STORY 265: THE HUSBANDS
OF RIVER SONG
Is Doctor Who now made for stupid people? That might explain why Kyle Anderson from The Nerdist, whom I've infuriated to the point of him blocking me on the Twitter for taking light jabs at his attempts at wit, praised it as another brilliant episode in a series of brilliant episodes.
As a side note, is it just mere coincidence that the only negative review he gave Series/Season 9 of Doctor Who came AFTER I pointed out he rarely if ever criticized the show and he made special mention of the "Twitter person" who called him out as a sycophant? I'm sure it was mere coincidence, nothing more. Yet I digress.
The Husbands of River Song for me was a bad affair. It showed that writer/showrunner Steven Moffat is bereft of ideas. It shows that this loathsome character does not merit the Doctor's time, let alone be seen as The Great Love of His Life. It shows the lack of intelligence among both production crew and audiences who eat this stuff up. Apart from the last scene pretty much everything about The Husbands of River Song tells me one thing and one thing only:
I really should stop watching this, and I think I will.
It's Christmas on the human colony Medorax Dellora, 5343 (and unsurprisingly, despite being on a whole different planet somehow snow still manages to fall on said planet at Christmas), but the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) is having none of it. He is determined to enjoy a quiet Christmas, so much so that he puts a sign on the TARDIS' door: Carol Singers Will Be Criticised (sic). Nevertheless, one brave soul dares knock on the door. Nardole (Matt Lucas) comes calling desperate for a surgeon, and Nardole mistakes the Doctor for 'the surgeon' (close enough) and brings him to his mistress. It's none other than the Legendary Legend of Legendness, DOCTOR RIVER SONG (Alex Kingston). She is appropriately dressed (red coat with white trimmings, looking like the Merry Stripper that she is) and while the Doctor immediately recognizes her, she has no idea who he is.
Song orders 'the surgeon' to operate on her husband (one of many, along with wives too): King Hydroflax (Greg Davies). Ostensibly to save his life, Song is really only interested in the Halassi Androvar, a valuable diamond lodged inside His Majesty's head. She suggests the surgeon (whom she doesn't recognize at The Doctor) cut the King's head off (which can work temporarily without the body) so that she can take the diamond and return it to its rightful owner (right, like she'd have a moral bone in her body).
Well, Hydroflax learns of this and decides to kill the bitch himself, but the Doctor joins in to save River (and himself) by threatening to chuck the King's head down the garbage. At this point the three of them are teleported by Ramon (Phillip Rhys), River's current/newest husband. Ramon has found the TARDIS, but no sign of "Damsel", River's codename for The Doctor (as in "Damsel in Distress", since she is always rescuing him). River still does not recognize The Doctor because his is not one of the twelve faces she knows (including the "War" Doctor, an abomination if ever there was one).
The name of the ship is a massive misnomer, for the scum of the universe are there, which explains River's presence. She is there to sell the diamond for millions of credits, and has arranged to meet the seller whom she contacted with an advert.
As a side note, what kind of ad was placed? "Have rare diamond. Please contact Professor Song at 1-900-Mix-A-Lot"?
Well, her contact, Scratch (Robert Curtis) has paid for the diamond, but one small hitch. He and his group worship King Hydroflax and have purchased the diamond as tribute, so the head thing won't go over well. Fortunately for all, the body comes out, thanks to Flemming (Rowan Polonski), the maître d', who to save his own head promises a greater one: the Doctor, with whom River is intimately involved with. River denies the Doctor is there, insisting that she may love him, but he, like the sun, cannot love back. It's at this point that she finally realizes it's The Doctor in front of her, when he smiles and says, "Hello Sweetie".
Her knowledge of archaeology allows her to know of a meteor storm that wrecks the ship, and the Doctor and his bitch flee in the TARDIS. River's knocked out, and the Doctor sees they are in Derillium, the site of their last night together. He arranges for a restaurant to be built there and makes reservations for him and Song, where they at last see the Singing Towers first mentioned in Forest of the Dead Parts 1 & 2 (Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead). The Doctor won't tell her anything, teasing her with "Spoilers", and as she mourns the fact that her time is almost up, he tells her that the nights on Derillium last...twenty-four years.
