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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

open thread: Doctor Who: “The Husbands of River Song”


[previous: “Hell Bent”]

I am done with Doctor Who.

I am done with getting my heart broken by this show. I am done with spending so much time on a show that gives nothing back to me. I am particularly done with being abused by fans for sharing my honest, heartfelt opinion about it. Just today I deleted a comment here that suggested that I am mentally ill, that I require medication, because I don’t like the direction a TV show has taken.

Fuck this shit.

But here’s an open thread for you all to discuss the most recent episode of Doctor Who, if you want to. I will monitor comments here — as I do across the site — but don’t be surprised if I don’t participate.

Assume that the comments below are full of spoilers.

This post is not behind the paywall, though if you’re not already a subscriber and you enjoy being able to chat with the community here, please consider subscribing. Thank you.

[next: “The Return of Doctor Mysterio”]

posted in:
tv buzz

  • Jurgan

    River Song. River Fucking Song. I thought we were done with her, but Moffat cannot leave well enough alone. There’s a joke that goes “Joss Whedon, George R.R. Martin, and Steven Moffat walk into a bar, and everyone you love dies.” But it really doesn’t make sense- Moffat doesn’t know how to get rid of characters. He pretends to do so, and then he brings them back. Season Six was all about finding a loophole to keep the Doctor from dying, and then you look at the incredible contrivances to get rid of Amy, Rory, and (I gather) Clara without technically killing them. I haven’t watched any episodes since “Kill the Moon,” which was particularly bad but not “quit forever” bad. It’s less that I’m angry and more that I just don’t care. Maryann, you’re the one who got me into the show, and I seem to be getting out of it with you as well. Hopefully sooner or later Moffat will quit or be fired and we can all meet back here to talk about good episodes. Alternatively, while I know you’re busy already, if you’re itching for a DW fix, you could do some classic episode reviews.

  • Bectoria

    I’m so sorry to read this, while our opinions are often quite different, I always find your views extremely compelling. At least the Zygon episodes were a highlight!

  • Tonio Kruger

    Well, I must admit that I actually liked this episode but then again, I’m evil.
    But seriously, folks.

    I’m obviously not evil and speaking as one who has been accused of hating animals because he disliked Marley and Me and hating art because he disliked Sideways, I’m not too fond of the standard fanboy philosophy which judges a person exclusively by whether or not they like the same movies and TV shows that others do. Yes, we all would like to think that the people we most like also share all our tastes in every conceivable area of popular culture but in real life, things don’t always turn out that way and anyway, there are more important ways by which to judge a person apart from whether or not he or she likes a particular movie or TV show.

    Anyway, I must admit that I always liked Alex Kingston and while it took me a while to warm up to her River Song character, I actually liked the fact that she showed up in this episode. Granted, I have had enough angst in my personal life as of late that I found myself welcoming an episode of DW that was actually funny and escapist. Indeed, in wake of the show’s recent attempts at more-serious-than-thou-ism, I found this episode to be a breath of fresh air.

    Is it perfect? No, and it’s hardly a feather in Moffat’s cap that he doesn’t even try to hide the fact that this particular episode is a thinly disguised fairy tale.

    But it worked for me and I found myself enjoying it more than I expected to — though I did find it a bit scary that I’m actually starting to welcome the fact that this show has commercials in its BBC America version.

    Anyway, I liked the fact that for once, Capaldi’s doctor was matched with someone closer to his own age than Ms. Coleman and that Ms. Kingston actually got a chance to get off some good lines. (Then again Ms. Kingston probably could have spent the whole episode reading a Microsoft manual and I still would have enjoyed this episode. Yet more proof that I’m evil…) For that matter, I also liked that no guitar solos were attempted by the Doctor in this episode. (Apparently guitars have become the Doctor’s equivalent of a little red sports car or a hot young blonde.)

    Anyway, I don’t seriously expect this episode to change MaryAnn’s mind about the show but I sincerely hope that she finds something to like in it. If not, well, who knows? Maybe she’ll find another TV show that she cares about as much as Doctor Who. That seems unlikely now but then back in the 1990s, the very notion of a 21th century version of Doctor Who seemed unlikely.

