The Husbands of River Song Review

(69 comments)

An effective holiday farce that serves as a fitting end to the story of River Song. It’s not much more than that, but it makes no claim to be, and you can hardly fault a Christmas special for its froth. So, all told, good episode.

What really jumps out, though, is an idle comment Moffat made about writing it with the knowledge that it could be his last Doctor Who. He walked it back in a later interview, saying that he thinks that every Christmas, but it’s hard not to notice the lack of any forward-looking elements in the last few stories. This is the first time in ages a season has ended with essentially no lingering plot threads. Clara is sorted and departed, Gallifrey is found, the Hybrid is presumably dealt with. And with The Husbands of River Song we get a story that seeks active closure on River’s story, in a way not even Name of the Doctor did. It’s not that there’s no possibility of further stories, although at this point they’d have to take place post-Silence in the Library. And we still don’t actually know the circumstances under which the Doctor could tell River his name. But we’ve seen them live happily ever after, an explicit accepting of endings.

Obviously the reality is that Moffat’s not going. And I’m certainly not unhappy about that, although I wouldn’t have been unhappy had he gone either (unlike last year). But there’s a mindfulness to the possibility of this being an ending - a clear sense that Moffat made sure he’d be happy with this as an ending, as opposed to just knowing it theoretically might be.

So unsurprisingly, if he’s going to maybe go out on Christmas, Moffat does farce. Which is his most elemental state as a writer. His puzzle boxes and mysteries have always, in key ways, been farces with the jokes taken out, or, as in Let’s Kill Hitler, with the jokes left in. And he’s very good at it - probably the single greatest practitioner of it over the last quarter-century of television. All of this is on ready display here, with a wealth of well-executed comedic set pieces about River not realizing who the Doctor is. The “bigger on the inside” sequence is probably the funniest single one, although I think my favorite bit of farce is the “oshit the worship the guy who’s head we have in a bag” moment.

But the result is an episode that’s a bit lopsided; much as I loved that bit, almost everything after they land on the spaceship left me impatient for River to figure it out already. It wasn’t quite to the point of being bored - that’s more a Sleep No More or Before the Flood sort of problem - but it was definitely more than the Doctor and River doing a “she doesn’t know who he is” farce while being chased by a generic robot can strictly speaking sustain.

And then of course there’s the end, which is wonderful and perfect. The detail that gets me, unsurprisingly, is the Doctor consciously hoosing to finally take her to the singing towers. It’s a very Twelfth Doctor thing to do, but also something that feels like it comes out of the season we’ve just watched, which otherwise isn’t really something that happens here. And on the other hand, I quite like the idea that the Doctor will have, at a minimum, spent twenty-four years living with River on Darillium when next we see him.

What holds it together, though, is that Capaldi and Kingston are just good together. Capaldi has not been entirely well-served by the efforts to give him outright comedy episodes thus far (which is different from saying he’s not been well-served by the comedy bits), but this works for him. The trick, I think, is that it’s really played as an episode of River Song, with Alex Kingston serving as the main hero (which is nice, as despite that always having been the premise of River she’s never actually gotten to do it) and Capaldi misbehaving in the margins. It’s reliably funny and charming, and its quality is a lot of why the episode gets away with overstretching its plot so much.

But by and large, a simple little story that exists as the dessert course after the epic crescendo of Series 9, and a good way to end it that could have worked to end much more. Roll on Sherlock.

