Doctor Who #893: The Wedding or River Song

"I don't want to marry you." "I don't want to murder you."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Oct.1 2011.

IN THIS ONE... History all smushed together because River doesn't kill the Doctor.

REVIEW: The "Previously" trailer pretty much blows the surprise - the Doctor gets out of his impending death no with Flesh, but with the Teselecta - but Moffat more or less succeeds in making you forget the solution after you've figured it out, just as he did with the Melody/River reveal earlier in the season. Either fix would have worked, of course. It's a good use of the "observer effect" in time travel, that is to say that only events witnessed by time travelers have any staying power, but you can always screw with the witnesses. It's a good reason for the Doctor not to stick around anywhere because that would limit his options. Those who have been craving destructive consequences to the Moffat-Doc's paradox shenanigans à la Father's Day get their wish when River, out of love for the Doctor, changes a fixed point in time (I surmise the number of time travelers present makes it a tangled knot in space-time), but the fixed point isn't the Doctor's death, it's all these people seeing what appears to be his death.

Consequences: All of history is mashed-up together in a way that's complete nonsense and a reason for crazy visuals (cars built by the Montgolfier brothers, Area 52 in a pyramid, etc.), historical guest stars (Churchill, and most delightfully, Dickens), and amusing gags (mostly how modern media and marketing handle historical events). And they throw in some insane stuff from before the implosion, like Live Chess, cannibal skulls and Dorium still living as a disembodied head. It's what I call the kitchen sink formula (everything AND the kitchen sink), and while I have major issues with this approach in future episodes, here Moffat just about gets away with it. It's really just another take on the universal collapse shown in The Big Bang, and a backdrop for the real story. And like so much of the season, that story is love. Principally, it's the love affair between the Doctor and River. She destroys reality to save him, which isn't too viable, but she says she needed him to see how much people loved him before he went. That he rejects this is another step away from the RTD Whoniverse, and a return to a certain measure of anonymity can only do the series good (spoiler: they don't go far enough with it). We finally see their wedding (or a wedding of sorts that can count or not, because nothing is ever easy to explain with this couple), and it's really an excuse to let River in on the secret and secure the universe's safety and his own, but he loves her too, and though she'll spend her days in a prison because of these events, she'll apparently spend all her nights with him.

And of course there's Amy and Rory, who don't recognize each other in this new reality, but are destined to be together. Rory has just been going from awesome to awesomer across Series 6, and his determination and courage in Wedding is what makes Amy finally clue in. She's fierce and more River-like in this reality, and I think it's particularly interesting that not only does she now have the memories for three distinct lives swimming around in her head, she also remembers, and feels guilt for, killing Madame Kovarian, the woman who took her baby. Amy is badass in this reality, but "badass" is not always (perhaps rarely) the Doctor's way. Still, love the rapprochement with River. They're a fiery mother-daughter team. Her quick recap of what's happening to a befuddled Rory is still the laugh-out-loud moment of the episode. And there's another love letter here, to Nicholas Courtney who played the Brigadier. He passed away some months before broadcast and the Doctor calls his character too late. It's a touching moment for old-time fans, but fits in perfectly with the mix of funereal and celebratory elements in the episode. Obviously, the Doctor doesn't die, though it's perhaps a secret he can't keep for long, not with River spilling the beans to mum and dad, and information merchant Dorium knowing too. We now head off into another prophecy-laden arc, blablabla, perhaps necessary to keep the flame going during hiatus months, waiting for the next Christmas special or series. Hopefully viewers were talking about the possibilities, and not how cheeky the whole "Doctor whooooo?" (followed by Matt Smith smiling into camera) was.

A prologue scene on the DVD teases the Silents and River with an eyepatch. Nothing too important.

SECOND OPINIONS: My original review, Cloister/Wedding Bells, looks at all this and more. It's my last such review, because I soon started doing the dailies.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - All sorts of craziness and eye candy, but the it's a satisfying time travel paradox story, which uses the four main characters well. Fun, but also emotional.


Martin Gray said...

Great review, but by this point I was so sick of River and the super-convoluted storylines it was untrue, it seemed like fan service (not my preferred term!) to the max. I'm assured kids didn't have any problems keeping things straight, but I simply longed for linear stories that didn't go on for seemingly ever. I suppose the episodes reward a second and third viewing, but I just wasn't inclined, being mainly irritated by them the first time out.

Hopefully the next series will bring a change of emphasis.

It's surprising that Moffat's tenure as showrunner is so not my cup of tea, given I loved the clever, labyrinthine plotting of Press Gang and sharp farce of Coupling.

Siskoid said...

I think watching Doctor Who every day is a very different experience than watching it one a week for 7 weeks, then waiting around for the next cycle. Patience just isn't factored in the same way.

I've never been bothered by River specifically, though I did find Moffat was playing too long a game, which is what made Night of the Doctor less than satisfying for me. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

I'd rather have an arc that's fairly well contained within a single series and not spread over an entire producer's run. The stand-alone stories age much better, though I realize arc episodes are needed to keep the level of interest up out there in the world.

Moffat's approach gets really strained in the first part of Series 7, then things get better with Clara's arrival and the 50th Anniversary special, but the chickens come to roost in Night.

I'm a fan of Coupling too, but I've never seen Press Gang. I wonder if it's at available in Region 1.

Peder said...

How wonderful would a Coupling/Dr Who crossover be? Just think of how useful the Tardis's universal translator would be to Jeff!

Siskoid said...

Hahaha. Nice idea for one of those Comic Relief things!

Andrew Gilbertson said...

"That he rejects this is another step away from the RTD Whoniverse, and a return to a certain measure of anonymity can only do the series good (spoiler: they don't go far enough with it)."
Yes, exactly! I was so excited about this new direction, and Assylum of the Daleks' major step in continuing that... but then Time of the Doctor went and undid it just to have a big showdown with the Daleks. Once again, really clumsy last-minute shoe-horning stepping on years of story. Probably sounding luike a broken record, but it really annoys me how much potential they ruined just to have things go a certain way in that special.

I can only hope that- somehow- knowledge of the Doctor from time fo the Doctor died with that Dalek saucer, and with Smith having done the setup, Capaldi can take advantage of this premise. It's a ridiculously-wasted opportunity otherwise.

The Brig tribute was great- and deserved; I like that it's what prompts the Doctor to stop running.

And the "Doctor Who?" ending (I'm thick- I didn't see it coming) was actually pretty clever and amazing at the time. I thought it was fun- though it very quickly grew to grate. If they'd only used it here, it might've worked.


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