Doctor Who "The Husbands of River Song" Review: Last Christmas

Doctor Who Season 9 Christmas Special: "The Husbands of River Song"


Much like Clara Oswald, Alex Kingston's River Song is a character that has divided fans of Doctor Who for years. Her first appearance in Season 4's "Silence in the Library" and its follow-up "Forest of the Dead" was inventive and intriguing because the Doctor met her at the end of her life, but she'd already known him for years. Their timeline being out of sync and River's refusal to spoil his future held immense promise. I don't want to say that the show squandered that promise because I do see the merits of a character like River and I recognize her presence in the Doctor's life as an attempt to add depth and emotionality, but I do think that much like the Weeping Angels, she eventually became a crutch for the show. 

River was increasingly present during the Matt Smith era, and with good reason. As the child of Amy and Rory and eventual wife of the Doctor, River would naturally play a larger role in the show so long as they were the Doctor's companions and Matt Smith was still the Doctor (he was her Doctor after all). But it's almost unfortunate that River—a clever and dazzling puzzle in and of herself—was present during the show's most convoluted era, because River is, at least in theory, a worthwhile character who's very special to the Doctor and to Doctor Who

Before Clara, River was the closest thing to a female Doctor we'd had. She was independent and intelligent, she was fierce and compassionate, and she didn't require saving every time she found herself in a bind. But River also had a moral compass that didn't quite point due north and this not only made her a nice complement to the Doctor, but it made her a bit more wild than the characters we were used to regularly seeing paired with him. Unfortunately, much like the rest of Smith's time in the TARDIS, she became a larger-than-life presence that the story and the writing simply could not support. A force of nature, River's confidence and sass made her stand out, but she was also best in small doses. By that measurement, she worked just fine opposite the Twelfth Doctor in "The Husbands of River Song," but the story itself, while doing some fine heartbreaking work at the end, was mostly flimsy and did the character a disservice for the majority of the hour. And if this really is the final chapter (that we'll see in our timeline) in River Song's story, that's rather sad.

I've said this before, but I'm willing to forgive Doctor Who for a lot because it's Saturday night escapism and the show itself never really seemed all that concerned with nailing down the logic or the science of it all. If I'm entertained and the story is compelling, I have no problem losing myself within one of the show's adventures and shrugging off some of the nonsense to get there. When it comes to Christmas specials, I tend to be even more forgiving because of the natural cheer that comes with the holidays and because they're meant to stand on their own and what might bother me in a regular episode isn't quite as troublesome in one-offs. So that one-and-done nature often works in the show's favor... but sometimes it doesn't. Here, it was a bit jarring to see the Doctor in high spirits—and laughing! in the snow!—so soon after the emotional and heart-wrenching episodes that served as Clara's swan song only a few weeks ago. I didn't need him to be wallowing or pining for memories he cannot remember, but the different tone certainly meant I had to quickly readjust my expectations. However, what bothered me more than the Doctor's mood was that "The Husbands of River Song" dumbed River down because the story needed her to be ignorant, something that doesn't line up with the woman we know. 

In the episode, River sent for a surgeon to "save" her "husband," a ruthless cyborg with a human head known as King Hydroflax. River didn't care about the dude, she really just wanted the diamond that was embedded in his skull (this is the River we know) so she could sell it (again, an act that's fully in line with the woman we know). When the Doctor arrived (because the words doctor and surgeon, while not interchangeable, certainly aren't unrelated), she didn't recognize him because he'd regenerated, but throughout the hour he gave her plenty of hints and asked her several times if she really didn't know who he was. He later put on a big show about how the TARDIS was bigger on the inside ("I’ve always wanted to see that done properly") and made several pointed remarks that should have outed him to River, but still she didn't get it. It's arguable that she was a bit preoccupied, and for what it's worth, it was pretty fun at first to see River in her element, fun to see how she acted when she didn't realize the Doctor was watching—this is the closest we'll ever get to a River Song spin-off (I am not advocating for a River spin-off, please don't mistake my meaning)—but it was frustrating to watch a character like River, someone who's always been a step ahead, to be so slow on the uptake.

River only knew of the Doctor's first 12 incarnations, but as someone who has regenerated, someone who has seen countless impossible things during her lifetime, someone who claims to love the Doctor as deeply as River does, you would think she'd have had an easier time recognizing him, especially given his silly attempts to clue her in. During her first appearance on the series, River knew who Ten was even though she'd never seen that particular incarnation of the Doctor before that moment. It's true she'd sent for him then, but she could also see it was him, see how young he was, just by looking in his eyes. Her ignorance of the Doctor's true identity here, which really allowed Capaldi to shine, all just felt too forced. It's only purpose was to build toward River's big speech about how loving the Doctor was like loving the stars, that she loved him but didn't expect him to love in return because she didn't need him to and because the Doctor never fell in love. And that speech felt manufactured for someone who didn't know the Doctor very well. And that certainly does not describe River Song.

