(all spoilers! don’t read till you’ve seen the episode! this is a love fest only — all complaints and bitching must come from a place of love / previous: “Closing Time”)
Can a thing be overly complicated and too simplistic at the same time? Cuz that’s what “The Wedding of River Song” was. All that to-ing and fro-ing. All that buttoning and unbuttoning. So many moments when I went, “But, hey, wait a minute, that makes no sense!” So many moments when I felt like I was being cheated.
I don’t want a Doctor Who that, every time it paints itself into a corner, gets out of it by having River say, “The Doctor lies.” (Are we not meant to believe anything the Doctor says anymore?) I don’t want a Doctor Who that, every time it gets too timey-wimey, just brings in another time-traveling entity to jump right over the tangled webs. (The Doctor having the Teselecta deliver his TARDIS-blue envelopes for him just felt so wrong.)
These are very convenient tools for retconning your way out of a mess. But they are not very satisfying ones. They are not very fun ones.
If River-in-the-astronaut suit can’t stop what she is doing because the suit is in control, then anyone could have been in the suit. The suit could have been empty. Hell, what was the point of the suit at all? If the Doctor is so deeply hated as Madame Kovarian indicated in earlier episodes, then there should have been people lined up to kill him. Kovarian could have been in the suit, or not in the suit, pulling the trigger. If the purpose of River was to raise her to want to kill him but it didn’t take and she doesn’t want to kill him, why is she still part of the plan? Even if Kovarian’s stated motive of the Doctor having already been such an enormous danger was quickly discarded (which is a shame, because it was at least a new angle on the character and his impact on the universe), the Silence’s only motive for killing him appears to have been nothing more than preventing him from being an even bigger danger in the future. They don’t appear to have wanted to torment him, by crafting a lover for him who would later turn on him. So what the fuck, basically?
If all of history is happening at the same time, then there should be Daleks and Cybermen on this compressed Earth, and Amy shouldn’t have to draw them to remember them. Right?
What was the point of the marriage ceremony? So that River would be the woman who married the Doctor, not the woman who murdered him? But she still had to be the woman who murdered him, too. Clearly, there did not need to be a ceremony for the Doctor to tell her the secret that he is the Teselecta duplicate, so what the heck was it all for?
I cannot help but shake the feeling that Steven Moffat wrote a creative check as the season opened that his brain could not then cash. (I felt that way about last season, too, but not as strongly as this.) It all feels so calculated. Not organic. Not natural. Not real. Tick tock goes the episode.
You know what? I don’t buy this:
I’ll suffer if I have to kill you. –River
More than every living thing in the universe? –the Doctor
She must be a psychopath if she can say this. But we’re supposed to believe she has overcome the psychopath that was trained into her. Or whatever Kovarian and the Silence did to her.
This is not a woman worthy of the Doctor.
Moffat, if you want to turn Doctor Who into a pantomime, just tell me now, so I can stop expecting to be emotionally involved by each episode.
How can the Doctor be so important that knowing his identity would cause the end of everything? “The first question, the question that must never be answered, hidden in plain sight, the question you’ve been running from all your life: Doctor who?” It does make me laugh to hear it spelled out like that, to see the central essence of the show turned into a Thing. (It was clever, too, I have no problem saying, how Moffat turned the fan debate over who the hell River is — the woman who marries him or the women who kills him — into a flirtatious conversation between the Doctor and River.) I just don’t like how it was done here. How the whole season has played out simply does not feel right. All the elements are there for something totally fascinating and profound, but I hate that I came up with, in my own head, ways to tie them all together that seemed more unaffected and more affecting. (I’d been saying all along that it would be a Flesh Doctor who was killed at Lake Silencio — I wasn’t far off with that. That could have been more affecting: a Flesh Doctor would have had a life of his own to lose, and that could have been played to powerful narrative advantage. But the Teselecta was just a machine. The people inside weren’t impacted at all.)
I’m still clinging to my notion that everything that’s happened during Eleven’s regeneration has been happening in a parallel universe. There is room for a reboot that will fix it without having to be completely a cheaty reset button. (Like how Amy remembered killing Kovarian. That was a powerful moment, and it will continue to affect Amy even though it never actually happened, because she remembers it.)
