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11 January 2016 @ 08:22 pm
The Husbands of River Song  
I really loved this episode. Having become somewhat jaded by the Christmas specials, particularly Moffat's procession of Victorian Christmas planets, I've found both this and Last Christmas refreshing changes.

OK so this did manage to combine Victorian Christmas Planet with a nod to Davies' Titanic episode but at least neither the planet, nor the disaster were that important to the plot.

Instead, frankly, what we got was Peter Capaldi, Alex Kingston and (presumably) Stephen Moffat having the time of their lives. I prefer this much more light-hearted and silly version of Doctor Who to the more serious tone that is being taken in the main series.

It is tempting just to squee a lot over this and quote the quotable lines and reference the best moments. I will try to restrain myself just to saying how much I enjoyed the way Capaldi conveyed the Doctor's in his face from his total delight at meeting River, through his anxiety when she seemed to be dismissing the meaning of their relationship, to his distress at how little she thought she meant to him.

I suspect, if you are not much of a follower of the show, or not particularly invested in River Song (though come to think of it, I've never been a huge fan of the character) the special may have seemed rather lop-sided. The actual story, as such, more or less finishes about three-quarters of the way through leaving us with an extended coda in which the Doctor builds River a restaurant and then takes her out for dinner.

It also suffers a little from a sense that Moffat is trying to respond to fan debate about the nature of the Doctor and River's relationship. In fact I would argue that a great deal of the last season of Doctor Who, this special, and the Sherlock Christmas Special show signs of Moffat either listening to and taking on board fan criticism, or reacting against it and trying to impose or steer the interpretation. I think this has been largely successful in Doctor Who. I thought the "feminist" parts of the Sherlock special (which I read as a reaction to accusations of misogyny directed at Moffat) were easily the weakest bits of the story*. Having said that, I gather there was someone on Gallifreybase arguing vociferously that The Husbands of River Song demonstrated clearly and for all time that the Doctor didn't and never had loved River, so I'm not sure Moffat really succeeded here in controlling the fan discussion.

I still loved this though. This Doctor Who was a lot of fun, a little bit silly and a little bit serious by turns and was grounded out by two compelling central performances. If only the show could always be like this.

*I don't really want to discuss the Sherlock special, but I will note that its interpretation is made more difficult by the fact that it is presented through the point-of-view of an unreliable narrator who is specifically flagged as bad at understanding the nuances of human interaction. So the rather clumsy presentation of Victorian interactions between men and women may have been entirely deliberate.

I think The Husbands of River Song succeeds better than Hell Bent in presenting an accessible and fun bit of Doctor Who to a general audience, while containing plenty of catnip for fans of the show. We all loved it to bits, but I suspect we were precisely the audience at which it was most squarely aimed - i.e., three generations of a fannish family (albeit with varying degrees of fannishness for Doctor Who), all watching it together at the pleasantly squiffy part of Christmas day.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/182500.html.
daniel_saunders: Leekleydaniel_saunders on January 11th, 2016 10:03 pm (UTC)
Hmm, I'm fannish and I like light-hearted Who, but I got bored of this very quickly. I've never been a huge fan of River Song and I don't find the type of humour she seems to inspire particularly amusing. I suppose the humour was probably too broad and too biological for my liking. There were some good gags in there, but not enough - or not enough plot - to keep me going for an hour.

I'm not sure that it was exactly bad, just disappointing. It did seem to be aimed at a completely different audience than the previous season, and in a sense it probably was. I don't know if that's a good or bad thing, but it did seem like the original series where something like The Caves of Androzani could be followed immediately by The Twin Dilemma.

I'm not sure Moffat was taking on board fan criticism here, although he clearly was challenging it in Sherlock, probably unsuccessfully.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on January 12th, 2016 11:51 am (UTC)
I'm not sure about fan criticism, but I think he was definitely trying to influence the discussion with this.

I think in general the new series is less comfortable with massive shifts in tone. I suspect this may be a mixture of the use of production blocks spread over several stories, the advent of the writer-showrunner and mostly importantly the expectation that audiences will treat seasons as complete units to a much greater extent than in the days before video recorders.

