by Catriona Mills

Live-blogging Doctor Who Season Six: "The Wedding of River Song"

Posted 10 October 2011 in by Catriona

So here we are for the last episode of season six, and the last in a woefully delayed series of live-blogs. I’ve already made four typos (no, make that eight: I mistyped “typos” three times” and “no” once), which bodes well for the rest of this live-blogging.

Thank goodness it’s not actually live. (And there are typos nine to twelve. Actually, make that nine to sixteen.)

I’m going to stop counting my typos now (ironically, the first sentence I’ve typed without typos all live-blog).

Previously, the Doctor talks to a baby, and River is forced into an astronaut’s suit. Also, there are robots operated by tiny people.

In London, in 2011, there are steam trains. Also dirigibles. Dirigibles are cool now. Pterodactyls are less cool, but there are those, too. And Romans chariots. And Romans. The War of the Roses has entered its second year. And Dickens is on morning television. Winston Churchill is Holy Roman Emperor, and has his own mammoth.

I would like my own mammoth.

Churchill’s personal doctor is a Silurian, but he’s surprised that Churchill wonders why the time and date never change. Churchill’s bothered by this, and calls for his soothsayer, whom he’s previously thrown in the Tower.

Hand’s up who wasn’t surprised that the soothsayer was the Doctor?

CHURCHILL: Explain to me in terms I can understand. What happened to time?
DOCTOR: A woman.

Oh, Moffat. I love you, but sometimes I wonder why.

Credits!

Earlier, the Doctor is doing a voiceover. He’s also wearing a cowboy hat. And he’s taunting a Dalek. But it’s a bit safe, because the weapons system has been disabled. The Doctor’s looking for information—everything the Daleks know about the Silence. And it leads him to a place that I’m pretty sure was called Calisto Something-or-other, but I was typing and not really paying attention.

Either way, it’s the home space of someone who used to be an envoy of the Silence, but has been dead for six months. This Gideon is a robot powered by tiny people, which delights the Doctor as much now as it did in “Let’s Kill Hitler.”

The Doctor wants the Gideon-robot to tell him the Silence’s weakest link, and, oddly enough, the weakest link is playing Live Chess.

It’s live because there are massive electrical currents running through the pieces.

DOCTOR: I was going to lie down and take it. But, you know, before I do, I’d like to know why I have to die.

The Doctor concedes the game, and his opponent takes him to a place with horrifically animated skulls. And, really, being beheaded alive isn’t really enough of an explanation for why these skulls are still alive and surviving on a diet of rats.

But some heads are in boxes, if you’re rich enough to afford it, and the big blue guy from last season’s cliffhanger is rich, so he’s in a box.

Also, the Doctor’s chess opponent is being eaten alive by skulls, but this is a pretty fast-paced episode, so let’s leave it with the Doctor’s friendly chat with blue Dorian’s head.

Churchill isn’t really comfortable with this episode, and I’m not surprised.

Dorian’s not bothered by his situation, because he has a media chip in his head and excellent wi-fi, but the Doctor’s already moved on from that.

On the fields of something unspellable, at the fall of the eleventh (the Eleventh?), when no one can fail to speak or fail to speak the truth, the question will be asked. And that’s why the Doctor has to die. Because the Silence cannot have that question answered, or Silence will fall.

Dorian tells the Doctor the question, but we don’t hear it. We do see the Doctor run off with Dorian’s head in a box, as the head in a box tries to convince him that now he knows what the question is, he knows why he has to die.

Churchill also thinks that the Doctor should die. And even the Doctor seems a bit resigned to this.

Yet the really curious thing is that the Doctor and Churchill are now in the Senate chamber, though they don’t remember leaving Churchill’s office, and the Doctor has mysterious marks on his arms.

Back in the TARDIS, the Doctor wants to know why he has to die in Utah, but Dorian says it’s a still point in time, which makes it easier to create a fixed point in time. But the Doctor says he has a time machine, and he can go anywhere he likes. He’s on the phone, as though to prove this.

DOCTOR: I can go on all Jack’s stag parties in one night.

But he can’t see Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart, because the nurse on the other end of the phone says that the Brigadier died some months ago. They’re sorry, but they didn’t know how to get in touch with the Doctor.

