Thursday, October 20, 2011

Doctor Who 6.13: "The Wedding of River Song"

“I can help Rose Tyler with her homework. I can go to all Jack’s stag parties in one night.”
-The Doctor

The sixth series of modern Doctor Who ended with quite a mind-bender, but that’s pretty much to be expected from head writer Stephen Moffat. It was rather confusing at timey-wimey the first time I watched it, although I think I was able to follow it okay on rewatch. I was glad to see the end of some things that were niggling me about this series, like the ongoing theme about how the Doctor is dangerous to the people around him and Amy seeming to not have any feeling about losing the chance to see her daughter grow up. While I think this is unlikely, given their popularity, I think this episode would have been a perfect retirement for Amy and Rory and companions. Their story arc is pretty much complete. Amy now has lovely conversations on the back patio of her house with River, and that’s probably where the story should end. I’d be up for placing them on Martha in series 4 status for next year, though, maybe giving them a fun little 2-3 episode reunion arc, but as for primary companions, they should be done.

The episode opens by dropping up into a really messed-up version of earth. Not messed-up in a post-apocalyptic sense, but in a really jumbled sense. There are railroad tracks going through famous London buildings, cars being suspended in mid-air by hot air balloons, and a park where pterodactyls fly around like pigeons. One of my favorite oddities was Charles Dickens (played by the same actor who played him in series 3) giving a television interview about his upcoming Christmas special (that is “A Christmas Carol,” of course). The final bit of oddity is that Winston Churchill is the “Holy Roman Emperor” and has his home base at the “Buckingham Senate.” He’s noticed that the date and time never change, and he questions a servant about it. The servant doesn’t think it’s strange at all. Time is frozen at the exact moment the Doctor was supposed to die, by the way. Churchill calls for his soothsayer to give him some answers, and of course the soothsayer is the Doctor. He tells Churchill that time is broken “because of a woman.”

The Doctor starts telling Churchill the story of how time got broken. It turns out that after he left Craig and Sophie’s house, he decided to do a little investigating about the Silence before his death. He meets with an operative of the Silence who actually turns out to be the Tesselecta and crew. The Tesselecta have been investigating the Silence, too, and they give the Doctor a tip about another Silence operative who may have useful information. After playing a game of live (as in live electricity) chess with this other operative, the Doctor learns that Doriam (the blue alien who recently became a Headless Monk) has the answer he seeks. The Silence operative leads the Doctor to a vault where the heads of the Headless Monks are kept. Most of the Monks are just skulls on shelves, but Doriam’s head is still intact and kept in a fancy box. Doriam starts explaining why the Silence thinks the Doctor is dangerous by talking about the upcoming “fall of the eleventh” when the question will be asked and silence must fall. This was exciting to me because it shows that the creative team is starting to think about the transition to the Twelfth Doctor, even if it isn’t actually due to take place for a while. I like Matt Smith just fine (although David Tennant’s Tenth’s Doctor will always be “my” Doctor), but I’d like to see a bit of a creative rejuvenation of the series overall.

Back in weird, time-stopped London, Churchill and the Doctor move into the Senate room. Churchill pulls a gun, and hash marks start appearing on the Doctor’s hand. This means Silents are about, obviously. Churchill starts acting forgetful and asks the Doctor to continue his story. In the flashbacks, the Doctor has dragged Dorian’s head on to the TARDIS. Dorian very kindly tries to convince the Doctor that his time may finally be up, but the Doctor is in a rather petulant mood. He tries calling up his old friend the Brigadeer for an adventure, but the Brigadier has died (a little tribute to the actor who played the Brigadier, who did actually pass away recently). This sobers the Doctor up a bit, and he gets the Tesselecta to deliver the TARDIS blue envelopes for him. That kicks off a bit of a “The Impossible Astronaut” highlight reel. This time, though, we see River inside the space suit at Lake Silencio. The suit is in control, but River manages to avoid killing the Doctor. Lake Silencio was a fixed point in time, though, so things go bad very quickly.

Back in “present day” London, the hash marks on the Doctor’s arm keep getting more and more numerous. It turns out that there’s a whole colony of Silents in the Senate chamber, hanging up on the rafters like bats. Just as things are looking quite bad for the Doctor, Amy and a bunch o soldiers burst in. At first, we aren’t sure what side she’s on, because she’s wearing an eye patch. She shoots something at the Doctor, and the Doctor wakes up on a train. On the train car, which is filled with drawings from Amy’s time with the Doctor in the regular timeline, Amy reveals that she’s with a group that knows time has gone wrong and is trying to fix things. Amy and the Doctor also talk about how she hasn’t found Rory yet, which becomes a really funny running joke when “Captain Williams” pokes his head in the room to give an update.

The train arrives at “Area 52,” which is located at the base of one of the Great Pyramids. A bunch of Silents are being stored there in tubes, which is really creepy. And they’re even creepier when they start waking up and breaking out of their tubes. Before the situation gets really dire, the Doctor gives an amusing little pep talk to Rory about asking Amy out. Then the Doctor is brought to see a tied up Madame Kovarian (aka Eye Patch Lady) and River. The Doctor tries to make River understand that not killing him at Lake Silencio was wrong, but she’s not at all remorseful. Because they are the two pieces of this break in time, the Doctor tries to touch River to repair everything, but she has him handcuffed. The Silents make their way to the room where all this is going on, and they’re using the eye patches (called eye drives…Amy and her crew use them to be able to retain visual records of the Silents) to overcome the resistance. They can use the eye drives to cause extreme pain. Rory offers to stay behind and hold of the Silents while River and Amy take the Doctor to see something River has created at the top of the pyramid. It’s an incredibly noble moment because the eye drive is already causing Rory pain, but he’s grimacing through it. Amy ends up returning to save him, and then she leaves Kovarian with her eye drive frying her brain.

Up at the top of the pyramid, River shows the Doctor a distress beacon she’s created. Millions of people out in the normal universe have answered the call and want to help the doctor. This was a welcome end to “the Doctor brings destruction” plot that was getting rather tiresome. In order to finally get River to agree to reset the timeline, the Doctor takes a drastic step. He marries her in a quickie Gallifreyan ceremony that involves Amy and (a kind of confused, but humorously accepting) Rory giving consent and the Doctor’s bow tie as a binding. I’m really not sure how I feel about this. River’s feelings for the Doctor are clear, but the Doctor’s feelings for River really aren’t. The whole idea that he would marry her just doesn’t make sense given what we’ve seen. Anyway, after they’re married, the Doctor basically begs River to reset the timeline. They touch hands, and we go back to the lake. The doctor appears to die, and tie goes back to how it was.

The next thing we see is River and Amy talking on Amy’s back porch. River’s just come from the Weeping Angel adventures from last season. Amy is still really upset that she killed Madame Kovarian, even if it was in an alternate screwed-up timeline, and she wishes she could talk to the Doctor about it. River reveals that the Doctor had another trick up his sleeve, but she wasn’t supposed to tell anyone about it. It turns out that it was the Doctor inside the Tesselecta that was shot at Lake Silencio. The Doctor himself is still very much alive. The Tesselecta protected him. They’re celebrating this happy news as Rory arrives home, presumably from work. Meanwhile, the Doctor returns Doriam’s head to the Headless Monk vault. He’s decided that he’s going to keep having adventures, but he’s going to do it on the down-low. Doriam reminds him that he can’t escape his fate. The ultimate question that will be asked at the Fall of the Eleventh is, not surprisingly, “Doctor who?”

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