05 October 2011

The Watcher: Doctor Who Series 6, Episode 13

Transmission date: 01 October 2011 (BBC One/BBC America)

Starring Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill, Alex Kingston. Written by Steven Moffat, directed by

Plot: Resolution of The Doctor's death ain't so easy.

So here we are, the thirteenth and final episode of the sixth series of Doctor Who, penned by the show runner, tying up (some) loose ends and bringing a resolution to The Doctor's death, as seen in the first six minutes of the premiere, "The Impossible Astronaut". By this point, I've watched the episode in its entirety three times, and select scenes way too many times to count, and overall, I still don't quite know where I stand with "The Wedding of River Song."

It's a jam-packed episode. There's pterodactyls flying around London, Winston Churchill is Caesar, The Doctor is a captive soothsayer with a beard (a la "Day of the Moon"), Area 52 is in located in an pyramid, and Amy Pond is leading the charge to save all of time with River Song's help. And River Song - she absolutely flat out refuses to kill The Doctor in the split second before he 'dies' in "The Impossible Astronaut" (which this episode takes place in between) and thus a whole new reality is formed around this fixed point of time where all of time is happening at once on 22 April 2011 at 5:02 pm. Day or night, winter or summer, it's that date and time. So right off the bat, I gotta say I really liked how this alternate reality came about. River flat out refusing to do as time dictates she does to save the man she loves. That said, for some reason I find my patience thinning the first twenty minutes as The Doctor reveals to Churchill how time's gone all wibbley-wobbly. But still, it lends itself to one of my favorite scenes, at Lake Silencio as The Doctor tells River she is forgiven always and forever for what she has to do. And then Matt Smith's hilarious expression as he realizes that River's messed up with a fixed point in time...yeah, that was a golden WHO moment.

Another great moment: The Doctor making excuses to postpone the moment for as long as possible - to help Rose Tyler with her homework, or attend all of Jack's stag parties, or meet up with an old friend. Truthfully, I never watched an episode with this Brigadier individual, so the importance of this moment was lost on me until checking online. It's a really sweet, powerful moment as The Doctor realizes that this must happen, that time waits for no one, and that "it's time." The way Matt says that statement, wow it pulls at my heart.

Let's talk about the resolution to The Doctor's 'death'. Instead of the Gangers as many surmised, it was instead the Teselecta that proved to be The Doctor's salvation. Interestingly enough, both the Teselecta and the question "Doctor who?" were brought up (and asked) in the mid-season premiere, "Let's Kill Hitler", so more than anything, this episode works as a sequel to that. So I'm super happy it wasn't the Gangers, because that would have been just silly, but I find the Teselecta only marginally better. I guess I just really wanted the resolution to be more...epic? More timey-wimey? More brilliant? I didn't want his salvation to be contingent on something relevant to this series, but something The Doctor in his wisdom came up with on his own. I was nearly sold with The Doctor's statement to Dorium that time demanded he be at the lake so he "dressed for the occasion", but something still feels wrong about the whole affair. The Doctor is still alive, and time isn't something to just...kinda ignore that. I guess I have a problem with the syntax?

Still, it's creative, it's cool, and I guess it's one of the elements I can look over. There are questions I'm going to posit below that I have more of an interest in then this. But this also brings me to the 'marriage'. First and foremost, what a weird, DOCTOR WHO-y wedding. River didn't quite seem to know what she was getting into, The Doctor's just bossin' everyone around, and I don't quite understand why he had to perform the ceremony if all he was going to whisper to her was to look into his eye. If he had, indeed, whispered his name, then I understand why, but this revelation? Doesn't exactly call for a wedding. Not like I'm complaining. Series 6 is more or less CONFIRMING what fans have already speculated, so at least we're reaching fulfillment with particular elements regarding River.

