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Published on October 2nd, 2011 | by Elton Townend Jones

The Wedding of River Song Reviewed

As usual, I came to The Wedding of River Song with no knowledge of what to expect, so I had no wild imaginings as to what this season finale might contain; certainly no imaginings as wild as those of Mr Moffat.

As episodes go (and we’re forced by the narrative construction of recent instalments to use the term ‘episode’ over ‘story’) this one was filled to the brim with ideas and images. You couldn’t fault it for scope and imagination: from vistas of a London where all Time is happening at once (a very literal interpretation, but a fun one nonetheless), through dark caverns full of hungry and curious skulls to Egypt’s Area 52 with its cells full of Silence, this one had it all.

Opening in an elegiac and downbeat manner, the story unfurled to reunite us with recent friends and elements from recent episodes, whilst also spoiling us with mentions of Rose Tyler and Captain Jack. I adored the smashed-up Dalek and got a lump in my throat at news of the Brigadier’s demise. This lump grew large enough to force a tear when this revelation tipped the Doctor over the melancholy edge, thus revealing the true extent of his affection for an old friend.

But even though this episode was an ambitious and colourful selection box, it reminded me of over-indulgent Christmas Days as a child, where, unconstrained by the usual rules built into my life, I would glut myself on presents, sweets, TV, puddings and chocolate and come away feeling exactly as I do now – thrilled and bewildered; perhaps even a little regretful and tired.

Doctor Who: The Wedding of River Song

The Wedding of River Song looked great and it certainly entertained, but was it the best way to tell the story it wanted to tell? Placing the action in a universe that never happened fails to provide solid ground upon which to support an audience’s suspended disbelief. It’s the reset button in reverse, almost. Nothing of consequence can truly happen in an alternate timeline. Or rather, anything and everything a writer can imagine is free to happen, but with no meaningful consequence. Did the Doctor and River Song get married in any real sense? And, while we’re at it, did they even care that they did/didn’t? (I’m still not entirely sure why they did/didn’t, or why indeed River even thinks she loves him.)

I’m not keen on reviewers who offer opinions on what they wanted a story to be, rather I’d prefer they (and I) dealt with what they saw and looked for the good in it, but I’ll fall into the trap and let myself down by simply suggesting that what we got tonight was wonderful but also unnecessarily convoluted.

This was an explosion in a story factory (and well done to Moffat for being able to explode so colourfully), a Doctor Who fever dream; but something a little more focussed and a little more specific might have been the real order of the day. It was like a pastiche of a Russell T Davies series finale (don’t get me started on the ‘Tick-tock’ rhyme contrivance), a mad, sugar-high dash from A to B that tripped around the houses, lying to its audience and opting for the simple get-out-jail option that we’d all predicted ten minutes into this season (back in April): ‘it wasn’t really the Doctor who was killed, folks’. Not the bravest choice for a brave programme with a history of brave stories.

I don’t want to have to say this, because I had fun while it was on, but it really did feel like it had been made up as it went along, didn’t it? I don’t offer any judgement on that being a good thing or a bad thing, but I observe it – and you probably do too. We’re now in an era of Doctor Who in which the question ‘What pictures are weird?’ has over-taken the question ‘What ideas are weird?’; a series where the ideas fit the image rather than the other way around. This may be a bold experiment that takes us to some wonderful places. It may well be. I hope so.

Doctor Who: The Wedding of River Song

Whatever my misgivings, The Wedding of River Song was a crazy, fun-filled romp to cap a mixed bag of a season – the best aspects of which have continued to be Matt Smith and the general ‘look’ of the show – and even featured some teasing ‘revelations’ regarding the Doctor’s future. For all the joy I take from such teasing, I still say it’s a shame when the best bits of an episode are the bits that have little to do with the current narrative and are there merely to trail an episode somewhere up ahead.

