Thoughts on Doctor Who Series 6 Finale The Wedding of River Song

by Amy Yen

“I got too big, Dorium. Too noisy. Time to step back into the shadows.”

It’s because of that line I can’t completely dislike “The Wedding of River Song,” the series 6 finale of Doctor Who. It’s the same thing I liked about “A Good Man Goes to War,” although that story was infinitely more satisfying. It’s gotten increasingly uncomfortable, in Steven Moffat’s Who, that the Doctor is so universally known, so feared & more disturbingly, that he doesn’t mind it. Like I’ve said before, it’s fun to watch Matt Smith show off, to yell at the skies, “Remember every black day I ever stopped you!” But that isn’t the Doctor, not really. And so, it’s nice to see him realize that.

It’s also fitting that it’s River calls him out that first time, that she realizes it too. I liked the way the wedding played out, the meta nods to the endless speculation about who River Song was. “The woman who marries him or the woman who kills him.” Although, honestly, it’s still a little off to have the Doctor, so long removed from all romantic entanglements, be so overtly committed. And anyway, I always found the fun in the Doctor & River’s interaction to be more in the mystery & promise than the melodrama (“I can’t let you die without knowing by so many & so much, and none more than me”).

A lot of my dissatisfaction with the episode comes from the solution to the Doctor’s death. There was a lot of speculation that it would turn out to be a flesh Doctor & when the Teselecta reappeared early in this episode, I even momentarily thought this might be what it was, but I think maybe I was expecting, or hoping, for something just a little more clever than that from Moffat. It seemed like the easy way out. Maybe that’s unfair. But I also think if that was the solution all along, they should have planted more clues. When we saw the Teselecta Amy in “Let’s Kill Hitler,” the robot clearly didn’t act like Amy. It acted like a robot. But when we see the Doctor through this episode &, even more significantly, in “The Impossible Astronaut,” he is clearly acting like the Doctor. Even in the tiny nuances & the moments where no one else is looking, it’s clearly the Doctor. I mean, we’re talking a straight-up legit looking beginning of a regeneration. Could the Teselecta really be that good, even with the Doctor inside? In a way, it would actually make more sense if it had been a flesh Doctor, since at least then it’s already been established the flesh is basically just like the real thing.

Finally, we get the Question, the oldest question in the universe, hiding in plain sight. “Doctor Who?” Yeah, I don’t understand. I mean, I get it, it’s obviously the question. What else could it be? But how it is oldest question? Obviously the Doctor is old, but the universe is much older, so how can the oldest question possibly be related only to him? And why will silence fall if it’s answered? I’m guessing the whole “fall of the Eleventh” thing means we won’t get the answer until Matt Smith turns in his bow tie.

More random thoughts on “The Wedding of River Song”:

  • So I guess we do still have to see the Doctor tell River his name, otherwise what did she tell Ten in “Forest of the Dead“? I was trying to think if it would make sense for River to tell him that she knew he didn’t die at Lake Silencio, but it hadn’t happened to the Doctor yet. Plus, we still have to see him give her the screwdriver, so we know this isn’t the last we’ll see of River.
  • Cute callbacks to Rose Tyler & Jack Harkness in this episode, but the loveliest moment is the nod to Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart, as a goodbye to Nicholas Courtney.
  • “I’m his wife.” “And I’m his…mother-in-law.” HA!
  • “And Doctor Song? Imprisoned all her days?” “Her days, yes. Her nights, well. That’s between her & me, eh?” I can’t tell you how much I want to see about 3-6 more episodes about the Doctor coming to whisk River away from the stormcage to go on random adventures together. I wonder how many of these we were cheated out of seeing in the 200 years between “The God Complex” & “Closing Time.”
  • I would totally go to a live chess tournament.
  • “I can remember it. So it happened. So I did it.” On one hand, I’ve never been a big fan of the unwritten timeline, when something is solved by making it so that it never happened. But I like that the show doesn’t usually ignore that the characters are still affected by it, even when it technically didn’t happen. Like Martha & the Year That Never Was, or Rory’s 2000 years as the Lone Centurian. Amy would feel conflicted about Madame Kovarian, even if it was an awesome move. I also like that it calls back to River killing the Dalek in “The Big Bang.” “River Song didn’t get it all from you, sweetie.”
  • So, the Doctor really did send those envelopes just so he wouldn’t die alone? That’s kind of messed up. Or is it just because of the time paradox that exists because the Doctor knows he & the others receive the envelopes so he knows later on that he has to send them?
  • I love the idea of River visiting her parents after her adventures (although, didn’t she go straight back to jail after the Byzantium? not that that’s stopped her before). River says explicitly to Amy this episode that she has had to pretend she didn’t know she was her mother, that she didn’t recognize the spacesuit. But all that still feels like lazy retcon for the lack of continuality. Supposedly Steven Moffat told Alex Kingston who River was long before anyone else. If they knew, I don’t really see what the excuse was not to plant more clues earlier on. Or maybe Moffat should tell more people what the plan is so they don’t have to retroactively explain things away. Just saying.
  • “You took my baby from me & hurt her. And now she’s all grown up & she’s fine. But I’ll never see my baby again.” Well. I guess that answers that question. On one hand, it’s not like I was ever clamoring to have a baby on board the TARDIS. That would have seriously put a clamp on all the life-risking adventures. On the other hand, I remain completely underwhelmed by the lack of exploration they’ve done on how losing their baby affected Amy & Rory emotionally. Besides “Let’s Kill Hitler,” they’ve basically acted like they’re totally cool with the fact that they were robbed out of raising their child (& “raising” Mels doesn’t count, come on). I think it’s one of the big failures of this series.
  • I’ve read several reviews that suggest most people liked the finale more than I did, but I want to point out this one from io9, which does a particularly excellent job of laying out the major flaws in River Song’s story, including many disturbing bits from this episode that I’d somehow forgotten about. (“You embarrass me.” I can’t believe that was a real line of dialogue.) It also has an interesting analysis of how Moffat plays with time & where the whole Question storyline might be going. Highly recommended read.
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