Review: Doctor Who – 6×13 – The Wedding of River Song

The end of the season.

In the UK: Saturday 1st October, 7.15pm, BBC1/BBC1 HD. Available on the iPlayer
In the US: Saturday 1st October, 9pm/8c ET/PT, BBC America

Erm, yes. Another crazy bit of Stevieness. How does he stop himself from going mad with thoughts like that?

I largely enjoyed that one. Full of fun moments. Good to see quite a big chunk of questions answered – River’s timeline, how the Doctor avoids dying, what’s up with the eyepatches – as well as a few new ones asked, such as Doctor Who? Could have done with knowing why the TARDIS blew up at the end of last season, but maybe we’ll find out next year. The Silence were a little under-powered. Rory was a bit of a letdown. The Doctor’s escape clause felt like a bit of a cheat. But pretty enjoyable and the tribute to Nicholas Courtney was tear-jerking.

But it didn’t feel like a season finale, if you know what I mean. There was spectacle but no real sense of danger or of energy. Perhaps the supposed inevitability of it all robbed the story of that energy, since it felt like it was walking to its doom, Sydney Carton style. And putting out a message to the universe saying "Come help the Doctor" and getting a series of polite responses in return did rob the story of a potential bit of fun.

On the whole, in fact, a slightly less impressive two-part season than Stevie’s first. Amy was a shadow of her former self. A lot of the non-Stevie episodes felt like filler. Maybe a little too complicated for its own good and not as emotional or grounded as Rusty’s era, either. But Matt Smith’s very good, isn’t he?

On the whole, in fact, Doctor Who is starting to feel "interesting" in the same way as a puzzle rather than as drama. For me, it’s hard to feel enthusiasm for it, rather than waiting for another piece of the puzzle to be added to the mix. Not so much fun as homework, if you see what I mean. And a lot of the time, I’m not sure I desperately want to know the answers to the questions being asked. The Silence need to be a bit more threatening if they’re going to be a big bad. The companion(s), if they go through danger, need to change rather than be reset as a result of their adventures.

Although I won’t miss the complete absence of logic and sensible plotting from the Rusty era, he did at least know how to make you care about the companions and the Doctor and the current run is a little too distant from them at the moment.

But what do you think?

  • I didn’t care much more about the companions during RTD’s era, and I often got terribly annoyed at the EVERYTHING! BIGGER! AGAIN! plot every sodding series. It strikes me that Moffat has done two things with his finales:
    1. Reboot the Who universe, to eradicate the massive alien invasions and ground the series a little more.
    2. Remove the legend, to return the Doctor to being a nutcase who explores the universe, not a god.
    And I like the puzzles. I like not knowing everything and seeing the series build to a conclusion. It’s certainly a lot more interesting that welding a phrase to every episode and then revealing gleefully “BAD WOLF! Don’t you see? It all makes sense! No, really!”

  • Robin Parker

    Enjoyed it hugely but maybe should have been a 2 parter. Maybe with Rebel Flesh/Almost People as a single.

  • Mark Carroll

    Interesting. I like your points (1) and (2), with luck you’re right.
    I wasn’t as impressed with the puzzle resolution as with the Pandorica two-parter. Indeed, while I like a core part of the resolution and, given the Hitler episode, should have seen that aspect coming, I don’t feel wholly de-confused now.
    It’s nice to now know what the eyepatches are about though.

  • Electric Dragon

    I loved the complete insanity of the first few minutes, the anachronism stew of Emperor Churchill, the cars carried by hot air balloons while Dickens chats to Bill and Sian about his Christmas special…
    And the scene at the end where River and Amy have a bit of a natter in the garden over a glass of wine made them feel like a real family. Albeit a weird timey-wimey family.
    I think actually it’s a good thing that we don’t get all the answers (or for each answer we get, there’s another question) – it shows that Moff is thinking further than just the next series. (The last question? Doctor Who? Has Moff been getting ideas from the Cartmel Masterplan?)
    I also suspect the idea of resetting the Doctor to be smaller scale and operating in the shadows (if that’s what happens) is also a way of coping with reduced budgets.
    Also, Amy in that suit and eyepatch – I had to fan the smoke off my TV.

  • I got to the end and spontaneously applauded: did the same again when I watched the repeat Sunday night (which was when I indulged in the Confidential full length ep as well).
    So from my perspective: a win. Yes, it lacked a certain something that last year’s two-part finale had (finale-ness? that should be a word). But nevertheless, I had no problem keeping up or caring and though I really should have seen a lot of stuff coming, I didn’t. So bravo.
    I think some of the loss of momentum may be down to these short seasons: I think you need a long run of eps to make something like this work. A shame but that’s how it is and the BBC budget isn’t gonna make that any different for the foreseeable future.

  • Tim

    There was a bit of an Empire Strikes Back feel to the ending – clearly there is (at least) one more leg still to come next year. Having said that, I liked it a lot. It definitely improves on second viewing, as some of the subtleties in the arc that I had missed first time around became apparent: the Doctor and River are both wearing ‘suits’ at Lake Silencio, Melody used a kiss to ‘kill’ the Doctor but here it is used to save time as love conquers all again (echoes of Night Terrors and Closing Time), and Amy being willing to kill to protect those closest to her (as she did in The Impossible Astronaut).
    Yes, it was complex (maybe too much so) and confusing and was at times a bit hard to follow (but not really THAT hard), but then this was also challenging and above all entertaining TV. It’s not the sort of episode you forget in a hurry, which can only be a good thing.
    I’ve cobbled together some thoughts looking back at the entire season, if anyone is interested:

  • JR

    I was rather disappointed with the finale.
    I was thinking of what Craig said and agreed at first, but the more I thought about it the more I didn’t agree. For that first point on grounding the series, it depends on what you mean by grounding. Yes, there is far less alien invasions if any in Moffat’s run but I wouldn’t say that they are toned down in any way and more likely grown in comparison. The Davies years always seemed to end on some kind of invasion of earth where Moffat’s end with the end of the entire universe. Cracks throughout the entire universe and time dying and taking everything with it.
    As for the Doctor being less of a God-like figure I’d need examples because he has always been similar to this to me since 9s run. He always seemed to be doing everything just because it sounded cool and interesting and was successful for whatever reason because he is the Doctor. I don’t see how removing the legend is going to change what he does. He’s still going to try to help people and do fun things.

  • Stu

    JR: you’re right about the escalating threats in the finales, but the approach is rather different. Davies’ finales centred around Earth being invaded and/or reality threatened by a monster or villain who had to be defeated. Moff is less interested in monsters (some of his best stories in Who are about unexpected consequences of tech gone wrong) and his threats are about glitches with the nature of time which have to be fixed. I prefer it, although Rusty is closer to the original spirit of Who. Moff is edging it towards the more abstract realm of Sapphire & Steel.

  • SK

    Is this the ‘original spirit of Who’ where the Daleks were resisted because ‘bug-eyed monsters’ were emphatically not what the programme was supposed to be about, while surreal, odd* episodes about stabbing people with scissors because the spring broke in a switch are par for the course?
    * and to honest, a little bit boring — gasp! heresy!

  • Stu

    Well, seeing as the Daleks were resisted for about 30 seconds, yes, pretty much!

  • CHF

    ” And putting out a message to the universe saying “Come help the Doctor” and getting a series of polite responses in return did rob the story of a potential bit of fun.”
    But surely that was the reason “Doctor who?” was the oldest question in the Universe: it travelled back before anyone had ever heard of him, and provoked the obvious response!

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