  • RogerBW

    River Song was good in her first episode. Not story. Episode. In her second she gave up her life to save the Doctor, and after that every time she’s been on screen it’s been all about how the Doctor made her, the Doctor is her life, everything about her is focused on the Doctor.

    But hey, this show isn’t for me any more either. I have just finished my re-watch of all the classic episodes (on Christmas Day as it happened), and the last couple of posts will appear on blog.firedrake.org over the next few weeks.

  • David_Conner

    River Song is someone I found interesting as an *idea*, but more often than not found intensely annoying as an actual character.

    But I found myself enjoying this episode despite that, and despite the usual Moffaty annoyances. For this episode, River failing to recognize the Doctor was a funny running gag, but I thought there would be something *behind* that, even if just a throwaway line about how River voluntarily had a mental block put in so that she could evade a telepathic scan or some other blah blah blah reasons. But no, it turns out that the episode just requires her to be kind of obtuse in an out-of-character way for 3/4 of an episode.

    But I found the episode to be mostly fun. And I’m generally a little more willing and able to accept the Moffat “fairy tale” approach in the Christmas episodes, since they seem a little more apocryphal than the average Doctor Who story anyway.

  • Allen W

    I just rewatched Silence and Forest, and was reminded of what good Who is like. This was a pale shadow.

    I dislike that it takes River so long to recognize the Doctor — that’s out of character.

    I dislike that it takes some of the emotional bite out of Silence/Forest. In Forest, River realizes at the end that this is her last adventure during it. Here, she’s realized it before departing.

    I dislike most that it has established that the only doctors River knows are Ten, Eleven, and Capaldi — she’s aware of the others, but Silence established she hadn’t interacted with anyone “younger” than Ten. She doesn’t know that the Doctor has, can have, more incarnations, which implies she never met anyone after Capaldi. By implication, most of her adventures and romance was with Eleven during those long gaps. (And I hate to say it, but none of them are the Doctor River describes in Silence/Forest as her doctor.) I prefer a River who could interact with, challenge, any of the doctors to come.
    I will keep watching, I suppose.

  • Danielm80

    It didn’t bother me when she failed to recognize him. She thought he’d used up all his regenerations (as did he), so she didn’t have an updated picture of him. What did bother me was that she was so callous and mercenary at some points in the episode that I lost a lot of my affection for the character (and I had a lot of affection for the character, even after “Let’s Kill Hitler!”)

  • althea

    I gave up watching several episodes back. However you view a new Doctor, there’s always a honeymoon period, and it became clear it wasn’t working for me. Should I live to see another Doctor, I’ll check him/her out, but then it’ll still depend on the showrunner and writer.

    What makes me sad is that I’m not even tempted to just watch one more, to see if maybe…

  • Thomas Scott Estes

    I liked it. But honestly I like River Song. If they did a River Song spin off I would be cool with it. I didn’t like how she knew that she was approaching the end. It does take some of the bite of Forest of the Dead. Honestly every episode with River in it brings me back to Forest of the Dead. Her speech after 10 says, “Time can be rewritten” kills me every time. And her subsequent appearances have only managed to give that scene more pathos.
    I honestly kind of like this series. It wasn’t great. It wasn’t as good as season 5 or 6, or season 4 (I <3 Donna), but it was better than 8.
    But I have to say, I have read rumors that because of sagging ratings they may replace Peter Capaldi, and I think that would be a shame. Clearly the shows problems are production issues, not casting.

  • Jurgan

    Hang on, I’m confused (not having seen the episode). So River leaves in this episode to go to the Library? But I thought her timeline was the reverse of the Doctor’s. Wouldn’t this take place before any of her other stories? Doesn’t she have to go through all the adventures with 11 before getting to the Library? I thought this was her first meeting with the Doctor, not her next-to-last. Then again, Let’s Kill Hitler also seemed like her first meeting with him… is it just wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey at this point?

  • Jurgan

    I was okay with River until Let’s Kill Hitler, when it was revealed that the only reason she became an archaeologist was to track down the Doctor. She was a good character because she was just as interesting and mysterious as the Doctor, and had her own life that happened to intersect with his every now and then. Once it turned out her entire life revolved around him, she was just another (as Where Are the Women? would put it) woman who is mostly pretty awesome and perfect who is present to support a man improving himself.

