Sunday, October 02, 2011

Dr. Who Season 6 finale: The Wedding of River Song

"It's an eyepatch; I wear an eyepatch now. Eyepatches are cool"

Some notes (warning--story discussed in close detail)

1) The vision of London where all time is happening at once is pure delight--I love the high towers, the cars on balloons (steampunk always talks longingly of lighter-than-air transportation, this actually looks like a quick and near-practical way of getting that talk realized, with existing vehicles), the elevated rails, the Romans on chariots, Pterodactyls flying above city parks, Churchill as Ceasar with Cleopatra as his date, Amy introducing herself ("Amy. Amy Pond"--you can tell Moffat was saving that up for a special occasion), then bringing the Doctor to her office-on-a-train (shades of Once Upon a Time in the West, perhaps?).

If I had serious complaint about the episode, it's this: do we really have to make all that go away? Because it looks like a wonderful place to live in...

2) There's talk of the Doctor spending too much time in that world--which I think ridiculous; if anything they spent too little time there. I think the time spent makes for a good clarifying device: Churchill's as confused as we are, so the Doctor has to fill him in (and us along the way) with the details.

3) Madame Kevorian captured--how'd she get there? Amy boss of a secret organization and Rory her faithful but oblivious second in command--when did that happen? Why keep the Silence locked in the pyramids? How'd Amy and River build a distress signal? Lots of questions unanswered, and I for one thought: who cares? If the ride's fast enough and fun enough, that's all we need; questions are secondary.

That's a tricky position to take, though; sometimes Moffat's scripts aren't that satisfying (Day of the Moon comes to mind; so does much of Silence at the Library and Forest of the Dead, at least the bits that didn't involve River--the inventiveness is there, or the attempt to be inventive, but I'm either too confused or not entertained enough). Fine line Moffat's treading, and he's not going to please every one, every time (me included).  

4) There's this interesting article which argues why this finale's better than Season 5's. Lots of good points--this finale does make more sense; this ending is more carefully prepared (instead of just inserting shots of glowing cracks in different episodes a la Season 5), and the breaking of the season into two helps shape the narrative from a rising action (the Doctor believing more and more in his own press) to a falling one (the Doctor feeling more and more he's better off alone and dead).

That said, I still prefer Season 5's--it's more emotionally satisfying. The Eleventh Hour is easily one of Moffat's most delightful and poignant episodes (basically The Girl in the Fireplace retold, only funnier, and with a happier (somewhat) ending). The Pandorica Opens and The Big Bang ties that first episodes' questions all up, more or less, adhering to the principle (which I find perfectly valid) that enemies and big events and narrative buildup should be secondary to character and emotional needs (it's All About Amy, in effect), and you can pretty much get away with anything so long as you're witty enough about it ("It's a fez. I wear a fez now. Fezzes are cool."). 

If the 6th season is a carefully shaped and prepared run-up to River's wedding, the 5th is basically The Eleventh Hour and its two-part conclusion separated by a series of fairly discrete adventures; that one season is more integrated than the other doesn't necessarily make one superior to the other--that depends on the plotting and dialogue of each episode (profundity and poignancy too--it's not how much time is spent in the telling but how good the writing is). Fact is, Moffat as much as hinted that the next season might just focus more on discrete episodes instead of a season-long story arc; did he hear my complaints, sense the lack in his work, perhaps...?

5) River--I hear a lot of talk about the direction her character's taken; I suppose it is true, familiarity breeds contempt. I do think Kingston does well for the most part--stepped up the dramatic stakes at River's wedding, for one. Think she's still gorgeous--looks great in any dress, even an eyepatch. 

Did Moffat shortchange her wedding? In classic screwball comedy the weddings are as often unelaborate as they are elaborate; they're sometimes done on the run, sometimes even under the gun--I for one find it more romantic that way. Anders, who wrote the article I link to above, thinks the Doctor may have been pressured to marry her, just to save the universe. I don't believe it--he wants her in the worse way. You see it when they're together, the chemistry is palpable. And they've definitely flirted enough that he has to marry her, just to stop all the scandalous talk. 

Anyway; your husband throwing away the universe, just to save your life--who can resist a gesture like that? The Doctor loves her; his wedding's rubbish, but then he's said as much before ("I'm rubbish at weddings, especially my own"). I'm sure he made it up to her on their honeymoon. 

It's the emotional high point too--if I had to kill my husband right after marrying him, I might shed a tear or two. Throw in other high points--Amy confronting Madam Kevorian about Melody's kidnapping, Rory being a true badass (again), that moving tribute to Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (nice one, that). Overcomplicated, timey-wimey stuff? Not really--it's still about characters and their feelings, with this one focused on the Doctor trying to reassure his relatively young bride that he loves her, forgives her, wishes her a long and happy life.

6) Then that question that's in front of everyone all along--no, none of us saw that coming, did we? Anyone claiming otherwise--yeah, right. 

Well, a few, actually.

7) Some more clarification of plot points (thanks to Jason E.):

The fixed point in time was River shooting the Teselecta. When River refuses to kill it, that created the rift. Then the Teselecta and River kisses at the wedding, that's the healing of the rift. If River had kissed the real Doctor, that wouldn't heal the rift, because she has to kiss the Teselecta.

Then River shoots the Teselecta. They burn the robot, the Doctor escapes in the TARDIS inside the Teselecta--he gets a little singed in the process. Teselecta gone, all burnt up (presumably it's been preset to incinerate itself, to escape detection).

Everyone watching and the rest of the universe assumes that the fixed point of time is River shooting the Doctor. It isn't; it's River shooting the Teselecta. In fact I'll bet you that if River shot the Doctor all hell would break loose because that's not the fixed point time recognizes. She has to shoot the Teselecta.

And where was the second TARDIS in Utah? Inside the Teselecta.

Confused enough? I think it's brilliant, now.

8) No, The Wedding of River Song isn't Moffat's best (but then after two seasons, can even Moffat keep up the pace and quality of his best work?), but it's far from his worst; it's also a satisfying end to a pretty good season.




dodo dayao said...

That office-on-a-train: or maybe the old Wild Wild West TV show, if we must go cheesy genre-centric.

Loved this finale. Agree it's not up there with The Pandorica twofer but I loved it still. And Matt Smith really is coming into his own as the Doctor.

Noel Vera said...

He says he'll move into discrete episodes again--hopefully he comes up with another Girl in the Fireplace or Blink...