Episode Title: "The Wedding of River Song"
Writer: Steven Moffat
Director: Jeremy Webb
Previously on "Doctor Who":
Madame Kovarian (Frances Barber) and the religious order known as the Silence kidnapped Melody Pond, the infant daughter of Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) and Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill) before brainwashing the young girl into becoming a weapon against the Doctor (Matt Smith). To their surprise, Melody grew up to become the time traveling adventurer River Song (Alex Kingston); who very nearly succeeded in killing the Doctor during their first meeting (from her perspective). During that same encounter, the Doctor learned of his own impending death at the hands of the Impossible Astronaut from the crew of the Teselecta, a spaceship that could mimic human forms.
The Doctor eventually parted ways with Amy and Rory and he began working up the courage to face his own death. At some point in the future, Madame Kovarian and the Silence recaptured River and forced her into the Impossible Astronaut suit before placing her where she needed to be in order to kill the Doctor once and for all.
On April 22, 2011; all of history only exists in a single point in time that is happening simultaneously. Holy Roman Emperor Winston Churchill (Ian McNeice) notes that time no longer passes, but he appears to be the only one on his staff who realizes that it is wrong. He summons the "soothsayer" from the tower and we see that it is a bearded and slightly aged Doctor, who explains that time was broken by a woman. In flashback, we see the Doctor on a quest to learn why the Silence have gone through so much just to kill him. On his search, the Doctor encounters the crew of the Teselecta, who offer to help him. Soon after, the Doctor tracks down the severed head of Dorium Maldovar (Simon Fisher-Becker), who was killed during the battle of Demon's Run.
Despite his apparent death, Dorium appears to have adjusted to living on as a head. To the Doctor's surprise, Dorium tells the Doctor that the Silence wants to prevent his future from coming to pass. He says that the Doctor will be on the fields of Trenzalore during the fall of the Eleventh when a question will be asked that must never be answered. The oldest question in the universe. Even the Doctor seems fearful to learn what the question is and when he learns the truth, he takes Dorium back to his TARDIS. The Doctor refuses to bend to his fate, but he soon receives a message that his old friend Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart has died, leading the Doctor to finally accept his fate.
Back to the present, the Doctor notes that he and Churchill have been running and he has marked himself to note the presence of the Silence. In the past, the Doctor goes to his fate at Lake Silencio and he approaches the younger River in the Impossible Astronaut suit. She begs him to run, but the Doctor insists that this is a fixed point in time and he has to die. But before the end, he tells River that she is forgiven. River fires the fatal shots… only she wills them to miss and depowers her suit to the point that she can't harm him. The Doctor scolds her for changing time before they are both swept up by the ensuing chaos.
Once again back with Churchill, the Doctor notes that they are both armed to defend themselves and that his arm is marked by several marks indicating that the Silence are near. Overhead, Churchill and the Doctor spot a large number of Silence ready to descend upon them. Only the intervention of Amy and her soldiers save them, but the Doctor is alarmed to see that Amy is wearing an eye patch like Madame Kovarian's. Amy knocks out the Doctor and when he awakens on a train, he tries to convince her that they know each other… until he realizes that she already remembers. Amy also explains that she can't find her husband, Rory; but she is oblivious to the fact that he is her most loyal soldier under the name of Captain Williams.
Amy and her troops escort the Doctor to Area 52 in Egypt, where nearly 100 members of the Silence are being held captive. They also explain that the eye patches are actually eye drives that allow them to remember the Silence despite their ability to make people forget them. River is there as well with their prisoner, Madame Kovarian. When the Doctor touches River, time begins to resume and it places them both at Lake Silencio. Kovarian then gloats as the Silence easily brakes free and the corrupted eye drives begin incapacitating or disabling Amy's troops.
