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“The Wedding of River Song”

A Review By Timothy Harvey

As the Doctor’s time runs out, he finds there is one thing standing between him and his death, the woman who is programmed to kill him, the woman who loves him, the woman who may just destroy the universe: River Song.


Wow. This review… this review required going back and watching the entire season again. Twice. It involved watching “The Wedding…” 5 times, with a 6th playing as I type this. It has led me to two conclusions: first, that Matt Smith truly has made the Doctor his own, and is one of the best of the many truly wonderful actors to play the part, and second, young River Song is one hot mess.

Good god. Let’s be clear, I really like the character of River Song, and Alex Kingston is an actress I can watch read a phone book. The River of “Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead”, of “The Pandorica Opens” and “The Big Bang”, of “The Impossible Astronaut” and “Day of the Moon”: Wonderful. The River of “Let’s Kill Hitler” and “The Wedding of River Song”? Good god, can we never see her again? Please?

Ok, to be fair, River in those two episodes is meant to be a young River, for all intents and purposes the equivalent of teen/20-ish years old, especially if she develops like Time Lords seem to do. More than once in the show’s long history, the Doctor has implied that the first hundred years or so are the Gallifreyans childhood, and while he may have been joking, from the evidence of those last two episodes, River is clearly far from an adult, and certainly not the strong, independent, equal she will become. Consider this little piece of dialogue from Amy and River in “The Impossible Astronaut”:

“River, we can’t just let him die, we have to stop it! How can you be ok with this?”

“The Doctor’s death doesn’t frighten me, nor does my own. There’s a far worse day coming for me.”

Now consider this exchange between River and the Doctor from “The Wedding of River Song”:

“I can’t let you die, without knowing you are loved! By so many and so much, and by no one more than me!”

“River, you and I, we know what this means. You and I, we are ground zero of an explosion that will engulf all reality. Billions on billions will suffer and die!”

I’ll suffer, if I have to kill you.”

More than every living thing in the Universe?”


Sound like a teenager’s view of love to anyone else? Nothing else mattering but being together?

Blarg. One hopes that from here on out we’ve seen the last of Young River, because she’s one screwed up Chickie. The Adult River is something wonderful and cool, the Young River nearly destroyed the entire bleeding Universe for love of one man, something that is more or less the opposite of what the Doctor believes in. When he says he’s embarrassed by her, it plays like he’s trying to goad her out of the lovesick fangirl she’s being, because here, that obsessive love is going to destroy everything the Doctor fights for. And that she turns on a dime and lets him have his way seems as much “Oh Joy! I get to be Mrs. Doctor!” as the revealtion that he’s got a plan. Driving this view home is the end, where Adult River visits Amy and Rory, and she acts, oh I don’t know, like a grown up and not a teenager. Please Mr. Moffat, more of Adult River, because we’ve had our visit with her early days and we all know how she came to be and please please please can we never come back? Mrs. Robinson yes, fangirl no.

Whew. Little rant there. So, what about the rest of it all? Well, the good news is that for about 70% of the episode we get some pretty cool timey-wimey-ness, and for the most part, answers to this season’s questions. The Doctor comes up with a plan to avoid his death, Amy gets to have her revenge on Madame Kovarian, and Rory gets to continue to be a badass, and while we’re there, those parts are very cool. In reverse order then…

As I’ve written a few times before, Rory has really developed A LOT throughout his time in the TARDIS, from being the hapless boyfriend to being The Boy Who Waited, to being the kind of man who makes terrible necessary decisions because they have to be made. Even in this alternate timeline, he’s become the soldier out of necessity and stands beside Amy, although neither of them are aware of their relationship in the real reality. Well, not initially anyway, but events will make that clear to them both, and the moment when the Silence break down the door and call him The Man Who Dies And Dies Again, and Amy saves him is one we’ve waited for. But it’s before that, when the EyeDrives are having their terrible effect, when Rory refuses to remove his because he won’t be able to fight the Silence without it? He stands there, one man in terrible agony, one man against an army of the Silence, because someone has to. Bravo Rory.

