"The Wedding of River Song" is the twelfth episode of the sixth series of Doctor Who. It stars Matt Smith as The Eleventh Doctor, Karen Gillam as Amy Pond, Arthur Darvill as Rory Williams and Alex Kingston as River Song. It also featured a number of actors playing bit roles, some of them reprising roles from past episodes, including Ian MacNiece as Winston Churchill and Simon Callow as Charles Dickens and Mark Gatiss as a chess-playing space viking named Gantok. It was written by Steven Moffat,and alone amongst Doctor Who episodes in the revival, was the only stand-alone series finale. However, since it closes up a densely plotted, story arc, it has much more story in it than its 45 minute time would suggest.
Spoilers! And how!
PTERODACTYLS ARE VERMIN. DO NOT FEED.
We have been waiting all season to find out who killed The Doctor, and why. Loose ends need to be tied up, but before that happens, some more need to be introduced. The first scene of the show is a park where pterodactyls chase children, interspersed with other scenes of London that are incongruous. And the Holy Roman Emperor Winston Churchill
is curious why his clock isn't moving: so he calls for his court soothsayer
, who turns out to be The Doctor
. The Doctor explains what is going on: time is broken, it is all happening at once, and it is because of River Song
. The Doctor begins to narrate his story:
"Imagine you were dying. Imagine you were afraid, a long way from home and in terrible pain. And just when you think things can't get any worse, you look up, and you see the face of the devil himself."
Part of the genius of this episode is just when you think things are going to start making sense, you look up, and do a double take. The above quote is narrated through by The Doctor through a static-filled screen, and when I first saw the scene, I had to watch it again to understand what was happening. The Doctor isn't offering consolation to someone: he is taunting an enemy, and the devil is The Doctor. It is easy to make your hero a Christ figure
, and it has been done before in Doctor Who
, with somewhat tacky results. But here we turn the formula around: The Doctor is the villain. He is trying to figure out why The Silence
want him dead, and in a twisting, rapid-fire sequence he manages to find out the answer (although the audience won't be shown yet), using some detective work
This might seem ridiculous, and Winston Churchill certainly thinks it does. But they don't have time to argue because they both realize that they have been in the middle of a fight that they don't remember. It seems that like Richard Nixon in "The Impossible Astronaut", (and very possibly like Hitler in "Let's Kill Hitler") Churchill has Silence in his office. So just after we learn how time broke, by River Song breaking a Fixed Point in Time, we have a fight scene and then the main action of the episode begins.
The mystery of what happened during The Doctor's shooting on the beach has to be solved. Also, the fact that all of time and causality are imploding again has to be solved. And we have to explain that title: what exactly is the wedding of River Song? But one of the mysteries, the mystery to why The Silence hate the Doctor so much, is a mystery that has been following us for a long time, first being posed in An Unearthly Child.
This episode is one of the most chaotic episodes of Doctor Who ever. But the show turns that on its head, because this episode takes place in a world where time, space and identity don't exist in the forms we understand. Nonsense is not something that eats away at Doctor Who, it is at the core of Doctor Who. In the past few episodes, we have seen a Doctor bumbling about, trapped by appearances, trapped by the reflections symbolized by The Moon we saw reflecting in Lake Silencio at the beginning of "The Impossible Astronaut". When The Doctor steps out of that nest of reflections, he becomes a Time Lord again, and in a world not defined by normal causality, he is always steps ahead of his enemies. The scene where The Doctor suddenly remembers this, and realizes a solution, is a great scene, which Matt Smith acts out at his most epic and comedic.