River said the Doctor was "not stupid enough" or "sentimental enough" to find himself standing next to her in the midst of danger except yes he was. That's basically his M.O. He's always been foolish, especially when it comes to his friends. Furthermore, the idea that the Doctor doesn't fall in love is rubbish. The Doctor may rarely love in the romantic sense (the exception being that Ten did love Rose), but he absolutely loves his companions, including River. What she feels for him may or may not be reciprocated on the same level, but he loved her enough to send her to the TARDIS when the ship they were on was crashing, he loved her enough to put off their final dinner together so he didn't have to say goodbye, and he loved her enough to finally take her to said dinner. The Doctor loves River and it's strange that after everything that's happened she wouldn't know that.

To me, River was always a character who did whatever she wanted, who didn't need or want to be tied down. As the end of her life appeared to be approaching, maybe she'd gotten more sentimental about not only her feelings for the Doctor, but her entire life in general. But the emotional swell I was supposed to feel during that speech and at the moment she realized the Doctor was there—that the Doctor would always be there—fell flat for me. Him cheekily stealing her catchphrase—"Hello, sweetie"—helped however, and once the blindfold came off, everything clicked into place. 

The final act featured the Doctor finally taking River to the Singing Towers of Darillium, which she mentioned in Season 4's "Forest of the Dead" as being the last time she had seen the Doctor. "The last time I saw you—the real you, the future you, I mean—you turned up on my doorstep, with a new haircut and a suit," she told him. "You took me to Darillium to see the Singing Towers. What a night that was. The towers sang and you cried. You wouldn't tell me why, but I suppose you knew it was time."

With Clara's exit in the Season 9 finale, the writers were at a crossroads. They could have used this year's Christmas special to tell another stand-alone story that was devoid of any real meaning, but instead they chose to bring River back for an extended epilogue that wrapped up her story, allowed Capaldi a chance to act opposite someone who wasn't Jenna Coleman, and gave Kingston a memorable final appearance. It took seven years and three Doctors, but Doctor Who finally paid off on the long, complicated relationship of the Doctor and River Song. That final sequence confirmed that this was indeed the last time River would see the Doctor prior to her death, and brought the emotional response her speech only a few minutes before was supposed to have kickstarted but failed to do. I didn't need to see River return—I made peace with the end of River's story back in "The Name of the Doctor"—but I'm glad that she did, if only for that final teary sequence. She finally got the ending I think she always deserved. I wasn't expecting two "departures" so close together, but I look forward to beginning next season with a clean slate.



NOTES

– A night on Darillium is the equivalent of 24 years on our planet, so maybe this isn't the end of River at all. I would not put it past Steven Moffat to bring her back. But this certainly felt like goodbye.

– "Every night is the last night for something. Every Christmas is last Christmas… There’s no such thing as happy ever after. It’s just a lie we tell ourselves because the truth is so hard." This was a nice moment, and one that tied the episode to the Doctor's adventures with Clara.

– Happy holidays, folks! I've enjoyed hanging out with you in the comments of these reviews all season long. I'll see you next season! 


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Feb 23, 2016
Not a River fan but I did like this one. River seem more real and it did a good, not great, job of bring the story of River to an end. I hope. Maybe now we can get away from the soap opera stories and back to some real Doctor Who type stories. As for Clara yes when the Doctor lose a companion he moves on he does not set in a dark room whining over the pas or at less then was a time he didn't before they feminized the show. He understand that he cannot live the rest of his life with any non-Time Lord. He accept this as a part of who he is and what he does.
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Jan 03, 2016
Not my favourite Christmas Special but I liked it, and far better than last year's.
I did find it annoying that River didn't clue in to the many many clues the Doctor gave. I do understand how she didn't recognize him at first though (she stopped and really looked at Ten, she didn't this time until after her speech). The speech about loving the Doctor and not expecting to be loved back did sound manufactured, but to me in the sense that she missed him, didn't know where he was, and was trying to convince herself that what she was saying was the truth. Obviously she knows he loves but was trying to convince herself otherwise as she was starting to feel abandoned, but it also gave her a means to admit to herself that she still and always will love him and be okay with it. I think deep down she knew it was him and was in denial. As she was saying the speech and hearing the words out loud she probably was realizing how it was in fact a lie that she had been telling herself. She realized it was him before he said "Hello Sweetie" when she finally took a good long look at him. So annoying as it may have been I could still accept it.
Once they got past that part their chemistry was awesome. Went straight to bickering like the married couple they are. I really did enjoy the funny quips in this one and thought the two actors played off each other and pulled those bits off really well.
As to the end of River Song's story, so many loop holes were set up in this episode so I'm not banking on it. 24 year night with a TARDIS parked in the building? Allows for a lot of potential.
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Feb 13, 2016
This really annoys me people are so angry she didn't recognize him

