Reportedly, the 11th Doctor Who Christmas special was to be Steven Moffat’s final episode as showrunner – and if that was the case what an abysmal way to depart.
The entirety of ‘The Husbands of River Song’ hinged upon the performances of leads Peter Capaldi and Alex Kingston, and as such it is only truly the final scene that sparkles. The rest is just filler, of the worst possible kind.
There is no truly grounded story here. King Hydroflax, played by Greg Davies, has the most expensive diamond in the universe embedded in his skull, and River Song wants to steal it to sell it on, so naturally she marries him.
Okay, fair enough. But during these segments in which River is addressing the entire population of Mendorax, Dellora Alex Kingston MASSIVELY overacts. It’s similar to her turn in ‘Let’s Kill Hitler’, except that episode actually had a decent story to back it up.
After 20 minutes of the Doctor and River zipping across Mendorax Dellora as they try and escape Hydroflax, it becomes abundantly clear that there isn’t much of a story here at all. Matt Lucas and Philip Rhys as Nardole and Ramone respectively are distinctly underused, and Greg Davies is overused.
Next we zip to the starship Harmony and Redemption, in which the mass murders of the universe have gathered for tea. This absurd notion could have filled an entire episode in itself, but unfortunately it once more pales.
I couldn’t help but spend the entirety of this episode waiting for the Doctor and River to be the Doctor and River – to be as we know them. Because the few scenes that show true emotion between the pair are exceptional.
In particular River’s speech in which she declares that she loves the Doctor, but the Doctor does not and cannot love her back. It’s obvious that this notion upsets River greatly, and it’s surprising to see the Doctor looking taken aback too. Likewise, everything that follows when River finally realises who the Doctor is is stunning. Well, the bits between those two, anyway.
Because the Doctor and River, on a spaceship hurtling out of control, are about to crash upon Darillium, and if you’re heavily invested in the story of the Doctor and River this name will mean a lot to you. It is on Darillium in which the Doctor and River spend their final night, before River travels to the library and dies alongside the 10th Doctor.
And everything she said in that first story comes to fruition here – the Doctor has a new suit and haircut, he gives her a sonic screwdriver, and he cries as they look upon the Singing Towers of Darillium. This scene has been seven years in the making, and it’s entirely flawless.
Capaldi and Kingston are both exceptional here, and its incredibly sad that this is probably the final ever appearance of River Song. This is the first and only time she has met the 12th Doctor, so she cannot rock up with 12 on a later date, or even 13, because it’s their final night together.
Unless, of course, the Doctor enters his own timeline to take River from Darillium for another adventure, but I can’t help think why. The Doctor would never have cause to do so.
Apart from when he called upon her to help at the battle of Demon’s Run, the Doctor has never called on River for help. It’s always the other way around. So I doubt he’ll be doing it anymore, suggesting that this is indeed River’s final appearance.
And if that’s the case, I can’t help but wish it had been Matt Smith’s 11th Doctor who had had the final goodbye. I know they’re the same character, and I know that Capaldi and Kingston sparred with sizzling chemistry, but River and 11 were just exceptional together.
River’s final episode was a letdown. I know we were never going to get something along the lines of the exceptional ‘Heaven Sent’, but ‘Last Christmas’ and ‘A Christmas Carol’ had darker tones and still managed to fill viewers with an abundance of joy. ‘The Husbands of River Song’ didn’t, unfortunately.
It’s going to be a LONG wait until series 10 – I have a feeling Chris Lew Kum Hoi’s Alphonse (the guy who built the restaurant on Darillium) may become the new companion. Otherwise, why introduce him at all?