Stars: Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill, Alex Kingston, Frances Barber, Simon Fisher-Becker, Ian McNeice, Richard Hope, Marnix Van Den Broeke, Nicholas Briggs, Simon Callow, Sian Williams, Bill Turnbull, Meredith Viera, Niall Greig Fulton, Sean Buckley, Mark Gatiss, Emma Campbell-Jones, Katharine Burford, Richard Dillane, William Morgan Sheppard
Writer: Steven Moffat
Director:  Jeremy Webb
Network: BBC America, airs Saturday nights
Original Telecast: October 1, 2011

In the thirteenth episode of DOCTOR WHO Series 6, “The Wedding of River Song,” the Doctor (Matt Smith) is faced with an unavoidable fate: death on the shores of Lake Silencio, Utah, in 2011 (as seen in the Series 6 premiere, “The Impossible Astronaut”). But this is the Doctor we’re talking about – surely he has some plan! Indeed he might, but not before all of time starts happening at once, old friends have surfaced in strange and surprising ways, and River Song (Alex Kingston) has to face her destiny and help the Time Lord save all of reality…by killing him.

It’s appropriate that this year’s series and the story arc reaches its crescendo with an episode in which time has ceased to function, rendering all events that take place as a meaningless jumble of disconnected visual set pieces and oh-so-cool-and-clever ideas with no logical through-line or cohesive structure. After all, that’s what passes for storytelling in this show lately.

Anyone that’s followed my reviews this year (if not as far back as Series 5) knows that I have serious issues with the way the overall story arc – especially the treatment of the abduction of Melody Pond and its emotional aftermath for our lead characters – has been crafted and implemented. But let’s be honest here: as a series finale that carries the burden of two years’ worth of questions in addition to whetting the appetite for another series to come, “The Wedding of River Song” has a task more impossible than an astronaut at the bottom of Lake Silencio. To paraphrase a cliché, you can’t please all the DOCTOR WHO fans all the time. The only question is – no, not that one – does this episode even come close to providing some narrative closure while telling an interesting story in its own right?

Not really; this episode isn’t even a story at all. As noted above, it’s just a string of happenings, a shopping list of notions – hey, wouldn’t it be cool if Americans had a pyramid clearly labeled Area 52, and wouldn’t it be cool if cars rode in the air on balloons for no reason, and so on – with no story to tell. Things just happen, characters and scenes flash on the screen, and then it stops when the episode runs out of time (ironically enough). And yet, and yet…

There’s little point in my spending time talking about all the ways this episode continues the trend of flash over substance, emotional distance over relatability (not actually a proper word), and obsessive focus on River Song as the Coolest Person in the History of Ever™ instead of the Doctor, whose television show was ceded to River entirely sometime in the last year or so. There are message boards awash with threads about all the questions this episode does not answer, about how the answers it does give are nonsensical and built on nothing but whimsy and desperation that clearly show how much of River’s ridiculous timeline was made up as it went along, and about how the show seems to not only not want to provide any narrative coherence but actively punishes the audience for daring to expect it. So why did I say “and yet…” a paragraph ago? I’ll give you an answer.

Maybe it’s because my expectations were just so low, but somehow I managed to appreciate at least a few glimmers of inventiveness and even – yes – moments of attempted emotional realism that came too little, too late but still impressed me. Let’s say I appreciated the effort, begrudging though it seemed to be. So what did I like?

For one thing, it didn’t escape my notice that in an episode that offered a warm but slightly ill-conceived tribute to Nicholas Courtney and the Brigadier (he dies alone and waiting in vain for the Doctor to visit one last time? Really?) the story spends a lot of time in an alternate reality in which everyone is wearing eye-patches. The joke’s on us all right.

Then there’s Amy’s double-barreled emotional outburst. Following an excellent reinforcement of the romance between her and Rory in “The Girl Who Waited,” this episode also nails it when she comes back gun blazing to save him from the Silence. As if that wasn’t enough, we finally get a bit of rage associated with the loss of baby Melody. Amy’s final words to Kovarian (a villain we still know squat about, but who cares, right?) are probably cheer-inspiring for some, but for me they do at least elicit a smile.

The visuals are indeed nicely realized, with some beautiful set and costume design. I’m reaching but I also like the brief mention of Utah being a still point in time – I’m a sucker for a Fifth Doctor era/Mara reference. And through it all, the episode is anchored as usual by a wonderful performance from Matt Smith, acting his heart out despite the lunacy swirling all around him. The rest of the cast valiantly do their best as well, although Ian McNeice’s Churchill is not a character I would have chosen for a second appearance. His cartoonish mugging aside, he does well enough under the circumstances.

The ending comes as abruptly as everything else, but I do hope this means we’re done with most of the torturous tale of River Song. I remember when the show involved the Doctor and his companions traveling to distant times and worlds, fighting monsters and saving the innocent and moving on to the next destination. It looks like we might be heading back in that direction and for that I would be very grateful.