1. In her dairy she states she has photos of all his past regeneration's up until Matt smiths doctor (even the war doctor) as they never meet in the right order. So its no surprise she recognized 10 from photos

2. The Matt Smith era was supposed to be the doctors last regeneration until the time lords pulled all the stops out and gave him a new cycle

3. With both this things in mind, Why would river even begin to suspect a surgeon she had just met, whose photo she had never seen who kept pointing out he is a doctor (not a surgeon) was the man she married
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Dec 30, 2015
I thought the episode was a nice way to wrap up the season, and I loved the Doctor overreacting to the whole "bigger on the inside" bit. That was a nice touch. Interestingly though, when they showed up together at the singing towers, I thought they were breaking continuity, because 11th had already taken her there, but they thankfully brought that up and explained that 11th changed his mind at the last minute.

Also of note, this means of course that this is the last we'll see of pre-library River. She wasn't aware the Doctor had more than 12 faces and she won't meet the Doctor again until the Library, meaning there's no room for 12th or any other future Doctor to meet her again, short of a mind wipe at the end of the episode. Can't say I'm disappointed, but she and 12th seem to click better than she and 11th (which was really the only complaint I had about 11th, tbh), so it seems kind of a waste not to use that again (although, if they do another multi-Doctor special later, they could always pull 12th and River from some time during their 24 year stay at Darillium).
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Dec 30, 2015
My goddaughter and I went last night. She does not like Capaldi, too old, but she really liked the show. The pre and post parts was good as was interacting with other fans. The story was fun and tired up some loose ends. My goddaughter has reached that age where she spend more and more times with her friends. This gave us a chance to reconnect. Over all it was a great night. There is more to Doctor Who than sci-fi. By the way Capaldi is not old he is my age though my goddaughter said that she thought I was in my early 40's.
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Dec 29, 2015
Ok so I'm always a little confused when it comes to River had to draw a whole time line map at one points lol. I think its understandable that river didn't quite pick up that he was the doctor right away mainly because she knows that he only have 12 regenerations so its stand to reason she was looking for one of those 12. She also knows that he usually defy odds left right and centre so its not much of an excuse. what I'm trying to figure out is, which river was in the episode? was it the river before she met him or was she half way through? or close to when she dies. with him going forward she she going backward I cant tell.
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Dec 29, 2015
I didn't watch any of this season and am still behind on last season - while I love Capaldi as the Doctor, I just couldn't stand Clara. Anyway, I thought this was a great episode. I was able to forgive River's 'blindness' to who he actually was because they made a strong enough point of her search for one of his 12 previous faces. The rules of being a Time Lord are that there are only 12, never more, so even with all of the impossible things she's seen, disregarding these well-established rules for his biology would be the last thing on her mind. And her speech in the dining room was fairly successful, at least opposite Capaldi's acting.

Basically I loved it.
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Dec 29, 2015
I think we typed and commented the same thing at roughtly the same time lol
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Dec 29, 2015
Maybe the simple plot device of River not realizing who the Doctor was, was that her character is generally very self-involved and interested in what River wants in the moment. Period. And that for someone like that, it takes a kick in the pants to reawaken to the idea of more than material possession and back to feelings/love being worth more and ultimately happiness.
Most daring part of the episode - gooey head opening at Christmas teatime.
More amusing bit - the jury's still out.
Most satisfying, the Doctor and River standing together at the end and not going for the cheap tongue thrashing kiss.
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Jan 02, 2016
I so agree with the standing and watching the towers instead of a kiss. Those kinda kisses are so over done.
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Dec 29, 2015
I didn't mind this episode. I can't say I LOVED it but it was an enjoyable hour of tv. I have to say though that I did get a little frustrated by River not picking up any of the Doctor's fairly obvious (to the viewers, anyway) hints. Did dumb the character down a bit too much for my tastes.

One thing that keeps nagging me is the sonic sunglasses. I was sure that, in Hell Bent, the Doctor put them down on the counter in Clara's diner and DIDN'T PICK THEM BACK UP. So how does he still have them? Also, if he still has them then why did the TARDIS make him a new sonic?