  • Jurgan

    I’m still expecting a guest appearance by Craig Ferguson where he and the Doctor have a jam session.

  • There will be at least one audio adventure between River and 8 (Paul McGann) coming out next year.

  • Script issues – the productions continue to look great.

    This year has been a wild roller coaster of episode quality. I generally disliked the early Capaldi episodes, and the early episodes this year were mostly crap. But I liked the Zygon & Ashilda episodes and generally liked The Husbands of River Song, particularly the ending.

  • Tom McNeil

    River and The Doctor’s timelines are out of synch. It’s like they meet in random order.

  • Tom McNeil

    I thought the episode was just mediocre overall but I did like the ending.

    Overall, I think this season was much better than last season but that’s a pretty low bar to jump.

  • Tom McNeil

    Keep Capaldi. Ditch Moffet.

  • Danielm80

    Both Capaldi and Moffat have been hinting that they might leave the show. Most recently:


    There’s no guarantee that either of them is going anywhere. Moffat lies constantly. But it’s possible we’ll get a new Doctor and a new showrunner at the same time. It would be nice if the new Doctor (and the new showrunner) were someone other than a white man. And as a bonus, maybe MaryAnn would be willing to write a recap.

  • Maria Niku

    Well, a silly bit of silliness, this, with some attempt at emotional scenes at the end. I didn’t mind the return of River Song, just that I’d lost hope for the character soon after Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead.

    I actually liked most of the season story-wise, it just had the same old problem for me that I’ve never been able to feel to supposedly deep connection between the Doctor and Clara. Given that the last three episodes of the season pretty much revolved around that deep connection, it obviously was a problem for me.

  • Chris Lockard

    Sorry to hear someone questioned your mental capacity. Also sorry that you no longer enjoy the show.

    I kind of figured we would eventually get an episode where Moffat closed the loop on the River Song thread, and I think it was handled quite well…much better than her last appearance with Matt Smith. I enjoyed that this year they didn’t over do the Christmas backdrop. The back half was definitely more interesting than the front, but featured interesting characters through out the episode.

    I cant wait for next year to see how Mr. Capaldi’s story as the Doctor will end.

  • RogerBW

    I would like to see what Capaldi can do with a better showrunner, but I doubt he’ll get the chance.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Why do you say that?

  • RogerBW

    Because Capaldi is getting the blame for the ratings being lower than they were with Smith, and is easier to sack than Moffat.

  • I thought the special was overly fluffy for the most parts and didn’t have enough depth to be a truly valuable comedy(a la “The Romans”). I understand that the Christmas special is meant to be a lark, but why does comedy always include sniping these days? And why can’t it be subtle?

    Great example here being the Twelfth Doctor’s reference to having a bad back, which is a nice homage to the missing story “Marco Polo”. However, it also manages to highlight exactly what’s changed in those 50 years.
    In the original story, Hartnell’s bad back is so hilarious, because it plays against him. He’s literally going to get shot if he doesn’t bow so it both fits the character(he doesn’t have to embarrass himself) and irritates him in equal measure. It also establishes the friendship between the Khan and the Doctor.
    In THORS, Capaldi just seems to be daring the guy to kill him in an act no one would actually do in the situation.

    River Song brings back bad memories from Series 6, but overall, I thought their reunion was well done and a fitting tribute and send-off for the character as well as making sure Capaldi doesn’t turn back into Dr. House in Series 10.

  • Also, hoping you’ll at least read this, Mary-Ann… I’m not entirely sure whether you mean you’ll just stop watching the Capaldi episodes or give up the show in its entirety, but if you’re going with the latter, please don’t. Nothing that the Moff does can erase the lovefest of 1963-2010 Doctor Who. Just because three years of a show as long as DW are rotten(at least, from your POV) shouldn’t erase the hard work of those who came before, or indeed, those who come after.
    Even if you’ll never watch a new episode again, it’d be a shame to lose you as a fan entirely. We may have our differences, which is frankly odd given the circumstances, but I tell you what, we are incredibly clever.

  • Just because three years of a show as long as DW are rotten(at least, from your POV) shouldn’t erase the hard work of those who came before, or indeed, those who come after.

    Where on Earth have I suggested that it did?