Or are we? We still have all this pretentious silliness about “The Question,” yet another prophecy that will doubtless not make any sense when the show has to try to deliver on the specifics. I’m not saying the other direction is entirely sensible either – I seriously doubt the show can maintain the notion that the Doctor will now never travel openly again or avoid identification in every successive adventure – but I do hope we just drop the whole thing and move on.

As for that “Question,” once again the show proposes to answer something we’ve never really asked (Lady Peinforte already knew anyway, and the Doctor didn’t seem to give a damn back then). “Doctor Who?” We don’t need that question answered; we know who and what our hero is, thank you very much. We just want to see him being wonderful and having adventures. Tell me a story, please. One with a beginning, middle and end. Every week. So that’s my answer to the question, “what would you like for the show’s 50th anniversary?”

I would like DOCTOR WHO. And that’s a full stop, not a question mark…unless it turns up on a lapel or two.

Next time, sleigh bells ring and wardrobes sing…or something. See you at Christmastime!

Click on link: AX’s exclusive interview with DOCTOR WHO showrunner Steven Moffat – Part 1

Click on link: AX’s exclusive interview with DOCTOR WHO showrunner Steven Moffat – Part 2

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Article Source: Assignment X
Article: TV Review: DOCTOR WHO – Series 6 – “The Wedding of River Song”

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Comments:

  1. I agree with every word you have written about this deeply disappointing season.
    Like you, my expectations are now so low that I was surprised to find things to enjoy in this flawed episode, particularly seeing some emotional realism for once.
    The sense that Moffat is making it up as he goes along (and not that competently) is overwhelming.
    There is also a cynicism at the heart of the show since Moffat’s tenure began that has tainted Doctor Who.
    Maybe it needs this year off screen for the production team to regroup and think about getting Doctor Who on track again.

    Samantha Meah
    • I have to say one more comment after reading other people’s comments

      I happen to disagree heavily with the assertation that
      Moffet is “making it up as he goes along”

      Take a look at the loop
      Season 5 climax: all of space begins to fall apart
      which was caused by what the silence did to the tardis and what doctor did to undue it ultimatly saved Rory from death which caused River’s conception and gave the silence “the women who kills the doctor”
      Season 6 climax: all of time begins to fall apart
      and some fans are suspecting that once again the silence have there victory
      what dorian’s head said when the doctor asked why the silence wanted him dead was “they dont really they just dont want you alive”
      now to the universe the doctor is not.

      and as for the question some are already making theories on how simplistic in answer to said question is and it might tie into in old force from the original doctor who series

      abe
  2. Excellent review. It’s a shame that Who has now become disjointed garbage, written on the spur of the moment, with no long term plan, à la Lost. Unfortunately this seems to be the default template for 21st Century drama. Make it all up as you go, try and tie it together at the end somehow, and hope the “low attention span” generation won’t notice.

    Simon
  3. I couldn’t agree more… I long for the day when we actually got STORIES from ‘Doctor Who’ and amazingly, that day wasn’t all that long ago! Despite my own criticisms of RTDs era, he at least gave us plot and arcs that wrapped up at the end of every season. Now, under Moffat, the cryptic nonsense goes on and on and on… He dragged things out with River SO long that by the time her secrets were revealed, we just didn’t give a crap!

    You can still give us emotion and complicated relationships, but PLEASE go back to what sold the show to the world in 1963… Bring back the adventure and put the ambiguous, convoluted mystery back in the closet with the other childish things.

    Scott
  4. I liked it and thats really all i have to say

    actually the brigadiers death matched what was told would happen to him in past media

    when the seventh doctor proclaimed he would die “peacefully in his sleep”

    abe
  5. That’s true, it matches “Battlefield” in that sense, but that’s not the issue I have with it. We’re told the Brig was having a glass of brandy set out for the Doctor, hoping he would show up, which means that at the end of his life, he was waiting in vain for his old friend to visit him for quite a while and getting no visits. It’s a very sad way to leave him, and the Doctor’s inability to just pop back a day and give his friend one last comforting visit is inexplicable given the TARDIS. In this era, we’ve seen so much bending and breaking of time-related rules, there’s just no reason he couldn’t do that.

    Arnold
  6. Great review! I agree almost completely although you found more positives than me (I DID like the mention of Rose and Jack). I thought the worst part was the actually wedding and behavior of the Doctor. I’m like, who is this guy? I think people who study literature or writing will really begin to notice the lack of narrative structure and cohesiveness of the show. It’s just a bunch of nonsense and if you call it nonsense for some, then apparently “you just don’t get it.” Anyway, hopefully the show returns to what it should be with a clear beginning, middle, and end. And no more pretentious, “Doctor Who?” I mean, really? Really? Lose River Song, Amy and Rory and start fresh even if most of the answers have not been answered because they probably won’t be answered anyway. Unfortunately, I fear the show will continue the nonsense and next season will be all about River Song finding out the Doctor’s name as he falls in love with her and how this connects to the “Question.” I’m calling it.

    Autumn

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