We’ve collected together some of the various reviews of yesterday’s The Husbands of River Song across the news and genre orientated media and present them below.
“The idea that River and the Doctor’s final night together lasts 24 years could signify that there are many more adventures in store for them (and not surprisingly there are plenty of calls for River Song to be the next companion), but more plausibly, just as in the case of Clara it is another example of the stalled ending. I have a hunch that in the return of Ramone and Nardole, Steven Moffat is satirising himself, or more correctly the disingenuous image of him amongst some vocal critics. Sometimes endings are good.
Which brings us onto the perplexing end caption. After “And they both lived happily ever after,” is followed by “And they both lived happily,” we might have expected the sequence to end with “And they both lived.” But instead the final caption reads simply “Happily.” Once again it could be viewed as a subverting of what has become a stock trademark of the current showrunner’s era. The ending in this instance is not life or the escaping or undoing of death, but the happiness of a past moment.
In recent years the spin off worlds from Doctor Who has proliferated thanks to the incredible imagination of the fan base and the output of Big Finish in particular, and once again there are possible nods to this wider Doctor Whouniverse – the madcap scenes with the head in the bag wouldn’t be at all out of place in an Iris Wildthyme adventure and River Song’s reference to her second wife might be of interest to fans of another archaeologist, Bernice Summerfield. Speaking of Big Finish, if this is to be River Song’s final televised outings, fans of the character ought to check out their excellent new range, The Diary Of River Song, which fills out all those blank pages between the stories we’ve seen on screen.”
“Yet again Doctor Who (BBC1) proved it has the measure of a proper holiday special. There was snow, a Christmas dinner of sorts and, yes, a headless robot charging around the galaxy in search of its head, played by a funny, pompous Greg Davies, but also depth, warmth and comedy, with Alex Kingston reprising her ongoing role as the Doctor’s time-travelling wife, River Song. Considering they had never met – at least in this regenerated incarnation – there was real chemistry between Peter Capaldi and Kingston. Watching the Doctor pretending to be in awe of the Tardis’s unique proportions (it’s bigger on the inside!) was a treat, a joke broad enough to work for both Who-obsessives and families who only visit the Doctor once a year. They discussed mortality, love, belonging, and what it means to be nostalgic for the past while worrying about the future: a jumble of Christmas emotions wrapped under alien skies.”
Full Christmas Day Review
If “The Husbands of River Song” is less Christmasy than most of the previous specials, it is a splendid gift to fans nonetheless. River has provided one of the longest and most tantalizing threads of the series — the Doctor has had many companions but only one real partner with abilities and knowledge to match his own. Their relationship has always been a push-me-pull-you of sacrifice and salvation amid all manner of chaotic plotlines. To see them deal solely with each other is a treat, especially given Capaldi and Kingston’s very adult chemistry.
“Here, egged on by a Matt Lucas cameo and Alex Kingston he cracks gags and at times literally falls around laughing, in a clear move away from the sadness of losing his companion Clara at the end of the last series.
There is also a bit of romance, Doctor Who almost mocking itself, and perhaps crucially given its timeslot of 5.15pm, nothing too scary.
A big clue into what happens comes from Moffat who teases: “We’re about to stand with the Doctor and see what River is like when she doesn’t know he’s looking.”
Alex Kingston’s return has been eagerly awaited by Whovians, but for any drama fans her addition to this episode is a wonderful thing.”
Full Advance Review
Den of Geek
“I did like the deliberate lighter tone here, and as I’ve said more than once, I also like it when Doctor Who takes a turn to keep us on our toes. Yet I guess for me this one didn’t turn enough, that it was more some tasty turkey sandwiches than the main dish itself. The balance seemed slightly uneven, and I think I’d rather the consistently daft tone had been kept up, rather than the loud action sequences crashing in, and the latest on-screen ending to the River and Doctor story.
There’s a big caveat to that, of course, in that if you’re heavily invested in the River/Doctor storyline still, then The Husbands Of River Song had much to offer. But I still felt that the ground had been trodden, if not seen, before.