Somehow, Twelve Years a Slave seems almost a blessing when compared to Twenty-Four Years With Song...
Admittedly, the final scene of Song and The Doctor was quite moving. It is a scene of loss, of two people who know they will never see each other again. Part of the effectiveness of this scene is that River, for once, allows vulnerability to show. She isn't her usual self: smug, arrogant, and intolerably condescending. She is almost frightened, aware that she will die very soon. It also helps that things are quiet, simple. Even Murray Gold's score here is soft and gentle, giving the scene a greater sorrow.
That was the good part. Everything else is standard Moffat crap, which explains why Anderson loved it so. Getting a positive Doctor Who review from Kyle Anderson is like getting a dog to bark at a kennel.
The first really bad step is the tone. For almost the whole hour, everything is played as a wild, exaggerated farce. Douglas Mackinnon directed everyone apparently to be as broad as possible, which I found a pretty disastrous choice. This is especially true for Kingston, whose Song was so obviously fake in her 'affection' for Hydroflax one wondered why she was directed to so ham it up. The excessively attentive behavior only drew attention to her total insincerity, and no one would be THAT besotted with someone to not see through their subterfuge.
That leads us to the second awful step: River Song herself. Someone will have to gently hold my hand and guide me into understanding why the Doctor would see this woman as 'the great love of his life'. Here, the Doctor gets to observe River Song as she truly is, away from the excessively flirtatious banter and penchant for striking poses, removed from her "Hello Sweetie" and "Spoilers". It would make a fascinating vantage point for someone to be able to see what 'the love of their life' is like when the object of their affection can see them away from them.
As written River Song is particularly revolting (and that's saying a lot given how I loathed her from the first time I saw her, not in Forest of the Dead Parts 1 & 2, but in The Time of Angels Parts 1 & 2). When she discusses her plans to remove the King's head and in essence kill the king, he tells her, "You're talking about murdering someone." "No I'm not," she retorts. "I'm actually murdering someone". So, River Song, the great love of the Doctor's life, is an admitted murderess.
She then tells him that he reminds her of "my second wife". OK, so now she's bisexual at the very least. Nothing wrong with that, except this as far as I know is the first time this element is presented. Also, as performed by Kingston, River is less a true bisexual and more an Omni/pansexual, a female Captain Jack (who, incidentally, was also created by Steven Moffat. Talk about repeating yourself). Near the end of The (Many) Husbands (and Wives) of River Song, the Doctor appears to reprimand Song for marrying Hydroflax (though she insists she married the diamond). She responds by bringing up Queen Elizabeth I, then he brings up Ramon, she brings up Marilyn Monroe, he brings up Stephen Fry (which is probably what made him gay...I know I'd give up women if I married River Song), and she brings up Cleopatra (who apparently married her too...oy vey).
I counted six 'spouses' of River Song: Hydroflax, Ramon (both simultaneously, making her a bigamist), the Doctor (mercifully only in an alternate timeline which was erased the minute time restarted), Stephen Fry, Cleopatra, and an unknown second 'wife' (though whether this second Mrs. Song came pre-or-post Cleo AND/OR if there were other Sapphic spouses we do not know). That makes River Song thoroughly untrue to The Doctor.
I'm sure many NuWhovians found all this hilarious, but I found it creepy. To me, it showed that The Doctor wasn't 'the great love of River Song's life', as she appears to have no problem going from man to woman to robot to anything so long as it satisfies her sexual appetite or her monetary goals. In short, despite protests to the contrary, this River Song is incapable of love, at least in giving it.
So now River Song is a murderess and a heartless slut.
Then we get to hear how she has stolen the TARDIS from the Doctor on more than one occasion, but no worries: she'll return it a second from his point of view so he'll be none the wiser. Again, I'm a man of average intelligence, but this indicates that the Doctor has been betrayed by River many times, that she thinks of him as a moron with whom she can do as she pleases. She's also betrayed his trust because the TARDIS is essentially his home, and she uses it as a convenience to commit crimes ranging from theft to murder without any hint of remorse for any of it. She shows she cannot be trusted.
