“The Wedding Of River Song” S6 / E13
- B+ Community Grade
You didn’t expect to get all the answers, did you? If so, “The Wedding Of River Song” must have been a disappointment. Not only did we not get to the bottom of The Silence or hear the answer to the first question, we didn’t even get a proper-seeming wedding. Instead, this sixth-season finale featured a classic Moffat sleight-of-hand, raising two new questions for every answer it supplied and piling on a bunch of big, crazy ideas on top of the big, crazy ideas already in play. In other words, unless you were looking for answers, all the answers, this was a pretty close to perfect season finale.
Let’s start with the biggest, craziest idea first, the stuck-in-time London. There’s enough material here for an entire episode. Churchill, one of several characters to get called back into action, serves as Holy Roman Emperor and seemingly all eras of London exist at once on top of one another. Dickens promotes his latest Christmas special on television while pterodactyls annoy those hanging out in the park. A less restless showrunner would have spent an hour exploring that parallel world, Sliders style. But here it’s mostly there to show what happens when you mess with time and how nothing good come of it.
It takes a while for The Doctor to convey that message, however. Locked up long enough to grow a creepy beard (again), he’s the lone voice of reason in a world gone mad. Changing that means convincing his old friend Caesar, er, Churchill that things aren’t quite right and exposing this alternate London as a place plagued by The Silence. Meanwhile, elsewhere in time, a Stetson-outfitted Doctor tracks down information on The Silence from sources that include a worse-for-wear Dalek, the spaceship that poses as people, and the now headless Dorium Maldovar (with a stop to play a life-or-death game of live chess before a bloodthirsty crowd first). And, oh yeah, there are some carnivorous skulls, too.
All that’s within the first 10 minutes, but impressive unpacking of wild concepts wouldn’t mean anything if it didn’t service the big story Moffat’s been telling for the last couple of seasons. And it would mean even less if it didn’t service the small story he’s been telling, the story of The Doctor, Amy, Rory, and River, an oddball group floating through time. Ending, as it must, with The Doctor’s “death,” this episode brings us full circle back to the beginning of the season. That means we finally get to the bottom of the moment when an astronaut shoots The Doctor—an astronaut who’s actually River Song, as it turns out—but also a reminder of all the warm feelings and affection these characters have for each other.
Both the stories depend on each other. These characters wouldn’t have found each other were it not for the cosmic cataclysms they’ve found themselves forced to prevent, but they also wouldn’t have been able to save the universe if it weren’t for the love that’s developed between them. Hence, The Doctor is wrong. Or at least he was wrong when he decided to swear off companions to avoid damaging any more lives. A sense of guilt has weighed heavily on him all season, but if it weren’t for Amy’s fondness for him, he would never have been able to restart time. And, at his greatest moment of need, the whole universe bends its way to save him. It’s turned into a science fiction adventure show that’s also about friendship and family—more so than any previous seasons since the revival—a strange combination that’s worked out brilliantly so far.
It’s also, in its odd way, turned into a universe-spanning romantic comedy. The Doctor is a creature of, at best, muted sexuality except in the company of River when a powerful chemistry takes over. And here they get married, which the biggest change the character of The Doctor has undergone, since I’ve been watching the show anyway. What will it mean? We don’t really get a sense of that here, or even see The Doctor and his bride together after they kiss. But things have changed. When we see Amy and River together, their relationship has shifted. River’s still flitting around time, but she’s come to see Amy as her mother. When she hangs out with Amy and Rory at the episode’s end, they look like a family.
Things have changed for The Doctor, too. After ascending to the status of a demigod, he’s now gone underground, or at least as underground as a man floating around in a big, blue police box can be. He’s companionless, for now, but probably unable to see the universe as quite so lonely a place as he used to. With Amy, Rory, and River out there together—for now—he’s even got something like a home. “So. Where are we?”, Amy asks Rory at the end. Good question. At the end of season six, it looks like we're somewhere we’ve never been before.
Yet some things haven’t changed. As Dorium points out, “it’s all still out there” and he may have only forestalled his day of reckoning. And then there’s the question, which Dorium apparently reveals at last in the episode’s final lines: “Doctor who?” Or is it “Doctor, who?” Or maybe “Doctor who…” with a blank to be filled in. With this show, there’s always a blank to be filled in even at the end of a season.
Four quotes and a question:
• “Hello, Dalek.”
• “Hell. In high heels.”
• “It was a busy day, and I got beheaded.”
• “She would like to go out with you for texting and scones.”
• Amy leaving Madam Kavarian, albeit in an alternate timeline: Does that change her character? She seems to think so.
• Finally, see you at Christmas time.