Sunday, 27 December 2015

Doctor Who: The Husbands of River Song

"What's that? Are you... thinking? Stop it. You're a man. It looks weird."

The Moff ended the series just gone by subverting the Big Epic Season Finale through rejecting all of the epicness in favour of a more human, character-based episode. Here he uses the Christmas episode to give us a perfect little character piece, albeit with plenty of entertainment along the way. This is almost certainly the swansong for River Song, and an extremely fitting one, and rumour has it that it was almost- but not quite- the Moff's last script for the series. Long may he reign, say I.

The plot is a glorious Christmas caper, but we shall say little about it other than to note the nice little nods to The Restaurant at the End of the Universe and The Brain of Morbius. There are some splendid comedy turns from Matt Lucas and (in a part that must have been enormous fun to play) Greg Davies. Oh, and I love the way the Doctor defeats Hydroflax's body by using the fact that the stock market is so utterly incomprehensible. But the episode is essentially both a screwball comedy and entirely about the relationship between River and the Doctor. So let's proceed to talk about nothing else, shall we?

The main conceit, of course, is that River spends the whole episode failing, rather amusingly, to notice that the man she's with is the Doctor. In a lesser script this could have made the character look stupid, but not here; it's nicely counterbalanced by River being portrayed as cool and resourceful. Indeed, the Doctor/companion relationship is essentially reversed to the point where River holds the Doctor's hand and runs and, in the episode's funniest scene, the Doctor pretends to be amazed that the TARDIS is bigger on the inside, seizing the chance to do it "properly". Both Kingston and Capaldi are superlative, and so is their chemistry together; the two of them on screen together work wonderfully well as a believable couple. Capaldi's ongoing moments of annoyance at River's other "husbands" are a joy, as is River's casual comment that she's always "borrowing" the TARDIS without the Doctor ever noticing.

And yet.. River is sad. Her diary is running out of pages, and the man who gave it to her would have known how many pages she needed. Silence in the Library beckons, especially as the Doctor here gives her the sonic screwdriver that she uses in that story. A nice touch, although the sonic trowel is cool and perfect for an archaeologist, as my fellow Time Team fans would know.

The scene where the penny finally drops for River ("Hello, sweetie"- more role reversal between them) is wonderful, as is her passionate speech about the Doctor; she loves him with all her heart, but you don't expect a phenomenon as big as the Doctor to love you back as a mere mortal would. And she's fine with that.

Their last ever date before River's death (I love the revelation that River's last night will last 24 years!) is wonderfully written with dialogue that sings like the towers, which are themselves a metaphor for the awesome monolith that is the Doctor. It's the perfect ending to what may well be the finest ever Christmas episode.

But how long will we have to wait for more Doctor Who?

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