Doctor Who has been making some rather fitting endings over the last few weeks. In ‘Face The Raven’, we saw a well-constructed exit for Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman, how we miss you already). But, it looks like it is time to give a farewell to one of the longest recurring companions since the show came back. When Alex Kingston first debuted in 2008 as River Song for the ‘Silence In The Library/Forest Of The Dead’ two parter, many assumed she would not return and that her role as a companion of The Doctor would be more for the books or Big Finish audio productions. But, Alex has surely become one of the favourites in the New Who Era. In ‘The Husbands Of River Song’, we find the archaeologist is waiting for a surgeon to help her husband, King Hydroflax. The servant Nardole (an underused Matt Lucas) finds The Doctor and is convinced this is the surgeon they are waiting for. River comes face to face with The Doctor (the man who she is supposed to be married to), but she does not recognise this new face and doesn’t realise it is the Time Lord in front of her. So, apparently King Hydroflax is dying and a surgeon is needed to help him, where in reality there is a rare diamond lodged in his head (which is slowly killing him) and River wants it to sell. Though, it is very much only a head which Hydroflax has as it is attached to a huge red robot body. When River’s plan is discovered, what does she do? She steals the head and intends to sell her diamond while the king is very much alive and very angry.
You wouldn’t think Greg Davies could do much as just a head, but there is a certain humour and depth to a character that has no body language he can use (and the SFX look rather good for that side of it, all hail King Hydroflax the CGI team). So, the body searches for its controller, and borrows the head of Nardole to help it out for the time being. They come across the TARDIS and Peter Capaldi finally gets to do what all Doctor Who actors have probably wanted to do, do the “it’s bigger on the inside” bit and it is funny. We eventually get to see the fallout of River’s desire for money as she finds herself and The Doctor in serious trouble. With one husband looking to get revenge on River, another husband who ends up going against his will to find River and finally discovering her husband The Doctor after she tearfully states how he never truly cares for her like she does for him. With so much going on towards the end, the execution to bring stability back is a little muddled but overall the fun has been had throughout. Over Christmas, you look to have something which is simple and entertaining. For 80% of this episode, that is exactly what you get. But, it is also nice to see some loose ends tied up to River Song. First, we see how she acquired that Sonic Screwdriver. Also, we finally get to see their supposed last night together, and the scene is beautiful and almost heart-breaking. For a character we saw die in her first appearance, it feels this really is the leaving point for Professor Song.
Steven Moffat said he thought at one point this may have been his last episode of Doctor Who, and he does indeed write a fun story. At times the story is stretched and just played out a bit too much, but Christmas viewing is worth it when it is this easy. The laughs are good; a few humorous moments come from The Doctor trying to tell River who he is. As usual, Peter Capaldi does a stellar job as The Doctor. Alex Kingston, you will be sorely missed if this is your last episode. To see links back to her first story and others, it was a great way to show Moffat can stick a landing (even if it was over many years). The supporting cast do get swept away in this, though Greg Davies does give a certain menace and humour in his portrayal and initially Matt Lucas is good fun. I just wish there was more from Nardole, the same for Ramone (Phillip Rhys) who just gets a minimal amount of time to show himself. The other villains are basically a robot body who does seem to have a funnybone and the combination of Flemming and Scratch barely do anything except look rather cool (the head trick that Scratch does was rather fun, and a bit freaky for just after Christmas Lunch). So, we don’t know when Doctor Who will be back on. What we do know is that we have at least one more series with Peter Capaldi leading the way, and it is supposed to debut at some point in 2016. My recommendation? Save this episode for Christmas viewing or when you don’t wanna think too much. Yes we get a lot on the River Song arc, but we don’t really get back into the main thrust of Doctor Who and it is nice to have a break in the show after what was a rather intense and fantastic series 9. Also, how many people noticed in the opening credits where we had the snow effects and the planets replaced with baubles! That was brilliant! Though I feel Moffat has got very few episodes left in him, it will be good to see him do one more episode with Douglas MacKinnon directing and he really needs to think about getting Alex Garland (Ex Machina, Dredd) and Andrew Kreisberg (The Flash, Arrow) to write for the show. How cool would it be? Well, 2016 isn’t far away…
Final Rating: 8/10 (all because of that last 10 minutes)
Written by Jonjo Cosgrove