  • We will be doing the whole review/podcast thing for The Abominable Bride, incidentally, so the party’s not quite over yet. (Though I’ll probably be quite late in the day with that.)
  • The secret TARDIS liquor cabinet, in addition to being really funny, suggests River adventures during the Eleven/Clara era. Which you always kind of figured, but makes the fact that Clara never met her a bit weirder.
  • This feels like it plays up the amorality of River more than some episodes, less with her plan to kill Hydroflax than with her disregard for where the diamond ends up and her evident chumminess with genocidal rich people. The fact that River is less straightforwardly a “good guy” than the Doctor has always been part of the character, but it seems much more central here.
  • The reference to “First Night/Last Night” is an interesting moment of a DVD minisode getting directly mentioned. Nominally they, like Big Finish and the EDAs, should be verboten due to an obscure rule forbidding the BBC from requiring anyone to buy merchandise to understand an episode. So this is sort of a modern day equivalent of when a Dalek cheekily shows up anyway in one of the New Adventures.
  • I obviously quite like that the Doctor blows up the evil robot with the madness that is capitalism. Also the refusal to bow.
  • How many drafts do you think the phrase “subterranean wind effect” survived through before finally getting cut from the singing towers bit?
  • For all that the big farce aspects of it made it a more sensible tonal match for Christmas than, say, The End of Time Part One or Time of the Doctor, this may be the most half-assed shoehorning of Christmas into the Christmas special to date. I think the best part is the “our next reservation is on Christmas” line. Actually, I have questions about Christmas on Darillium in general.
  • Nardole is very possibly the most unfortunate character to appear in Doctor Who in recent memory. Seriously, has anyone had quite so wretched a time of it as him? Even Ursula has a bit of a sex life at the end of Love and Monsters.
  • A short review, I know, but I am literally writing it on Christmas, and it’s very much an “as advertised” episode.
  • I’ll also be back Monday with the “Doctor Who in 2015” wrap-up.
  • Incidentally, a Happy Christmas to all of you at home!

Episode Ranking

  1. The Zygon Inversion
  2. Hell Bent
  3. Face the Raven
  4. The Zygon Invasion
  5. The Girl Who Died
  6. Heaven Sent
  7. The Husbands of River Song
  8. The Witch’s Familiar
  9. The Magician’s Apprentice
  10. The Woman Who Lived
  11. Sleep No More
  12. Under the Lake
  13. Before the Flood

Story Ranking

  • Monday, dear reader.

Comments

Janine 1 year, 5 months ago

It felt very much like a response to the criticisms of River Song within the Smith era, to me; or more precisely to the criticisms of River and the Doctor as a couple. To those who said a reciprocated romance between the Doctor and River wasn't believable, River didn't believe it herself. And to those who said they didn't spend enough time together, is twenty-four years enough? This is ultimately what Series Six never quite managed to be: a story about what loving the Doctor does to someone. And they played it as a proper, believable romance.

Loved the last scene, truly beautiful. Props to Murray Gold especially. It shouldn't be understated that the show managed to write a prequel to my favourite Doctor Who story ever and make it better than I'd expected.

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ScarvesandCelery 1 year, 5 months ago

It also responds to "She has no life outside of the Doctor" with "She's married to countless other people, some of which are more sincere than others", and by, as Phil says, basically having the Doctor be the supporting player in one of her adventures. And, of course, "The Adventures of River Song" is basically Doctor Who but bigger, madder, and just a dash more amoral. I loved how this episode established the nature of River's adventures, which we'd only seen hints of until now. I'm almost tempted to actually buy some big finish just to hear more of her adventures.

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Em 1 year, 5 months ago

I could have done without the joke about Stephen Fry, but I loved this, a lot more than the season that didn't really work for me. I had fun when the farce was happening, and got all melty shipper at everything else. Also bisexual poly gleefully amoral River is life.

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Tamsyn Lawrence 1 year, 5 months ago

Since it doesn't look as though we're ever going to get an on-screen straight answer about how and under what circumstances River can learn the Doctor's true name, it's now my headcanon that she learns it during these 24 years on Darillium, and that the one time he can say it is at the moment of orgasm.

I await confirmatory fanfic.

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Jarl 1 year, 5 months ago

The Doctor calls out his own name during sex? What a beast.

Actually, I just realized a more likely reason, and probably what Moffat meant to imply back in Name, is she just screamed out any name that came to mind every time, until she finally got him to give her the right one.

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Mark P 7 months, 3 weeks ago

LOLOL. Not a bad theory!

My personal theory is that the only time he could reveal his real name is at the moment of his death, and that's what did in "Let's Kill Hitler" to inspire her to save him. In the scene where he's about to die, the Doctor tells Melody to find River Song and give her a message from him, then whispers the message in her ear. My theory is that the part he whispers is something like, "My name is [insert Doctor's real name], and I love you." At first, Melody is a little confused by this message for River Song and responds, "I'm sure she knows." But then her voice trails off and the look on her face changes as she realizes the gravity of what the Doctor just told her. She can't believe he just told her his real name and immediately asks the Tesselecta to show her River. She needs to know who River Song is right away, who this person is that's so important to the Doctor that he would reveal his real name to her. And when Melody sees that River Song is herself, she knows what must be done and saves his life.