Whimper.

This is the breaking point for the Doctor.

He asks the robot powered by tiny little people to deliver his last messages (ominous blue envelopes) to his friends. The robot asks if there’s anything else it can do, but the Doctor doesn’t answer. He’s talking to Churchill, who wonders why he wanted his friends to see his death.

DOCTOR: Amy and Rory. The Last Centurion and the Girl Who Waited. However dark it got, if I turned round, there they’d be.

This Doctor reminds me of the Seventh Doctor in the strength and openness of his faith in his companions.

But I’m running behind the narrative, because now River has risen from the lake in her astronaut suit. She tells the Doctor that she can’t fight it and she can’t stop it, because the suit is in control. He reassures River, saying she won’t even remember this. He even points out that River from the future is watching his death, “So that you know that this is inevitable and you are forgiven. Always and completely forgiven.”

He says goodbye to River, as she raises her weaponry. But he doesn’t die, and he seems a bit surprised by that. This is, after all, a fixed point in time.

RIVER: Fixed points can be re-written.
DOCTOR: No, they can’t. Of course they can’t. Who told you that?

And now we’re back with Churchill, who wonders why the Doctor has never heard of downloads. But that’s not important. What’s important is that the invisible Silence creatures are clustered on the ceiling, and things are not looking good for our plucky heroes.

Until Amy Pond turns up.

But no: she’s wearing an eye-patch. That’s not good. Only evil people wear eye-patches. And that seems borne out by the way she knocks the Doctor out.

But then he wakes up again. And he’s on a chaise longue. Chaise longues aren’t evil, are they?

Turns out they’re not. This Amy’s not evil. She has all the old memories of the Doctor, but she’s still wearing an eye-patch.

(I like the little joke about the Doctor looking great in his toga. Oh, Amy and your soft spot for Italians.)

Amy is a secret-agent lady now, and she has an office on a train. The Doctor wants to know where Rory is, but Amy, showing the Doctor an idealised portrait of Rory, says that she doesn’t know.

AMY: I can’t find him but I love him very much, don’t I?
DOCTOR: Apparently.

Luckily, he turns up then as “Captain Williams”. Bless Rory. How did he become so sexy?

They’re heading for Cairo and also there was some important stuff about how time is fracturing, but I didn’t live-blog it because it was complicated and not as funny as the bits I did blog.

Then the train runs into a pyramid. This almost makes up for the lack of that Christmas special about an Egyptian goddess loose on the Orient Express in space.

One day, I will learn how to spell “Egyptian”.

Inside the pyramid are roughly one hundred of the Silence, who’ve been captured and held in tanks of liquid that insulate their control of electricity. And Amy tell someone, “We’re in. He’s on his way.”

He has to pause briefly to try and convince Rory to ask Amy out because Amy said, “You were a Mr Hottie, and she’d like to go out with you for texting … and scones.”

I would totally be up for texting and scones.

TMI?

And, of course, the mysterious woman behind this is River. But Madame Cavorian from Demon’s Run is also there.

MADAME CAVORIAN: Oh, why couldn’t you just die?
DOCTOR: Did my best, dear. I showed up. You just can’t get the psychopaths these days.

There’s some typical flirting, which makes Madame Cavorian feel ill, but then the Doctor tries to grab River—purely because this will cause time to collapse back in on itself, bringing them back to the moment when the Doctor should die.

And elsewhere, water starts dripping from the ceiling, as the Silence start breaking out of their cells. But River and the Doctor haven’t finished talking about the various stories circulating about him, and her, and them.

DOCTOR: Idle gossip.
RIVER: Archaeology.
DOCTOR: Same thing.

Still, a hundred-odd Silence breaking out of their cells is a bit of a distraction. That and the fact that the Silence can control the eye-drives that they’re all wearing, electrocuting the wearers.

Madame Cavorian stops being so delighted about this when her own eye-drive starts sparking.

The Doctor wants to end this now, but River and Amy ask that they can at least show him what they’re working on.

Rory stays behind to cover their exit. Amy reminds him to take off his eye-drive before it activates.

RORY: It has activated, ma’am. But I’m no use to you if I can’t remember.

