"When you love the Doctor, it's like loving the stars themselves. You don't expect a sunset to admire you back. And if I happen to find myself in danger, let me tell you, the Doctor is not stupid enough, or sentimental enough, and he is certainly not in love enough to find himself standing in it with me!"
IN THIS ONE... The 12th Doctor meets River Song, but she doesn't recognize him.
REVIEW: I don't have a whole lot of use of the bouncy headless robot comedy that makes up the first two acts of this, Doctor Who's 10th Christmas episode (and yet shorter than Series 9's last two episodes), as it perhaps reminded me too much of the RTD era, but the last act is something truly special. The big joke in this silly caper that co-stars River Song is that River doesn't and can't recognize the 12th Doctor. She doesn't have his face on file, and is working from the notion that Time Lords have regenerative limits, and so no matter how many times he says he's "the Doctor", she'll be too obtuse to really get it, even if you see her be charmed by this "hired surgeon"'s wry wit, and other traits that really should remind her of him. But like a lot of the comedy here, it's all a bit panto, loud and shouty, unconvincing fast talk, body spray that changes your outfit, people not being all that alarmed that their heads have been separated from their bodies, and RTDesque "comedy happy endings" where two people are more than happy to share a robot body and work double shifts, looking terribly out of place in a high-class restaurant. Romp overdrive with forced laughs much of the time. As Graham Chapman would say "Silly, silly, silly, too silly!"
That's not to say it's terrible. The Doctor and River have chemistry and deliver a number of good zingers when they're not forced into "comedy bits". The notion that River occasionally steals the TARDIS for her own purposes without the Doctor even noticing is certainly intriguing. The luxury liner for genocidal maniacs has some fun black comedy. And Moffat unsurprisingly gives us some cool time travel tricks, like exit strategies based on foreknowledge of disasters, and the Doctor's creation of a restaurant in a prime location simply by putting things into motion and skipping ahead. And I think it does a fair job of showing the Doctor River in a different light, though the audience always knew she was this kind of person when the Doctor wasn't around. She's a con artist, and he starts to wonder if he wasn't the victim of a con as well, just another husband for her to "use". And really, though we're given a whirlwind "romance" in 11th Doctor minisodes, this has never been the be-all and end-all of marriages. That's about to change.
The episode takes a sharp turn when River believes the Doctor under threat from the information in her diary, and leaps to his defense, finally admitting that she loves him despite the fact he could never love her back, that he's a force of nature, as unappreciative as a sunset. Only then does he reveal himself. Once all the shouty bits are done, the Doctor creates a restaurant out of the ashes of this adventure and takes River there. This is Darillium, and the Singing Towers were mentioned as their last night together way back in Forest of the Dead (see Theories). The 11th Doctor postponed this date indefinitely, and so it happens here, in front of a sunset that literally sings for onlookers. And the Doctor flips it back on River, with a wet-eyed speech about the Towers' song, but really about her, River SONG. Is he crying? It's just the wind, he tells her, but the same wind that makes the Towers sing, so if he and them are "monoliths", perhaps monoliths are capable of love. Sad that this is at last their final night together, and dreading what comes next, she asks how long nights are on Darillium. 24 years. And the inference is that they spend all of it together as husband and wife. A REAL marriage, happening when the characters are most in sync, only one meeting in his memory and not hers, the final one. And with that, Moffat closes a loop he started over seven years ago when he first introduced us to River.
THEORIES: Forest of the Dead has now been recontextualized. When we thought Doc11 was HER Doctor, and they did have many dates, there was a certain irony to her thinking Doc10 was so "young" in Silence in the Library. But here's her dialog from that first episode, "the last time I saw you - the real you, the future you, I mean - you turned up on my doorstep with a new haircut and a suit. You took me to Darillium to see the Singing Towers. What a night that was. The towers sang and you cried. You wouldn't tell me why, but I suppose you knew it was time. My time. Time to come to the Library. You even gave me your screwdriver. That should have been a clue." And that's clearly this episode, not any kind of unbroadcast adventure in the Matt Smith era. The 12th Doctor doesn't just look older than the 10th, he's got a good 1100 years on him. And hey, nothing says they have to stay on Darillium continuously during that "last night", and may have had adventures around the universe that have yet to be told, especially now that Big Finish is doing River Song audio stories...
REWATCHABILITY: Medium, but last sequence is a High - Just silliness until River admits she loves the Doctor, and a lot of precious moments from them on.