TV Recap: DOCTOR WHO S6E13, 'The Wedding of River Song'

Post Game TV Recap: DOCTOR WHO S6E13

"Time Is What Prevents Everything From Happening At Once."

- John Wheeler (1911-2008)

Apparently, he was right. When River Song once again doesn't do what she's told, time folds into itself. And to fix it all, The Doctor has to go back the where it went wrong… and die. 

THE WEDDING OF RIVER SONG

by Steven Moffat

Directed by Jaremy Webb

 

We start in London, a mad new version of history where Rome never fell, and Winston Churchill is the Holy Roman Emperor. But he starts to question little things that nag at his mind, like the fact that no matter what, day, or what time of day it is, it's always April 22, 2011, at 5:02 in the afternoon. This is, of course, the point in time The Doctor is killed by a mysterious figure in an astronaut suit. We learn it's River Song, and at the last minute, chooses to discharge her weapon and prevent herself from doing so.

Small problem: The Silence have created a Fixed Point in time, a point that must occur, or like removing a pillar from a bridge, the whole structure will collapse. So by changing it, she's killed time, instead of The Doctor. River considers that a fair trade, but The Doctor doesn't, and must find a way back to the point and let it occur as it should.

At its core, this is a mirror-imaged retake of last season's finale, "The Big Bang." History has gone wacky as a result of a bad decision, and The Doctor must find his friends and fix things by (seemingly) sacrificing himself. Instead of the skies being filled with his enemies, this time it's filled with his friends — too bad they couldn't afford showing them to us. As is usually true, the things I found lacking about the episode are from my own expectations. We saw a number of threads come to a logical end, and in keeping with Steven Moffat's style, got a few more started. It's been a wonderful season, and this brought it to a happy ending.

GUEST STAR REPORT

 

Quite a few old friends in this episode. Ian McNiece is back as Churchill, Richard Hope as his Silurian physician Malokeh, and though you couldn't tell under that makeup, that was Mark Gatiss as Gantok. His billing as "Rondo Haxton" is a tip of the hat to Rondo Hatton, a character actor from the '30s and '40s, who used his acromegaly to get a lot of work as heavies in Hollywood. It's also a nod to the way they used to disguise Anthony Ainley's appearance in stories with a pseudonym. Indeed, Gatiss played The Master in one of the Big Finish plays, billed as "Sam Kisgart," an anagram of his name. And "Haxton" is passably similar to "Saxon," The master's most recent false name in the show.

One delightful surprise was Simon Callow, reprising his role as Charles Dickens from one of the first episodes of the new series, "The Unquiet Dead," written by Mark Gatiss and featuring Eve Myles as Gwen Cooper, an ancestor of the character she'd play the next year on Torchwood.

Meredith Vieira, former host of NBC's Today and current host of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire got a cameo as a newsreader in the episode. They ran a feature on her appearance on Today back in the spring.

THE MONSTER FILES

 

The Silence
make a return, and an assumption made last week seems incorrect. The alien creature that we refer to as The Silence (though technically it's the name of their order) do appear to be in charge, and Madame Kovarian serve at their pleasure. The eye-drive (which, until I saw written down, mentally spelled "iDrive") was a neat explanation of how she could work with them, and provided a delightful way to scare the bejabbers out of us in the teaser photos.

BACKGROUND BITS AND BOBS (trivia and production details)

MEKKA-LEKKA-HI, MEKKA-HEINY-HO - Since The Doctor was able to open Dorium's box, can we assume he finally added a setting for wood to his sonic screwdriver? Or more likely, is he just releasing metal catches within the structure?

OLD SOLDIERS NEVER DIE - While Elisabeth Sladen got an on-screen memoriam after her passing, Nicholas Courtney, who'd passed away a couple months previous, did not. This moment was a nice tribute to the man who played The Brigadier for decades, appearing with more Doctors than any other character on the show. Most recently seen on Sarah Jane Adventures, he had also appeared in a number of Big Finish audio adventures dedicated to UNIT. Five rounds, rapid, in his honor.

"So do you think you can top last year's Christmas special?" - Charles Dickens is giving a "no-spoilers" recap of A Christmas Carol, and describing it as "past, present and the future, all at the same time" just hangs a lampshade on what's happening on screen at that moment. 

"My friends have always been the best of me" - The recurring theme of The Doctor's companions comes around again. While I still can't say I like the morose and negative opinion he has of himself and how he leaves his friends, at least he realizes that they're an important part of his life.

"Time can be re-written" "Don't you dare" - Yet another redux — that's the same two lines, from the opposite speakers, we heard from River and The Doctor as she prepared to sacrifice herself in Forest of the Dead. An important difference is that here The Doctor knows (well, is pretty sure) he'll be okay, while River doesn't. Yes, he prepared a way to save her, but she isn't aware of it — she can only hope against hope that he'll think of something.

"Serving time for a murder she can't remember" - Not actually a lie, more a way to make the younger, out of control River feel better about what she's going to do. It's quite clear in her other appearances that she new perfectly well who she killed, as did damn near everyone else. 

"You grew up with a time rift in your bedroom, you can see what others can't" - It's been a recurring theme in Amy's life as well — her lifelong exposure to the Crack made her sensitive to shifting timelines, plus her time spent in the TARDIS made her able to remember things, even after they vanished from time itself. But it's always funny that it's twice that she forgot Rory, and NEVER forgot The Doctor.

If you look, you'll see drawings of Daleks, Cybermen, Smilers, Silurians, and the events of The Hungry Earth, Vampires of Venice and Curse of the Black Spot. Interesting point though — she never met the Cybermen in the series. She met them in one of the recent adventure games, however, Blood of the Cybermen, which apparently are being treated as canon.

