Doctor Who Recap Series 9, Christmas Special – “The Husbands of River Song”

In the Doctor Who Christmas Special, the Doctor comes across River Song in the year 5343. He finds that River has married King Hydroflax, one of the most fearsome warriors in the galaxy. The king has the most valuable diamond in the galaxy in his brain and is dying. We find out that River has been tasked with retrieving the diamond and, with the Doctor’s help, comes to the conclusion that the best way to get it is to remove Hydroflax’s head. Throughout all of this, River doesn’t recognize the Doctor, because she was only given pictures of his first twelve regenerations (as there are only supposed to be twelve). This both makes the Doctor jealous and allows him to have some fun, going along with the ride as River’s “companion,” and even getting to “properly” exclaim at the bigger-on-the-inside TARDIS. River “steals” the TARDIS and takes the Doctor, Hydroflax’s head, and robot body to the Harmony and Redemption 7-galaxy cruise for creatures who are also extremely violent. There, River attempts to sell the diamond, but it blows up in her face when the creature she tries to sell it to is actually a devout follower of Hydroflax. River and the Doctor are caught, as the body of Hydroflax arrives intending to use the Doctor as a new head and believing that River can lead it to him because he loves her. River exclaims that the Doctor does not love her, though she loves him, and will not come to her aid. However, during this exclamation she comes to realize that the Doctor is in fact the Doctor. The two of them are able to escape when a meteor crashes into the cruise (one that River took into account when choosing the ship). They try to stop the ship from crashing into Darillium, but fail, though the two of them come out unscatched due to the TARDIS. The Doctor then takes them four years into the future to a restaurant that has been built at the crash site, right in view of the Singing Towers of Darillium. There, the Doctor gives River her very own screwdriver in order to prepare her for the events that will happen/have happened in Series 4’s “Silence in the Library”/”Forest of the Dead.” They spend the night together on Darillium, a night that takes 24 years.

Bayana’s Take:

I think this may have been my favorite Doctor Who Christmas Special. I really like the one that came at the end of Series 8, though I hadn’t expected to initially. With this one I was just so excited about the return of River that I had really high expectations that could have easily been crushed. However, this wasn’t the case. I loved that we got to see the dynamic between River and a new (to her) Doctor, and I thought the similarities in their dynamic were more interesting than the differences. I think with River there we were able to see just how much of the same the Doctor truly is at the core, despite the changes in his looks and demeanor. At the core, he really is just a mad man with a box who really loves River, and while we haven’t seen River for two series we could still see that love. I also liked how River didn’t initially recognize the Doctor. Not only did it give us a really awkward but ultimately sweet moment between the two once she did recognize them, but we also got to see how she was when the Doctor wasn’t around. The realization that she had multiple husbands wasn’t really a surprise (and not just because of the title of the episode). It was clear that River was using her other husbands for specific things–one of which became the plot of the story–but that she only really truly loves the Doctor. Seeing the Doctor get jealous was also a plus. It was also hilarious to see River treat the Doctor like a companion, and to see the Doctor embracing it, even getting to exclaim over the TARDIS being bigger on the inside “properly.” While I thought River was a little too slow in recognizing the Doctor (who I feel like you recognize more in his personality/the way he talks than his appearance), I did love the scene where she figured it out. It’s also great that Alex Kingston has had great chemistry with the past three Doctors in ways that make River and the Doctor’s love story way more believable. While this episode was really funny, Doctor Who is also great at breaking your heart. Watching the Doctor trick River into being transported out of harm’s way in the TARDIS and then watching her do the same to him was both exciting and sad. When the Doctor gave River her own sonic screwdriver I was at first excited because of the foreshadowing (or backshadowing?) to “Silence in the Library”/”Forest of the Dead” and then sad because I remembered how those episodes ended and then happy again because the Twelfth Doctor just made it possible for Ten to save her. This episode marked the true end of River Song, and I’m glad we got it, because the last real time we saw her was in “Angels in Manhattan” (which also got referenced!) and while it was a cool goodbye to the Ponds, it wasn’t really a good one for her. I suppose it’s hard to have a true farewell episode for a beloved character who dies in their introductory episode, but “The Husbands of River Song” does a really good job of giving us one.

Random thoughts:

  • “Carol singers will be criticised” – this Doctor is such a Scrooge and I love it. It’s kind of hilarious given how Nine LOVED Charles Dickens, how much Ten loved snow and Christmas and how Eleven literally reenacted A Christmas Carol to save a planet, but this dislike of the holidays makes sense for Twelve.

    • This also just made me realize how Twelve never fangirls over anyone or anything. I suppose the only historical figure he’s met is Robin Hood, though I would guess an earlier regeneration of the Doctor would’ve loved to meet him.

  • The TARDIS put holographic antlers on his head lol

  • Ugh, he used the sonic sunglasses again. Can those go away please? I want to see his cool new screwdriver!

  • That being said, River’s sonic trowel is hilarious.

  • “You will be uploaded” is so classic Doctor Who at this point. Same as deleted, exterminated, upgraded, etc. etc. They should probably come up with some other theme.

  • River has stolen the TARDIS before lol. Do we need an Adventures of River Song or would that take the novelty out of it?

  • Scratch pulling his head apart was disgusting. Yuck.

  • The King’s body was basically a mini-mobile Death Star.

  • “What do you think about the body?” “I’ll let you know, I’ve only seen the face.” Okay then River!