So that's my theory, and I'm sticking to it until definitively proven wrong by the show itself.

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theflaninthehighcastle 1 year, 5 months ago

I think Moffat wrote in the 24 years on Darillium partly to provide a space where future multi-Doctor stories with Capaldi can neatly fit, similar to Trenzalore for Matt Smith and (in a retroactive sense) Season 6B for Troughton. I can totally see the Fifteenth Doctor nipping back to Darillium for an adventure with Capaldi and River, and finally whispering his name to her before the end. (I just hope whoever eventually writes that story is more Harness than Briggs.)

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Elise 1 year, 5 months ago

There is really no reason to create a special Era for future Capaldi adventures. There are many gaps throughout his era for missing adventures to fit.

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UrsulaL 1 year, 5 months ago

Given how his character evolved in Raven/Heaven/Hell, having a post-Clara time to fit stories in makes sense, so you can have them use the more mature version of the character. And they'll probably want to have a gap for stories with how the character is after meeting the next companion.

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Elise 1 year, 5 months ago

Sure, but my point is that it is not really all that necessary for the show to worry about creating gaps, as there are countless opportunities between most stories, and even within stories, for the Doctor to nip off for a bit of adventuring.

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theflaninthehighcastle 1 year, 5 months ago

That's true, but I find that new stories inserted into the gaps between old ones can sometimes feel a little claustrophobic, a little cramped by having to slot neatly in their place without altering the meaning of their neighbours. I enjoy the sense of expansiveness and freedom you get with Moffat's "Big Finish gaps", as well as naturally-occurring equivalents like the one between "Survival" and the TV film, or between the TV film and "Rose".

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Harmen 1 year, 5 months ago

Perhaps this is the first i've seen of it but since when have you started putting The Witch's Familiar over The Magicians Apprentice? Not that I don't agree, just wondering why you made the switch.

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Phil Sandifer 1 year, 5 months ago

Yeah, I redid the episode rankings from scratch. More discussion of this on Monday. :)

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Andrew 1 year, 5 months ago

I thought the Doctor told River his name when he was dying in Let's Kill Hitler?

Is it just because no-one wants to rewatch that episode that it's been forgotten?

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Chris 1 year, 5 months ago

Name of the Doctor suggests otherwise. In that episode, we hear from Ghost River that she eventually made the Doctor tell her his name, but 'it took a while' - which would rule out LKH which is essentially her first encounter with him.

The whispered secret in LKH has been left as one of those ambiguous things a bit like Clara's speech to 12 in the Cloisters.

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Chris L 1 year, 5 months ago

I'm pretty sure the Doctor whispers something along the lines of "Tell her I love her", which fits perfectly with her response, "I'm sure she already knows." This only intensifies her surprise when she finds out *she's* River...

Let's Kill Hitler is actually one of my favorite episodes. I'm not going to claim it's one of the best episodes ever, but I'm sure we all have favorite episodes that are deeply flawed, disliked by most fans, etc.

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Andrew 1 year, 5 months ago

But then, responding "I'm sure she knows" is probably a very valid response to "My name is Steve" as well...

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Tom Marshall 1 year, 5 months ago

I agree with everything you said. The lack of future echoes, as I like to call Moffat's foreshadowing because Red Dwarf phrased it nicely once, is becoming really notable of late. Hopefully something of a shift to new focus in Series 10, then (apparently the next companion is "someone who doesn't think they should be a companion at all", as opposed to Clara being pretty ideal for the job in many ways).

But yeah, this was fun, until it was a bit more interesting. It had some rather nice things on the Doctor and River's relationship, both admitting where it has been problematic (does a sunset love you back?) and going some way to healing that (their time on Darillium together, and the Doctor organising that all while she sleeps was a nice presentation of the lengths people can go to for us without us knowing). Lovely closure. I like that he literally had a word with the architect (yet another Curse of Fatal Death-ism there) in terms of the restaurant being constructed; there's also a great moment where he looks at River on the TARDIS floor, saying "indestructible, as ever", and then Mackinnon holds a tight CU of the diamond. River is tougher than the toughest material on Earth, we are being told, perhaps. It wasn't Moffat pushing himself, but it was a pretty well-executed story with a solid emotional payoff.