In this case, it turns out (again) that the Doctor’s going to die (again) – which means he’ll probably just send a pretend version of himself along to take the hit and avoid the whole thing, because he can do that now there are no rules. ‘I’m faking my own deaths now. Faking my own deaths is cool.’ Already then, probably a good two years before we even see it, his impending death just doesn’t matter. Hopefully it’ll be made to matter by having him (quite sadly) regenerate. And you all knew that the oldest question, hidden in plain sight was ‘Doctor Who?’ didn’t you? Of course you did. I’d have been gutted if it had been anything else. Oh, and speculate all you like, kids, you’ll never be told.

In conclusion then, I’ll offer a personal opinion that The Wedding of River Song was my least favourite season finale since the series returned in 2005, but on its own terms it was, quite unarguably, a brilliant bit of fluffy fun.

And it all ended very suddenly, didn’t it?

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About the Author

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Elton Townend-Jones is a journalist, playwright, actor, theatre producer and philosopher. He does ‘80s zeitgeist at www.25yearstoolate.blogspot.com.




16 Responses to The Wedding of River Song Reviewed

  1. avatar Jeffrey Miller says:

    Couldn’t agree more and thank you for the courage to be the first one to say it.
    I love the show and encourage all those that swoon over episodes like this but I miss the days of just good stories that mattered rather than good storytelling that doesn’t really matter in the end.

    • avatar Paul says:

      It’s hardly ‘courage’ to say that, especially as it is a widely expressed opinion.

      Since the season finales represented, for me, RTD at his very worst, I can agree with most of this review while completely disagreeing with the review’s judgment of it as a season finale. For me, ‘just good stories that mattered’ does not describe Deus Ex Rose, Vacuum Cleaner Void, DobbyDoctor, or Towed Earth. And it certainly doesn’t describe the End of Time Part 2, compared with which even this thrown-together confection was a work of genius.

  2. avatar Drew Fleming says:

    When Eleven does go I want him screaming “Geronimo!!!!!” as he saves the day one last time.

  3. avatar ChrisL says:

    I enjoyed this episode in it’s own right. It had a good ‘feel’ to it and was highly enjoyable… until you examine the narrative too closely.
    Too many things didn’t make sense and too many loose ends weren’t tidied up to my satisfaction. I could go on and list them but it would be pointless as it appears that very few people actually care enough about the plot any more.
    However, there is one glaring loose end that is really bugging me and it concerns a tiny little point that occurred originally in the opening two- parter. In the orphanage where Melody grew up there was a room ( presumably Melody’s room) in which photographs of Melody were discovered by Amy, and one of these photos showed Amy holding a baby in her arms. I presume this was a photo of Amy holding Melody because nothing else would make sense. So my question is this;

    When exactly was this photograph taken?
    Amy never had chance to hold her daughter let alone have a cozy, smiley, photograph taken with her. The only baby Amy ever got close to was the ‘ganger’ version and she certainly was never in a position to pose for a ‘normal’ photo such as the one we all saw.

    There are many, many other such discrepancies throughout this series but this is the one that really bugs me for some reason. The rest of them can wait for now because, as I said earlier, there doesn’t seem to be any desire around here to discuss the glaring plot holes that have littered series 6. Too often people see genuine questions and concerns as an attack on Steven Moffat and just end up saying “it was worse under RTD’s stewardship” without ever addressing the concerns that have been raised.

  4. avatar Janury Lost says:

    Agree with the review on most ends, but it’s not very objective or diverse. It’s probably important to preface that while most of us fans out here consist of Classic fans… the show’s being tailored and fed to a different kind of audience.

    We classic fans are quite the thinking bunch and tend to consider the production aspects of the show as we watch. Likewise, we’re all too apt to dissect the writing techniques, especially.

    On that note think one of the important things the review is missing is the subconscious message; which is something I find largely encompassed within the formula of these new shows in various areas. It in fact explains quite a bit of what we’re calling spotty writing etc.

    For example: “…action in a universe that never happened fails to provide solid ground upon which to support an audience’s suspended disbelief… Nothing of consequence can truly happen… anything and everything a writer can imagine is free to happen, but with no meaningful consequence.”

