You might have noticed I’ve neglected this site a little recently (in favour of Wild Horses of Fire!) – though the idea of anyone noticing may be wishful thinking; is this thing on?!
I have to admit to a certain amount of apathy to this season; I like these characters, and, as I’ve repeatedly said, the prevailing tone Moffat’s brought to the series in much more my bag than it was under Davies… However, there’s a glibness to the series too – it’s almost never convincingly serious or authentically emotional – which I find quite disappointing, and makes me miss the perhaps more successful engagement with the regulars as real people under Davies. Therefore it’s been a bit of a stuggle to get round to posting all these reviews – which is particularly a shame as I have a million billion other reviews to put up afterwards.
But - okay, so: The Wedding of River Song.
I know it’s kind of Moffat’s thing to have certain tropes that he reuses, but – haven’t we been here before? The death of time, creating a messed-up unreality with the Doctor/TARDIS as the epicentre. I quite like his wide-ranging thing, but, strangely, this story left me a bit cold. It’s nifty, lots of things come together nicely, it ranges all over the universe, but… well: seen it. It’s funny, under Davies (ohh, that doesn’t bear thinking about), Moffat’s stories were reliably the best of their seasons, but, as showrunner, his stories – at least this season – have been at the other end of the scale. They have the big events and twists, and the ambition, but they just haven’t been satisfying to me.
In fact, I like ideas like that of River visiting her mum and dad in between previous adventures and found the simple link back to Flesh and Stone more satisfying than, say, the cheat of the Doctor’s ‘death’. Oh. A shapechanging robot. That seems like a work of desperate convenience on the part of Moffat, and, where the whimsy of the Tessalectas fitted in the mid-season opener, it seems a bit shonky in relation to a big universe-spanning death-of-the-Doctor narrative. I mean, surely that’s a bit below Moffat? Or has he started second-guessing his audience so much that he’s starting to rely on simple solutions cos no-one’d expect it? Whatever – it does feel like a cheat in a way that River’s revival of the Doctor in Let’s Kill Hitler didn’t.
Hmm, River. She’s a funny one – much as I like her, the schematics of her timeline and where she fits into the Doctor’s world kind of overshadow her significance as a character. I think, perhaps, once the series itself isn’t so based around the various revelations of her life, it’ll be easier to see her purely as a memorable addition to the Doctor’s world – as a recurring figure, she’s kind of up there with the Brigadier; the recurring friend who know him that much more than anyyone else.
Ever since Silence of the Library, which immediately established her as a significant character, I was concerned that the scale and scope of the relationship suggested there would be undermined slightly by the relatively few conventional adventure encounters they were ever likely to share on-screen – but, at the point we’re at now, where they’re both equally familiar with each other, it’s fun to speculate on the scale of the relationship they share during her nights.
Having read other reviewers’ takes on the finale – and the series in general – I feel a bit churlish; I forget that my underlying appreciation for the current regulars may not always come out (River especially is perhaps one of the most fascinating and effective additions to the Doctor’s world, with the idea of his marrying his ‘bespoke psychopath’ being quite genius), and, equally, even if it may not have sustained the dizzy heights of some of his earlier, standalone stories, we’re extraordinarily lucky to have a man of Moffat’s audacious imagination at the reigns.
I did really hate the mashed-up history, though; it’s churlish, but, it really seemed a pretty limited history. A sort of week junior-school-curriculum take on the scope of something like Philip Purser-Hallard’s City of the Saved.
And as for the ‘Doctor who?’ thing – okay, I get that it’s nice that this is being given significance within the fictive reality of the show, but I just hope Moffat has more of a plan than the slightly abortive ‘Cartmel Masterplan,’ which planned to add mystery in the same way, but which, one speculates, never had any actual answers to deliver. At least Moffat’s built in the caveat that it’s a question that should never be answered. That doesn’t make it very appealing as a season-spanning tease, though, but who knows…