“The Husbands Of River Song” Collide In The Doctor Who 2015 Christmas Special

Credit: BBC
Credit: BBC

Series 9 of Doctor Who was quite heavy emotionally, so it’s nice to close out the Whovian year with a bit of fun. Even if that fun is tinged with some sadness because, after all, this is Doctor Who we’re watching. Alex Kingston returns to the role of River Song as naturally as ever and plays well alongside Peter Capaldi’s Doctor. The two are in for an adventurous Christmas thanks to “The Husbands of River Song.”

Surgeon who?: On Christmas Day in the year 5343, a spaceship carrying King Hydroflax is awaiting a surgeon. Naturally the Doctor is mistaken for, well, an actual doctor and brought to meet the King’s wife: River Song. She is completely oblivious to the true identity of the “surgeon” (no matter how many times he dramatically tells her he’s “the Doctor”). She is also seemingly devoted to her mostly cyborg husband (he’s got a Baymax-like suit) whose head has been impaled by a very valuable diamond. But once alone River reveals her true plan: remove Hydroflax’s head, scoop out the diamond, and kill the King in the process. Her Time Lord husband hardly has the chance to balk when Hydroflax rumbles in having overheard everything. He helpfully removes his head before ordering his wife to be killed. Threatening the head with her sonic trowel (what else would a time-traveling archaeologist have?), River calls for a well-timed teleport to allow for her and the Doctor to escape.

Dr. Song and her companion: Landing safely away from the spaceship, the Doctor meets another of River’s husbands: Ramon. He’s the one who teleported them and now they’re off to search for the Doctor. They’ve found the TARDIS, but none of the Doctor’s 12 faces so River decides to borrow the time machine for a brief moment. She and Ramon part for now, but the Doctor gets to tag along and gleefully fakes being overcome by how it’s “bigger on the inside.” However, they can’t take off because Hydroflax is technically both in and out of the TARDIS. The issue is quickly resolved when Hydroflax’s suit, having taken both Nadal’s and Ramon’s heads, smashes in. With everyone “fully” inside now, the TARDIS zooms off.

Heads will roll: Once again grabbing the head, the Doctor and River slip out the TARDIS’ doors once it’s landed. They’re on a space cruise to meet the buyer River has already lined up for the diamond. She charms a waiter into sealing up the cargo hold and Hydroflax’s body in it. Her buyer is a bit jumpy; he’s filled the restaurant with cohorts to help in the event River double-crosses him. She has no intention of doing so but things do get awkward when the buyer and his buddies turn out to be devoted worshippers of King Hydroflax. The time travelers can’t escape the ensuing trouble not even when the Hydroflax suit rumbles in and, finding Hydroflax’s head no longer sustainable, disintegrates it leaving the diamond easily retrievable. The suit has been promised a new, better head: the Doctor’s.

Hello again: Luckily, no one has figured out the Doctor is in fact in front of them. Not even River. They assume he’ll show up to rescue her but she protests. She goes on to give an epic soliloquy about what it is like to love the Doctor and never expecting him to love her back… and that’s when it finally hits her. “Hello sweetie,” he says quietly. Oh now they’re on the same page. They quickly work up a plan using the impending meteor shower for an escape. They blast through the floor and River rushes to pilot the ship while the Doctor dispatches with the Hydroflax suit. While they speed toward a nearby planet, Darillium (you know, with the Singing Towers), the Doctor sends River back to the TARDIS for safety. She immediately flies back to him (duh) and they both survive the crash inside the TARDIS.

One more night: The Doctor walks out to see the destroyed ship at the base of the Singing Towers and gives the diamond to a rescue worker, requesting that he build a restaurant on the spot. While River is still unconscious, the Time Lord jumps ahead to put in a reservation. When River wakes, she joins him for dinner there at last. He’s been promising to take her for ages but always cancelling. He gives her a sonic screwdriver of her own and cries while the towers sing, just like River told us he did the very first time we met her in the library. She’s heard stories that their last night happens here and she’s worried because her diary is almost full. She asks him to change things so this isn’t their last night but he refuses. He does tell her one thing: nights on Darillium last 24 years. That’s one hell of a final night to spend together.

Who Notes

  • The Doctor to the TARDIS after discovering holiday antlers on his head: “You’re a time, space machine. You’re a vehicle! I’ve never asked you to cheer me up with hologramatic antlers! Thank you!”
  • River: “You don’t look much like your pictures.”
    The Doctor: “Well that’s an ongoing problem for me.”
    River: “Doesn’t look very impressive, does he? Nadal, what have you brought to my doorstep?”
    The Doctor: “I got a haircut! This is my best suit!”
  • The Doctor, explaining why he keeps crossing his arms: “Because they’re cross, I’ve got cross arms!”
  • River’s code name for the Doctor is Damsel in Distress!
  • There is booze behind one of the round things in the TARDIS. What else is hiding behind them?
  • Peter Capaldi must have been like a kid on Christmas getting to finally do the “bigger on the inside” reaction. Definitely one of the highlights of this episode.
  • River: “Why are you frowning?”
    The Doctor: “How did you know?”
    River: “It’s audible.”
  • River: “When you love the Doctor, it’s like loving the stars themselves, you don’t expect a sunset to admire you back! And if I happen to find myself in danger, let me tell you, the Doctor is not stupid enough, or sentimental enough, and he is certainly not in love enough to find himself standing in it with me.”
  • River: [finally realizes who is standing next to her]
    The Doctor: “Hello sweetie.”
  • River: “You are so doing those roots.”
    The Doctor: “What the roots of a sunset?”
    River: “Don’t you dare.”
    The Doctor: “I’ll have to check with the stars themselves.”
  • Naming one another’s other spouses:
    River: “Elizabeth the First.”
    The Doctor: “Ramon.”
    River: “Marilyn Monroe.”
    The Doctor: “Stephen Fry.”
    River: “Cleopatra.”
    The Doctor: “Same thing!”
  • Alex Kingston was as good as ever as River Song. She really was. But. I miss Jenna Coleman so much it hurts.
Stephanie Coats
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