Sad to have to wait for more, but hopefully it will feel fresh when it does return.

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David Anderson 1 year, 5 months ago

Silence in the Library isn't played as if River knows she's running out of time. There's a subtle retcon going on there. That's another thing, after the mindwipe in Hell Bent, picking up on the difference between Tennant's era and Doctor and Capaldi's era and Doctor.

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Chris C 1 year, 5 months ago

The last scene felt more like a "Moffat's goodbye" than anything from past years, complete with the subverted-fairytale closing line. (The two characters could even be Moffat talking to himself about leaving Doctor Who...no? Too far? The show is a monolith of sorts...)

I won't deny I teared up at the final seconds. A sad ending abruptly became one of joy.

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dm 1 year, 5 months ago

I adored the absolute refusal to hold back on the schmaltz and bow to good taste in that last scene- holding off on the kiss seemed somehow cheekier than actually showing it. Capaldi was really incredible, too.

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Froborr 1 year, 5 months ago

This was quite good, I enjoyed it a great deal. Most of what I'd say has already been said by others, but I like River's comment about "happily ever after." It really isn't something the Doctor, and particularly the 12th Doctor, understands, this idea of being in the moment without worrying what comes next. He spends every relationship waiting for it to end, guarding himself against that ending, and is thus never fully present while it's ongoing. He let his guard down near the end with Clara, and look where it got him!

Also: "I haven't laughed in a long time" wins the Understatement of the Past 4.5 Billion Years award.

Christmas special ranking:

1. A Christmas Carol
2. The Husbands of River Song
3. Last Christmas
4. The Next Doctor
5. The Snowmen
6. Voyage of the Damned
7. The Runaway Bride
8. Time of the Doctor
9. The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe
10. The Christmas Invasion
11. The End of Time

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Bennett 1 year, 5 months ago

Ooh, I can't resist a ranking. Here's mine.

1. A Christmas Carol
2. The Snowmen
3. The Time of the Doctor
4. The Husbands of River Song
5. Last Christmas
6. The Runaway Bride
7. The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe
8. The End of Time Part One
9. The Christmas Invasion
10. Voyage of the Damned
11. The Next Doctor

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Kyle 1 year, 5 months ago

Ohh, ohh, my turn!
1. A Christmas Carol
2. The Time of the Doctor
3. Last Christmas
4. The Husbands of River Song
5. The Next Doctor
6. The Snowmen
7. The End of Time Part 1
8. Christmas Invasion
9. The Runaway Bride
10. Voyage of the Damned
11. The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe

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ScarvesandCelery 1 year, 5 months ago

Go on then

A Christmas Carol
The Time of the Doctor
Last Christmas
The Christmas Invasion
The Husbands of River Song
The End of Time
The Runaway Bride
The Snowmen
The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe
The Next Doctor
Voyage of the Damned

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Jane 1 year, 5 months ago

I always like me a good list.

The Time of the Doctor
The Snowmen
A Christmas Carol
Last Christmas
The Husbands of River Song
The End of Time
The Christmas Invasion
The Runaway Bride
The Next Doctor
Voyage of the Damned
The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe

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Matthew Marcus 1 year, 5 months ago

Interesting that Voyage of the Damned ranks so low in most lists and Husbands is generally ranking well - I found this episode to be pretty much a Moffatian retread of Voyage, in terms of both content and tone... I guess you guys might all like River Song (the serial murderer that the Doctor is okay with because he fancies her, or something) a lot more than I do, of course.

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Janine 1 year, 5 months ago

Just to add to the list of lists:

The Time of the Doctor
The End of Time
The Husbands of River Song
Last Christmas
A Christmas Carol
The Snowmen
The Christmas Invasion
The Runaway Bride
Voyage of the Damned
The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe
The Next Doctor

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Dustin 1 year, 5 months ago

I'd rank them as follows (5-8 I had trouble sorting, and could be ranked in any order, probably):

1. Last Christmas
2. A Christmas Carol
3. The Snowmen
4. The Next Doctor
5. The Husbands of River Song
6. Time of the Doctor
7. The Christmas Invasion
8. The Runaway Bride
9. The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe
10. Voyage of the Damned
11. The End of Time

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dm 1 year, 5 months ago

I abhor Carol. Am I alone in this? I also really enjoy End of Time.