River Song has no moral compass whatsoever. She's selfish, manipulative, and with no ability to love (and those are her attributes); yet despite all this (and how by calling him 'Damsel', she has utter contempt for his abilities to solve problems on his own...but should be solving her problems left right and center), this utter pile of shit is "THE GREAT LOVE OF THE DOCTOR'S LIFE"?
No, No, and HELL NO!
Everything about Song as presented in The (Many) Husbands (and Wives) of River Song would or should have sent the Doctor fleeing for his lives away from this horrid, horrid creature, not making him fall in love with her with an unending passion sexual or intellectual.
Again, someone will have to explain why River Song is a.) so popular, and b.) seen as The Doctor's equal, let alone c.) this Great Love whom he would marry. The idea that, given what we've seen of River Song, anyone would genuinely fall in love with her, is my first big beef.
I'd say perhaps my second big beef with The (Many) Husbands (and Wives) of River Song is the comedy. Not only is it too broad, but it isn't funny. Maybe Lucas is seen as some sort of comedic genius I figure, but I found him horribly grating (of course, I find the same in another 'comedic genius': Aziz Ansari, but then my idea of comedic genius is Jack Benny, so what do I know). All the deliberate bits (such as Flemming saying, "Don't worry. I'll just stick my head round the door", when Ramon lures him to open the baggage hold) are so overt you can almost see the cast mugging for the camera (and at this particular bit, I think they did).
Third issue: the repetitiveness of it all. You have a restaurant scene that plays like it could have been edited from Deep Breath (right down to having the leads crash into the floor below and an alien that opens up). You have a spaceship in the form of a sailing ship like in Voyage of the Damned. The body and head being able to operate independently seems to have been inspired from Re-Animator (which did a much better job at being funny and entertaining than this dribble). You even have the head in a bag bit, which also appears to come from Re-Animator. The only thing left was for Hydroflax's head to give head to River Song (which for some reason, I imagine is a 'been there, done that' for our favorite intergalactic tramp).
And yes, I know it's a Christmas special (which to them, means including visual cues to let the moronic audience in on that), but seriously, does EVERY Christmas special require there be snow on whatever planet they're on? There's no snow in one half of OUR planet on Christmas, so why does the Doctor keep running into places with fields of snow on Christmas Eve/Day? Really, if he so hated Christmas as to keep carolers out, why didn't he just leave?
For that matter, why didn't Nardole and the real 'surgeon' just have a rendezvous point? In the episode, Nardole was sent to find the surgeon, but we see the surgeon was looking for him. Wouldn't Nardole have a description of 'the universe's greatest surgeon' (whom I figure probably would go along with this whole 'leave the head, take the diamond' scheme)? What happened to those people watching the surgery live on television? Wouldn't they notice that the King just upped and left surgery? Wouldn't they ask whatever happened to the monarch?
Oh, silly me...asking questions of logic on a show that gets a pass on being logical to the point of a thorough lack of logic being seen as one of its great virtues.
Oh yes, let me mention Gold's score. Typically loud and deliberate in its cues about how funny this is all suppose to be.
Apart from the final scene, The (Many) Husbands (and Wives) of River Song should be the last we see of this hideous creature. Canon establishes that the last night they spent together before she meets her end in Forest of Dead Parts 1 & 2 was where we end this episode: the Singing Towers of Derillium. That's it. Show's over. This should close out the Merry Adventures of River Song. To my mind, the entire River Song timeline is in hopeless shambles, but now, with this, there should be no more to tell. Whether that ACTUALLY happens...
I hated her from the first moment I saw her, and if this truly is the last we see of her, then I might give this episode another point. Then again, this is Steven Moffat, a man who can't leave well enough alone, who overcomplicates things to where if you think logically on them, it makes no sense on any level.
However, I'm being far too harsh. Since when has a NuWho fan ever thought about logic? So long as it made them cry, so long as they squealed over the Doctor saying "Hello Sweetie" and "Spoilers", the episode will be seen by them as a 'stone-cold classic'.
Damn the River. Damn the River to the bowels of Hell...
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