‘Doctor Who’ – ‘The Wedding of River Song’: All at once

Senior Television Writer
10.01.11 112 Comments


A review of the “Doctor Who” season finale coming up just as soon as I go out with you for texting and scones…

“Did you really think when your time came, you’d really have to do more than just ask? You’ve decided that the universe is better off without you, but the universe doesn’t agree.” -River

Steven Moffat laid out such a complicated story arc for himself this season that “The Wedding of River Song” had an awful lot to live up to. It had to explain how the Doctor wouldn’t die at Lake Silencio – since, great as Matt Smith is, no one has any intention of having the series end with him – had to tell us more about the Silence and the Question, provide the kind of emotional resolution to the Amy/River/Melody story that “Let’s Kill Hitler” didn’t have time to, and more. Again, that’s a ton to fit into a season-ending two-parter, let along a single hour.

And I thought Moffat did a good but not great job of it.

The parts of the episode that were actually about resolution – from around the wedding onward – were quite excellent. The explanation for how the Doctor survived without violating a fixed point in spacetime was one that had been speculated on around here, but still played well. River and the Doctor got married as we all kind of assumed they would at some point from the moment she was introduced in “Silence in the Library,” but the moment had the appropriate level of gravity. (And River’s speech about the universe wanting to save the Doctor helped rebut the recent Doctor-as-bastard meme the Doctor and the show were pushing the last few episodes.) Amy got a kind of revenge against the woman who stole her daughter – and made it clear how much the loss hurts her, even as she and Rory have moved on from it – and I flat-out loved the beginning of the epilogue, with River appearing to Amy right after the events of “Flesh and Stone,” and the two of them trying to forge a weird mother/daughter relationship out of sequence in the same way River is married to the Doctor for much longer than I imagine he’s married to her.

So all of that was very satisfying, payoff-wise. But I think I could have done without another complicated alternate reality consuming so much of the finale’s running time, especially since the episode’s overall structure was so similar to “The Big Bang.” I know Moffat has repeated himself a lot in various ways during his time as both “Doctor Who” writer and showrunner, but this felt particularly slavish, even there were fun little details on the margins, plus another fine example of Rory being Amy Pond’s unwavering protector in every corner of reality, even ones where they don’t realize they’re married.

The final scenes suggested an interesting new direction for the next season (which we may not see for nearly a year). Moffat already scaled back the degree to which Earth was aware of aliens from the Davies era, and now he’s proposing the Doctor taking a more covert approach to the galaxy in general. I’m assuming Amy and Rory will be back in some capacity, and it’ll be interesting to see the show reconcile that with the Doctor’s feelings at the end of “The God Complex” – at the very least, I hope that if they’re back full-time, we’re done with the Weekly Rory Williams Death Hour – and also with his desire to have adventures on the down-low, while contemplating the oldest question in the universe (and in this show):

Doctor who?

What did everybody else think? And if the next season does, in fact, take a year to arrive (other than the Christmas special), how are you going to fill the gap?

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