He’s debilitated by his eye-drive as the Silence burst through the door, but luckily Amy shows up with a sub-machine gun. Or something semi-automatic, anyway.

As Amy and Rory leave, Madame Cavorian (whose eye-drive has fallen partway off) calls out to Amy, asking her for help.

AMY: You took my baby from me. And hurt her. And now she’s all grown up and she’s fine. But I’ll never see my baby again.
MADAME CAVORIAN: But you’ll still help me. Because he would. And you’d never do anything to disappoint your precious Doctor.
AMY: The Doctor is very precious to me. But you know what else he is, Madame Cavorian? Not here.

And she readjusts Madame Cavorian’s eye-drive.

AMY: River Song didn’t get it all from you. Sweetie.

As Amy and Rory leave, Amy tells Rory they should get a drink sometime. Fine, says Rory. And married, Amy adds. This is also fine by Rory.

At the top of the pyramid, surrounded by expensive special effects, River has been sending out a distress call to everything, in every time: “The Doctor is dying. Please, please help.”

The Doctor says that this is stupid, and worse than that, he finds her embarrassing. Oh, Doctor: self-loathing is hardly an attractive trait.

The Doctor says that he has to die, but River can’t let him die without knowing how much he is loved—and not just by her, though she obviously places a bit of a premium on that.

DOCTOR: River. River. Why do you have to be this? Melody Pond. Your daughter. I hope you’re both proud.
RORY: I’m not sure I completely understand.
AMY: Oh, we got married and had a kid and that’s her.
RORY: Okay.

Then the Doctor and River get hand-fasted, which seems a bit pagan for as advanced a civilisation as the Time Lords. I mean, even in Robin of Sherwood, people got married with a proper monk, and that show was all about the misty (and mystic) Saxon bollocks. Okay, except for that one time with Owen of Clun, and he was evil. And a bit Welsh.

Which show am I live-blogging again?

When I return from Sherwood, the Doctor and River are married (or hand-fasted) and the Doctor’s calling her “wife” (which I refuse to admit it a bit sexy), and then they kiss and time snaps back into place.

Which means the Doctor’s dead.

Oh, well. The show will probably come back after another sixteen-year hiatus, no?

But wait: River has popped in to visit her old mum, having just climbed out of the wreck of the Byzantium, and they’re sharing a bottle of white wine in some seriously gorgeous wicker garden furniture.

Was that a middle-class moment or a middle-aged moment?

They compare time streams, and Amy’s still flipping out over the Doctor’s death, but River says of course he’s not dead.

Amy says she didn’t mean the younger versions of the Doctor, and River says that she didn’t either. Because the thing is that while the Doctor lies all the time, so does River. She has to, she says. Pretending that she didn’t know that Amy was her mother, pretending not to recognise a space-suit in Florida. But this secret is something that has Amy and River and the newly arrived Rory dancing around the garden.

RIVER: Of course I’m sure. I’m his wife.
AMY: And I’m his … mother-in-law.
RIVER: Father dear, I think Mother might need another drink.

Because of course the Doctor’s not dead! We see that when he turns up with Dorian’s head. Again.

How could he be dead when he has access to a robot full of tiny little people? He barely got singed in that boat, he says.

DORIAN: And Dr Song? In prison all her days.
DOCTOR: Her days, yes. Her nights—well, that’s between her and me.

The head of Dorian says that the question still waits.

DORIAN: 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? Doctor Who? Doctor Who?

And I’m going right out on a limb and saying that I did not see that pay-off coming, and it might be the most satisfying thing that’s happened to me all season. I’ve always seen “Doctor Who” as indicative, and to have it flipped to the interrogative? Well, I’m looking forward to seeing how that pays off.

I’ll keep you all informed about any decision I make about the live-blogging for next season but rest assured: there’ll always be a discussion space here for Doctor Who, whatever else happens.

Share your thoughts [12]

1

Deb wrote at Oct 11, 04:42 AM

The Gospel according to Steven Moffat:
“Don’t you think it’s quite good that television forces you to shut up and pay attention? And no, you shouldn’t be bloody tweeting during it…”

If ever you needed a reason to stop live blogging the Smoff supports you ;-)

2

Deb wrote at Oct 11, 04:44 AM

and seriously – that beard the Doctor was wearing? Worst EVER!