This brings me back to a point that bugged me after Hell Bent. Throughout series 9 we got hints that the Doctor had already experienced Clara's death. For example; in The Witch's Familiar, where Clara notes the crack in his Confession Dial. I'm assuming that's where he punched his way out? Also, the 'longest month of my life' comment in The Zygon Inversion, as well as other hints. But after Hell Bent I assumed he no longer had the sunglasses (which were first introduced in The Magician's Apprentice) so resigned myself to it being just another odd Moffat 'thing' that never gets explained. But if he still has the sunglasses then that means that the Doctor we saw in The Magician's Apprentice could be THIS Doctor.

I remember thinking it very odd that the Doctor was sure that he was going to die (hence him sending the Confession Dial) but he didn't seem to know why Davros was looking for him. If he was expecting to be killed by Davros wouldn't he know why? And when he saw Clara in that arena he looked like he had seen a ghost. If he was certain he was going to die wouldn't he want to spend his last days with his best friend? Unless his best friend was already dead?
I fell like I'm going round and round in circles. Maybe I'm over-thinking it? It's just something that won't leave me alone. Hope we get some sort of explanation in series 10.
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Dec 29, 2015
I agree with much of your review, Kaitlin, though I did feel the emotional buildup during her speech and then when she she realized the Doctor was there - that clicked, while her not recognizing him all along had felt forced and was frustrating.

But...
"The Doctor may rarely love in the romantic sense (the exception being that Ten did love Rose)"

That was not the one exception. Eight was very much romantically in love with Grace.
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Dec 29, 2015
I really liked the last two episodes... this one probably a bit more than the last one
that ending was so sad and happy at the same time :P
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Dec 28, 2015
Completely off topic Haha - but Hey, Kaitlin, i just got the complete series of Hart Of Dixie for Christmas, was it a good choice?
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Dec 28, 2015
This episode was lots of fun, once I got past River not recognizing the Doctor. Maybe the whole regeneration limit rule blocked all of his hints, even the one when he said "I'm the Doctor", but it was still a hard thing to believe. But the story as a whole was fun, sweet, scary, sad and everything a Doctor Who episode should be. And we've had a chance to say goodbye to a great character.
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Dec 28, 2015
I am always a little conflicted over these Christmas episodes, basically you spend a good chunk (usually) just in the throwaway silliness and then eek, oh big thing.

I have always like River Song, but, well, I could never really tell which version she was married to. I know there was evidence it was Matt Smith, but...we would have seen that. And then her not recognizing him, made sense because she is aware of the rules. But, well, its likely her tv daughter will be needing her in the second half of Arrow.

I actually appreciate that the Doctor's feelings are very sort of conflicted right now, because, and I will confess my DVR cut off at the very end of the last episode, I'm not sure that the Doctor remembers anything besides Clara's name, like, not what she looks like, or if or what happened to her.
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Dec 28, 2015
I thought this episode was lovely. A Christmas gift for those of us who've watched and loved her since the Library. To finally see the last time that's been mentioned so many times..it was a treat, and a much, much better send off than prior. I immediately watched the Library episodes right after. (It did bother me that she recognized 10 right away and not 12 because.. denial?..I don't know. It was weird but worth it for the dialogue that came after.) I think this episode was actually quite significant even if you didn't like River, because it indicated that the Doctor is now actually capable of saying goodbye (give or take 24 years) and I noticed that it may have also opened the doors to a slight shift in tone/personality. I got the impression that we're going to see quite a difference in 12 coming down the pipe without the Clara baggage.
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Dec 28, 2015
I never was a River fan during the times of Matt Smith but in this outing she brought back a lot of the fun I associate with the eleventh's reign and that I have missed very much.

It may not have been as deep or relevant and had plotholes large enough to re-hide Gallifrey in them (River could not possibly be so silly and not recognize the Doctor with all the hints), but as I said the special was a whole lot of fun. Fun that was largely missing since the departure of Matt Smith.

The special probably wasn't as good as the rest of the past two seasons - but I did enjoy it more.
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Dec 27, 2015
Pointless episode. I don't know what it is exactly but I'm not a fan of the actress who plays River. The writers need to kill her off and reincarnate River with a new actress. Everything is so awkward and forced in the interactions between her and the doctors.
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Dec 27, 2015
"Before Clara, River was the closest thing to a female Doctor we'd had." I'm guessing the reviewer has never heard of Romana then?

