The Wedding of River Song was the culmination of show-runner Steven Moffat’s master-plan. A plan that had been in the working for over two series. A plan that required time, patience, and dedication, often confusing and complicated, but always fun and entertaining, and most importantly, a plan that had a purpose. I’m not talking necessarily about the story of River Song, or The Silence, or the Ponds, I’m talking about the fall of the Doctor, and returning him to his origins.
Moffat has been, and continues to be, playing the long-game. I don’t for a second think that he had all the story details mapped out, I don’t believe he knew all the intricacies of River Song’s time-line, nor the ins and outs of the Silence, it would be mad to suggest otherwise. I believe Moffat had an overall idea of where he wanted these stories to go, and what these characters’ purpose was, and he filled in the gaps as he went along - that’s how most television shows operate. What he did know, was the over-arcing master-plan, the story of the Doctor, and stripping him back to his bare essentials.
In the Doctor’s own words he had become “too big”, like a rock band with indie credentials becoming too mainstream, the Doctor needed to return to his roots, take a sabbatical, find himself. The Doctor had developed a God complex, he was known by too many, simultaneously loved and feared, a persona that was created through the Russell T Davies era, and continued by Moffat as part of his master-plan to destroy that image. In The Wedding of River Song we did witness the death of the Doctor, not physically, but metaphorically; the legend, the idea of the Doctor is dead, and he can now return to lurking in the shadows, the lone mad-man in a box, travelling through time and space in secret, having all sorts of adventures. The Doctor of old has returned and it opens up some hugely exciting prospects for Series 7.
Doctor Who Episode 13 Review - Tick, Tock
The exhilarating series finale opens up in London, April 22nd, 2011, 5:02pm. Time is frozen, and all of history is happening at once. Steam trains pass through the Gerkin building in modern day London, hot air balloons float through the sky carrying cars, pterodactyls attack children in a park, Roman guards stop their horse drawn carriages at traffic lights, Charles Dickens promotes his next Christmas Special on BBC Breakfast (excellent self-plug), and Holy Roman Emperor Winston Churchill resides in the Buckingham Senate.
These opening scenes were breathtaking, perhaps visually the best Doctor Who has ever looked. The idea of all of history happening at once is a great concept, and it could have easily had a full episode to explore the idea. Churchill, who we last saw in The Victory of the Daleks, questions why time has become stuck, and demands to speak to the soothsayer, who of course is the Doctor, being held prisoner for so long that he has once again grown a beard. The Doctor tells Churchill that time has gone wrong because of “a woman”.
As the Doctor narrates his story to Churchill, we go back and see how this all came about. The Doctor, still on his farewell tour, goes on the search for information regarding the Silence. He encounters a Dalek on it’s death bed, and scans it’s memory to find out everything it knows about the Silence. It was a neat little scene, especially as I thought we weren’t getting any Daleks this year. The Dalek’s information leads him to Gideon Vandalar, an envoy of the Silence, but who is actually the Tesselecta, in robot form - now, for many, at this point you probably guessed that the Tesselecta would tie in to the Doctor’s escape from death, but I tried to switch my theory brain off for this episode, so that I could be fully engrossed, and it didn’t click for me.
The Tesselecta leads the Doctor to an alien Viking, who also works for the Silence. Before any more information is gleaned, the Doctor must play Live Chess, literally live, because the pieces have 4 million volts running through them. I think Live Chess would make a great game-show, more exciting than Red or Black anyway.
After conceding the chess game to the Viking, the Doctor is taken through an Indiana Jones style tunnel, complete with carnivorous skulls. He is brought to Dorium, now just a head in a box after his encounter with the Headless Monks. Can I just say before I continue, that the scene with the Viking getting eaten in the pit of skulls was some proper old school horror, it was bloody fantastic!