As River and Amy escort the Doctor upstairs, Rory volunteers to stay behind with his eye drive in place despite the debilitating effects. When the pain is too much, the Silence taunt Rory and say that this death shall be his last… until Amy returns to mow down the Silence and retrieve her husband. But Amy leaves Madame Kovarian to die from her own eye drive trap. On the top of Area 52, Amy and Rory catch up to the Doctor and River as she explains the lengths that she has gone to save his life and how many worlds he has touched. The Doctor reiterates that his death is the only way to save reality, but he is moved by River's love for him.
With Rory and Amy's consent, the Doctor marries River and he whispers something in her ear. When they kiss, time resumes and the Doctor is killed just as he was before. Sometime later, River visits Amy and Rory and she reveals that the Doctor survived because he was in the Teselecta the entire time, using the ship to pose as himself. Even when the Doctor's "body" was burned in the boat, the real Doctor escaped without a scratch. Elsewhere, the Doctor returns Dorium's head where he found it. The Doctor tells Dorium that he'll be returning to the shadows now and he'll let his enemies believe that he's dead. As the Doctor leaves, Dorium shouts one final taunt at him. He repeats the question that the Doctor fears. The oldest question that was hiding in plain sight…
"Doctor Who!" Of course! How could I have missed that?
Bravo, Steven Moffat. You've managed to turn the title of the show into a dire mystery for the future. Doctor Who? Why is the Doctor so frightened by those words? What secret terrifies him so much that he would rather die than see it revealed? It's got to be more than just a name…
And if you're expecting a quick resolution next season, I'd assume that won't be in the cards. According to this episode, the question won't be answered until "the fall of the 11th," presumably foreshadowing Matt Smith's final adventure as the Eleventh Doctor. It would be very impressive if Moffat really does have a long form story planned out that far in advance. But it could also be the crux of the seventh season; especially since at least half of that season will air in 2013 for the 50th anniversary of "Doctor Who."
This episode returned the series to an epic sense of grandeur after some suspiciously cheap looking episodes late in the season. Maybe the production team was saving up for this episode; which featured some very interesting special effects shots during the earliest scenes of history's mash up. Ian McNeice was a lot of fun as the new version of Churchill, but it seemed odd that Amy left him behind after saving the Doctor. I wanted him to stick around to at least the end of the episode.
The Silence were also put to good use early in sequences with the Doctor and Churchill when even the audience couldn't see them. The most effective way to convey the threat of that alien race is to continuously place the audience in the Doctor's shoes by not showing us the Silence. Who knew that black marks on skin could be such a great dramatic tool?
Matt Smith proved once again why he is such a terrific Doctor by letting his fear shine through and invoking empathy for everyone's favorite Time Lord. We don't usually see the Doctor in such a vulnerable state and it was jarring to say the least. But Smith's projected emotions seemed genuine and the Doctor's ultimate survival felt like one of the more triumphant moments in the series. Once the Teselecta appeared, it was pretty obvious that it would be swapped out for the Doctor at some point. But it made sense within the context of the story and it was really amusing to see the tiny Doctor inside the eye of the Teselecta.
The only flaw I saw with Smith in this episode wasn't really his fault. The chattering skulls looked silly as they went "Piranha" the Doctor's guide and Smith's scared reaction seemed out of proportion with the threat on screen. That said, it was a genuinely creepy moment when all of the skulls in the room turned towards the Doctor as he awaited the "question" from Dorium; who was actually a lot of fun to watch as a severed head.
Amy and Rory also had some great moments, particularly when she proved to be clueless about noticing Rory. When Amy finally did recognize him, it led to some hilarious exchanges where Rory quickly agreed to marry her and when he voiced his confusion over who River was. Amy's dark side was also intriguing as she essentially murders Madame Kovarian for stealing her baby. But that was in an alternate timeline, so I'd be surprised if Kovarian didn't show up again in the future.
If the Doctor really does continue faking his death next season, I don't believe that the show will change that significantly. I'm sure that the Doctor will still be bouncing around from time to time in the TARDIS and helping people in need. The Christmas episode aside, it's going to be a long wait until the new season begins next year. I really want to see what happens next, and that means that Moffat and company have succeeded once again.
Crave Online Rating: 9.5 out of 10.