In all it was terrible but quite underwhelming. I'm not sure how many times River Song can be brought back and it be meaningful, Alex Kingston isn't getting any younger. I still object however to her taking 45 minutes of the story to figure out who The Doctor is, I mean he sign posted it ten or so times in the episode and she still didn't get it. It's incredibly frustrating.
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Dec 29, 2015
You have to remember that the reviewer and most of the audience in the US were not yet born when the original series cancelled. The rich history behind the doctor has yet to seep into the psychic paper over that side of the pond. They'll get there. Eventually, or the Rani will get them...
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Jan 03, 2016
Ignorance is no excuse for getting facts wrong especially with a wikipedia page full of info on the series.
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Jan 12, 2016
I tend to only discuss New Who in these reviews for the simple reason that most Americans haven't seen any of the classic series or have limited access to the episodes and therefore have zero reference point. It's not ideal by any means, but it was a choice I made when I took over the reviews for the show in 2013 because otherwise it runs the risk of getting very inside baseball.
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Jan 17, 2016
Apologies in my last comment if I came across as very frustrated, it's just I find many reviewers of New Who aren't willing to educate viewers on Old Who. There's twenty six years of Doctor Who to explore before the New Series and I find reviewers are worried about encouraging viewers to watch Old Who either because they think it isn't cool or are afraid they'll confuse the person reading the review. As a result the New Who fans think the original series isn't worth it when we all know it had much greatness.
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Dec 27, 2015
Moffat reaches his peter principle level, its time to let him go
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Dec 27, 2015
Your review seems right on the money to me. This felt like wasted efforts, and that's the biggest sin of all.

You may want to avoid saying the show squandered River Song, but I'll say it: Doctor Who squandered River Song. Here was a character who was comfortable in her skin, competent, powerful, successful, mysterious, and a match for the Doctor, she could be anything; instead she becomes an unrepentent murderer, a deus ex machina, a dope, a liar and a thief of an unbeleivable order, and a constantly quipping damsel in distress whose sole mission in life is to fawn and mope over the Doctor. She went from a rounded character with a lifetime of promise to a shallow parody who says and does things purely to be a plot device. At no point is this Doctor Song a rounded, believable person and it's infuriating.

That "crutch" comment is exactly right, both the Weeping Angels and River Song were considered Moffat's genius, and unfortunately he's either so bereft of ideas or so in love with his cleverness that he leans on them and turns them into unbearable tropes. Had Moffat left them untouched, they'd be remembered as significant entries, but alas no. Instead, he has to overuse and overexplain everything until the magic is exhausted and the flaws are all that's left. Moffat makes Doctor Who a small place in this way.
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Dec 27, 2015
I agree.

It would be one thing if this was a River from her early timeline... like a few months / years after her Adolf Hitler adventure and she was still finding herself. Then sure: being a murderous thief that didn't recognize the Doctor's "hints" would make sense.

Unfortunately this was 200-year River nearing the end of her lifespan. She'd been on all of those adventures. She's learned multiple lifetimes worth of lessons. And... poop.

I'd have been cool with her being semi-evil and obtuse if she was still "young" but it was a big stretch story-wise here. That being said, the last 15-20 minutes were good.
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Dec 27, 2015
Someone mentioned the sonic screwdriver below, and there's another thing that goes to Moffat's discredit. When we first meet her and see the modified sonic, it looks like it's had adventures and been through hell and needed changes for specific use, it looks like it's had a lifetime of stories with River that we'd have to imagine. But here we just see him hand it to her, the solution under Moffat is to fill in the blanks as simply as possible to show that he had a point, it's the "Obi-Wan Kenobi, meet Anakin Skywalker" type of disappointment that Moffat's callbacks too often suffer.
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Dec 27, 2015
Well, it's possible she did go on personal adventures between her 24-year night and her final mission. Just nothing Doctor-centric.

As we saw during the special, she was big on running on adventures herself for 200 years... sometimes stealing the TARDIS to do so.
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Jan 02, 2016
I really don't picture either the Doctor or River as the type to sit at a restaurant overlooking the same towers for 24 years. I think this is also a loop hole to allow them to bring her back if they want.
They have a reservation for the whole 24 year night, so they could slip off and come back if they wanted to. They have a TARDIS parked inside the restaurant so could say they are just slipping out for five minutes and come back five minutes later spending years off doing other things. So it allows for big loop holes and gives her plenty of time to use the screwdriver.
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Dec 27, 2015
In this episode, he hands her the sonic in a box and it seems exactly as it did the first time we saw her use that sonic. Regardless of whether she had adventures with it or not, that is just a plug-and-play solution: get the expectation out of the way with as little work as possible.
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Dec 27, 2015
I agree it's still a cop-out... because we never saw him give it to her in the past and they wanted to finally close the "loop" (though I insist she's now the database space-pope). So they had to do "something.

