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Doctor Who – Season 6 Episode 13 The Wedding of River Song – TV Review

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Doctor Who 6.13 The Wedding of River Song - Matt Smith
Doctor Who 6.13 The Wedding of River Song - The Doctor (Matt Smith), and we're meant to ask "Who?", or rather we're not! © BBC 2011

Time itself has suffered a blow to its very core and has become fractured and stuck. What was the cause and can Time be put back on course?

One thing you cannot say about this season is that it has been predictable. This final episode takes the form of a story told by the Doctor in an alternate timeline. There! That idea will have probably lost some viewers already. At the end of a 13-episode season, stretching over 5 months, the approach is more in the style of a “catch-up” episode, filling the viewer in with what has been happening, rather than a story that is moving forward.

Doctor Who 6.13 The Wedding of River Song - Matt Smith and Ian McNeice
The Doctor (Matt Smith) fills Winston Churchill (Ian McNeice) in on the back-story, or is that the alternate story? © BBC 2011

There is much that can be said about the episode – the good ideas, the daft ideas, the ludicrous ideas – but what really surprises me is how the casual viewer has been discarded in favour of the fan/committed viewer. For instance, while the bearded Doctor is telling Churchill the backstory, marks appear on the Doctor’s arms. Fans of the series know what this means, but the casual viewer is given nothing, no explanation what this means.

I was hoping for, but not really expecting, a complete resolution to the season. We actually got very little. The plans that had been so long in the making, from the abduction of Amy’s baby to the death of the Doctor, were just swept away in a flurry of quick-fire explanations. So many questions were left unanswered; so many plot points unresolved. Yes, the season was brilliantly contrived and constructed, but really it was too clever by half, and rather too self-aware of this fact.

Doctor Who 6.13 The Wedding of River Song - Matt Smith
We leave these Silence episodes with the Silence actually not having done very much © BBC 2011

First the Silence was just part of an ominous phrase, said as the Universe was being destroyed. Then it became one of the best monster ideas in the series’ history, but what did they do? They looked menacing, and through their minions contrived to bring about the death of the Doctor, which they didn’t. They had deliberately allowed themselves to be captured in the alternative timeline to wait for the arrival of the Doctor. Then when he arrived, Amy gunned them down, and  that was that!

I do hope this is the end of River Song’s appearance in the series. It’s bad enough that the Doctor is now some cocky person, who is now a habitual liar. What this says about him being a role model I do not know. But then, as I have written before, River Song should in no way be a role model, despite the programme thinking she is to be admired.

Doctor Who 6.13 The Wedding of River Song - Alex Kingston and Frances Barber
River Song (Alex Kingston) holds Madame Kovarian (Frances Barber) captive, a supposed villian who we actually never see do anything – it’s all off-screen! © BBC 2011

What has surprised me the most is that Head Writer Steven Moffat has actually not put his mark on the series as much as I expected. Yes, he has managed to introduce complete plots, and he returns to complex time stories whenever he can, but the mark of his predecessor Russell T Davies is strong. We still have all those phrases, the gates of this, the plains of that, as if the universe is all neatly catalogued somewhere that everyone knows about. This week we even had Davies’ favourite, the bodiless head. How this (or indeed skulls) is meant to move, let alone talk, breath or speak is a complete mystery.

I can’t let this pass without mentioning the death of the Brigadier. A nice touch for the fans, but why would this so upset the Doctor? Surely in his travels he would have heard of the Brigadier’s death before (in his timeline)? And the Doctor could still have used his TARDIS to visit a younger version of the Brigadier. Of all the people in the Universe, the Doctor is the one person from whom death does not mean you will never see someone again.

As for “The Question” turning out to be “Doctor Who?”. Well, we’ve managed for nearly half a century not knowing, why should it now become important? In fact, I really don’t want to know. There’s so little real mystery left in the series, it would be nice for that to remain.

There are may fans of the series out there who are convinced that this is the same series as the one in 1963, but I don’t see it. The ideals of the Doctor have changed, his motivation, even some of his morals. No, we must now be in another of those alternate timelines. Oh well…

[Rating: 3]