3

Catriona wrote at Oct 11, 06:07 AM

Yeah, the beard was dire. I chose to ignore its presence entirely.

I’m not with Steven Moffat on that, though. I love him and it pains me to say this, but I’m not with him on that. I shall interact with television however I choose, be it knitting, making a rug, tweeting, or blogging. Viva la digital revolucion!

(Though I do admire his strong stance on watching television as active rather than passive. I just don’t think it needs to be an exclusive activity.)

4

Drew wrote at Oct 11, 09:36 AM

I enjoyed this episode. Ever since the spectacular finish to Eccleston’s run the show has been trying to top itself with end of season bigger than big episodes. This one changed that and went for a more personal story, more intimate even though it was visually spectacular.

Not sure that I want the question answered. Mysteries are more mysterious when left that way.

And Treen, did the MOff tell you to stop live blogging and start watching?

5

Catriona wrote at Oct 11, 09:56 AM

I’m pretty sure he did, Drew. Him and me, we’re mates.

(Note: above statement may contain some factual inaccuracies.)

I enjoyed this, too. I did think they balanced some spectacular effects (train! pyramid!) with some gentler character stuff, and I always enjoy that.

Whether we want the question answered or not, I think it will be. I didn’t care about finding out who River Song was, but they made that inevitable. This also seems—in the way new Who is shaping up—an inevitability. Probably, from the sounds of it, for Matt Smith’s final episodes.

6

Nick wrote at Oct 11, 10:00 AM

The characters may hear the answer to the question, but I’m not sure the audience will. It’s too big.

7

Nick wrote at Oct 11, 10:03 AM

I saw some speculation online that the eyepatch-wearing space viking was actually Fenric, making this his and the Doctor’s first in a series of chess games eventually resolved in “The Curse of Fenric”. I quite like the theory, myself, but I think the eventually revealed cast list squashed it.

8

Tim wrote at Oct 17, 10:51 AM

I feel like last season was a how-to guide on building up to and delivering an excellent finale, and this one was a how-not-to. Somehow it managed to do this while still using a lot of the same notes. Perhaps it just needed to be a two-parter and not have been produced during a budget cut.

9

Catriona wrote at Oct 17, 11:09 AM

But the whole steam-train-into-a-pyramid thing was pretty cool …

10

Tim wrote at Oct 18, 10:49 PM

It was, though it looked to me like the train was going too fast to stop inside the pyramid.

Less cool, to my mind: Rory’s heroic last stand being undercut.

Not necessarily uncool, but annoying: the pretty much pointless time signal at the top of the pyramid, River wanting to destroy the universe for love, and the Doctor not just whispering the secret to her when they first meet.

Also, River going ‘Oh woe is me, I can’t stop this, the suit is in control! … Oh, wait, I totally can stop this.’

And later River tells Amy that Amy killing Madame Kovarian doesn’t count because it didn’t happen. But River still thinks the wedding counts, and that didn’t happen either.

And I’m still rolling my eyes at the final question.

11

Catriona wrote at Oct 18, 11:01 PM

I liked the final question! And I shall continue to like it! Cultivate your childlike sense of wonder, Tim!

(I assume they’re just finally going to tell us what his doctorate is in.)

I agree wholeheartedly on Rory’s last stand, though—I mean, honestly, they could have at least had him fire off a couple of rounds before the pain got too intense. That annoyed me at the time, but the episode (much like the steam train) was moving too fast for me to comment on it.

The “destroy the universe for love” bit also frustrates me. I really can’t feel all warm and fuzzy about anything that selfish, especially when Doctor Who hasn’t traditionally put that much emphasis on its characters’ personal feelings—it’s still a bit tricky for me to adjust to New Who in that respect, sometimes.

And what’s wrong with a good old “Hey, let’s ride out to meet that overwhelming force and all die horrifically but heroically!”? Nothing more English than that.

12

Catriona wrote at Oct 18, 11:03 PM

Oh, and River accepting that some things happened but some didn’t? I assumed she was pretty much lying to Amy about Madame Kovarian’s death not really happening, given the context. I took it as an outright attempt to stop Amy going catatonic over the issue.

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