Anyway... it was either never give it to her and we just assume he gave it to her off-camera during one of their dates. Or give it to her during the back-end of her life.

Personally I would have rather the writers given it to her during a previous adventure.
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Dec 27, 2015
it was a silly, but fun Christmas special. River kinda knew she was heading towards her end, which for us, is when we got introduced to her. But you have to wonder why the doctor would give her a diary which would be just large enough to contain her full experiences. How would he know that? How can she have inferred that? Anyways, they had 24 yrs together, a blink of an eye for immortals and the universe, but better than most.

But this is Doctor Who.. so, WHO knows if there won't be a change in plans in the future, maybe the Doctor will figure out a way to save her.... Even if for now, it doesn't seem like it..
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Dec 27, 2015
Did anyone else spot the bootstrap paradox in this episode? The Twelfth Doctor gave River a sonic screwdriver to replace the sonic trowel. A sonic screwdriver based on the design he saw when he was the Tenth Doctor. So who originated the design for River's sonic screwdriver?
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Jan 21, 2016

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Dec 27, 2015
Nardole: "Arms by your side - why are your arms crossed again?"
Doctor: "well..., they're... I've got cross arms"

so many good lines in this fast paced adventure - with a very happy ending for the Doc and his wife - ALL 3 thumbs up!


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Dec 27, 2015
Kaitlin for the most part you have given a good synopsis here but there are 3 flaws in your arguments for why The Doctor or Why River Song should or shouldn't have acted a specific way or done or not done a certain thing.

1. You don't necessarily think the Doctor should be pining for Clara but you didn't want him to be as happy as he was since it hadn't been very long since Clara died?

Um no. It was one episode for us it was BILLIONS OF YEARS for the Doctor. We just got a great two part finale that tied up Clara's tale in a neat little bow. Though my experience is only with Modern Who to my knowledge there has never been a time a doctor has mourned a companion for BILLIONS of years. So any criticism of The Doctor not having moved on after BILLIONS of years is ridiculous.

2. Why didn't River Song know who The Doctor was in his latest Incarnation? You answer your own question in this very synopsis.

The last time she saw the doctor was on Darrilium. This is the last entry in her diary. In this episode she hasn't written it yet. Near the end of this episode The Doctor gives her her own Sonic Screwdriver. She didn't have it at the beginning of the episode.

Her other husbands were all used. In her speech it was very clear that The Doctor was the only man she really loved. Hydroflax was for the diamond the other guy was probably for appearance and helping her with her plans.

River is a pretty shallow vain character yet it was her wild sassy never say die attitude that everyone loved about her. That and how different she was from the doctor in every conceivable way. They truly were the absolute definition of opposites attract.

She carries around a wallet of the doctor's 12 incarnations she knows and has learned all of his tricks and rules. In Modern Who she had pictures of every single previous doctor despite the fact that onscreen she has never met any of the ones before 10.

So your logic about she should have known it was him when she first saw him because she knew who he was when she met the Matt Smith doctor falls apart. In this episode she has a picture of the Matt Smith Incarnation. The same episode she gets her sonic screwdriver. At the end of this episode she knows all the incarnations The Doctor has taken. At the beginning she doesn't. The diary entry hasn't been written and her vast knowledge of the doctor does not include anything about a doctor past the 12th doctor. Everything she knows about the doctor until that point is limited by that barrier that a Time Lord can only ever generate 12 times UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES. Many many times in Doctor Who this point has been referenced. So that was what she believed as well.

She knows who the Matt Smith Doctor is because she already had a picture of him and had gone on adventures with him when she first met him. This episode was The Doctor on the other side of the story. In every episode before this one River Song always meets the Doctor out of order. This was the one instance she was the one out of the loop.

Also her Catchphrase wasn't Hello Sweetie. It was definitely "Spoilers" though he did steal that one as well at the end.

I know I said I had three points of contention but I think I ended up combining points 2 and 3 there.