As for Amy Pond, again, I’ve written much about how she’s been treated this season, and here we get the strong, in control Amy that she deserves to be, AND we get a reaction to losing her baby! Bonus! Of course it’s still not the reaction we should have seen, with Amy losing her damn daughter to the Silence, but yes, it’s what we’re going to get. And it’s not so bad in fact… on their way to join the Doctor and River, Amy and Rory walk past the captive Madame Kovarian, reeling from the EyeDrive assault, and we get this:

“A..Amy… help me.”

“You took my baby from me, and hurt her. And now she’s all grown up and she’s fine, but I’ll never see my baby again.”

“But you’ll still save me though… because he would. A.. and you’d never do anything to disappoint your pre-precious Doctor”

“The Doctor is very precious to me, you’re right, but do you know what else he is, Madame Kovarian? Not here. River Song didn’t get it all from you… sweetie.”

It’s controlled, but it’s fury, and for the first time, Amy Pond willingly takes a life. And it’s something she is conflicted about, even when the timeline is restored, because she still remembers. Would that we had seen even this much over the loss of Melody, but alas. Still, it’s something, as is her real joy when River reveals that the Doctor found a way to cheat death.

For, of course, he does, and it’s pretty elegant, if not fraught with a pretty big “Wait, what?” Using the Teselecta, he goes to his death in a Doctor suit, which takes the fatal blows, and the regeneration we start to see was, um, special effects? And when his friends burned his body, it um… damnit! Right, here’s some of the 30% Just Doesn’t Work. So the Doctor is inside the ship, which has configured itself to look like him. Fine. But we saw the Doctor start to regenerate, which, ok, let’s go with the FX explanation. Dodgy, but ok. But they burned the body. They. Burned. The. Body. Ok, little Doctor, little TARDIS, they slip away fine. But the ship is still there, and somehow I doubt a) it’s going to be destroyed by fire, and b) considering how important it is to River that the Doctor’s body be safe from his enemies, that she wouldn’t wait until the fire consumed it all. Sigh.

While we’re on things that don’t work… ok, the suit was controlling River, and she was only able to discharge the weapons early, creating the new, and doomed, timeline. But in the original timeline she failed, and so the suit did the work. So why, oh why, was River necessary at all? I’ve seen it suggested that somehow River’s Time Lord/human DNA helped lock the fixed moment in time down even more, but there’s nothing in the episode to suggest that, and well, it didn’t work did it? If the suit just needed someone to be in it, why not just anyone? Why River?

What did work there, and what was important, is that the Doctor knew that River wouldn’t remember committing his murder, that the Silence would wipe her memory. So we get around our little question of River’s reaction to his death, by seeing that it was a true reaction. It must have been terrible knowing that she was serving a prison sentence for killing him, but not remembering how or when, and it explains her “Of course not”, when her bullets fail to bring the Astronaut down… she couldn’t stop it because she didn’t stop it. And she didn’t know that the Doctor survived, because he didn’t tell her that he did, until they were in the alternate timeline… remember that the Doctor spent 200 years traveling before he brought his friends to America, and in there, lived his life with River. Apparently quite a bit of it while she was still in prison, so one assumes that she agreed with his desire to slip into the shadows… and yes, I know that the following video tells a different tale. Mine makes more sense.

And that brings us to the Doctor himself. Recognizing that he’s become too big, too famous, too frightening, he decides to appear to die. And it almost worked too, if it hadn’t been for that damned meddling kid, um River. But in the end, he got to do exactly that, but not before a couple of very important things happened. The second is pure magic, and a little heartbreaking. Railing against what the Universe seems to be pushing him towards and coming very close to the arrogance of the 10th Doctor at the end, the Doctor calls Earth, and tells the person on the other end to get “him” and shouts that “Time has never laid a glove on me!”, only to find that it has.