    I’ll probably keep watching. But I doubt I will write about the show anymore.

  • You never did, as I said, “I’m not entirely sure whether you mean…”
    You kept saying “I am done with Doctor Who” so I thought you might mean leaving the show behind altogether even though there’s still so much of it to enjoy and cherish.

  • Jurgan

    “Sorry to hear someone questioned your mental capacity.”

    Agreed, that’s beyond the pale regardless of what your opinions are.

  • Jurgan

    That’s weird, because at one point it seemed like they were in exact reverse order. I distinctly remember the first time Matt Smith kissed her, he freaked out and started flailing, and River got really sad. She realized that, from his perspective, that was their first kiss, which meant that for her it was their last. I’m going to have to chalk this up as Moffat can’t keep track of his own continuity.

  • amai

    I keep reminding myself that I didn’t like six. (Nothing against Colin Baker, but the everything against scripts he was given and the direction they tried with his doctor.) A lot of 12 reminds me of things that they tried with 6, tried again. With a bit of Moffat writing the Doctor as Sherlock (who I love, but is not the Doctor) thrown in.

    The thing about this episode that sent me into a wordless Christmas rage (thanks for that DW btw… I normally slip out of the party to watch Who to calm down) was that he closed the loop on River. Moffat thought when he wrote this one that it might be his last, so this episode was basically a giant ‘if I can’t write her, no one can’ on the character. And as a fan who likes the comics, novel and especially the super awesome radio dramas (no seriously, they’re insanely good… most of the time. I’ve actually learned to like 6 listening to them. Where is an Evelyn Smythe companion on screen?) I liked the fact that even though we would reach a point where River couldn’t be on the show anymore (Which is fine. Apart from Sarah Jane, everyone has their day) she could stay in the whoniverse, and with any luck, be given better, less moffat-y stories. And she can, but not with anyone pre 10 or post 12 (as someone else commented).

    I was fine with her getting her last night (someone did a lovely cut with the ten scenes that if you ignore the rest of the christmas special stuff they cut out, is really beautiful). I am not fine with her last night happening on the first night she meets 12 and the first night she learns that he got an extra set of regeneration. That was mean. Barring another memory highjinx (please, no) or one of them lying again (also, no) River can’t have any other doctor stories. Which is pleh. Especially since I would have loved to hear an audio drama with her and 12, not written by Moffat.

  • Watch Heaven Sent. It’s the one with only Peter Capaldi in it. A rare classic.

  • I really want to see Capaldi work with the more down-to-earth stories that someone like Terrance Dicks would’ve written.
    The Doctor arrives on an alien planet, runs into trouble, fixes trouble, makes friends, leaves without anyone noticing. No melodrama, no personal revelation, no “I AM THE DOCTOR…”

  • You’re forgetting that a night on Darillium is 24 years, which can be extrapolated into other 12/River adventures. Or maybe they just settled down for 24 years(yeah, sure).

  • amai

    A night on Darillium, is by definition, a night on Darillium. They probably had on planet adventures, but if they went other places and did other things, than the story she tells 10 of her death would start, not end, with the night on Darillium.

  • Jim

    You’re done with the program? Good, let those of us who still enjoy the program continue to enjoy it without the *constant* vitriol.

  • Bluejay

    I know, right? It’s really rude of her to hack into your computer and force you to read her posts.

  • I’m so terribly sorry that someone has forced you to read my comments on the show. This sounds like an abusive relationship, and you should try to escape it or ask someone for help.

  • Ryan Morris

    I’m sorry people have been posting comments like that on here. Whilst my opinion on this show varies wildly from yours (I happen to think the latest two seasons are the best the show has ever done) I still always found your reviews extremely well written and compelling. I also enjoy your reviews on a wide number of films, an area which I tend to agree with you more often.

    It’s a shame that some people cannot understand the idea of subjectivity, so again I am sorry about the abuse you have been given on here from people unable to comprehend that each and viewer is entitled to their own perfectly valid opinion.

    I’ll continue to read your film reviews, as I enjoy them a great deal. Keep up the good work.

  • Reginald Anselm Leppik

    Did you see the introduction for the new companion? And if you did, what are your thoughts?

  • Danielm80


    Her main thought seems to be: Wake me when the new showrunner gets here.

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