1. The Husbands of River Song
2. The Christmas Invasion
3. The End of Time
4. Last Christmas
5. The Time of the Doctor
6. The Runaway Bride
7. Voyage of the Damned
8. The Next Doctor
9. The Snowmen
10. A Christmas Carol
11. The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe

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Prole Hole 1 year, 5 months ago

No you're not alone. I really, deeply dislike A Christmas Carol as well.

The Christmas Invasion
Last Christmas
The Husbands Of River Song
Time Of The Doctor
The Snowmen
The End of Time
A Christmas Carol
The Runaway Bride
Voyager Of The Damned
The Doctor, The Widow And The Wardrobe
The Next Doctor

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John G. Wood 1 year, 5 months ago

Love me a list! This is where I stand at present:

1. A Christmas Carol
2. The Husbands of River Song
3. Last Christmas
4. The Snowmen
5. The Christmas Invasion
6. Time of the Doctor
7. The Next Doctor
8. The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe
9. Voyage of the Damned
10. The End of Time part 1 (the whole story would come bottom)
11. The Runaway Bride

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Chicanery 1 year, 5 months ago

1. Last Christmas
2. The Snowmen
3. The Husbands of River Song
4. The Runaway Bride
5. The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe
6. The Christmas Invasion
7. The Next Doctor
8. Voyage of the Damned
9. A Christmas Carol
Joint 10. The End of Time/Time of the Doctor

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encyclops 1 year, 5 months ago

I loved "Husbands," but it helps enormously that I saw it with my mostly-Not-We girlfriend in a movie theater during the week leading up to our anniversary.

This was going to include a Christmas special ranking, but I realized I don't really like most of them, and frankly this one easily takes the top spot.

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Sean Dillon 1 year, 5 months ago

I had fun with this episode but, as you (or someone else, I forget who, blasted christmas hangover (which is odd, considering I don't drink. they really should come up with a term for "feeling a bit shit about yourself on Christmas Day for reasons that have nothing to do with Christmas")) mentioned in the podcast, it wasn't my favorite of the season (I think that's still Hell Bent).

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Sean Dillon 1 year, 5 months ago

Incidentally, where does this rank in Christmas Specials?

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John 1 year, 5 months ago

I'd say that for me this was pretty much definitely better than Doctor, Widow, Wardrobe and any of the Davies/Tennant ones, and definitely worse than Christmas Carol and Last Christmas. Which leaves it in the top of the middle alongside The Snowmen and Time of the Doctor. Those are such different stories it's hard for me to put an order to them.

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Dustin 1 year, 5 months ago

David Morrissey saves "The Next Doctor" for me, making it the only Davies special I'd place above tonight's. Other than that, I agree that it falls in the great middle, where I don't really have strong feelings.

(the strike-through in the captcha makes it really hard to tell the difference between an E and an F)

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John 1 year, 5 months ago

Morrissey was good, that is true. I'd really need to see some of these again to have a smart ranking.

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mimhoff 1 year, 5 months ago

Head canon: a young River as part of her public service excavated the crashed ship as part of an environment and heritage assessment before the Darillium restaurant could be built.

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Daru 1 year, 5 months ago

Thought this was a really welcome bit of fun, fluff and farce. I did also really enjoy watching the River Song Adventures, and loved that the story made sense of her relationship to the Doctor, by her being not bound to him and having many husbands who serve many purposes.

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Daru 1 year, 5 months ago

Thought this was a really welcome bit of fun, fluff and farce. I did also really enjoy watching the River Song Adventures, and loved that the story made sense of her relationship to the Doctor, by her being not bound to him and having many husbands who serve many purposes.

(CAPTCHA's are seriously misbehaving for me - 8 attempts. Getting regular 'error' pages flashing up now!)

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Daru 1 year, 5 months ago

Sorry for double post, but CAPTCHA's are not letting me know when I post now either. MAkes it difficult to comment at moment.

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Roderick T. Long 1 year, 5 months ago

Yeah, the Captcha for this site has been getting seriously bad lately.

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Seb Patrick 1 year, 5 months ago

Not that I disagree - I borderline hated it - but what changed between a few weeks ago and now for Sleep No More to become so terrible? I thought your review was quite positive and you had it mid-ranked, but now it's near the bottom?

