Posts Tagged ‘TheWedding of River Song’

‘You may marry him or murder him or do whatever you like with him.’

If we’re going to talk about the condition of Doctor Who as of the beginning of October 2011, then I would argue the foregoing quote is a fairly pertinent one. The joke is, of course, that it isn’t about Doctor Who at all, dating back many decades before the series was even created, and there’s surely something more than a little ironic in the fact that…

Well, look, it’s actually about Sherlock Holmes. Arthur Conan Doyle received a request from an actor staging a Holmes stage play, asking for permission to put the great detective through some fairly significant life changes, and his response was as you’ve already seen.

Normally I interpret it as a reminder of the dramatist’s right to ignore sacred cows and treat every character, no matter how venerable (or venerated), as their own and up for reimagining. But right now I’m finding it hard to shake the impression that Steven Moffat – who may well be familiar with the works of Conan Doyle himself, who can say? – came across the same quote and has been taking it entirely too literally for the last couple of years, mainly because for a while at the weekend it looked like the Doctor was going to be married and then murdered all in the space of about five minutes.

Quite possibly one of the most OTT and overwrought publicity shots ever released, and thus perhaps not inappropriate.

Looking back with immediate hindsight I can’t help but think that Season 32 has turned out to be – I actually described it as a patchy set of episodes the other day, completely oblivious to the pun I’d unwittingly perpetrated. There was one inarguably brilliant story, The Doctor’s Wife, a couple of strong ones in The Girl Who Waited and The God Complex, but apart from that…

The other stories that weren’t a central part of the ongoing story all came across as rather drab and underpowered, and in some cases retreads of previous offerings. The (oh dear, take a deep breath and pinch nose) arc episodes at least had a certain energy to them, but by their very nature they didn’t really have a sense of closure to them, and some of them (Day of the Moon being the worst offender) didn’t even appear to be coherent narratives.

When the current regime set up, with the youngest Doctor ever taking over from a massively popular predecessor and an acclaimed pair of hands at the wheel behind the scenes, the bit of my brain that looks for silly patterns thought ‘Ah – now this could either be 1975 all over again and the coming of a new Tom Baker era, or 1981 and the more dubious pleasures of a return to the Davison years.’ Initially it seemed to be the latter, but now it increasingly seems to be that Doctor Who is back where it was in the mid Eighties.

Some people will think I’ve just delivered a colossal insult to the current team. Well, look, remember all the criticisms of mid Eighties Who, on the grounds that the show was being consumed by its own continuity, obsessed with recurring characters, and was no longer about anything other than itself as Doctor Who? I think we’re back there now.

Look at the regulars, even: and I include River in that number. We’ve reached the point where the Doctor is arguably the most straightforward and least weird of the lot of them, much as was the case when David Tennant’s father-in-law was at the controls. The striking (and barely believable) achievement of Moffat and the team is to have done all this while still maintaining the show as a major and apparently mainstream hit – although I detect persistent rumblings from critics in the popular press. Recalling how quickly the show went from beloved national institution to derided laughing-stock in, yes, the Eighties, I think these signs should not be ignored. But that’s just me.

Anyway, given the length of time devoted to the arc story this year, not to mention its sheer complexity, it would have been a disaster if this concluding episode hadn’t actually hung together. And hang together it did, the pieces finally cohering and delivering up their surprises, like the cracking of some vast and ponderous whip.

And as a story it worked about as well as we could have hoped, I suppose – although one is forced to wonder if, just as all of Rusty’s season finales revolved around old enemies causing mischief, all of Moffy’s will see the characters flung into some convoluted metaphysical oubliette. Some bits of it worked better than others, obviously, but on the whole it was on the upside of okay. The Nick Courtney tribute was obviously welcome and deeply touching (the fact it came in a episode where all the regulars wore eyepatches just made it all the sweeter).

On first viewing, the wedding itself (barely that – surely just a marriage) seemed like a plot contrivance, but it just about justified itself the second time around. In terms of the resolution of the ongoing plot, though, I must confess to feeling somewhat swizzed. The tension of the ‘he’s going to die’ storyline turned out to be entirely spurious – if you’re going to go to the trouble to set up a problem by having a character to turn up solely to say ‘It’s really him and he’s really dead’, you’re presuming rather heavily on the goodwill of the audience if you resolve the predicament by it then turning out not to be him after all (and him not to be even remotely dead). There’s also the very convenient way that River appears to have spent most of the season knowing in advance what was going on and why, but never feeling the need to actually share the information with anyone (or, worse, feeling the slightest bit troubled by keeping her friends and family in the dark).

Even fan friends seem to have been somewhat baffled by the conclusion of the series, one of them enquiring if the events by the lakeside occurred twice, one with the real Doctor and the other with the Numskull version. My main disappointment is simply that I took the story at its word and that a fake Doctor was not involved – I know Rule Number One and I don’t have a problem with it – the Doctor can lie as much as he likes, it’s Moffy cheating that I really object to.

The sudden reappearance of the cheerful, irreverent, recognisable Doctor after what felt like weeks of doleful angst was enough to leave me satisfied come the end of the story, and the fact that the River Song storyline seems to have been almost entirely resolved was also a definite plus.

Then again, on the other hand we now have all this business about the Fall of the Eleventh and the Fields of Thingummy (I can’t be bothered to look it up), which will no doubt drag on until November 2013 when the (surely unanswerable) question is asked. I don’t have a problem with that, as long as this plotline doesn’t overwhelm the structure and substance of the season to come before then. Easy on the arc, Moffy. Bob Holmes never needed one and neither do you.

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