    This is true, but the message was missed. What was being put forth was actually ‘everything we know is confusing and we need to Doctor to make sense of it for us’. That’s just it in a nutshell. Ultimately we’re all either going to have to learn to accept this is the way the writing works these days, or we’re always going to end up arguing writing semantics for the next eternity.

    Who isn’t a book. It’s a one hour show meant to pass on goodness to all, especially children. That’s not my way of defending it (the thought actually pains me a bit), I’m simply a realist. *shrug*

    I personally enjoyed the show. Yes I wish it was older, edgier, and more thought-provoking. But it’s meant to be a ride not literature course. :)

  5. avatar Drew Fleming says:

    The confo episode seems to imply that the picture was taken on Demon’s Run. Amy certainly appears to be wearing the same hospital gown.

  6. avatar Francis Cave says:

    Very well written review, bravo!

    And thank goodness it wasn’t just me who watched it and thought “it looks good, but I am buggered if I can make any sense of it!”.

  7. avatar Tony Ingram. says:

    Coouldn’t disagree more. For me, this was an intricately plotted, well thought out finale that successfully answered all the important questions of the last two years while returning the Doctor to where he was before RTD’s “lonely god” crap ruined the character. I cannot understand why so many people seem to have a problem with Moffat’s writing style. It may be convluted, but it’s still clever and certainly not confusing if you actually pay attention. That’s all he asks of the audience; pay attention!

  8. avatar John Harley says:

    This episode was alot better than recent Moffat written ones but it still fails to be what I consider Doctor Who! The plot holes from last series have still not been addressed, like the Leadworth mystery and the date on Rory’s badge or actual facts about Amy herself. Also does a Tesselecta regenerate when badly injured as well? Well it did in the first show of the season, Impossible Astronaut. Like others have stated the show is now written with a different audience in mind. And in some ways it is courage to speak out against the programme now, because you incur the wrath of the Moffateers…

    • avatar Tony Ingram. says:

      What Leadworth mystery? And what more do we need to know about Amy? She seems to have been pretty well covered, to me.


    • I can’t understand how anyone can have a problem with the shape-shifting robot being able to mimic a regeneration effect after observing one in Let’s Kill Hitler…

      • avatar Drew Fleming says:

        Not to mention it’s got a Timelord on board to instruct the crew on what the regeneration effect should look like. It also answers the question as to where the Doctor’s Tardis is in The Impossible Astronaut. It’s parked inside the Tessalector.

    • avatar Grace says:

      The whole “mystery” of Rory’s badge DOESN’T exist! The Moff said in an interview that it was nothing, an error. I’m still trying to process the episode, thought mostly because I only finally saw it tonight! I still find the whole series wonderful: Moffat hasn’t done anything to make me hate him…yet.
      What I keep going back to is what Neil Maiman has said on the subject: basically, DW is a fairytale with fairytale logic. It’s not sent to be bullet-proof plots, just fun.
      Ease up guys, sheesh!

  9. avatar mark jones says:

    All I can say is – It’s been great having ‘Who’ back on the box and like the old days there have been episodes I’ve loved and the odd one or two which have just been ok, but on the whole it’s been great stuff. Personaly I feel the show has been top telly for the last 6 years, the latest being just as fantastic as the first 5 and the whole thing is fab. Loved the latest episode and can’t wait till Christmas.
    Don’t forget – if it wasn’t for Mr Davis we wouldn’t have had ‘Who’ back in the first place.

  10. avatar Elton Townend Jones says:

    Some lovely debate here, which the piece was intended to instigate. But don’t disrespect each other’s views so aggressively; there’s really no need. Oh, and while we’re at it, those who think I disliked the episode, please read again and imagine that I loved it, but in the full knowledge that as a professional writer and critic I had to, well, be critical. If you imagine I loved it (as I sometimes do), you’ll hear the postive things I said more clearly. If you’re still interested in anything I have to say, then do please read my other Kasterborous articles on Moffat/Smith era Who and find out where I really stand. And those of you who seemed to suggest that I found this episode confusing, no, I never said that. It wasn’t confusing. It was fun, though, wasn’t it?


    • Elton’s other articles can be found: http://www.kasterborous.com/author/tjelton/

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