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Janine 1 year, 5 months ago

I imagine he'll talk about that quite a lot come Monday.

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EvilBug 1 year, 5 months ago

Sleep No More was boring and too dark to see anything.

Clever idea did not save it.

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Kate 1 year, 5 months ago

Oh, the hate you'll get for that remark about Ursula.

I laughed out loud and generally enjoyed myself, which I can't honestly say for the rest of the season. I can't fault Jenna Coleman's performance as Clara, but Alex Kingston makes me care so much about River Song - I didn't mind one bit that the story concluded with a long, talky scene between River and the Doctor, whereas in "Hell Bent" I began to gnaw off one of my own arms.

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Tom Marshall 1 year, 5 months ago

Re: the comment about River & Clara not having met, could there not be 11/River/Clara stories between "The Day of the Doctor" and "The Time of the Doctor" from 11/Clara's POV but prior to "The Angels Take Manhattan" from River's POV. That would, of course, mean in that untold story that River would not know who Clara is (not yet having met her as a data ghost in "Name") but would then explain away your slight issue with the implications that River featured in 11/Clara era stories without Clara recognising her in "Name". The issue *this* would then raise, of course, is that River does not seem to recognise Clara in "Name", although this could be an instance, as I think happened on one occasion with Rory, of her knowing how the timelines intersect and having to pretend not to know someone when she actually does. Thoughts?

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Tom Marshall 1 year, 5 months ago

Another thing that neatly works with this being River's last TV appearance -

she turns up once in 2008, is a regular guest character from 2010-2013, and then turns up once in 2015. A certain lovely symmetry to that, don't we think?

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Charles Knight 1 year, 5 months ago

I enjoyed this but am starting to think like Doctor Who of old, the show needs to start to forget its past a bit.

The reason I think this is that I watched the show with some younger family members and all the bits I was going "ah!" to, they were going "huh?" - then I realised that when Silence in the library aired, most of them were either waiting to be born or were at best one and two.

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Roderick T. Long 1 year, 5 months ago

I don't agree that it's "not much more than" an "effective holiday farce." The Doctor's initial devastation at thinking River didn't love him, followed by his devastation at realising that in fact she thought he didn't love her, was pretty powerful.

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Riggio 1 year, 5 months ago

I also thought this was quite a powerful special, emotionally speaking. It reveals a powerful aspect of River and the Doctor's relationship, her alienation from him throughout most of their on/off relationship. And it also heals that relationship because Capaldi's Doctor doesn't have the same manic restlessness as Matt Smith's. So Capaldi thinks nothing of spending a 24-year evening with River before he says goodbye.

It's a beautiful ending / culmination to her story. You're right that this is definitely Moffat clearing up his storylines for what will probably be a succession planning year in 2016. As much as I love Moffat as a showrunner, I think his time on Doctor Who is coming to a natural end. And as much as I love River, she had some paradoxically negative effects on the show.

I'll put it to you this way. When friends ask me how to get into Doctor Who, I tell them to ignore all continuity. Don't be intimidated by the weight of the past because Doctor Who is built to revamp everything but its basic premise every few years anyway.

But I never mention River Song. Some of the other commenters have touched on why. But I have some more detailed thoughts on my own blog as usual.

http://adamwriteseverything.blogspot.ca/2015/12/his-favourite-song-doctor-who-husbands.html

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Lexicon 1 year, 5 months ago

No possibilities for more River? She did talk about her second wife...also, there hasn't been a story where the Doctor has actually given her the diary right?

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UrsulaL 1 year, 5 months ago

The Doctor gave River the diary at the end of "Let's Kill Hitler", when Amy, Rory and the Doctor visited her in the hospital.

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theflaninthehighcastle 1 year, 5 months ago

Moffat suggested in Doctor Who Magazine, and Cornell agreed on Twitter, that River had married Bernice Summerfield at some point. After the "second wife" line, I'll genuinely be shocked if we don't get a crossover audio drama with Alex Kingston and Lisa Bowerman at some point.

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Andrew Plotkin 1 year, 5 months ago

Anyone else feel like this was a bit of a running Douglas Adams tribute?

Obviously you can look at any high-grade sci-fi farce and think "Douglas Adams-ish", but a lot of the tropes felt pretty close. (Although none were precise enough to make me say "Aha!") In particular, the Krikkit ball.