Production values? Definitely worth a mention. They’re as uniformly high as we tend to take for granted on Doctor Who. Returning director Douglas Mackinnon keeps things interesting and pacey, and the episode also showcases effects work that really demonstrates just how far Doctor Who, visually has come.
But still: this is a decent, rather than spectacular sign off for what’s been a very strong year for Doctor Who. A bit of a muddle, with one absolute stand-out moment of nerdy joy. Oh, and Peter Capaldi. He’s welcome in our house any Christmas he likes.
Roll on series 10. It’s been quite a year for Who, and the thought of at least 12 more Capaldi-headlined episodes is negating the need for me to make a Christmas list…”
“There were lots of great little moments—like the Doctor having both his sonic sunglasses and his new sonic screwdriver (take THAT sunglasses haters)—and the Doctor getting to finally say the “it’s bigger on the inside” speech the way he’s always thought it ought to be said. Stuff like that made the straightforward story a lot more fun.
It’s Christmas. It’s fun. Doctor Who makes us laugh and tugs at our heartstrings. The only real sad thing is now we’re probably going to have to wait nine more months until we get any new episodes. Bah Humbug.”
“The second half of the story amps up the glam heist caper elements while liberally channeling Douglas Adams. “I’ll have the chef prepare you immediately,” says maitre d’ Flemming (a sardonic turn by Rowan Polonski, wonderfully expressive beneath the blue prosthetics), a line that feels like it’s cueing up the Dish of the Day in the Restaurant At The End Of The Universe. The sight of Hydroflax’s lumbering exo-skeleton stomping into the posh dining room is a memorably incongruous one but this whole starship sequence feels a little too close to 2007 Christmas special “Voyage Of The Damned”, tuxedo-clad alien lifeforms and all. Once again you wish the story could explore its world a little more – the idea of a cruise ship populated by the scum of the universe is a tantalising one and could power an entire episode on its own.
Finally we reach the long-awaited destination of the Singing Towers of Darillium. It’s here, at last, that the story has a welcome chance to breathe, to expose a soul beneath all the brash, frantic larks of the last hour. Capaldi and Kingston play this tonal shift beautifully and while the story denies us a final kiss, the lovely visual of the towers at sunset, with their promise of a 24 year night, wraps up the timeline-twisting River Song saga on a genuinely heartfelt note. “You can’t expect a monolith to love you back,” says River. But sometimes you can see the cracks in the granite.”
“Of course, what’s happened by the end of this episode is the story set up in River’s first appearance (way back in the David Tennant era) has come (seemingly) full circle. In “Forest of the Dead,” Tennant’s Tenth Doctor used River’s sonic screwdriver to upload her mind to a computer after she died. Ten spoke of his future self then — “Why? Why would I give her my screwdriver?” — and now Twelve, with the hindsight of having already lived through these moments, is the future version of the Doctor who actually gives River the sonic.
Aside from filling in the loop of that particular thread from an episode that aired way back in 2008, it also very cleverly ties into where the Doctor is now emotionally and what he has just dealt with in Season 9 with the loss of Clara. Whereas he fought against all hope to save Clara from death, here there seems to be an acceptance that even he must give into these things. It’s been said before that River and the Doctor spent their last night together at the Singing Towers of Darillium, and here they are, doing just that, in the very beautiful coda to this episode. River fears this is the case, but the Doctor knows it must be. He may be sad, driven to tears even, but he accepts that this is how it shall be.”
“The episode began on one of those far-future human planets the Doctor discovers so often that they’re barely a surprise any more. A planet where Christmas is celebrated, where there just happens to be snow falling at the right time, and where the inhabitants all dress in Dickensian garb with just a touch of steampunk.
River and her entourage show up to drag the Doctor, unidentified as such and somehow confused with a surgeon, to extract a diamond that has been shot into the head of her husband, King Hydroflax. This is River Song we’re talking about, of course, so all is not as it appears, and she has plenty of tricks up her sleeve — along with a sonic trowel.”