Lady Summerisle (strange_complex) wrote,
Lady Summerisle
strange_complex

New Who 6.13, The Wedding of River Song

Well, that was pretty good fun on the whole, and more satisfying than I expected it to be. I'm not going to comment in any detail on the many plot resolutions which we had, because those are, well, resolved now. But I will note that I'm pretty impressed by the fact that in the end the Teselecta was the get-out-of-jail-free plot device. I hadn't seen anyone call that one, though plenty of people were speculating about the Ganger-Doctor from The Rebel Flesh, and Moffat deserves respect for that particular piece of mis-direction. Meanwhile, although we now know the Ultimate Question (and many, many people did call that one), it seems that its connection with the fall of the Silence is to be saved for next season. OK. That's fine.

Back in this story, I loved the cracky mash-up of all of time happening at once, and squeed almost non-stop in the early montage sequence featuring cars suspended from hot-air balloons, steam-trains on high-level tracks over London, a Roman chariot waiting at traffic lights, pterodactyls in the park and Charles Dickins writing the Christmas special (super-meta!). That Roman in particular will definitely be in my talk at Leeds City Museum later this month, and one of the things I'll be using him to say is that this is the fantasy which Doctor Who offers us on a regular basis - exotic past cultures unfolding right now in our living room.

I can also make a further point about his inclusion in the sequence signalling that the Roman period is one which the BBC apparently now expects its viewers to find instantly recognisable and distinctive, while the pterodactyls do the same job for distant prehistory, the balloons and the steam trains for the long 19th century, and Churchill for the mid-20th. We got ancient Egypt later on, too, but I don't recall anything for any other ancient culture besides those two, any period between antiquity and the 18th century, or of course also anything which might have represented the as-yet-unknown future. That matches pretty exactly with the periods in Earth's history or future which we have and haven't actually visited in other Doctor Who stories over the past couple of seasons, and makes for a useful index of what history means in practice for Moffat-era Who.

I liked alt-universe Amy, all full of initiative and agency, recognising that something was wrong and leading the fight against it. And I appreciate that she did at last get a moment of anger at Madame Kovarian for stealing her baby, hurting her and robbing them of the experience of her childhood together. But the lines seemed rather unemotionally delivered, and if Amy has been feeling like that all along, why haven't we ever seen any sign of it? Oh, I know, she could have been expressing it off-screen between adventures, but if we as the audience are to be carried along emotionally by the show, we needed to see something of it. It seemed all the stranger by contrast that we did then see both her grief over the death of the Doctor and her guilt over her treatment of Madame Kovarian (even in an alternate reality) at the end of the episode - though I'm glad of course that we did get the appropriate emotions for those two events for a change.

Meanwhile, Rory gets to be awesome and warrior-ish again, drawing on what the Doctor refers to as his fundamental identity as the Last Centurion. And the dynamic between him and Amy rang true to their previous interactions - she failing to recognise him as in their childhood, him being all brave and self-sacrificing as the Silence approach, and then those actions (rather than his appearance) making her recognise him at last, rescue the hell outta him and then switch straight into husband-and-wife mode, with him going along with it slightly confusedly, but perfectly willingly. It's an odd pairing, but Rory's part in it at least always seems to be incredibly sweet.

What I didn't like, though, was River's role in it all - being happy to destroy time and reality because she is apparently so in 'love' with the Doctor, even though they have barely met at this stage from her point of view, that she believes that her personal suffering if he dies will be greater than that of the entire universe if he lives. She is drawn as a sharp contrast with the Doctor, who is instead strong and self-sacrificing enough to lay down his whole life willingly for the sake of the universe - and that contrast doesn't do any favours to a character whom we have been repeatedly been told is an amazing and strong woman.

Indeed, I didn't like at all the tenor of the soothsayer-Doctor's line when Churchill asked him what had happened to time, and he replied "A woman". I felt that I could hear all the centuries' worth of prejudicial voices coupling similar pronouncements with the suggestion that you can hardly expect anything else when something has gone wrong, and isn't it just typical of the flighty, air-headed, ill-disciplined little mares - and I didn't like it. If her story-arc had brought character growth, and River had come to realise that her attitude had been distorted and selfish, and agreed to go along with her role in the Doctor's death after all, I might have been happy enough. But the get-out-of-jail-free Teselecta device mean that that opportunity never came - instead, she only agreed to take part in a death scene which she already knew wouldn't really harm the Doctor. So the whole thing remained all her fault, and she never got to the chance to redeem herself. Gah.

Oh, and finally, I guess the mirrors I've been busy spotting never did come to anything terribly substantial, except simply as a symbol for a parallel world (cf especially Alice Through the Looking-Glass). But there was just one more to round us off anyway, which the Doctor leaned up against for a while in Amy's utterly awesome and rather Once Upon a Time in the West-ish train carriage office. Jolly good.

Anyway, there we are. New Sarah Jane Adventures starting on Monday - though watching it will be a terribly, terribly sad experience now.

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Tags: classical receptions, cult tv, doctor who, egypt, eleven, reviews
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