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Monday, 3 October 2011

The Wedding Of River Song

"An impossible astronaut will rise from the deep and strike the Time Lord dead f**k time up completely!"
 - Madame Kovarian (sort of).

So there we have it! River and the Doctor are wed. The Doctor is presumed dead and now he can step back into the shadows and continue his adventures without drawing too much attention to himself. That could come in handy - I wonder if it'll be enough to escape his believed fate at Trenzelore? The Wedding Of River Song was, if not a perfect ending to a complex and suspenseful series, then as near perfect as we were ever likely to get, in my opinion.

I shan't even attempt to summarise the episode - it felt like about six episodes in all, a story worthy of a two parter, if ever there was one! It's almost a shame it was just a standard-length offering. But there were scenes in this one that made up for all of it's (some may say many) little quibbly bits - not least the very opening scene after the recap, showing a "London unrecognisable".

This was a London in a world inhabited by alternatives of all our favourites: Winston Churchill is Holy Roman Emperor, the Silurian Malohkeh is his physician and Pterodactyls attack children in Hyde Park. It's a world where all of history is happening in the same moment - 5:02pm, April 22nd 2011 - and there's a Soothsayer in the tower.

Beautifully realised, this "alternative time line", created when River (in the space suit at the lake) doesn't kill the Doctor - an event that is a fixed point in time and so must happen in order to keep time from splintering - threw me into a world I wish we could see more of. Amy and Rory's alternative selves (eye drive'd up) were incredible - still themselves, but SO much more "kick ass".

And that's the best way to describe this entire wonderful episode: totally kick ass. I hate the phrase, but it fits. This was an exciting, satisfying, enjoyable mess of an episode that kept me hooked from the second it began. And I loved every second thereafter.

Story-wise, this was a busy one, on the surface at least. But scrape that surface away and there's very little to have to actually follow. The Doctor must die. River stops this happening and time goes wrong. To put it right the "poles" of this problem have to meet, allowing time to continue and the murder to happen as it must. So, all it takes for the world to be set to rights would be for the Doctor and River to touch long enough for her to kill him on the banks of Lake Silencio - since this is an episode about a wedding, was there any doubt as to what this "prolonged contact" would end up being? Mwah!

Now, us nerds on Gallifrey Base guessed a lot of the resolutions here; the fact that River is in the suit, what the eye patches were for, how the Doctor would (of course) escape his demise. Ah! Now there's a can of worms! Allow me to open that for you... The Tesselecta, a time travelling robot, staffed by a miniaturised crew, that is able to take the form of any person, duplicates the Doctor and "dies" in his place - allowing our Doctor to hide safely within, ready to continue his adventures (quietly) from now until forever. It was either going to be that, a Ganger Doctor or a totally aborted time line, a la The Girl Who Waited. I hoped it wouldn't be the outcome it was, but the way it was handled actually pleased me no end!

All in all, The Wedding Of River Song was a mad, busy, breathless race through a big pyramid, gently tying up many of the questions we've been seeking answers for these past two years. And it sort of ties them up well, to be honest, though there will obviously be those who disagree. 

I was hugely satisfied with the episode and, despite expecting to, did not feel cheated with the outcome at all. The conclusion, the Doctor and River's "wedding", the whole situation - they were all handled in such a way that they weren't quite what we were expecting, but weren't far off, allowing us to feel a bit clever ("I sort of guessed the outcome") but keeping us off guard enough for it to surprise and entertain ("I only sort of guessed..."). I've watched it a bunch of times already and think this is one that gets better with every viewing.

So now, we're almost clear of questions. The ones that remain (it's easier to list these than list the many answered) are clearly going to carry us toward the Eleventh Doctor's end. As Dorium Maldovar's head said, a question will be asked on the Fields of Trenzelore - where no untruth can be spoken - and the answer will devastate. It's vague, yes. I don't think we've seen the last of the Silence. I don't think we're done with this tale yet. I don't think the Doctor faking his death will stop him running about saving the universe at all. And I don't think we'll ever hear an answer to the oldest question, hidden in plain sight: Doctor Who?