Skip to main content

Doctor Who (Spoilers!) Review: "The Husbands of River Song"

                Anyone who gets into a conversation with me about Doctor Who will at some point discover that I hate River Song. I’m not going to rant about it here, but suffice it to say I think Steven Moffatt took a promising one-time character and turned her into one of the most insufferable, one-note scene-hoggers I’ve ever seen on television. I know I’m in a minority and I’ve got nothing against Alex Kingston, but the idea that someone like her is this close to the Doctor depresses me and every episode with her I know isn’t going to be enjoyable. “The Name of the Doctor” seemed to put an end to her character arc, tying up loose ends and giving her fans some fitting closure. But as Moffatt proved in “Hell Bent” he doesn’t mind beating a dead horse.
                And thus we sadly see the return of River in “The Husbands of River Song” (god I hate how her name has to take up the title!). The Doctor arrives on some human planet in the future called Mendorax Dellora where he is called on to be the surgeon to assist the dying King Baymax… I mean Hydroflax whose wife just happens to be River. However River has never met the Twelfth Doctor and doesn’t recognize him, something that startles the Doctor due to directions of their timelines. Secretly River wants to remove Hydroflax’s head to get a rare diamond lodged inside. The King discovers this and is revealed to be two parts a separate head and body; he tries to kill them. The Doctor and River escape, get into trouble with Hydroflax’s servants and come across the TARDIS, leading her to believe the Doctor is here on the planet not knowing she’s actually with the Doctor. Oh yeah, and Hydroflax keeps replacing his heads and seeks to eventually have the Doctor’s.
                I hope you got that, this is a difficult episode to describe. Like many Moffatt and River stories, the plot is fast-paced, needlessly convoluted and not the easiest to follow. But there are Doctor Who episodes like that that work, however this episode didn’t add much to make it entertaining. I’ll admit there are some good visuals, but there’s not a good laugh to be had in the hour no matter how hard it tries with the typical fare of River’s innuendo and “quirky” flirtation. And as usual for the episodes she’s in, the focus is almost entirely on River and her relationship with the Doctor; how much her life revolves around him, while occasionally bringing up her archaeological history. But at least we didn’t get a forced “spoilers” line or “sweetie”. That came from the Doctor.
                As has often been the case of the lesser episodes in the last couple years, Peter Capaldi pulls it through, or at least makes it watchable. He does the best possible work with the material and though his chemistry with Kingston isn’t as developed as Matt Smith’s, he’s the better actor. He seems like a good match for Kingston and is clearly enjoying himself while taking the material seriously. Kingston easily falls back into her part unfortunately, though I thought it was a nice touch that she doesn’t know she’s with the Doctor the whole time. It was different and I appreciated the parallel to her first episode, back when she was a mystery. But as always I feel Kingston like the Doctor, could do a lot better than River. Greg Davies plays Hydroflax but doesn’t get to do much with the part. I think someone just wanted to put Davies’ decapitated head on the TARDIS console. He does however have a larger part than Matt Lucas as some servant who was cast just so someone could put Lucas’ head rather goofily on a giant robot. Both Davies and Lucas are the latest in a long line of good comedians who are really wasted in episodes of Doctor Who. Like when they got Mitchell and Webb to play those robots in “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship”, or Bill Bailey in “The Lion, the Widow, and the Wardrobe”. In fact the only comedian who Doctor Who’s utilized well may have been Frank Skinner in “Mummy on the Orient Express”.
                There isn’t really anything interesting when it comes to the spoilers (and I’m not saying that in a stupid River inflection!). Eventually River discovers that the Doctor is the Doctor and they crash a big ship on the planet Darilium (mentioned by River in “The Silence in the Library”) in a manner that almost looks like a recreation of Adric’s death. We get some strange effects, including a humanoid giving himself a lobotomy, they destroy Hydroflax’s body, the Doctor plants the idea of building a restaurant on the planet, and then travels forward in time to treat River to one last evening there in view of the Singing Towers. That last scene where they’re overlooking a romantic sunset, I can completely empathize with River fans getting emotional. It has no effect on me because I don’t give a damn about her, but aside from her being in it and maybe a little too much sappiness, there’s nothing I can honestly find wrong with it. This scene is implicitly the last time (again!) the Doctor and River will see each other. It’s shot nicely and admittedly both Capaldi and Kingston are really good in it. It’s a shame such a decent scene had to be preceded by so much mediocrity. Ironic considering last year’s “Last Christmas” was really good except for the last ten minutes, that this year’s special was sort of the opposite.
                “The Husbands of River Song” wasn’t terrible and nowhere near as insulting as a couple of the River episodes can be. But it’s convoluted, unfunny, with wasted talent, and focuses exclusively on a character we haven’t seen in years who quite frankly got more than enough focus that year the series briefly became The River Song Show. But like “The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe it’s just bland and forgettable. Maybe that’s necessary given how the last series ended, but I like Christmas specials to leave more of an impression. Though in all honesty only a couple Doctor Who specials have done that. I’m glad it sounds like we won’t be seeing River again, though we thought that before, and given how mediocre the episode would have been without her, her appearance feels very pointless apart from that last scene. I’m looking forward to the next series where we’ll get a new companion, new adventures, (hopefully new writers and/or showrunner) and less episodes like this that feel the need to reopen an old book. And one that I think never needed to be opened in the first place.