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Dustin 1 year, 5 months ago

Especially "We apologize for the inconvenience."

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UrsulaL 1 year, 5 months ago

This is far more than just a farce. It's an exploration of character. Who River has grown into. Who the Doctor has grown into.

The Doctor's knowledge (reconstructed) of how he had to wipe his direct memories of Clara in order to let her go, and the importance of allowing Clara to keep her memories, in turn makes him the Doctor who can take River to the singing towers, and give her a sonic screwdriver.

But not any sonic screwdriver.

One which will preserve her memories.

River values her memories. She died rather than loose them, and had to restrain the Doctor to keep him from taking away her past in order to physically save her life.

This Doctor honors River and her memories by preserving them, even beyond her physical death.

This Doctor has also learned that he doesn't have to be the hero of the story. He saw Clara step up into a "Doctor" role, and now he's able to be a companion to River on her adventure.

And she will have a quarter century, at least, of this version of the Doctor. Finally, one who sees her for who she is. Who can make it clear that he loves her. Who will let her take the lead, and be there for her when she needs it. One who sees her life experiences and memories as worth preserving.

Eleven wasn't able to be the Doctor she needed, a worthy partner.

Only the Doctor who could let Clara become a Doctor could also be the one to be what River needed to finally become the centered, powerful person we met in The Library.

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Elise 1 year, 5 months ago

Interesting, but this is a River who it is revealed still devalues and erases her husband's memories for the sake of her own selfush happiness - and that doesn't sit too well with me.

What I am saying is that whatever respect the Doctor shows to River is apparently one way. River is still a believer of mind erasing people against their wishes.

But, maybe the Doctor properly educates her as to how this is immoral over the 24 years they potentially have together.

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UrsulaL 1 year, 5 months ago

Yes, and she's doing so as someone who had not yet gotten to know this version of the Doctor. She's taking her cues from Ten, who would have taken away her memories to save her body, and who wiped Donna's memory. And from Eleven, who devalued Older Amy's experiences and memories in "The Girl Who Waited."

Capaldi's Doctor learned better, this season, seeing both how Ashildr suffered from constantly loosing her memories and past, and seeing Clara demand that her past is hers, not to be taken.

And only now will River be able to see how memories can be sacred.

We never saw River develop into the person we admired in The Library when she was with Eleven, but the Doctor now has a chance to be the person she described there, bringing in the compassion and other elements that weren't really developed yet.

Post-Clara Twelve is going to be good for River, in the way in which the Doctor hasn't been in the past.

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Elise 1 year, 5 months ago

Of course, River has yet to encounter Ten, but I see your point.

I wonder, though, as much as the Doctor's ability to erase and manipulate memories has become so established as one of his special Time Lord powers throughout the series, and a useful one at that - will the show be able to steer clear of him ever doing it in the future? I have my doubts.

"Hell Bent" also featured the Doctor depriving a fellow Time Lord of one of his lives, without his consent, and in a rather painful way as well, by shooting him. It is so terribly selfish of the Doctor, who has been allocated more than the usual number of lives, to deprive someone else of one of their 13 lives. I really thought the Doctor was better than that.

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Chicanery 1 year, 5 months ago

The time lord did give consent.

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Elise 1 year, 5 months ago

Sorry... what?

I really don't think anything said at gunpoint can be taken as anything but coersion.

The scene was utterly not what the Doctor is all about and was a serious mistake.

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Harlequin 1 year, 5 months ago

Perhaps not consent as such (this being the Doctor approaching Time Lord Victorious mode again, breaking every code he'd lived by and thus being the reason he and Clara needed to separate). After the Doctor wished the General good luck before shooting him, though, the General did reply, "You too, sir."

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MDavison 1 year, 5 months ago

I gotta say something here.

There was absolutely NO reason for the Doctor to resort to shooting the Time Lord. It was cruel. It was cowardly.

Worse than that - it wasn't necessary.

How many times has the Doctor been knocked out, or incapacitated, and NOT regenerated? Countless times! I mean, a really ridiculous number of times. He should know better.

Now, if you wish to argue that this incredibly out-of-character move was a sign of how far away from being "the Doctor" he was at that moment, and that that somehow works for you, well, then, I get where you are coming from. However, let's not pretend that this action was trivial or not that big a deal.

it was a HUGE deal!