As we learn more about her, I hope River maintains the same sense of mystery and adventure that's been a part of River since her first appearance in "Silence in the Library." When we see her next - Alex Kingston's schedule permitting - will she be his wife? Will it be an earlier version of River? There are so many possibilities, I'm excited. Although, frankly, I'm okay if they limit the times she says "Hello, sweetie", and get back to her ass kicking awesome that we saw in "Day of the Moon". Now that's the River Song I'm in love with.

Alright, so we covered The Doctor's journey to accepting his death and coming up with a plan to save himself involving hiding in a robot while the fixed point in time takes its course, and River is revealed to be the one who 'murders' The Doctor and becomes, questionably, his wife. As for Amy and Rory, they get their own side story here, but at least they get to play. I liked how Amy remembered The Doctor and everything that happened between them thanks to her prolonged exposure to the cracks in time. I'm a bit curious as to how Rory Williams became a member of the task force, although I should assume River had a hand in picking her parents for the operation. [Sidenote: it was also nice to get confirmation about what the eyepatches are for] The bit of romancy lovey dovey stuff between Amy and Rory was great, and when all of time and reality came back together again, I LOVED when Amy realized she was The Doctor's mother-in-law. A bit awkward, since the first time she met River she snogged The Doctor right after. Oh, Doctor, if only you took the chance...

..though, I am curious to see how Moffat will take the River/Doctor relationship. I know, I seem like I'm repeating myself. I'll stop. Moving on...

Speaking about Amy, Karen Gillan was awesome this episode. The late night conversation with her daughter when they discuss the aborted timeline is just...fantastic. I love her vacant expression, her mournful and hurt voice. Wonderful performance, Ms. Gillan. I can't wait to see how you two come back into the fold in Series 7.

The scene on top of the pyramid as The Doctor argues with River over the universe was great. So many emotions, dramatic and comedic beats are hit, it's definitely an episode highlight. On one hand, I'm not a fan of The Doctor snapping at people, but simultaneously, it adds to the tension (and comedy) of the scene. River sending out a beacon - a distress call for The Doctor - is a wonderful thing, and makes sense (why didn't The Doctor try doing that before? Pride? Didn't think of it? He cashed in on favors in "A Good Man Goes to War"), but it doesn't really go anywhere.
Rory: "I'm not sure I understand."

Amy: "Um, we got married and had a kid and that's her."

And finally - I said this before but I'll say it again - just how cool is it that this entire episode takes place in mere seconds of "The Impossible Astronaut"? I LOVE it when that happens!

On the technical side of things: 1) It was so completely obviously a Steven Moffat script. Time has gone wibbley. River features prominently and says "sweetie" a few hundred times or so, and there are reversals of things that have come before (see: "The Pandorica Opens"). 2) Set design, special effects, make-up, the whole bit was superb [minus the incredibly fake Lake Silencio; I'm thinking they should have filmed all of that right then and there when they were on location]. The digital shots of the new timestream, the set design of the strange cavern The Doctor finds Dorium's head in (decorated with carnivorous skulls), and of course, the awesome freakiness of The Silence. Still the best stuff on TV. And let's not forget Murray Gold's score, ladies and gentlemen. He may not have produced as many notable themes this season as he had last year, but it was still magnificent, creepy, action-y, and strong. Editing was tight and to the point, and the cinematography was quite gorgeous. But I gotta ask: where's Toby Haynes? I loved that guy.