All that said, the change between Caves and Twin Dilemma is pretty whiplash inducing even for the classic series. I also recall at one point (probably mid-eighties) a lot of debate in fandom (a lot meaning, of course, it was mentioned often enough in DWB and DWM to impinge on my consciousness) about whether the tone shift between Horns of Nimon and The Leisure Hive was in some sense "too great".
liadtbunny: DW Twelveliadtbunny on January 12th, 2016 03:28 pm (UTC)
I enjoyed the Christmas special too. The main story was a bit rubbish but I didn't want anything too taxing on Xmas day. I really enjoyed Peter Capaldi's performance in this. I hope this represents a change in the Dr. I'm not bothered by River either way, although I know some people really hate her.

I didn't watch 'Sherlock'. Do I win something?
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on January 13th, 2016 10:22 am (UTC)
I liked River's first appearance but have tended to find her a bit smug since and an awful lot of her backstory does not bear close inspection, but I really liked her here. I think the main story worked fairly well as a caper style plot, but I agree there wasn't a lot to it.

I don't know if you are intending to watch Sherlock, it was mostly very well done (I thought) but the "I'm a feminist, me" bits were rather cringe-making.
liadtbunny: Jago and Litefoot Hatsliadtbunny on January 13th, 2016 03:09 pm (UTC)
I'm not a fan of 'Sherlock' one of the very, very, few, but someone has to;p I watched the Harry Price thing instead.
louisedennislouisedennis on January 14th, 2016 11:16 am (UTC)
It must be said it was the second before we watched it. I loved Study in Pink but I think the show has been on diminishing returns ever since. I wouldn't describe myself as fannish about it.
cynthia2015cynthia2015 on January 15th, 2016 06:10 am (UTC)
River Song was basically Moffat's take on what he perceived as the ideal love interest for the Doctor. RTD's was Rose.

Finally the catchphrase "Hello Sweetie" was used in a way I could tolerate.

I still don't know what it means if the Doctor cannot remember Clara. Does this mean he has gap's in his memory?.

Edited at 2016-01-15 06:10 am (UTC)
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on January 15th, 2016 10:02 am (UTC)
Moffat has a type, it has been observed, and its action women who will shoot you and then kiss you (or possibly kiss you and then shoot you, I'm not sure he's that fussed). River Song and Mary Morstan (from Sherlock) most obviously fit this mould but you see a lot of variations on this template in his Who work.

I still don't know what it means if the Doctor cannot remember Clara. Does this mean he has gap's in his memory?.

Well I suspect the interpretation is intentionally flexible, but my interpretation is that he knows there was someone there called Clara, and he recalls all the adventures they had together (so, for instance, he will still know about all the Zygons on Earth, and that Gallifrey is back and so on) but that he can't remember what she looks like, or any of the details of their interactions.
cynthia2015cynthia2015 on January 17th, 2016 09:09 pm (UTC)
Moffat does stick to a certain format that isn't necessary accurate. He thinks ALL women use their sexuality to get what they want. Every female villain seems to go to the same hairdresser. Although there were some parts of Rivers character I could tolerate, which was something considering she is a psychopath.

I ended up not liking Rose by the end of her run on the show so I guess it comes down to who is the show runner.

So Twelve disregards his memories of Clara. Sort of like how Ashildr admitted to Clara that she can't keep track of every event in her life because of her extended life span.
louisedennis: never cruel or cowardlylouisedennis on January 18th, 2016 12:19 pm (UTC)
considering she is a psychopath.

I've always been very dubious about this claim. I think it may hold for a brief period when she's basically brainwashed. She certainly doesn't appear particularly lacking in either empathy or remorse, though they aren't her defining characteristics by a long shot.
cynthia2015cynthia2015 on January 18th, 2016 12:58 pm (UTC)
I was just discussing Rivers behavioral traits on another post and I said Moffat was so insistant on claiming she was, that I couldn't bother thinking of another term to call her.

You wouldn't exactly put her in the same category as the Master. She also had a conscious and was only willing to kill if it was necessary or the person was really bad.

She was more of a opportunitious and a theft than a murderer. Psychopaths are usually born that way and their behavior can be exacerbated by how they were raised.

I don't think Moffat understands psychology.