Doctor Who - The Wedding of River Song (c) BBC
Doctor Who – The Wedding of River Song (c) BBC

The Wedding of River Song

First Broadcast October 1st 2011 @ 7.05pm (7.67m viewers)

‘The Wedding of River Song’ brings to a conclusion a dramatic season, Matt Smith’s second in the lead role. It attempts to resolve the story arc begun at the very start of the series with ‘The Impossible Astronaut’ and further develops River Song’s relationship with the Doctor. Amy and Rory also gain a measure of retribution for their own personal journey endured over this season. We are also treated to a final onscreen appearance of the Silence, the mysterious and omnipresent creatures that were, without a doubt, the hit of 2011. Standards were, of course, high for the finale and this began with the opening sequences.

Memorable Moment (Spoiler Warning)
The Doctor (Matt Smith) and Winston Churchill (Ian McNiece) - Doctor Who - The Wedding of River Song (c) BBC
The Doctor (Matt Smith) and Winston Churchill (Ian McNeice) – Doctor Who – The Wedding of River Song (c) BBC

To begin the episode we are presented with the interesting concept of time happening all at once. As a result, Winston Churchill is Emperor. Pterodactyls fly over London. Charles Dickens is on the BBC Breakfast sofa discussing his latest Christmas special. Although clearly time-consuming in terms of the visual effects, the results are very impressive. It also provides a stark warning of the chaos which can be caused by changing fixed points in time. This theory has developed over the seasons, firstly in ‘Father’s Day’ and notably in ‘The Fires of Pompeii’. ‘Blink’ too offered explanations over the nature of time, ‘wibbly wobbly timey wimey’ and all that. But this sequence offers more than just a segment of warning dialogue but strong visuals to emphasise the point that fixed points in time should not be trifled with.

A number of scenes follow including a brief Dalek cameo. There is also a personal favourite, the ‘live chess’ match, a shockingly entertaining spectator sport. But there is also great sadness.

Memorable Moment 2 (Spoiler Warning)
River Song (Alex Kingston), The Doctor (Matt Smith) and Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) - Doctor Who - The Wedding of River Song (c) BBC
River Song (Alex Kingston), The Doctor (Matt Smith) and Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) – Doctor Who – The Wedding of River Song (c) BBC

In February 2011 Nicholas Courtney passed away. A legend to Doctor Who fans he worked with all seven TV Doctors, including Colin Baker in ‘Dimensions in Time’, appeared regularly at conventions and was even Honorary President of the Doctor Who Appreciation Society. During this episode we learn that his onscreen character, Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, died peacefully in his sleep. This itself was a reference to a comment made by the Seventh Doctor in ‘Battlefield’, his last onscreen appearance in Doctor Who. Post-2005 Courtney and his character did appear in a single ‘Sarah Jane Adventures’ story ‘Enemy of the Bane’. ‘The Wedding of River Song’ also contains a number of other references such as all the characters wearing eyepatches, an anecdote Courtney often shared about the production of ‘Inferno’. Similarly, Amy Pond’s line “We’ll be in Cairo soon” is a reference to Courtney’s place of birth. These subtle tributes are very respectful, more so than the Brigadier’s reincarnation as a Cyberman in ‘Death in Heaven’. Perhaps the greatest honour, however, is the way the Doctor’s demeanour changes so drastically on learning the news of the Brigadier’s death.

River is not a killer

Causing this damage to time is eventually revealed to be Melody Pond. We knew from a number of clues that she is responsible for the death of the Time Lord. However in an alternate version of events than those which viewers saw back in ‘The Impossible Astronaut’, River refuses to kill the Doctor. Whilst the pre title sequence attempts to contextualise the story arc it is pretty complicated for the casual viewer. For loyal viewers, this is less of a problem but creates a tricky balancing act.

The Silence/Silents are a superb creation. Myths surround men in black suits but it is taken up a level with these alien creatures and their striking design. To heighten the terror further the eerie noises and subtle head tilt send a shiver up the spine. Worst still is the revelation that the Silents are just waiting, biding their time. When they break out they are quite terrifying. I’d like them to make a comeback.

The Silence - Doctor Who - The Wedding of River Song (c) BBC
The Silence – Doctor Who – The Wedding of River Song (c) BBC

Concluding everything is a bit of a challenge but Steven Moffat pulls things together well. The scene with the four members of the main cast on the roof of the pyramid is a bit cheesy but finally confirms Amy’s suspicions that the Doctor and River are in fact a married couple. Predictably the Doctor evades his fate with the Teselecta taking his place on the shore of Lake Silencio. It was either going to be the Teselecta or a Ganger after all. But in perhaps the strongest end to a series, even more is promised. The fields of Trenzalore. The fall of the Eleventh. And the question. Doctor who? Therefore, ‘The Wedding of River Song’ not only achieves a tangible resolution to series 6 but also makes the viewer intrigued and excited for next year!

Cast:

The Doctor – Matt Smith
Amy – Karen Gillan
Rory – Arthur Darvill
River Song – Alex Kingston
Madame Kovarian – Frances Barber
Dorium Maldovar – Simon Fisher-Becker
Winston Churchill – Ian McNeice
Dr Malokeh – Richard Hope
The Silent – Marnix Van Den Broeke
Charles Dickens – Simon Callow
Gantok – Mark Gatiss
Voice of the Daleks – Nicholas Briggs

Crew:

Writer Steven Moffat
Producer Marcus Wilson
Director Jeremy Webb

Also First Aired On This Day…
  • The Smugglers: Episode 4
  • The Invisible Enemy: Part One
  • The Sarah Jane Adventures: Revenge of the Slitheen: Part Two
  • Doctor Who Confidential: When Time Froze

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