How can the question of the Doctor’s identity be “the oldest question in the universe”? What is the “terrible, dangerous secret that must never be told”? How about this: We still don’t know why the TARDIS exploded. What if that explosion resulted in the creation of a bubble universe? That would make the Doctor the God of this universe, its creator. He is the literal and figurative center and cause of this universe. Perhaps he has forgotten that (I’m inventing a selective amnesia for him). Perhaps if he remembers, he can unexplode the TARDIS and uninvent this universe.
Surely, “the fall of the Eleventh” refers to the end of the Eleventh Doctor’s life, no? At “the Fields of Tenzalore.” (Which I cannot help but read as “Ten’s allure.”) Unexplode the TARDIS, uninvent the bubble universe, rewind to the regeneration of Ten into Eleven… and suddenly there’s a new Eleventh Doctor, but with the memories of the bubble Eleven.
We can retcon it. We can make it better.
At the very least, can we at least take “I got too big, too noisy” to mean that the Doctor will, next season, go back to being an intergalactic do-gooding space bum, not the center of every mythology in the universe?
Random thoughts on “The Wedding of River Song”:
• We all knew who the Soothsayer was gonna be, right?
I bet this sort of thing happens to the Doctor more often than he’d like to admit.
• The universe is ruined and it’s all a woman’s fault? Not “an accident.” Not “a mistake.” Not “an act of love.” But “a woman.” Really? *sigh* I guess sexism is cool now.
Oh, and what the hell was that “wedding ceremony”? River’s parents have to say “I consent and gladly give,” but what about the Doctor? Who consents and gladly gives for the Doctor? Or is Gallifrey is as sexist as Earth, and women are treated as property to be passed about?
• Amy finally shows some anger over losing her chance to raise her baby, and how her baby was hurt. Hoorah.
• Very Firefly:
I’d like to see, in future episodes, more of the seedy side of the universe, please.
Slapping the Dalek eyestalk down on the bar?
I like this Doctor…
• Time Lord walks into a bar carrying a Dalek eyestalk and… a copy of Knitting for Girls?
Bwahahahahaha! I do like this Doctor!
• Very Indiana Jones:
No rats, but: There were skulls, Doctor. Bitey ones.
“Throw me the head, I throw you the whip!”
(BTW, the IMDB says it’s Mark Gatiss under all that makeup.)
• It’s rare — perhaps so rare as to be unprecedented — to see the Doctor this horrified:
• Nice little tribute to the Brigadier… But, hey, wait a minute! If the Doctor can still help Rose Tyler with her homework, he can go back to a point before Lethbridge-Stewart died and hang out with him then. Can’t he?
• The Doctor really does look older, as Amy noted, doesn’t he:
Good makeup job? Or is Matt Smith just exhausted? Don’t you think he looks tired?
(I must say that the eyepatch is very rakish. Even though it’s not an eyepatch.)
• The “all of history at once” stuff was quite cleverly depicted:
It had a sort of whimsy that we haven’t seen much of lately in the show.
• Charles Dickens on breakfast television talking about his upcoming Christmas story? Brilliant!
That’s exactly right: he’d be telling stories people eagerly anticipated and wanted to hear about in advance. Because he did do that. Dickens was the Victorian equivalent of must-see TV.
• Great quotes:
“You’ve got an office on a train. That is so cool.” –the Doctor to Amy
“I love him very much, don’t I?” –Amy, about Rory
“Apparently.” –the Doctor
“You just can’t get the psychopaths these days.” –the Doctor
“Why do you always have handcuffs?” –the Doctor to River
“There are so many theories about you and I, you know.” –River
“Idle gossip.” –the Doctor
“Same thing.” –the Doctor
“Am I the woman who marries you, or the woman who murders you?” –River
“Oh, I don’t want to marry you.” –the Doctor
“I don’t want to murder you.” –River
“Well, this is no fun at all.” –the Doctor
“It isn’t, is it?” –River
“River Song didn’t get it all from you, sweetie.” –Amy to Madame Kovarian, as she kills her
“So, you and me, we should get a drink sometime.” –special agent bosslady Amy
“Okay.” –Captain Williams
“And married.” –Amy
“Fine.” –Captain Williams
“Who’s carrying me? I demand to know. I’m a head — I have rights.” –Dorium