As the Holiday Drought is in full force right now, most of my lineup didn’t show this week. But we did get this year’s Christmas special for Doctor Who. If not for the time I could spend with family for the holidays, I just might go nuts with boredom. (if I am ever thrown in prison, a pleasant experience it will not be!)
“The Husbands of River Song”
Fresh from the Doctor’s final parting with Clara, we have another parting, of sorts, to deal with, and it’s one that apparently happens because the Doctor has re-learned the lesson that such partings are inevitable. He’s known this one has been coming for a long, long time, and it involves one of the most complicated relationships he has ever had, with one of the most complicated women he has ever known: River Song.
Of course, the first thing he learns upon meeting her again is that things are more complicated than even he has guessed. For starters: he’s not her only husband.
When she fails to recognize him, he gets a good look at who River is when he’s not around, at both the hijinks she gets up to and what she truly thinks of him.
As far hijinks go, marrying a genocidal despot in order to behead him and get at the diamond lodged in his skull, only to find that the head is the only organic part left and can be freely removed from its robotic body, then stealing the threat-spewing head in a bag and fleeing through time and space to cut a more profitable deal for the diamond aboard a doomed space cruiser while the robotic body pursues its head, complete with thorough mixtures of horror and humor, all seems rather par for the course for River and the Doctor. So most of this episode was the usual fun ride we’ve come to love Doctor Who for.
As for what she truly thinks of him, that proved to be where things got most tender. She uses him on occasion, rescues him often, she talks a good game of him somehow not being so special, but when push comes to shove, her heart is constantly broken because she loves the Doctor, and believes he does not love her in return. This was the episode she learned, at long last, that he does. She means more to him than she’s ever guessed. That’s why he’s avoided that “final” rendezvous at the singing towers like the plague, because it means saying good-bye to her, which he’s always hated and avoided.
After losing Clara, and even losing his memories of her, and after this prolonged mess River unwittingly drags him into, the Doctor, for once, stops running away. They survive the crisis, and literally feast atop the graves of their genocidal enemies. The Doctor gives a brave, selfless rescue worked a priceless diamond, so he can build a restaurant for the Doctor to take River to. They talk, and listen to beautiful music, and share their feelings. Theirs is certainly not a normal relationship, but they are there for each other, always, when they least expect it, and when they need it the most.
All in all, this episode was… well, it ended up pretty sobering. As Ashildr/Me would say, it was sad and beautiful.
Still, these last few episodes of Doctor Who have, at times, felt a little drawn out, especially without a clear antagonist, or said antagonist is defeated and then things just keep going on and on, and we start wondering what end they have in mind. I suppose it’s poetic, as sometimes the immaterial enemy within can be far more lingering than the danger of physical foes. Sometimes our heroes defeat their enemies because they transform before the conflict is over, and sometimes the more difficult task lies after the victory is won. It’s more bare and brutal that way, when there are no enemies to distract us.
I guess I’m simply ambivalent about this episode. There were good things, and bad things, and… things that just weren’t terribly exciting, ya know?