“The Wedding of River Song” – Review: Redux

Dorium “The first question! The question that must never be answered; hidden in plain sight. The question you’ve been running from all your life. Doctor, who? Doctor, who? Doctor, who?”

The Wedding of River Song

And so, we arrive at the end of Series Six. When Sir Steven of the Moffat took over the reins of the show from RTD, he must, one suspects, have had a plan of what he wanted to do with it. Piecing together the puzzle of interviews, comments and a miscellany of reported news, it is fairly easy to surmise that the  kind of show he wanted was a fantasy, fairy-tale-esque type affair with some fresh ideas and interesting character developments for the main protagonists. Quite whether “The Wedding of River Song” is exactly how he envisaged his second year concluding is open to some question. My guess is that the writing, which The Moff confesses is always pretty last minute, has no more than the vague semblance of a skeleton, perhaps no more than the fossilised remains of one of those early hominids that they dig up in Ethiopia where they fill in the missing bits of a skeleton with what can only be described as a best guess, and the rest is up to panic of last minute deadlines. That’s the impression he likes to give, at any rate.

Perhaps that is why, at the start of this finale that we see a recap of various spurious elements from the last dozen eps. Intriguingly, this includes a fairly blatant summation of the nature of the Tesselecta, giving a clue to anyone watching that we’re not quite done with this particular ‘alien’ following their appearance in “Let’s Kill Hitler”. From there we are taken on a scene that is strongly reminiscent of the opening to the Series Five finale, when characters from the preceding stories are trotted out again for cameo appearances. Most surprising here was an appearance of Simon Callow, in full Charles Dickens mode chatting to the hosts of BBC Breakfast, who was last seen in all the way back in Series One. All of time, in case you hadn’t guessed, is happening at once. In fact, it’s happening at 5:02pm on 22nd April 2011, and I think we all know that that is the moment when the astronaut (River) kills the good doctor at Lake Silencio. It’s quite a clever little plot device to have the Doctor, in the role of sooth-sayer to Churchill’s Roman Empire, replete with ridiculously unrealistic beard, recounting the story of how this reality came to exist by virtue of explanation of many of those dangling plot threads.

The overly convoluted plot that runs throughout what is effectively a five-part story: “The Impossible Astronaut” > “The Day of the Moon” > “A Good Man Goes to War” > “Let’s Kill Hitler” > “The Wedding of River Song” is almost too intricate to bother trying to lay out here in anything approaching a cohesive form. Suffice to say, that it does make some kind of sense, that any plotting inadequacies can be easily explained away with a little creative thinking, and that everything is thoroughly entertaining, if you’re prepared, in the words of the Beatles, to switch off your mind, relax and float upstream. If you’re not, this is really going to raise your heckles.

Matt Smith’s beautifully gurning face is a delight as he works his way through the story; somehow successfully pulling off portrayal of a Time Lord for whom an awful long time has passed between the two versions seen in “The Impossible Astronaut”. There are some lovely scenes in here too. When the Doctor takes the head of Dorium Maldovar in to the TARDIS and explains that he has the whole of time and space to explore before he absolutely has to head to Lake Silencio, only to give The Brigadier a call to find that he has passed away, thus giving him the acceptance that he must face his fate, it was a lovely lump in the throat moment. As we head to Area 52, the American owned pyramid in which a small band of people who are actually aware of the whole time being broken thing, are working on a solution and also holding a whole host of the Silence hostage in fluid filled tanks, then we get the final acts of the series played out. There’s a whole lot of guff about eye-drives, and sending messages to people beyond the effects of the broken time shenanigans, but while one question remains for the Doctor by the end of it (“Doctor, Who?”), there is also one question for the viewer: does the energy and pace and love that clearly goes in to every episode, compensate for the head-scratchingly peculiar plot and the use of another reset button for one version of reality that we were, minutes earlier, being asked to care about?

Highlight: Some answers

Lowlight: Matt Smith’s beard

Talking Point: Are you looking forward to less arc and more standalone episodes?

Demon’s Run Rating: 12 out 20

Original BBC1 Broadcast: 1st October 2011

Marathon Status: Just two Christmas specials and the two parts of Series Seven to go

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