The bottomline is essentially Capaldi's doctor had mourned Clara for BILLIONS of YEARS. River Song had an unwavering ironclad piece of "knowledge" in her mind "The doctor can only regenerate 12 times before he dies" and her final entry had been written when she meets the 10th Doctor but it hadn't before she meet's Capaldi's. She gets the screwdriver at the end of this episode the same one she has when she meets the 10th.
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Dec 27, 2015
I agree with your 3 made into 2 points. Just a couple of corrections:
It was 13 times he could regenerate, not 12, but 12 incarnations without Capaldi cause 10 regenerated into himself again, so 13 were gone at Matt Smith, till the Timelords gave him new regenerations at Trenzalore

Also River did say Hello Sweetie a lot to the Doctor
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Dec 27, 2015
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Dec 27, 2015
Kaitlin makes a clear and compelling argument for why River Song should recognize the Doctor despite his face, first from seeing "him" in his eyes as she did with 10, and then from EVERY STUPID OBVIOUS CLUE HE GAVE HER.
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Dec 27, 2015
i agree with that - but maybe in the Library ep she hadnt looked at photos for a long time as she'd been with the Doc for 24 years straight so when she sees Tennants Doc she does that eye face thing cos she's nostalgic & she knows she's about to die ??
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Dec 28, 2015
She had pictures of him with her. She had her assistant use those pics to try to find the Doctor.
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Dec 28, 2015
Too much supposition for my book, but if that's the way you wanna go.
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Dec 28, 2015
It's not my job to fill in Moffat's scripting screwups with fanon. During the moment nothing struck me as "well, that's why she might", and the script didn't convey anything to the audience which would explain it, so I am frustrated with the outcome and unwilling to do Moffat's job for him.
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Dec 28, 2015
have you got a theory that makes sense other than "moffat f'd up?"
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Dec 27, 2015
but the billions of years thing im not sure on - the Doctor died and was re-cloned every single day so to me he was there for billions of years but really only lived ONE day.
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Dec 27, 2015
I mostly agree with this and I'm glad someone caught that. But we don't necessarily know it was only one day. He mentions both sleeping and eating during his loops, and he did map that entire castle every loop. So it's quite possible, even likely, that the loops were longer than a day, but probably not longer then a few weeks at most. Still a far cry from billions of years though.
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Dec 27, 2015
I agree - firstly he cant remember Clara so it's easier to move on and at the end he sees that the girl he was talking to was Clara so he can be delighted in the knowlege that she is alive and well and has a Tardis (yes, he knew that too cos he even says the Diner used to be somewhere else - the Doc isnt stupid).

So yeah - he didnt need to still be in misery cos he has no reason to be sad. and he just ran into his wife so he's gonna be a little bit happy

They made it clear he got a bit jealous of the other hubbys and Caitlin missed something very vital - River knows the Doctor better than anyone else - ANYONE ELSE - she knows he has only 12 faces so as the astute person she is she knows it CANT be the Doctor with a different face.. (no one told her how Moffat restarted the clock - not her fault) and it made for great 'fly on the wall' comedy
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Dec 27, 2015
I'll probably never stop watching Doctor Who but until the quality improves to the level of potential this show has, I'm just going to keep criticizing it. It's almost like the writers don't understand their viewers and keep on writing for unintelligent children looking for slapstick comedy. Then drama. But not congruently, with an even flow.

This episode was one of the better episodes of the season but it still seemed a bit off. I enjoyed the humour and the sentimentality but River just seemed a bit off, a bit out of character, and her ignorance of the Doctor's presence was annoying.
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Dec 26, 2015
--& "dumbed River down because the story needed her to be ignorant, something that doesn't line up with the woman we know. "

THIS!

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Dec 26, 2015
SO... it looks like the Doctor kept the sonic glasses so now he has both the glasses and the screwdriver.

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Dec 26, 2015
--& "but the story itself, while doing some fine heartbreaking work at the end, was mostly flimsy and did the character a disservice for the majority of the hour."

That PERFECTLY sums up how I felt about the episode. They really squandered a great opportunity to really show why the Doctor loved River, but instead they showed only her mercenary and cold side.

I like the gray of her life, but in the first half, we didn't see gray, we saw black. And, when there was a hint that it was all for a noble cause, they took that back, too.

And, when she said The Doctor was not important to her but rather useful and easy to fool by making him think he was a hero, that was stone cold and the director made sure she gave no hints that she was covering her real emotions. No like.

But, that point where they escaped the ship and landed in the snow and had their bit of a laugh, that was touching and a hint of why they loved each other. Sadly, there was very little of that.