He called the nursing home where one Brigadier Alastair Lethbridge-Stewart resides, but too late. The good Brigadier had passed away months before, waiting to see his old friend one more time, and here, here, Matt Smith gives us a moment the Doctor experiences all the time, and one we almost never see. His friends die. They die of old age, and he continues on. It’s subtle, it’s powerful, and it’s true, and Smith delivers it brilliantly. As he says later, his friends are the best part of him, and in the end, they will all be gone. We never got to see Nicholas Courtney make an appearance in the new series, and his death earlier this year means we never will, so it was nice to see that sad moment become a part of the Doctor’s life, and an important one. Rest well Brigadier.


The first is this: While trying to avoid his fate, he searched for information on the Silence, and along the way, we got to see that the Doctor still has that dark edge to him, as he confronts a damaged Dalek:

“Imagine you were dying, imagine you were afraid, and a long way from home and in terrible pain. Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse, you looked up, and saw the face of the Devil himself. Hello Dalek.”

That that is shown from the point of view of the Dalek is creepy, very creepy, and from the sound of the Doctor’s voice, well, the Time War is far from off his mind. But after a warped game of Live Chess, he find himself in possession of the still living head of Dorium Maldovar and the reason why the Silence wants him dead.

It seems that the Question the Silence doesn’t want answered is one the Doctor is in a unique position to answer, a secret that they know only he possesses, one that can never be revealed. And at a place called the Fields of Trenzalor, at the Fall of The Eleventh, there will come a time when only the truth can be spoken, and there, there, the Doctor will answer the Question, and this the Silence cannot allow. But what is the Question?

Ohhhhh you crafty buggers. It’s quite a big one, and it opens up a LOT of new questions itself. You see the Question that cannot be answered, the one that the Silence needs the Doctor to never answer, the question the Doctor has been running from all his life… is simply this: Doctor Who? Who is the Doctor? Well, that question came up years ago at the end of the first run of the show, and the plan was to reveal that the Doctor wasn’t quite who he claimed to be, and was part of what came to be known as the Cartmel Masterplan. It seems unlikely that we’ll be seeing that hit our screens, since it was so aptly played out in the New Adventures novel LUNGBARROW, but one does suspect that sometime in 2013, around a certain anniversary, the rug will get pulled out from underneath us.

So much more I could write about this episode, from Ian McNiece as Churchill, Mark Gatiss as Gantok, pterodactylus in London, Area 52 in Egypt, and more… but I think we’ve covered the most important parts. So thank you Matt Smith, Alex Kingston, Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill, Steven Moffat and Co. It’s been a hell of a season, and it’s worked more than it hasn’t. You asked big questions and gave us big stories. That they didn’t always work, well, that’s how it goes, and we’re happy you tried, because sometimes you made magic. And now we wait. Because the bad news is that the London Olympics are going to push the next season back to the fall of 2012, and while we’ll have the Christmas Special and there are rumors of an Easter Special, the answers, and the new incarnation of the show are many months away. New incarnation? Yes indeed, because we have something of a reboot here don’t we?

The Doctor is Dead. Long Live the Doctor.

[“Doctor Who” on the BBC web site]     [“Doctor Who” on BBC America]


Episode 1.11 “Original Sin”

A Review By Timothy Harvey

[All photos: Syfy]

When the DOD learns of a meeting of the leaders of Red Flag, Rosen and his Alphas join the assault, but things are not as they seem…


Well now… this changes… everything.

Next season should be quite interesting I think, and for those of us a little skeptical of lumping ALPHAS in the same shared universe as WAREHOUSE 13 and EUREKA, I’m pretty sure that we’ve just seen the proof that they’re not actually. Because “Original Sin” takes our Alphas very, very public, and exposes the governments knowledge of their existence to the wider world, and quite likely lands Rosen in prison.

But how did we get here?

We’ve had a very serialized first season here, with only a few episodes that didn’t have the Red Flag/DOD/Alphas storyline figuring heavily, and while I’ve really liked that, it has begged the question: What is it building to? I mean clearly something had to give… with Binghamton looming in the background, the team knew that their DOD minders were afraid of those with Alpha abilities, and the seemingly terrorist actions of Red Flag justified those fears to a point, even as the idea that it was a battle between good guys and bad guys took on some rather intriguing shades of grey. But how it was handled was quite interesting, because it makes sense that those who know about Alphas would be afraid of them.

