecta's records. The shooting of the Tesselecta was the fixed point in time, and everyone (including River unfortunately, as she massively screwed things up by not shooting the robot) just assumed that the fixed point was the Doctor's death, as the robot looked like him. Time "knew" he didn't die, and was rectified when the robot was shot. It was simply other characters who kept telling us that "his death" was a fixed point, because they assumed it was his death. The doctor himself perpetuated the lie to everyone (for the sake of hiding himself effectively from the silence) until it became clear that River was in no way shape or form going to shoot him as long as she thought he really was going to sacrifice himself to save time, at which point he caved and told her.
What I want to know is why the Amy immediately after the shooting on the beach has no memory of the alternate timeline, as it occured as soon as River refused to shoot the doctor (at the same time she shot him in the other timeline). I think it ended in the same moment. Sooo... if we're to believe that Amy remembers this, she should have remembered it the moment after the shooting in the season opener. Hmmm...

Anonymous said...

Oh, and about the regeneration, I think a shape-shifting robot capable of creating a multiple people and a German motorbike, helmed by a real, knows-what-regeneration-looks-like Timelord, and given ample time to prepare is fully capable of putting on a convincing light show.

Anonymous said...

I like it over all but am so damn bothered about the wedding part. i thought the moment they got married it was awkward. i don't like you, i don't want to marry you, you embarass me, let's get married. wtf? to me it was unneccessary at that point. am i the only one this bothered? can someone explain it to me? also, if they go married in an alternate time line then are they still married now? i am waiting for moffat to drop the other shoe so to speak.

Kid said...

What I want to know is what happened to the Doctor's first wife. You know, Susan Foreman's grandmother. Had she died before Hartnell's Doc first came to Earth?

Moffat is a like a kid given the keys to the sweetie shop. A fanboy writ large who is indulging himself at the expense of solid storytelling. Although the episode had entertaining moments, Moffat seems to go for style over content every time. His plots have more holes in them than a dosser's y-fronts and the problems inherent in his elastic concept of time demonstrate that he's only interested in producing effect for its own sake.

Let's hope the next series is better.

Wil said...

To be honest, I thought it was bloody awful. A deliberately confusing mess of style over substance that tried to cover up the fact that the big twist/reveal ending in no way made up for a whole series of hype.

Now we're going to have to suffer 'what is the question?' all next year which will also, no doubt, have a limp cop-out ending.

Very poor. It won't bother me if I don't watch it any more.

Steve W. said...

@Anonymous. The only explanation I can give for the "wedding" is that maybe the Doctor thought River was so obsessed with him that the only way he could get her to do what he wanted was by bribing her by agreeing to become her husband.

Then again, maybe he wanted to fool the Cosmos into thinking he'd married her, so it wouldn't realise he'd told her to look into his eye rather than telling her his name, and therefore the Cosmos wouldn't know he was pulling a fast one.

Either way, you're right, it really doesn't stack up or make any real sense.

There's also the problem that, in Silence in the Library, River knows the Doctor's name. That's how she convinces him he can trust her. And yet we're now told here that he didn't tell her his name at all. Argh!

Steve W. said...

@Kid. When it comes to just who was the Doctor's first wife and what happened to her, I suspect there are some issues the show will never be dealing with, and that that's one of them.

Unless Steven Moffat decides to declare that River Song is Susan's grandmother!!!!!!

Kid said...

The question was answered surely? The question whose answer is hidden in plain sight? "Who is the Doctor?" Answer: Doctor Who, because Who IS the Doctor!

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