"You have an office on a train, that's so cool" - James West, special agent of the US Secret Service, had a traveling headquarters on the private steam train Wanderer in the TV series The Wild Wild West. If someone hasn't done a DW/TWWW crossover, I've had a higher opinion of the Internet than it deserves.

"The Death of Time, The End of Time" - Another mirror-image — In Day of the Moon, it was The Doctor in Area 52 with a sign warning people not to interact with the prisoner. Just not translated into hieroglyphics underneath.

"Do you know what else he is?  Not here." - So beautiful, so dangerous. So awesome.

"What am I doing?" "As you're told" - Once again, another callback — that's what River says all The Doctor's friends do, back in The Impossible Astronaut.

"I consent and gladly give" - Who wants to set the over-and-under of how many fannish weddings will use this by the end of the year?  It may not surpass the Sealing ceremony from Battlestar Galactica or the Klingon mating ritual, but there's gonna be a lot of bowties worn at weddings in the future.

"I just climbed out of the Byzantium - you were there" - That would be the events of "The Time of Angels"/"Flesh and Stone," the first time Amy and River met.

"I killed someone." "In an aborted timeline, in a reality that never was." - Amy's decision about Kovarian was utterly justified, but she still has to bear the weight of the choice. And River's advice is virtually the same that The Doctor gives Rory about the older Amy in The Girl Who Waited.

"I got too big, too noisy… time to step back into the shadows" - This is likely the rejiggering of the character that Moffat alluded to in several interviews. He made a proper fool of himself in the beginning of the season, "trying to get noticed", as Amy described it. This will give him a chance to work on a more personal basis again, rather like the Lone Ranger, if you will. 

Yes, if you really want to, there's lots of "Yeah, but what about" moments here. River said that she was in charge of the TARDIS, yet The Doctor has it with him inside the body of the Teselecta. But of course, at the time that they were all at Lake Silencio, there were two TARDISes there. The older Doctor (inside the Teselecta) had one, and the younger one, who we followed through the season, had his in the diner, back by the restrooms. So that's explained.

If you want to explain how the Teselecta can grow a beard, or be shaved, or just plain work so much better than it did before, not to mention how it survived being thrown into the new timeline at all, well… that might take a bit longer.

"DOC-TOR...WHO?" - Aside from being an obvious meta-textual reference (indeed, it goes back to the first episode of the series) it's likely more than merely what his name is. Surely there are (were) any number of Time Lords who knew it, and we know that in the future, River will know it. Likely it's more about his origins; why he chose to become the man he is, what things he did to make him the man he is.

BIG BAD REPORT / CLEVER THEORY DEPARTMENT 

 

As is traditional, as Moffat closes some doors, he blows open some windows. Once again, we've been told about a specific event, taking place on the Fields of Trenzilor, at the time known only as "The Fall of the Eleventh."

Now, the first jump made is that right now, The Doctor is "the eleventh" — he's mentioned it several times over the last two series. 

We might be hearing about an event that will culminate at the time of the 50th anniversary of the show, or when Matt Smith finally leaves, or possibly not for a very long time, just a thread for another showrunner to pick up. But there's plenty of other bits of thread to think about.

The Silence are still in play - The Silence are still after him — the very fact that Dorium is returned to his pedestal at the end shows that they haven't been erased from history or anything. They're still out there, they only assume their greatest work is done since they believe The Doctor to be dead. But should news to the contrary ever reach them, we'll surely see them back again. Even Madame Kovarian may not be gone — as Rory observes, all those events never happened, and he's rather an expert in being killed in alternate timelines.

River's tale is not yet over - While we may have seen her story come to a dramatic close, it's not finished. There are still endless tales that can be told with them and their assorted escapes and escapades, but the important one that has yet to occur is when they go to Darillium, he actually tells her his name, and gives her the sonic screwdriver that she carries in her last meeting with him in The Library. Also, note that in "Silence in the Library"/"Forest of the Dead," there's no mention of her incarceration — was it simply never mentioned, was is not a life sentence, or by that point in time was she found retroactively not guilty due to The Doctor being alive?

More with Canton Delaware? - For a person he only met once to become a trusted enough friend to ask for help at the time of his death is an interesting situation. True, at that time he was about the only American he knew that was around at that period of time, but more likely he was merely setting up the dominoes so the events of the rest of the adventure (and indeed the whole season) would occur. Still, the tone in Canton the Elder's voice as he sees everyone suggests they may have met more than once. I wouldn't mind that. Also, It would please me to hear that he finally did get married after all those years.

NEXT TIME ON DOCTOR WHO -

As is true of any end of the season, a bit of a question. The next adventure game The Gunpowder Plot drops imminently, and the Christmas episode is filming now, featuring a number of World Famous In England comedians like Bill Bailey and Alexander Amrstrong (a.k.a. the voice the Mister Smith on Sarah Jane Adventures). Karen has said in a couple places that she is coming back next season, but in honesty, Amy and Rory's story seems to have come to a logical conclusion here, so bringing them back might not be the best move to carry the show forward. It's been  announced that next year's series won't start until the fall, so odds are filming for it won't start until late spring/early summer. We might see 13 episodes run straight through until Christmas next year, but more likely we'll see another split season, starting in the fall, the Christmas episode in between, and ending in spring of 2013. 

And 2013, in case your watch is stuck on 5:02, will be the 50th anniversary of the series. Moffat has promised something is in the planning, but obviously won't say what.

Vinnie Bartilucci was actually at a wedding yesterday, and didn't the River Song jokes blow thick and fast, in between Godfather references. His blog The Forty Year-Old Fanboy is probably where he'll start running his Inspector Spacetime recaps. He has been Tumblring of late as well.

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