Dorium explains to the Doctor why the Silence want him dead, because he has a long and dangerous past, and an even more dangerous future. I found this a little odd, because even the briefest mention of a future for the Doctor means he must survive. Dorium tells him of the events in his future, including the fields of Trenzalor, the fall of the 11th, and the question which must never be answered. Moffat continues to play the long-game, evidently setting up the next regeneration story here.
The Doctor holds a terrible secret, a secret that must never be known, I assume this secret is the answer to the question, and Silence will fall when the question is asked. If so, then this series isn’t the last we have seen of the Silence. As the Doctor explains this to Churchill, he notices a tally mark on his arm, and as we know from The Day of the Moon, this means there are Silents in the vicinity.
We return to the story, with the Doctor and Dorium’s head aboard the TARDIS. Dorium says that the Doctor’s death is a “fixed point” in time that cannot be changed. But the Doctor refuses to die, exclaiming that time “has never laid a glove on me!” He plans to continue travelling through time and space, having adventures with his friends, both Rose Tyler and Captain Jack are referenced.
But when the Doctor calls one of his oldest friends, the Brigadier, and discovers that he has passed away, it is a moment of realisation for the Doctor, that everyone must die eventually, including himself. This was a touching tribute to Nicholas Courtney, who played the Brigadier, and who sadly passed away earlier this year. To take a moment out of the finale for him demonstrates the love the people working on Doctor Who have for the show and its legacy.
The Doctor accepts that his death is approaching, but he doesn’t want to die alone, so has the Tesselecta deliver his invitations. What the Doctor doesn’t account for is River Song’s stubbornness, and her refusal to kill him, she stands opposite him at Lake Silencio, in her astronaut suit, and drains her weapon power, effectively changing a “fixed point” in time, and causing time to go wrong, frozen, with all of history occurring at once. Time and the universe is disintegrating, and all because of River, she really is hell in high-heels.
Before the Doctor and Churchill are set upon by a bunch of Silents, Amelia Pond, back in black, and her army of guards come to save the day. Amy takes the Doctor to her office on the Orient Express, and although this is an alternate time-line, Amy remembers the Doctor by having drawings of events that remind her of him, however she is still looking for “her Rory”, not realising his resemblance to Captain Williams. The Doctor sharpens up, has a shave, and puts on his old jacket and trusty bow-tie.
Inside Area 52, an Egyptian pyramid marked with an American flag, Silents are seemingly being held captive in water tanks, to stop their electricity wielding powers. All of the people working in Area 52, including Amy and Rory are wearing eye-patches, which are called Eye-drives (or i-Drives?), that tap in to the external memory and allow you to remember the Silence, which I called last week, and is one of my many theories to actually come true! This scene includes the episode’s funniest line, when the Doctor is trying to convince Rory to ask out Amy for “texting and scones” - what a date!
In a room within the pyramid, River Song holds Madame Kovarian prisoner. After River flirts with the Doctor, making Kovarian almost physically sick, she tells him that she refuses to kill him, despite knowing it will destroy time. When the Doctor and River touch the connection is re-established and time starts moving again.
Before the Doctor and River can decide what to do, the Silence breaks out. They were never trapped, they were simply waiting for the Doctor all this time. Even the i-Drives were a set-up, programmed to use against those wearing them, including Kovarian. River takes the Doctor away to show him something, while the rest stay to fight the Silence.
In one of my favourite scenes of the episode, Rory remains behind to fend off the Silence, still wearing his i-Drive despite the fact that it could kill him, and he has to put up with the Silence mocking him about the amount of times he has died. But this time it is Amy that saves Rory, as she goes all bad-ass and machine guns down the Silents. Afterwards, Kovarian begs Amy for her life, telling her that she has to save her because that’s what the Doctor would do, but Amy responds “He isn’t here,” and she puts Kovarian’s i-Drive back on, leaving her to die. It is a dark turn for Amy as a character.