Popular posts from this blog

Mary Tyler Moore's Best Moments

A couple days ago, we lost the icon Mary Tyler Moore. On the Mount Rushmore of groundbreaking comediennes, Moore has an undeniable place (with Lucille Ball, Carol Burnett, and Cloris Leachman). She was often the best part of the Dick Van Dyke Show, making for half of one of the greatest TV couples. Through her own series, she was a key part of one of the most important and timeless shows of all time. Her kindness, perseverance, and good humour made her a role model for all, but especially women and girls whose greater representation in media she pioneered. She was such an endearingly sweet woman, a champion of diabetes research and a great philanthropist. When watching either of her classic shows, she always felt like a good friend. And now the world has lost that friend.
          In honour of her passing, I want to highlight just some of my favourite Mary Tyler Moore moments both as Laura Petrie and Mary Richards, that attest to what a great comedic and inspirational talen…

Disney Sundays: Moana (2016)

When I heard that the next Disney movie, Moana was going to be based around Hawaii, I was tempted to say, “haven’t we been here before?’ It doesn’t feel like too long ago that we had Lilo & Stitch. I was more curious though when I heard it would revolve around Hawaiian mythological figures like Maui and fantastical monsters. But then I remembered Ron Clements and John Musker were the directors behind Hercules and I worried. However I needn’t have, as Moana is easily the pair’s best film since Aladdin.
          A teenage girl called Moana, resident of a small isolated tribe on one of the Polynesian islands, is chosen by the ocean to be an emissary to the banished demigod Maui and convince him to return the Heart of the Sea (a small pounamu stone) to Te Fiti -the goddess he stole it from who’s cursed their world with famine as retribution.
          Though this is a standard and fittingly mythic hero's journey, the story is nonetheless an exciting one to follow due in…

Overlooked Specials 12th Day of Christmas

12th Day of Christmas:
Blackadder’s Christmas Carol This Christmas Day how about we dispense with the feels in favour of a mean but comedically genius one-off of Britain’s best series. Even if you’re unfamiliar with Blackadder, the series about a witty schemer reincarnated through various periods in British history, this special should still make you laugh. An inversion of A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Blackadder played of course to perfection by Rowan Atkinson is the kindest man in England which everyone uses to take advantage of him. But an encounter with a Spirit of Christmas causes him to change his ways. Most of the Blackadder cast: Atkinson, Tony Robinson as Baldrick, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, and Miranda Richardson appear here and are excellent, as are guests Miriam Margolyes, Jim Broadbent, and Robbie Coltrane in a role I’m sure inspired J.K. Rowling to request him for Hagrid. And the writing from Richard Curtis and Ben Elton is as sharp as ever. It’s relentlessly enjoyable, funny…