Think about it. The idea of Superman is wonderful. But take away that powerful nobility, that selflessness, make him one of us? Yeah… that’s actually pretty scary. Bill? Super strength. He could kill a man very easily, frighteningly easy. Rachel? What secrets can you really keep from a woman who can see or hear or smell everything? Nina? She controls minds. Hicks? The perfect assassin, the one who never misses. And Gary? Gary may be the most powerful, the most dangerous of them all… It’s the fact that they are good people, or at least trying to be that keeps them from becoming Red Flag. But even there it’s not quite as clear-cut as one might think, as this episode makes clear.

From the beginning Red Flag’s agents have insisted that they are only doing what they’re doing in self-defense, against a world that fears them and a government that wants to control them. When we met Anna, we discovered that the face of the enemy was more sympathetic than we could think, and the way the Red Flag agents acted around each other… less like terrorists and more like, oh I don’t know, our team of Alphas? Here we find that there are divisions in the ranks, with many of the leaders of Red Flag, especially Anna, arguing that going public, exposing the Alpha Phenomenon, is the best thing for Alphas and regular humanity. But while Anna may lead much of Red Flag, it turns out that its founder has other plans. And for Anna and so many others, those plans are deadly.

It’s a real shame to see Anna die here, and the impact of that death is something I think we’re not done with. Gary, sweet Gary, finds her body and lashes out at the DOD agent in a display of anger unlike anything we’ve seen from him before. The scene of the assault on the Red Flag meeting is brutal and confused and essentially a massacre, and while the DOD views it as a success, the impact on the Alphas team is devastating. The knowledge that it all could have been avoided, that it was a set up by Stanton Parrish and that it cost many innocent lives drives home the fact that the team is asked over and over again to hunt down people just like them, and that for all their good intentions, lives are lost.

And who is Stanton Parrish? Last week they implied that the Alphas came out of Cold War experiments, and the fact that almost all of the Alphas we’ve seen are “young” enough to be the result of those experiments has lent credence to the idea. Here though, we find that long before the Cold War, there was an Alpha, perhaps the first one, walking the earth and making plans. Seemingly immortal and claiming perfect mind and body integration, Parrish is the one who fed the information to the DOD and caused the massacre at Highland Mills. His confrontation with Rosen is one of the best meetings of opposing forces I’ve seen in a while, with Rosen clearly at a disadvantage yet holding his own intellectually, and it’s clear that the downside to Parrish’s abilities is a lack of empathy, although his case that he is humanity is sadly somewhat true. Working in the shadows, planning for the war between Alphas and humanity he sees coming, he offers Rosen a Faustian bargain: work with me and I’ll answer all your questions about Alphas. The Why’s, the How’s, if only you’ll serve me…

Rosen’s answer and the revelation of why Rosen is so invested in the Alpha Phenomenon, and his speech before the congressional committee drive home that in a show about people with superhuman abilities, the main character is really the man among them who is has none. Yes, it’s an ensemble cast, yes, Gary is often the emotional heart of the show, but again and again, it’s Rosen who drives the stories, and here most of all. It makes perfect sense that his daughter is an Alpha, and in many ways, his work with the team is something like an attempt at redemption for the way he treated her. His estrangement from Dani, and the way he used her empathic ability to try to manipulate his wife to save his marriage, have led to his attempt to understand Alphas, all in a way to try to understand and relate to his daughter. That he reconnects to her here, without knowing that she is in league with Parrish can only lead to tragedy, but it also leads to the very nice scene where his speech throws Parrish’s plans awry, and Dani tells Parrish she warned him. Rosen’s admission that he is as manipulative as his revealed adversary gives the two an interesting contrast: Rosen does it to make a better world, but he’s not proud of it.

Rosen’s speech before the Congressional Committee is both representative of the problem the government has created for themselves, and the reason why Rosen may be the best hope for a peaceful future. Once again, the powers that be ask Rosen, the man they’ve put into the best position to give them answers, to tell them what to do, and yet again, they ignore what he has to tell them, trying to fit Alphas into their worldview instead of changing it. It’s the core conflict between Rosen and the DOD, and finally, Rosen has had enough. The events of this season, the massacre and it’s effects on his team, and his confrontation with Parrish have led him to do the one thing he’s always wanted to do, the one thing he thinks he can do to stop Parrish: He takes the Alpha Phenomenon public.

His speech is pretty impressive. From laying open the government’s treatment of Alphas at Binghamton, to exposing Stanton Parrish, to revealing the existence of Alphas to the world, his speech would have been a good one if only the committee had heard it. His ripping into the hypocrisy of the governments actions, his comparison of those actions to those of Red Flag’s and showing how they feed each other… that it’s broadcast live to the public changes everything, and Rosen knows going in that he’s likely headed for a cell. And yet he goes, trying to save the future. I’ve said it before, David Strathairn is a fantastic actor, and he proves it here.

A note about the broadcast. The camera pen transmits the hearing to Gary, who then transmits it out to the world, taking over the broadcast signals. We’ve seen Gary read the signals and use the data, but we’ve never seen him manipulate the signals before, and when you consider the scale here, it’s clear that Gary may be the most powerful Alpha we’ve seen. Consider how much our world depends on wireless signals. Now consider a man who can control those signals. Now be afraid…

So, here it ends this season. The Alphas are public. The world will never be the same. The next season can’t some soon enough.


[Official Show Site at Syfy]

“Closing Time”

A Review By Timothy Harvey

With the Doctor’s time running out, he stops by Earth to see a friend and finds old enemies lurking beneath quiet city streets…


I kinda feel like the Grinch finding fault with “Closing Time”, considering how sweet-natured and funny it is, but I guess I’m just going to have to. Sigh.

First of all, while I love to see our universe’s Cybermen, I really think they were wasted here, and yes, yes, I know that they’re running on low power and such, but still. It was nice to see a Cybermat again, and the shots of the lone Cyberman were suitably creepy, but once we got down into the ship, all the tension seemed to evaporate. And yes, it’s sweet and happy and as a father I can cheer a bit for Craig overcoming the Cyber-conversion by the power of his love for his son, but, and it’s a big but, that’s not how it works. Well, that’s not how it’s worked before anyway, with Cybermen being pretty much mechanical bodies with human brains inside… ah to hell with it. That’s not really what this episode is about is it? The Cybermen are here to provide the bad guys, but it’s really about the Doctor isn’t it?

This season has been greatly about redefining the Doctor’s relationships, first with his mortality, then with the TARDIS itself, then with Rory and Amy, and most importantly, with himself. We’ve seen the Doctor realize how much he puts those he cares about in danger, and how his legacy is viewed by those in the wider universe. It’s been something of a dark picture, with words like “god complex” and “vain” figuring heavily, and while he really is just trying to help, it seem that the results have led to Madame Kovarian’s War and the birth of the Silence, all for the fear of the Doctor. Episodes like “The Girl Who Waited” have shown starkly the kind of terrible decisions the Doctor makes on a regular basis, and how monstrous they can seem when someone like Rory takes a hard look at them. Rory changed there, and it would be Amy who would set aside her hero-worship in “The God Complex”, and where the Doctor would decide that putting the people he cares about at risk, no matter how lonely he may be, wasn’t something he could accept anymore.

Picking up somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 years later, the Doctor finds himself one day out from the events of “The Impossible Astronaut”, and while we don’t have a lot of details, it seems to have been a full 200 years. Somewhere in there would be the bulk of his life with River Song, and while we’ve had hints (Jim the Fish anyone?), there’s little we know about this period of the Doctor’s life, aside from River calling it the best part of hers. The Doctor doesn’t appear to be thinking much of his happier past though, as he stops by to visit Craig Owens on what seems to be a farewell tour of sorts.

Finding Craig with new son in tow, the Doctor finds himself in the new position of having to be talked into investigating the mysterious power fluctuations. Feeling his years, feeling as though he’s doing more harm than good, the Doctor seems to want to walk away, but of course he can’t, because then he wouldn’t be the Doctor, would he? Craig’s innocent belief helps. Craig’s logic that staying close to the Doctor is the safest thing to do is somewhat flawed, but more often than not, it does turn out to be the case, and with young Alfie in tow, you can see how he’s think that. That Craig’s arc here is somewhat clichéd (frazzled new father in over his head trying to prove himself) and that it’s just another spin on his story from “The Lodger” is a little disappointing, but I suppose it’s too much to ask that he change too much. He wouldn’t, after all, be the foil for the Doctor that he is in these two episodes. There, of course, is much fun to have with Craig’s son Alfie, or “Stormageddon” as he prefers to be called, because of course, the Doctor speaks Baby, and of note is the somewhat revealing and funny “conversation” the Doctor has with him in the nursery.

Ok, I do have a couple of problems. One, while it’s cute that the Doctor can silence babies with a sound, his repeated use of it on adults is kind of insulting after a while. And the repeated use of the “partners/couple/companion” misunderstanding of the Doctor/Craig relationship as a gay couple is sort of beat into the ground. And the simple-minded/obliviousness of the clerks is… ah, it’s a comedy episode. Still.

The interesting moment for me this episode came with the “cameo” appearance of Amy and Rory, and the revelation that Amy has become somewhat famous as a model for a perfume campaign. Welllll… that’s what a lot of people seem to have come away with, but I think it’s rather something more. Let’s consider the poster the Doctor sees shall we? Lovely picture of Amy of course, but then there’s the name of the fragrance: Petrichor. It’s part of the psychic key the TARDIS gives Rory in the “The Doctor’s Wife”, and it’s described as the smell of dust after rain, and it seems highly unlikely that a perfume company would come up with something so specific to the Doctor on its own.

More likely, and the line “For the Girl Who’s Tired Of Waiting” backs this up, is that Amy created the fragrance, and far from being just a model, she’s created a business. With the idea that Amy and Rory deserve a life that doesn’t revolve around the Doctor being part of the reason he left them, it’s clear that they’ve built one, and a successful one at that. The Doctor holding back from going to them, the hiding from them, and his rueful expression when he realizes that Amy has moved on, show that 200 years or not, the Doctor still regrets what effect he’s had on the two.

If you didn’t enjoy last years “The Lodger”, or James Corden’s performance as Craig in it, you’re probably not going to appreciate this episode a whole lot. While I did, I do find it somewhat odd that the penultimate instalment of the season is something this slight, even though it gives us a counterpoint to the last two episodes. Craig quite sensibly tells the Doctor that the Cybermen would have woken up and began killing and converting people whether the Doctor was there or not, and that the fact that he is there mean that the Cybermen will be stopped. So yes, while the Doctor is responsible for putting his friends in danger, yes, he’s frightening to those in power and those who think he might try and stand in their way, and yes, his ego and vanity are responsible for much that is negative, the fact remains: Without the Doctor things would be much, much worse.

We have to discuss the coda here, where River Song is oddly reviewing paper records that don’t seem to have any real reason to exist, and Madame Kovarian and The Silence reveal that they still aren’t done with her. It’s good on one hand, because we need more evidence that thier investment of time, money and lives are worth it in their creation of Melody as a weapon, but it’s a little odd as well. She’s just become a Doctor you see, and now they’ve come for her? Hmmm. We do have the answer finally as to who was/is in the Astronaut suit, and there went my pet theory… I was leaning towards the Doctor himself.

So, funny, sweet, odd in its placement, “Closing Time” gives us a reminder that the Doctor is a force for good, even as he struggles with his own feelings on the subject. We also get a nice lead in for our season finale… now we wait. For the Death Of The Doctor, and the “The Wedding of River Song”.

[“Doctor Who” on the BBC web site]     [“Doctor Who” on BBC America]