Atop of the pyramid, River shows the Doctor a beacon that is sending out a distress message across the universe, a message begging for help to save the Doctor. River tells him that there are so many people that love him, and no one who loves him as much as her. River would rather let the universe be destroyed than to kill the Doctor.
But the Doctor always has a plan, and he asks Amy and Rory for their consent to marry River. Rory is confused, “We’re married, and that’s our daughter,” Amy quickly explains. The Doctor uses his bow-tie to bind his and River’s arms together, and then he whispers something in her ear. He says that he told her his name, which we find out isn’t the case, but River does know his name in The Silence in the Library, so he must tell her at some point, perhaps in Let’s Kill Hitler?
I’m not sure if this marriage is legally binding, it did happen in an aborted time-line, a divorce probably wouldn’t hold up in court. Plus, who would get what? Who would keep the TARDIS? I don’t think they signed a pre-nup, and if they did, would River get…half of time and space?
When River and the Doctor kiss, time is reconnected, they return to Lake Silencio, and this time River kills the Doctor. Time resumes as normal, all of history returning to it’s original time period.
Back at the Ponds house, Amy drowns her sorrows in a bottle of wine. River turns up, fresh from her latest adventure with the Doctor, “I’ve just climbed out of the Byzantium.” Amy has guilt over her murder of Kovarian, despite it happening in an aborted time-line. She says if she could speak to the Doctor it would help, and then River delivers her secret. Rule number one, the Doctor lies, and so does River, she has been lying for quite some time, and she informs Amy and Rory that the Doctor is still alive.
In the Indiana Jones tunnel, Dorium is returned by a cloaked figure, the Doctor, our Doctor! Dorium asks how he survived, and we flashback to the Tesselecta asking the Doctor if there is anything else they can do - and that’s the twist. The Doctor that was killed at Lake Silencio was the Tesselecta, a robot Doctor controlled by miniaturised humans. When the Doctor whispered in River’s ear he told her to “Look in to my eye”, and as she did she saw the real Doctor inside, waving back.
For a complex episode the explanation was really straight-forward, I’m sure some felt it was a cop-out, but the answer was never going to satisfy everyone, I’m just happy it didn’t include Gangers. Some have asked how the Tesselecta was able to fake a regeneration, well it’s design was to emulate people and objects, so it isn’t impossible that it could emulate an orange glow. Others have said that did those inside the Tesselecta die when the “Doctor’s” body was burnt, I’m pretty sure they teleported out of there before that happened, plus the Doctor had his TARDIS aboard, so there was more than one method of escape.
So the Doctor didn’t die, but the universe thinks that he has, and that’s what is important. That’s what the “fixed point” was about, the idea of the Doctor’s death, it didn’t matter whether it was the real Doctor or a fake Doctor, just as long as people believed it was the Doctor that died. As he tells Dorium, he can now return to the shadows, without the baggage.
And as he leaves to once again be the lone mad-man in a box, Dorium teases us for what is to come for the Doctor, and the viewers. The fields of Trenzalor, the fall of the 11th, and the question which must never be answered, hidden in plain sight, the first question - Doctor who? I called this as well (yay!), and I said it would be a bit corny, and it kind of was, but it does put the focus on the origins of the Doctor and it could lead to some very interesting places. Or maybe it isn’t Doctor who? Maybe it is “Doctor, who?” as in a question posed to the Doctor about someone else, but I choose to believe it is the former, especially as Moffat appears to be tying it in to his long-game, and having it lead to the 11th Doctor’s regeneration, which I predict will happen in the shows 50th anniversary episode in 2013!
Series 6 has been one hell of a ride, at times complex and confusing, but also fun and entertaining, mixing a whole genre of styles and tones along the way. Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, and Arthur Darvill has really developed in to their roles and upped up their performances with each episode. Steven Moffat has constructed an epic journey and an epic fall for the Doctor, and returned him to his roots, which leaves the door wide open for what is to come in the future.
by Martin Holmes