Sunday, December 27, 2015

Doctor Who Is NEW!: The Husbands of River Song

Hello, Whovians! Two days ago was Christmas Day and the premier of the new Doctor Who Christmas Special, The Husbands of River Song. Over seven and a half years ago, we and the Doctor met River Song for the first time which was also the last time as River sacrificed herself to save the Doctor (and, incidentally, a few thousand people as well). 

Since then, all of the Doctor's encounters with River have filled in the timey-wimey bits of their relationship as they moved through time in different directions. The Doctor knows the details of her death but River's life was a mystery. Bit by bit, the story of River Song emerges, the time lost daughter of two of the Doctor's companions, raised to be the ultimate weapon to kill the Doctor and instead, comes to love the Doctor as no other has.  

But with each detail we learn, we close the circle on River Song just a bit more, bringing us closer to final fate in the Forest of the Dead. But before that fate, there is one bit to be filled in, one more chapter in the story of the Doctor and River Song.

One last night. 

My look back at this year's Doctor Who Christmas Special continues after the spoiler caution. 

And we're off in 5...





The Husbands of River Song

by Steven Moffat

It's Christmas in the year 5343 where the TARDIS is parked in a remote human colony that looks like Trap Street from Face the Raven.  A local named Nardole knocks at the TARDIS door and the Doctor pops out with antlers on his head. Apparently the TARDIS is trying to cheer the Doctor up with holographic holiday headwear.  Anyway, Nardole is looking for the surgeon (The Doctor: "Close enough.")  who has been summoned to save the life of King Hydroflax who has been shot in the head with a diamond. By the way, the person who summoned the surgeon? The wife of King Hydroflax, River Song? 

Wait! What?

The Doctor is rather thrilled to see River but River has no idea who this person is. Yes, she remembers who the Doctor is but last she saw him, he was the in the last body of his 12 regenerations. She knows all 12 faces of the Doctor and has zero expectation that there would be any more. So the Doctor plays out the role of the hapless surgeon she hired to cut the King's head off.

Wait! What? 

Seems River is running a con to secure the diamond deeply embedded in the King's skull and the simplest way to retrieve that diamond is to remove the King's head. The Doctor objects to this course of action but it's a moot point as King Hydroflax helpfully unscrews is own head from his own body. Seems the King is only a head attached to a large robot body. (And even that is not what it really seems as we will see later.)  

The Doctor and River get the head into a duffle bag (no worries, River checked it for leaks first) and teleport out to meet up with Ramone, River's henchman and, even if he doesn't remember it, another of River's husbands. From there, the Doctor follows River to his TARDIS which she intends to borrow. 

River: "(The Doctor's) never noticed before." 
The Doctor: "Maybe he'll notice now."

Inside, the Doctor gives the "bigger on the inside" speech that he's wished others had given.

The Doctor: “My entire understanding of physical space has been transformed! Three dimensional Euclidian geometry has been torn up, thrown in the air, and snogged to death! My grasp of the universal constants of physical reality has been changed forever.”

Despite River (who knows what she's doing more than the Doctor) at the controls, the TARDIS will not take off if it registers someone being inside AND outside the TARDIS at the same time. For example, King Hydroflax, his head in a bag in the TARDIS, his body outside. 

A body that is acting with a disturbing degree of independence, borrowing first Nardole's head, then Ramone's to track River and the Doctor and the king head in a bag. The Hydroflax body invades the TARDIS which helpfully puts both parts of the King in one place and off we go! Then River and the Doctor (with the king head in a bag) escape from the rampaging body onto a space cruise ship. 

With the robot body locked behind a deadlock seal, River and the Doctor go to a lavish dining room. It seems the ship is a high class affair that caters to the most ruthless killers in the universe, the more genocidal, the better. It is here that River intends to sell the diamond in the King's head. But the robot half of King Hydroflax has other ideas and crashes the scene with help from a waiter named Flemming who has betrayed River's confidence. Flemming entices robot Hydroflax with information that River Song knows of the renegade Time Lord called the Doctor who's head would make a superior replacement for the previous King head which is irrevocably going to die thanks to the diamond in his skull. So robot Hydroflax shoots himself in the head. (Yeah, it looks like the true king authority rests in the robot, not in the head.)  

