One last Doctor Who review for 2015 - The Husbands of River Song

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Doctor Who Christmas Special 2015 - The Husbands of River Song

Written by Steven Moffat

Directed by Douglas Mackinnon


  • Peter Capaldi - The Doctor
  • Alex Kingston – River Song
  • Matt Lucas – Nardole
  • Greg Davies – King Hydroflax
  • Rowan Polonski – Flemming
  • Robert Curtis – Scratch
  • Chris Lew Kum Hoi – Alphonse
  • Phillip Rhys – Ramone
  • Anthony Cozens – Concierge
  • Nicolle Smartt – Receptionist
  • Liam Cook – King Hydroflax's body
  • Nonso Anozie – Voice of Hydroflax

Quick Synopsis:  It is Christmas in the year 5343 on the human colony of Mendorax Dellora.   A servant is looking for a surgeon who is supposed to have arrived and ends up finding The Doctor.  Curious about what's going on, The Doctor decides to go along with the servant. He finds himself being brought before the dying King Hydroflax...and his wife, River Song!  River doesn't recognize The Doctor in his latest incarnation.  She has hired the surgeon to cut off King Hydroflax's head because there is a very valuable gem that got lodged in there.  But the jokes on them, as Hydroflax's head is removable.  They end up stealing Hydroflax's head, and Hydroflax's body chases them across the universe. 

Commentary:  - A quick word before I get to my commentary.  I watched this year's Christmas special in a movie theater, and the sound balance seemed off.  The voices were turned way down and the background music was so loud at times it was hard to hear some of the dialogue.  I don't know if that was a problem with  the theater or the episode itself.  I know a lot of people had complained about this problem in some episodes of season 8.

- This episode was one of the funniest episodes of Doctor Who I have seen.  Capaldi has a flair for comedic timing, and his chemistry with Alex Kingston as River Song was just perfect.  There were a lot of great one-liners here.  I especially loved when The Doctor collapsed in the snow and was laughing about the absurdity of being yelled at by a head in a bag.  Matt Lucas and Greg Davies are both well known comedians, and casting them in this episode just helped add to the insanity. 

- A lot of the humor came from River not recognizing The Doctor.  At one point, she brings him into the TARDIS, and The Doctor is thrilled to get a chance to give a speech about the TARDIS being bigger on the inside.  It was clear that The Doctor had been waiting a long time for one of his companions to give as thorough and comprehensive a speech as he got to give. 

- On top of the humor, I also thought there was some real strong character moments here.  We get to see what River is like when she's not being watched by The Doctor.  The Doctor is a bit dismayed about how hardcore and dangerous River is.  Not to mention that she seems to flirt with everyone, including marrying several men just to help her move her own agendas forward.  But, the best part was when River is explaining that while she's in love with The Doctor, she doesn't believe that he could possibly love her back.  When she realizes that she's wrong and the man standing beside her is The Doctor, it is just a perfect moment. 

- The story worked really well too.   We get to see River Song trying to scam (and execute) a tyrant king.  When this doesn't work, they end up stealing his head.   Which leads his body to go chasing after them.  We end up in a social club for genocidal murderers...who seemed to be a surprisingly cheery group of people.  And we get a nice reunion between the Doctor and River Song.  Pretty much everything you could have wanted from this episode was there. 

- I also liked that they toned down the Christmas elements here.  In past Christmas specials, we've had killer Christmas trees, Christmas Angels, a Christmas Carol homage, snowmen, and last year we've even had Santa Claus.  While this episode did take place during Christmas, they didn't seem to need to beat you over the head with it over and over again.  To me, this worked a lot better than most of the Christmas specials we've had.

- I also liked that we got to see The Doctor and River's last date before her death in The Library.  Especially when River knows The Doctor well enough to know that he still has one last trick up his sleeve.  That this last night will last 24 years.  It may have felt a little cheap because we've already gotten two perfect farewell scenes for River in "The Name of the Doctor" and "Forest of the Dead."  But, I still thought it was a terrific scene and that it felt like a great way to tie up this episode.  To a certain extent, I do think this probably has to be the last appearance of River Song, just because at this point she already knows The Doctor can have more faces than the 12 she knows about.  But, Doctor Who is all about time travel and the impossible.  And it is always nice to see Alex Kingston.  Personally, I am still waiting for River Song to meet Captain Jack Harkness.

- I did have one small complaint about this episode.  Actually it's the same complaint I have had for most of the Christmas episodes since Steven Moffat took over as head writer.  Under Russell T Davies, the Christmas episodes tended to be a little more easily accessible for potential new viewers.  The perfect example of that is "Voyage of The Damned," which was the first episode of Doctor Who I watched when it aired.  Voyage of the Damned was played like a big budget sci-fi action movie, and constantly went out of the way to explain itself to someone who might have never seen the show before.   But under Moffat, most of his Christmas episodes are really tied into having a pretty good knowledge of the series.  Bringing back River Song is a great gift for longtime viewers, but confusing for anyone new who might drop in to check it out.

4.5 / 5.0