The only reason I can think of as to why more people aren't up in arms over this is simply that the episode didn't make a big deal about it, and yet the show didn't dwell on the morality of what the Doctor did to Donna either in "Journey's End", and yet it still bothers some people years later.

In my view, it is fair to point out that the show seriously slipped in not just having the Doctor carry out this horrendous act of senseless violence, but the greater crime was to basically ignore the magnitude and significance of what he did.

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UrsulaL 1 year, 5 months ago

I thought that the episode made a reasonably big deal about it.

Clara, who acts as the Doctor's conscience, even after everything, is horrified that he killed someone.

The Doctor, who is clearly out of control, downplays death as no worse than the flu, at least for those who can regenerate.

And both the Doctor and Clara realize, after this, that the Doctor will go far too far to protect Clara, even if she doesn't want protection, if they stay together.

It's the lynchpin of the episode, the point after which it is clear that something drastic needs to be done to change the Doctor's path.

And, in turn, remembering how far he went, with the emotions surrounding Clara taken away, the Doctor realizes that he needs to be able to let go of companions in a reasonable way, and that includes giving River the goodbye she deserves, and ensuring her memories are preserved.

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JaredK 1 year, 5 months ago

Another clever parallel within the episode, that I hadn't realized until listening to Phil's podcast, is that the Doctor is now in the same position as Michael Gambon in A Christmas Carol. There Gambon decides to not let a women out of ice because it's her last day of life, and gets criticized for saving her last day like a mIser. The Doctor has the same power, in that he can essentially chose at what point River dies. Unlike Gambon's character, he doesn't allow that fact to cripple him with indecision, though he's not in a hurry to find end up there either. And when he and River end up on Darillium after the crash, he accepts what that means, and does everything he can to make it special for River.

He could have run off again, and Smith's Doctor absolutely would have. You can almost make out a long term point of character growth for the Doctor under Moffat's tenure here, where Moffat makes the Doctor someone who "Doesn't like endings" at the beginning to here as someone who can accept that everything has to end eventually. Moffat pointed towards that with the three hundred years on Trenzalore teaching Smith's Doctor that even he has to end sometime and eventually accepting that. Capaldi pushes back against that after Clara dies, but finally learns to make his peace with endings after realizing how far his need to avoid them pushed him. After coming to terms, he is then able to stop running, and spend 24 years with River, which is such a perfect ending for Moffat's tenure that I don't know where he goes to top if, or if that's even something worth attempting.

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TommyR01D 8 months, 1 week ago

The stand-out element of this episode, for me, is its rare quasi-unitary status. Whereas normally a Christmas special (in the Moffat era, anyway) is a link between two series, being both a wrap-up for the last and a teaser for the next, The Husbands of River Song is almost standalone. Despite it coming so soon after Hell Bent it feels thematically separate, and of course since series 10 was delayed until 2017 there was no ready-made future for which to drop continual hints and whisper “spoilers”.

The continual problem with the Moffat era was his inability to give proper closure – he was always tying things into a larger arc at the expense of the individual stories and giving year upon year of starters and desserts without ever delivering the main course. Here, however, there is no future: We reached the end of the line before the next mile of track could be lain ahead. In particular this is the end for River Song, whose arc is finally ended. Moffat is thus deprived of his usual trick of fobbing the viewer off with misdirection and kicking the can down the road to a future story – he has to actually tell the one he's doing now. This alone makes The Husbands of River Song feel rather different from what we've long come to expect.

Moving on to River herself, there's a change in that for the first and perhaps only time she is The Companion. She isn't encroaching on Donna, Amy, Rory or even Clara. With Miss Oswald gone (Yes, gone, and we don't spend the whole episode moping about her!) and AsBill not yet formulated we have something of an interreginaem, which allows Professor Song to assume to position uncontested. She's not like Astrid because she's already well established and therefore we don't need an origin story. In what feels like a first for this period of the show we can actually get on with the business of telling the story.

It's a shame, then, that the story itself is a fairly simplistic romp with what feels like and old couple's wedding anniversary at the end, but after so many years of overloaded story arcs and innumerable loose ends that is rather a welcome change. I would give it six out of ten – never to be dubbed a classic but not actively bad either.

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