So, before moving further, some questions left in regards to the last two seasons. If anyone has answers, bad or good, feel free to share:
  • Why did The Silence blow up the TARDIS in "The Pandorica Opens"?
  • What is the name of the not-so-verbal, seven foot tall aliens that shoot lightening out of their fingers and speak on behalf of the Silence? Despite constantly being referred to as the Silence, they are not the Silence, instead Silents, subscribers to the order.
  • What do The Silence want with their own TARDIS? Why? For what purpose?
  • Why does it feel like we're missing a lot of important stuff in between the two-part premiere?
  • What did The Doctor whisper in River's ear in "Let's Kill Hitler"?
  • So The Silents used the astronaut suit to keep a young Melody Pond alive or whatnot, as seen in "Day of the Moon", and they just decided to use the same suit to fulfill what is presumably a prophecy (see below) for a grown up Melody Pond to kill The Doctor with some green energy blast thing? Ooookkkaaaayy.
  • In "Closing Time", Madame Kovarian meets up with River and basically tells her what's about to happen - the whole 'impossible astronaut will rise from the deep and strike the Time Lord' dead business, which River rebukes as just a 'story'. Okay, what? It's a story? If it's a story, why did The Doctor never hear about it? It's a frakkin' story about his death! I'm sure that would draw his attention. How old is this story? Made up right then and there?
  • If everyone forgot The Doctor existed in the closing minutes of "The Big Bang" when The Doctor reset the universe, how does River have a TARDIS journal, let alone even know who The Doctor is?
  • What's the terrible secret The Doctor knows or will find out that the Silence wants...silenced?
And this leads us to the final scene, where Dorium supposedly 'reveals' the biggest, oldest question in the universe: "Doctor who?" Despite being utterly awesome and very 'duh' simultaneously, and giving us hope that as the series readies for its 50th anniversary the show will tackle who The Doctor is and what makes him tick, I can't accept this is the question: the oldest question, the question the religious sect the Silence are so concerned about. Dorium admits that they don't necessarily want The Doctor dead, they just don't want him around, so why do they give a damn about him? Side tangent: there's still a hell of a lot we don't know about the Silence, and I hope Moffat is leading towards something instead of just making it all up as he goes along. And although that's a pretty nifty question to ask and thus analyze, it certainly isn't the most important, let alone the oldest question, in the universe. Unless it pertains to this next point...

Anyway, the point of this scene is that The Doctor recognizes he's been making too much noise, and with the universe thinking him dead, is going to venture around a little bit quieter. Other than that, we really don't know what's going on. Thanks to leaked photos of the Christmas Special being filmed (and her confirming the news anyhow), we know Karen Gillan is back, but how do we get from The Doctor 'saving' them in "The God Complex" and deciding that it's a good idea, after all, to bring the Ponds along? And to what capacity will we see River Song? It's a pretty spiffy final scene, and regardless of my hesitation to accept "Doctor who?" as the official oldest, most important question of the universe, it does make me amped for Series 7...which we won't be seeing for a long, long, long, long, long ass time.

Dorium also offers up some clues as to where The Doctor's future will take him, and the possible end of his Eleventh form. Here's hoping we see conclusion to the two-series-long mantra "Silence will Fall" and some follow up to Dorium's warnings. So we're left with this rather scary final shot of Matt Smith as The Doctor until Christmastime, where it looks like we're getting the Doctor Who version of The Chronicles of Narnia. Obviously, I'll be there, eager and happy as ever, but then there'll be the dread of knowing I won't get my Doctor fix for ten months after that. Perhaps it's time to start at the beginning and work my way up?

It appears Series 5 and Series 6 are just two parts of a much larger plan. There's still plenty left unresolved, and there are of course loads of hints as to what will come next for The Doctor, presumably culminating in the 50th anniversary in 2013. I applaud Moffat for having a vision, and for tying River's backstory in the broader tale of The Doctor hiding back in the shadows (for however long that lasts...). Let's just hope that when all is said and done, this whole web of plots and subplots and mysteries will make sense and be gratifying.

I'm sure I'm missing something to talk about, but there's just so much that goes on in this finale, I can't cover it all. Hopefully I'll have more time with the Series 6 overview tomorrow.

One final thing: the title. Now, I'm not a huge fan of this whole wifey stuff, from episode four to episode thirteen (even if they're entirely different animals), but I liked this title. For one, it's not just about the maybe/maybe not wedding, it holds multiple meanings: it's because of River that

There will be a Series 6 overview published later this week, so be on the lookout for that. So, Moffat, thanks for a zaney season full of twists and turns, hyped episodes that didn't fully deliver, spectacularly written scripts and performances, outstanding special effects, and hours of pure, unadulterated enjoyment. Now, let's ponder: "Doctor who?"

Grade: B +

No comments: