Every year we always try to watch the Doctor Who Christmas Special as soon as we are able and this year was no exception. Even staying out a little later than we probably should have with Geek Baby to watch it with family on Christmas Day…
This year I was particularly curious because I knew that it was going to involve River Song. The dynamic between the Doctor and River Song has always been an interesting one partly because they keep meeting in the wrong order. So the question is when is this in their timeline and how does it fit into their story that we have seen so far? The story of the episode is pretty much secondary to seeing the relationship between the Doctor and River play out. (Spoilers for the Doctor Who Christmas Special after the jump.)
Title of the Episode
The title of the episode is a great play on the fact that throughout the episode we get introduced to a couple different “husbands” of River Song. At the same time the one husband that we know of, the Doctor, she does not even recognize because it is not one of his “twelve” faces. At the same time we meet two different “husbands” that she has currently. One she seems to be trying to swindle and the other she seems to be using slightly. Then there is the Doctor who she does not realize is the Doctor, which is where things begin to get interesting.
Seeing Behind the Veil
The big question that we get to ask in this episode is what is River like when she is not around the Doctor? With a relationship like River and the Doctor have it can be hard to know what is happening when you are not actually together, especially when you meet in a different order. By River not recognizing the Doctor at first it means that he gets to see how she really acts. There are some moments that the Doctor is definitely not happy about and you can tell that he is beginning to question everything that they have been through. River is still a person with a questionable moral compass, but she is not outright evil. She just does not handle things the same way that the Doctor would, and even hides some stuff from him… Including the fact that she borrows the TARDIS every once in a while.
The Doctor’s reaction to River throughout this episode really is priceless. At first he is trying to make her see that it really is him, but eventually he gives up on that and starts observing and acting like the new companion. One of the best moments actually happens when River decides to borrow the TARDIS without telling the Doctor and starts to prepare him for what he is about to see. The Doctor milks the moment for everything it is worth, trying to react how everyone else acts when they first enter the TARDIS. It is a beautiful moment as River rolls her eyes and says they do not have time for this. It takes her a long time to realize who he really is.
Closing the Loop
One of the things that David and I were always curious about is whether they would ever show us what happened when the Doctor saw River before she went to the Library and this gives us that. It is a great closing of the loop that is the Doctor and River’s relationship. The ending of the episode, from the moment that River realizes that she has been with the Doctor the whole time to their final moments together is just incredibly touching.
Throughout the episode we are made to think that River does not care that much about the Doctor, but the reality is that she cares so much and does not believe that the Doctor could really care for her the way she wants. The Doctor as a figure is huge and has to care for so much. It makes some sense that you might think that a single life is somehow beyond his notice. At the same time she was always important to him and this episode is such a touching moment knowing where she ends up and what happens there.