1
Oct
2011
Dr. Who: Season 6, Episode 14
The Wedding of River Song
Michael Richardson
Season 6, episode 13
"The Wedding of River Song"

"The Silence is a religious order. Their core belief is that silence will fall when the question is asked. The first question. The oldest question in the universe. Hidden in plain sight."

Our episodes starts in 2012 London, where steam engines run through town, pterodactyls fly over ahead, roman chariots sit in traffic and Dickens is being interviewed on some morning show. Then Meredith Viera comes on TV: "Crowds lined the mall as the Holy Roman Emperor Winston Churchill returned to the Buckingham Senate on his personal mammoth." Something has gone terribly wrong.

Churchill is also disturbed. He heard of time in stories and song, so he calls to his seer to see what is wrong, why are things the way they are. What happened to time? The seer, revealed at the Doctor in a scraggly beard, replies: "a woman."

It's an utterly intriguing beginning for an excellent season finale, where we are confronted with this season's question of destiny, what can be changed when you know the date of your death. What happens when you try to fight the progress of time itself?

Much like when a good man goes to war, the doctor must patronage those he has encountered in the past, but this time it's his enemies, and he needs information about the Silence. Eventually he finds his old friend from "When a Good Man Goes To War", the man I call Blue Varys, though his prodigious body is now gone. The headless monks beheaded him, but he was rich enough to afford a box to keep alive in all the same. Speaking to him, the Doctor realizes what the riddle at the top means. The first question, and then silence falls: The Doctor is the man who will ask the question, and thus the silence that will fall is his own voice and actions upon his death, a death meant to prevent the big reveal.

Thus, he marches finally to his death at Lake Silencio bringing us to the beginning of this season. Of course, the Doctor doesn't actually die. Who would have guessed? River song drains her weapons battery, changing what should have been a fixed event in time. And as anyone who has ever read time-travel fiction, fucking with the flow of time is a bad idea. The result of River's actions causes what the Doctor calls the death of time - the world is forever stuck at 5:02 PM and April 22. All time then runs together, and happens at the same time. But before he is able to expand upon this to Churchill, the silence show up - hideous creatures that one forgets about the moment they look away. But before they can be attacked, troops led by Amy swarm in and take the Doctor away.

"Time is disintegrating," he tells his companion, who remembers two events in the same place and is slowly losing all her memories because of it. She's searching for her husband, who is actually her second-in-command. And when River Song shows up, working for the same organization, we get at the crux of the situation. As two poles of this new time stream, their touch causes time to continue on and sucks them back to the shores of Lank Silencio for the execution.

I won't get into the plot anymore than that, but I do have to say that the episode is surprisingly straightforward for a Doctor Who finale. It answers enough of the questions, though Moffat would never tie it up in a bow for us. But compared to last years twisting, turning finale this one seems a bit truncated. There's a bit of timey-wimey play towards the end, and there's a twist you won't see coming, though not in a good way. When everything important happens in the last 5 minutes, it can't help but feel a little contrived, and very little of the episode point to it.

The end of the episode seems to imply the birth of a new Doctor. One who sacrificed all his fame for a time to lay low, to fight his enemies while they think he's dead. He may go at it as a lone wolf for a while (though I believe Amy and Rory will be back at some point). It's an intriguing suggestion that the Doctor we see next year may actually have to face his reputation down, trying to outlive it. And at the end of the day, we find out the question that must never be answered, one that is hidden in plain sight. Doctor Who sets a very impressive standard, and even if this episode can't live up to the very best, it's got enough thrills to leave me sated. At least until the Christmas special.

Grade: A-

Miscellaneous:
Getting information from the weakest link in the Silence organization require a game of some type of chess as bloodsport - the more you move a piece, the more electricity run through it, forcing you to be more careful with moves. And this all takes place in some dingy thunderdome. The scene only lasts 30 seconds but its perfect storytelling, absurd but serious and hugely entertaining. Touches like this are why Moffat episodes of the show really stand tall.

The Doctor's get-up as Churchill's seer is your basic garment Christ wears in most medieval paintings. Also, he tells River as she is being forced to kill him that she is forgiven. That bit of symbolism - the Doctor as a tangible God - has always run through the show, but it runs especially close to the surface this season.

The Doctor on dating advice: "She would like to go out with you for texting and scones."

Doctor: How did you get the pyramids?
River: Hallucinogenic lipstick. Works wonders on President Kennedy and Cleopatra was a real pushover. She mentioned you.
D: Really, what did she say?
R: "Put down the gun."
D: Did you?
R: Eventually.

I'll be sure to cover the Christmas episode in a few months, so make sure to check back in.
Tags: Dr. Who
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