The Wedding of River Song

Prequel: That bloody nursery rhyme is playing again, as a pair of eyepatch-wearing soldiers inspect some Silence in a water tank. Then we see River, also wearing an eyepatch, lurking menacingly near an Egyptian sarcophagus. It’s all very atmospheric but a little bit dull; it’s more of a mood piece than a preview of the plot.

After a series like no other, with its various long-running storylines and the bloody great gap in the middle, comes a series finale like no other. For a start, it’s only one episode long, but at the same time it feels like the final chapter of a story that’s been going on for ages, finally tying up threads that have been dangling since the premiere. It’s a different way of telling The Doctor’s story, and one that’s not universally popular, but of which I am a big fan.

Besides, it’s not all heavy complicated stuff – this alternate universe where all of history is happening at once looks like great fun. Steam trains coming out of The Gherkin, Charles Dickens on BBC News, and even the pterodactyls from Torchwood having their render files dusted off. Churchill’s back again, he’s got a Silurian doctor and he’s keeping a bearded Doctor locked in the Tower of London. What’s not to love?

There’s also one of those big, varied, expensive-looking montages that Moffat likes to wheel out for the important episodes, which includes a tiny Dalek cameo and a heavily made-up Mark Gatiss as some sort of alien viking. It feels epic and exciting, but then the mood is punctured by news of the Brigadier. It’s a fair indication of Courtney’s standing that he’s the only actor whose off-screen passing has directly impacted the plot of a Doctor Who episode. I’m glad that Sarah Jane is still out there saving the world, even if Elisabeth Sladen isn’t, but with the Brigadier, being that much older and having lived a full life, it feels right to give his story a full stop. It’s so heartbreaking that the Doctor wanted to see him one more time after all these years, but couldn’t.

This moment also provides the impetus for the story to kick up a notch, leading to a glorious return for the Ponds, or at least alternate, eyepatch-wearing versions of the Ponds. The fact that those eyepatches turn out not to be a straightforward evil-person-indicator is a clever twist, as is Amy remembering far more than The Doctor expected her to, causing him to cut short his big timey-wimey speech. It’s a reunion that’s played for laughs rather than high drama, and it works – those two are such good friends that they’re just happier when they’re together, regardless of the circumstances, or the fact that they’ve never actually met in this universe.

The Rory stuff is cute too. I was all poised to update the Rory Williams Death Counter – even The Silence comment on the fact that he’s always dying – until Amy realised who he was in the nick of time. She then kills Madame Kovarian in cold blood, which she’s later somewhat tortured about, but I reckon it was probably fair enough. She did steal her baby and turn her into a psychopathic killing machine. That’s not cricket.

Then the eponymous wedding happens and time is put right and The Doctor dies. He’s careful to point out to us that River won’t remember killing him, which is mightily convenient but does help to sort out any confusion I had as to her timeline. Her later chat with Amy clarifies that she often has to lie in order to avoid giving spoilers to people from her relative past – again, convenient for storytelling purposes, but I buy it.

In retrospect, including the Teselecter in the ‘Previously’ recap rather gives the game away. I can’t remember whether or not I figured it out in advance originally, but either way it’s a good, satisfying conclusion. It leaves the series at an intriguing crossroads, with The Doctor’s vow to stay in the shadows coming across as very McCoy, as does the notion that he planned this whole thing for his own mysterious purposes.

Like I say, not your normal finale – it’s more like a victory lap for the series, the magician revealing how he pulled off the trick. Luckily, I really like the series, and the wrapping-up this story provides is meticulous. It’s a shame it doesn’t end with Amy and Rory back on the TARDIS, but having previously moaned about too many questions being left unanswered, we’re left with just one. A big blue head in a box shouting “DOCTOR WHO” over and over again should be the final image of every series.

RATING: 9

HALF-SERIES AVERAGE RATING: 7.5

SERIES AVERAGE RATING: 8.18

  • Seasons/Series watched: 32 of 36
  • Stories watched: 224 of 275
  • Individual episodes watched: 783 of 839

So yeah, the second half is not quite as good as the first, but not by as big a margin as I remembered. I think it’s improved by watching the two parts in much closer proximity; it’s a shame I had to sit through Torchwood in the middle, but the momentum still carried far better with a two-week gap than a two-and-a-half month one. Even so, this portion of the project seems very stop-start, veering wildly between various spin-offs and specials, without the stability of a big block of proper episodes for comfort. I’d best get used to it.

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The Unquiet Dead

* Ah yes, it’s Gwen but in the past! Gwyneth is a much more interesting character, unencumbered by the need to repeatedly shout “Jaaaack” in a state of distress, and Eve Myles is great. Also on the Torchwood front, I’d completely forgotten that The Rift had been established this early into proceedings.

* Rose talking about how The Doctor can revisit days that are long gone made me think of Father’s Day. No idea whether this was intentional, but when The Doctor accuses her of deliberately engineering the situation in that episode, perhaps it’s true, and this is the moment when she got the idea. Gwyneth does later say that she’s been thinking about her dad a lot recently.

* It’s Christmas, but it’s not a Christmas special. I suppose had they known that setting an episode at this time of year would soon become a regular, annual event, they might not have picked it. But then again – Dickens. Simon Callow is superb, by the way.

* Favourite lines that I didn’t remember and so made me laugh once more: “What the Shakespeare is going on?” and “I love a happy medium”.

* The scene of Rose and Gwyneth giggling together as they wash up is the highlight of the episode. I love how naughty Gwyneth feels about talking that way, and how she’s so shocked at the mentions of boys and bums. However, given that she dies soon after, how come she has a descendant in modern day Cardiff? Maybe it was all an act, and the butcher’s boy is Gwen’s great-great-great-grandfather.

* The line I always remember from this episode is the Bad Wolf reference, but it’s the first bit that’s more memorable to me. “The things you’ve seen… The Darkness…” I always picture Rose and Mickey at Brixton Academy, headbanging to I Believe In A Thing Called Love.

* The snow falling from the departing TARDIS is absolutely lovely. It’s an episode that’s full of heart and atmosphere, even if the plot seems a little slow to get going, and then rushed in the resolution. But I like it a lot, and unfortunately I don’t think Gatiss has topped it since, although I will of course be re-evaluating in the coming months.

RATING: 8

Oh, and I got a notification earlier saying that this blog is two years old today. The experiment started a couple of months earlier, of course, but still – hooray!