‘The Wedding of River Song,’ by Steven Moffat, brings an excellent season to a close. Sharing many similarities with ‘A Good Man Goes To War’ we get a break neck tour of the universe with a host of returning faces.
There were so many great concepts here, not least of which was the framing device of the Doctor relating to Winston Churchill just why all of time was happening simultaneously. The outlandishness of everything he related was tempered by the suspicion that the Doctor could very well have been exaggerating.
Life or death chess matches, hungry skulls and living decapitated heads were elements taken straight from the most fantastical pulp fiction. It was a great way to hit the ground running, showing us the adventures the Doctor lives and a feel for why he’d never want to give it up.
It is to the credit of the production team that the vision of a collapsing point in time was brought to the screen so well, quickly communicating how the different historical periods were rubbing shoulders.
Simon Callow’s brief return as Charles Dickens, being interviewed on the BBC’s morning show, was a nice surprise. Like the other returning characters they felt like a treat rather than an indulgence.
It was pleasing that Nicolas Courtney’s passing was acknowledged with the Doctor receiving the sad news that the Brigadier had passed away. The loss was important to the plot, reminding the Doctor that while he might not age time was still capable of touching him.
The interruptions to the Doctor’s tale showed why the Silence are a great introduction to the Doctor’s gallery of adversaries. The dawning realisation, both for the viewer and the characters, why they suddenly have weapons to hand and tally marks on their hands, demonstrated the fear a creature that you can’t remember creates.
Amy and Rory’s return wasn’t unexpected but didn’t undercut their departure in ‘The God Complex’. Here they’re involved because everyone’s involved. Of course the girl who wished the Doctor back into existence would remember him.
Their entire relationship was encapsulated in a single episode. Amy, unable to see the man she loved right in front of her face and Rory, the man who would die time and time again for the woman he loved.
It was rather apt that it was a train that carried the Doctor to Area 52, since the whole story was about the Doctor being on a path he couldn’t diverge from. Reunited with River Song he quickly ends up in handcuffs again.
Here even River Song doesn’t know what her relationship with the Doctor is. Was she the woman who was fated to murder or marry him? All she knew was that she loved him, that she would let all of reality crumble just so he’d know that.
The Doctor’s anger at this predicament neatly reflected the conflict he always has with those who are close to him. He has spent so long protecting the universe but people demonstrate their love by putting it in danger for him.
The big question here was how the Doctor was going avoid the fate we’d seen in ‘The Impossible Astronaut’. Just as I almost believe the Doctor would die in ‘Let’s Kill Hitler’ I almost believed we’d seen him accept his death.
The reveal by River Song, ‘Spoilers’, that he’d used the Teselecta to only create the appearance of his death to satisfy the fixed point in time, was predictable but well executed.
Many had suspected that the Doctor would fake his death and indeed ‘The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People” introduced us to a ganger who would have been perfect to step into his shoes.
None the less, escaping from certain death is what the Doctor does. Moffat can hardly be criticised for the deceit within the story, we’d been told time and time again that the Doctor lies and we’d already learnt that River does as well.
It was delightful to see Amy and Rory dancing with joy with their daughter at the news that the Doctor was alive. The tragedy that River Song is falsely imprisoned for killing Doctor, in order to maintain the illusion, is softened by the knowledge that the Doctor helps his wife slip away when needed.
It remains to be seen if the status quo is truly changed and the Doctor will now step back into the shadows but I believe this is where we have been heading since he learnt that armies are raised against him.
I couldn’t be happier for this shift, indeed I wrote a series of articles about that very thing. Amy and Rory have had their resolution and I’d like to see the Doctor trying to keep a lower profile, with the occasional visit from his wife.
Steven Moffat had set himself a big challenge with this season and while it doesn’t feel like the end of the story it did feel like the end of a chapter. What is remarkable is that he managed to provide us with so much content, in such a short space of time without making it feel rushed.
The touches of humour worked well, especially the scene in which the Doctor fails to notice all of Amy’s drawings and model TARDIS’s as he tries to explain they were once travelling companions.
The mass jail break of the Silence was effective, creating ‘edge of your seat’ tension as they cracked their cells glass walls. The placement of Rory, caught up amongst the ever advancing horde, only increased our expectation that he was going to die again.
The performances were excellent from everyone, with Matt Smith carrying the biggest burden. The Doctor went through so much, facing his imminent death then suffering the guilt that his life would destroy time to the giddy delight that he’d tricked everyone.
Sure there are still unanswered questions but I enjoy that. The Doctor’s future is still waiting for him and it apparently terrified the Silence so much that they wrapped time in knots to stop it happening. I can’t wait to find out why.
What is important is the big question has been answered. We now know the question that would cause silence to fall.