River vehemently denies knowing where the Doctor is. Yes, she loves him but she truly believes he cannot love her in return. "It’s like loving the stars themselves," River says. "You don’t expect a sunset to admire you back.”

But the penny that's been spinning in the air for nearly the 60% of this episode finally drops and River at last realizes the Doctor had been with her all along. 

As the Doctor says, "Hello, sweetie." 

Then the ship gets struck by a meteor strike. Which is not a coincidence. River chose to meet her buyer on this ship because of the historical records which showed the ship being destroyed by a meteor strike. River and the Doctor take turns rescuing each other until they both realize the gig is up and they both escape in the Doctor's TARDIS but not before River is knocked unconscious. 

The ship has crashed on the planet Darillium where River Song told the 10th Doctor she had just left the Doctor on what turned out to be their last night together. The crash site is right next to the Singing Towers. There the Doctor gives a worker at the crash site the diamond and tells him to use some of the wealth from that diamond to build a restaurant in that exact spot. The Doctor goes into the future after the restaurant is built and makes a reservation for 4 years into the future for the table on the balcony overlooking the Singing Towers.  

By this point, River has regained consciousness and joins the Doctor for their last night together. 

Although on Darillium, a single night lasts 24 years. 

And they both lived happily ever after.

After the emotional intensity of the last three episodes of Series 9, a lighter romp was (pun alert!) just what the Doctor ordered. And right from the jump with antlers on the Doctor's head, that's what we get. An increasingly bizarre set of circumstances unfolding at a pace faster than the rapid fire back and forth between the Doctor and River energizes this holiday adventure. 

But if the thrills and laughs of the first 2/3 of this episode come almost too fast to count, a sliver of melancholy makes itself known. River's diary is almost full and she knows that the Doctor who gave it to her would know just how long her diary would need to be. River senses her time...or at least her time with the nearing its end. 

And when the Doctor realizes where the ship is going to crash, he too knows the end of his time with River cannot be avoided.  

But as River tells the Doctor, "Happily ever after doesn’t mean forever. It just means time, a little time.”  And since one night on Darillium lasts 24 years, the Doctor and River have that time. 

If this truly marks the last time we get to see River Song, it is quite a high note to go out on. Alex Kingston is once more brilliant as our action archaeologist of the future. By turns and sometimes all at once funny, wise, sexy, adventurous, sad, introspective and joyous, this is Alex's best yet at bringing River Song to life.

But its also a bit sad if this is indeed the end for River Song because her rapport with Peter Capaldi's Doctor is nothing short of astonishing. I'm not saying Capaldi's work alongside Kingston is better than Matt Smith's, just unique and something I would want to see more of if possible. 

If you're wondering if the events of the Series 9 have any impact on the Doctor in this Christmas special, consider this: would the Doctor who had not learned the lessons of going too far to save Clara Oswald have been so accepting of facing up to his and River's last time together on Darillium? One wonders how much more of Clara does the Doctor remember. At one point, the Doctor says, “Every Christmas is last Christmas" which the Doctor heard Danny Pink say to Clara in a dream state in last year's Christmas special. Is this a hint that the Doctor may remember more of Clara since her farewell?   

One other side note: when Steven Moffat wrote this special, he thought it may well be his last story for Doctor Who. He ultimately re-upped for Series 10 but if he had not, The Husbands of River Song would've been quite a pinnacle to go out on. I would dare say this special is one or two on the list of best Christmas Doctor Who specials. 


And that brings this to a close for Doctor Who stuff in 2015. It's been a interesting year with a high level of quality acting and writing for Series 9 and this year's special. There are some shadows over Series 10. We know there will be one but when will it be? It looks more and more likely that Series 10 will be split over two years or bumped to 2017. But there are other questions that abound. Will this be the last series for Steven Moffat as showrunner? And what about Peter Capaldi? He has mentioned that Series 10 may well be his last series as well. 

But that's for the future. But for now, Doctor Who for 2015 has ended on a high note. Thanks to Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman, Steven Moffat, all the writers, directors and guest stars who have made Series 9 an exemplary season. I might even put it up there with Series 4 when it comes to quality sustained over a season.  

That's all from me for today. Another post on some dang thing or another will come your way tomorrow. And I will be back here with another Doctor Who post next Sunday. Until then, remember to be good to one another.

Counting Down To Infinity