Doctor Who review: The Wedding of River Song and other thoughts

Doctor Who: The Wedding of River Song. (Image c.BBC)

Doctor Who: The Wedding of River Song. (Image c.BBC)

WATCHING The Wedding of River Song, I found myself wondering if Steven Moffat likes Rolf Harris?

Me? I love a bit of Rolf and like most people my age grew up watching him.

There was Rolf’s Cartoon Club in the 1980s, but I first got the Rolf bug in the 1970s when the Bearded Wonder from Down Under seemed to be on TV every week with a giant wall and a paint tin and brush.

Starting from scratch, he would daub a series of seemingly unrelated dots, lines and squiggles – all the while breathlessly enquiring ‘Can you guess what it is yet?’ amid half-hummed tunes, sounds and gasps.

And just when you began to think that old Rolf had finally lost his mind, and started searching for the rude pictures he had hidden in the image as his little joke, one final line would bring the whole thing together and voila! Art!

I only ask as I felt the same way watching the end of the latest Doctor Who series, as the Moff brought random lines and questions into harmony in that usual ‘puzzle box clicking into place’ way of his, and yet ….. when The Wedding of River Song finished I felt a bit flat. Disappointed even.

That’s the first time I have felt that way at the end of a Doctor Who series and I have spent my time since then trying to work out why.

The series, I thought, worked well, with The Curse of the Black Spot the only dud. It had some tremendous high points – the two-part opener was cinematic and audacious, while Neil Gaiman‘s The Doctor’s Wife was worth the wait – funny, moving and dramatic.

The best episodes to my mind were The Rebel Flesh and The Almost People, a wonderful two-parter packed with big ideas and emotion.

My problem wasn’t with The Wedding of River Song either. While the wedding of the title was incidental, the steampunk Empire of everything was great, especially the flying Minis, while I wished I lived in a world where we could catch steamtrains to the Pyramids while dodging pterodactyls and booking tickets for Charles Dickens‘ latest work.

Amid the breathtaking pace there were also some nice quiet moments too – no mean feat with just 45 minutes to wrap everything up.

Special praise goes to the very effective tribute to the Brigadier – the idea that the Doctor visited him and of the Brig keeping a glass by the bed just in case was simple and touching, but I also loved the Doctor trying to convince Rory to ask Amy out.

No, my issue is this.

At the end of this series, as in the last, the big, looming all powerful threat was dismissed with a simple trick.

Last time around we had the Pandorica – the mysterious artefact and escape-proof prison designed to trap the Doctor, which he escaped from after being in there for  … ooohhh … five minutes.

This time we had the evil, behind the scenes machinations of Madame Kovarian and The Silence, who seemed almost omnipotent in their planning. On top of that was the inescapable, looming fact, fixed in time, that the Doctor died at Lake Silencio.

The knowledge that his time was running out clung to the Doctor more and more as the series went on, with Matt Smith‘s performance becoming more and more nuanced.

By Closing Time, he reminded me of William Hartnell pre-regeneration, somehow stretched and thin, worn down by his realisation of the effect he has had on the universe and the certainty of the terrible fate that waited for him.

Wow I thought, how will he get out of this one?

It’s safe to say I would never have thought Madame Kovarian would be defeated by being tied to a chair, and the Doctor escape his fate by hiding inside a shape-shifting robot version of himself.

Given the skill and vision with which the show had laid the ever darker, labyrinthine path that brought us to that key point – all those seemingly unrelated pieces of the painting – it was a betrayal of everything that had gone before to solve the seemingly insolvable problem with such casual nonchalance.

He hid in a robot? And that was enough to beat the laws of time and the Universe and all his enemies?

Just like last year, when he escaped from the Pandorica because of some neat temporal jiggery-pokery, it was too easy, too effortless.

In fact, when River revealed she had seen the Doctor in his own eye and we saw 11 laughing out with the Tardis behind him, it made me angry instead of pleased at his ingenuity. Cheated almost.

Now we have a new Whoniverse, with the Doctor in the shadows as he moves towards the Fields of Trenzador and the Fall of 11, as well as the oldest question, Doctor Who?

The 50th anniversary of the show is just around the corner too and that landmark will almost certainly be when Moff and Matt bow out, the Who fan and eternal optimist in me is expecting that to be something special.

Despite my disappointment, I still believein the coda  In Moff We Trust, but that hope will only be realised if the great man can ensure the conclusion of a series matches the brilliant build up.

Given how good new Who is now under his stewardship, it is a daunting challenge but the show and the fans deserve nothing less.

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7 thoughts on “Doctor Who review: The Wedding of River Song and other thoughts

  • Hitman4Drocks

    on

    i enjoyed the episode the wedding of river song it was good there was river,amy,rory,madame kovarian,kovarian silence,soldiers,winston churchill and at the end the doctor whispered to river to look into his eyes which he was the teselecta doctor which the doctor wasnt dead amy and rory thought he was but river came back from the byzantium and told them that he was alive.

  • Jaywalker

    on

    It fuckin sucked arse.

  • atkinson

    on

    Why are any of the characters doing any of this? Right from Winston Churchill asking the time when the time is always the same, and then telling somebody who knows that time is always the same, this was going to be quite stupid. How is the easiest assassination plot for the Doctor to fix a point in time when his companions’ daughter who is a bit time lordy, and has been brainswashed, and has a past or present history of marrying the doctor to be in an uncontrollable space suit and shoot him at a lake in Utah. With a backup plan of having this same companions’ daughter grow up as her parents annoying friend try to kill the Doctor at some other conventient time?

    This was meant to be so clever and it is so stupid.

  • No, no, no. He did not beat the laws of time and the Universe. He did beat his enemies though. He did not change the fixed point in time, we know this because we saw what would happen if he had. This means that it was always a robot that got shot at the lake at that time, and that can’t be changed. Everyone that mattered was fooled into thinking it was him though. The other people in the robot would not have been able to know that it wasn’t him and was in fact them because to find out they would have had to cross their own time stream.

    It was far from a perfect episode though. I still enjoyed it.

  • I agree. Enjoyed it but the pay off was really more an excuse for the great episodes that helped set it up. I think they could really challenge themselves next season to have more two or three parters or maybe even put the DR in real peril in a way that means we don’t see him for a few episodes. Some of the best episodes have been DR lite. Let the other characters and worlds have a decent stage for a while without the pressure of always having to giving the Dr a quick way out.

  • Agreed, it was an unsatisfactory ending. I think the problem is this: in order to place the Doctor in true jeopardy, the treat arranged against him must be exreme, and that makes extricating the Doctor from that threat very difficult without using the “with one bound he was free” maneuver.

    Traditionally jeopardy was supplied by placing the Doctors’ companions at the point of a laser, which made the extricating easier and more believable.

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