Friday, 7 October 2011

"The Wedding of River Song"

For the first time since the programme’s return, there has been a change to the format of the season. Gone is the epic two-part finale but, it appears that the length of a story does not necessarily affect its epicosity (sic)- it is amazing just how much Moffat manages to include in a single episode that is not even an extended one, without making the story seemed rushed. The pre-title sequence is the utterly dazzling one that we have come to expect from Moffat- Earth where all of history happens at once, where pterodactyls swoop around Hyde Park, cars are hoisted aloft by Montgolfier balloons and Winston Churchill rules the Holy Roman Empire from Buckingham Palace. Like "The Big Bang", time has been damaged, but in a fascinatingly different way that shows the sheer imaginative sweep and power of Moffat’s writing. It doesn’t stop there, of course- The Silence are back with a vengeance and are as menacing as ever and we are treated to carnivorous skulls (which will linger in nightmares for years to come) a particularly deadly form of chess and the reason why they are all wearing eye-patches.

Despite all this, the characters still drive the plot. Amy and Rory search for a man they only know from memories that should not exist, because they resolutely remain the same people in this Tralfamadorian version of reality. There has always been something tragic about Rory, but when ‘the man who dies and dies again’ is about to do so again, he is saved by the woman who will always be his wife, saving him from his tragedy. River is the psychopath who has fallen in love with the Doctor- in true psychopath style, she is willing to let reality go hang if it means not completing her mission at Lake Silencio. Symbolically, the Doctor and River are the opposite poles of this meta-reality and, while some need the love of a good woman, the Doctor’s future and, indeed the very concept of a future, requires the love of a bad one. Darvill and Gillan are as utterly awesome as ever and Alex Kingston yet again proves that River Song is one of the most welcome additions to the Whoniverse ever. Ian McNeice makes the most of his role as Churchill and we have engaging supporting roles for Simon Fisher-Becker as Dorium Maldavar and even a fantastic cameo from Simon Callow returning as Dickens. I sincerely hope that Madame Kovarian is still alive in this reality, played with delicious menace by Frances Barber. Our hero is as awesome as ever, but the sense of the Doctor marching willingly into the arena is ever present- triggered by receiving the news that the Brigadier has passed away in a beautifully written and touchingly performed scene. Moffat manages to make a story based on incongruity, discontinuity and clash of styles work very well and director Jeremy Webb is equal to the task, helped, as he is, by a Herculaean effort from the production team.

Of course, the Doctor escapes his fate. Some might see this as a cop-out but, truth be told, the only way for it not to have been would have consisted of our hero actually biting the dust. It is great that the Teselecta was used rather than the Flesh (a clear red herring). "The Wedding of River Song" is a glorious end to another fine season. Questions have been answered, but questions remain- who hijacked the TARDIS and made it explode? Is the fall of the Eleventh what it sounds like? However, unlike other telefantasy series, the questions are only a small part of Doctor Who. At the end of the story, the Doctor is a mysterious wanderer in time and space, who has adventures, helps the people he meets and defeats the bad guys- which is what the show we know and love is really about. The oldest question will never be fully answered, I think- and it matters not one jot!
NEXT: "The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe"