Doctor Who 2015 Christmas Special – beware: spoilers, sweetie.
He’s right, The Doctor hasn’t laughed for a long time. Hopes have been dashed, with companions lost. Plus, he’s continually confronted by the every day mortality of those he loves or just encounters, until all he’s left with is a time machine trying to cheer him up. And then he just appears, with a haircut and a new suit. Just as River said he did/would do. Cue sobs.
River Song is only ever vulnerable when her Doctor is calling, so it’s interesting to see her behaviour when she thinks he’s not there. As always Alex Kingston is on song. And of course, any story with the Professor in it, is by the nature of her arc, more complex and layered given The Doctor (and the audience) knows her fate. Yet, it’s always more immediately adventurous, because she’s his equal and is bold, courageous, and intelligent*.
She’s always manipulative, and is always in charge whatever the situation. That has been obvious from the Library. However, sometimes I wish River was a little less obviously lets use my ‘feminine wiles’ on stupid men manipulative. She’s smart without that. Except I like how The Doctor also falls into her victim category. She knows The Doctor is monolithic, ancient and mysterious and unique in the universe, just like the towers, but also just another bloke with a sweet ride.
She also prompts in The Doctor, as all always, all the emotions, frustration and anger, petty jealousy and awe, delight and sympathy and fear too. That’s always good to see.
As for the story, it had an odd feel, festively ridiculous, but also strangely dark. There’s the dying genocidal monarch as a figure of mirth, the disturbing followers that River, like the rest of us, dismisses as of no import. Then there’s the murder version of Starship Titanic neither River, nor The Doctor can save. There was also the Doctor skipping over the burning wreckage. Still don’t know how I feel about him just closing the door on that. Regardless of its crew and passengers, it’s crash and their demise is put aside as a secondary plot building up to the main point: The Doctor and River at Darillium.
I wish the writing could have made me care more: River’s crew and how she gained them, about her claiming husbands (what’s with that?), the throwaway line about her wives and the weird Scratch. But it’s all nonsense, entertaining enough nonsense. It does reveal much about what River thinks of The Doctor, but that’s all.
Restaurant at the End of the Story
The Christmas episode of 2014 was not only Danny Pink’s last episode, but also Clara’s literal Last Christmas. We were being told then, without being told. This time, we absolutely know. This is River’s last Christmas and this time, The Doctor makes it count, doing all the things he knows he must do, because he was told he did them. For me, it’s a matter of forgiving the rest of the plot because of the (sweet) pay off from the moment River realises this new face, that of Peter Capaldi, is The Doctor.
Then, from the second The Doctor realises Darillium can’t be averted, he’s planning. He gets the restaurant, the booking and the moment right, because he’s had years to think about it. After her diary, he gives her the second gift he’s ever given her, and we know what it is. All the steps are complete. But what makes more than the writers just filling in the gaps between steps set out years before, is the conversation between these characters. They get to say (again) everything they have ever said and much more. It was something I was surprised we got, but I’m glad we did.
And that was enough.
*My solemn promise is to never use the word ‘strong’ to describe a female character unless she is some kind of remarkable person able to indeed perform feats of incredible physical strength.