So, the last crumbs of Christmas Dinner have been tidied away, and now it the time to reflect upon Steven Moffat’s Christmas Special episode The Husbands of River Song. Yes, it’s time again for Doctor Who to form part of our festivities. Was it fun, was it entertaining, did it do more? Short answer, yes; long answer — read on…
Even in the far future, humanity lives in colonies designed along the lines of a Dickensian Christmas fantasy, and celebrate in much the way we do. The Doctor meets River; this time he knows her, she doesn’t. This allows for all kinds of reversals where he gets to do the bigger on the inside scene and mentions spoilers. There’s a villain, a robot suit, a space-liner full of genocidal maniacs and a mad escape. It all ends with dinner in view of the Singing Towers of Darillium as well. All jolly fun, and all rather poignant.
Amidst a fairly lightweight story, some rather tokenistic comedians and plenty of CGI there were some very special moments as we realise how this episode loops round the timelines of the Doctor and River in such a way as to complement and complete Silence in the Library. It was like one of those long meals where the best part was the dessert and amidst a somewhat forgettable story Capaldi and Kingston showed just how much they can bring to the parts.
[pullquote]The story needed the froth[/pullquote]
I’ve seen plenty of people express disappointment at this story. I do think this could have been a more classic episode with some trim and polish, but you rarely get a success with just sixty minutes of intense drama. The story needed the froth to make the poignant parts work better. Moffat pulled off a great variation of the plot where one person meets someone close to them but remains unknown. In some respects it’s a bit like the scene in Voyage of the Dawntreader where Lucy spies on a schoolfriend and hears how she speaks about her. There is a lot of this in Husbands with the Doctor seeing how River can be without the filter of knowing she is with him.
Should she have figured it out earlier? Yes, in real life; for the purposes of the story, no. Maybe not a classic as is, but rather good in a few important places and the gift of the sonic was rather splendid.