The last 15 minutes or so, did somewhat salvage the episode, though.
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Dec 26, 2015
I'm surprised people found this episode to be so sad. I came to terms with her death in the story she's introduced in. It's not even a real death, it's one of Steven Moffat's cheats so nobody ever has to actually die in Doctor Who.
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Dec 26, 2015
That was a beautiful send-off for River. I actually cried at the end.
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Dec 27, 2015
You do relaise they'll probably just bring her back again?
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Dec 27, 2015
Did you love (cos i did) the revelation that River has "borrowed" the TARDIS in the past without the Doctor knowing it - hahahaha - pure GOLD
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Dec 26, 2015
I loved this episode and especially the end. River Song is my favorite character. If they did make a spin off of her, she would be amazing. I would totally watch it. Alex and Peter were good together and it was a bit odd she did not know it was him right away, but when she finally did realize he was there, it worked. Also I liked how he got to see how she saw him all these years. Loved it.
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Dec 26, 2015
I thought the episode was sweet.
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Dec 26, 2015
I was waiting for the return of River Song forever. and this episode is worth it... though it was sad.

I suddenly remembered how sad River was when Tenant didn't recognise her. now I just feel for her ...
24 years is a lifetime, they might have built a life together

Now I have to watch Silence in the Library again.
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Dec 26, 2015
I thought that exact same thing. She seemed so hurt in the Library episode that he has no memories of her, and now we know, she had just spent 24 years with him, and also this makes her willingness to die make so much more sense to me. She knew she was near the end long before that. I really liked how they did this episode.
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Dec 26, 2015
Happy Holidays to you!.
Funny episode, and good among the funny ones. But far from being among the best of this season. I agree that she had to recognise the Doctor. And once she acknowledge him for being The Doctor, and not just a doctor, for me it felt that there was little chemistry in between them, The Doctor and River Song.
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Dec 26, 2015
I like how something that was mentioned years ago was used in this episode. It ties the whole series together and helps show the overall structure of time travel. It seems that's been done a few times in the series.
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Dec 26, 2015
I think it makes sense that it took River so long to realize that the doctor was there because the doctor is suppose to only have 12 faces and she knows them all. So for him to show up with a 13 would seem impossible no matter how many hints he gave her.
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Dec 26, 2015
- What meteor strike?
'Alert. Meteor storm imminent.'
- That meteor strike.
- How could you know?
- I'm an archaeologist from the future. I dug you up.
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Dec 26, 2015
Only Doctor Who could get away with mixing a screwball comedy caper with a treatise on the meaning of love and time. I agree with Kaitlin that this Christmas special allows the Doctor to start with a clean slate next season but none of this would have been possible without the events that happened in the last 3 episodes of the last season. Finally, I'm wondering if bringing closure to the sagas of Clara and River and evolving the character of the Doctor resulting from these events is not only an attempt to provide a clean slate for Capaldi's Doctor but to provide a new direction for his successor. There are recent rumors that Season 10 will be his last.
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Dec 26, 2015
No Clara so episode GOOD!! I liked this doctor with River.
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Dec 26, 2015
The episode was okay but kind of faltered in balancing the comedy and drama which seemed to turn on a time. Matt Lucas seemed a bit underused but did well with what he was given.

One thing that bothered me was that River, near the end of her life and after all they had been through, thought that The Doctor didn't really love her while she was one of only two people we know of to have at least seen The War Doctor's face, the one he hid from everyone.

While other stories could always been told through audio adventures with Kingston and previous Doctors, this does seem like the end for her on the show, but only the previous versions.

The version from Name of the Doctor was the one saved in the data core of the Library. While she seemingly faded away like the 11th Doctor said she should have, there is likely still a copy in the Library and she could always get out like she did before. Hell, maybe The Flesh could be used to give her a new body with Alex Kingston returning or, since she is technically a Time Lord, the Time Lords could resurrect her like they did with The Master and give her a new body.


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Dec 26, 2015
I am not sure what she said was what she believed. River lies.
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Dec 26, 2015
While lying is part of her MO she seemed like she was telling the truth here, like the situation was dire and sudden enough that there wasn't time to craft a lie and she was speaking the truth.

Now if she told them that The Doctor wouldn't find out that they killed her and wouldn't personally take revenge on everyone on that ship, particularly given that they were all criminals, then that would have been a lie.
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Dec 26, 2015
Amy POND
RIVER
Song
King HYDROFLAX

Another mention of water ìn her life
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Dec 26, 2015
I hate River, so there wasn't much of a chance that this episode would work for me. But I was really bored. Doctor Who used to be appointment TV for me, but lately the writing has gone downhill and it's almost an effort to watch now. Really wish Moffat would move on.
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Dec 26, 2015
Wow I have never heard a fan say they hate River.
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Dec 26, 2015
Absolutely love River Song, and there is no way on earth the fact she didn't recognise him is even slightly believeable.
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Dec 26, 2015
Capaldi's Doctor and River.Well, that worked liked a charm for me. From my personal point of view, it was one of the best if not the very best episode this season. River always was a force of nature, always capable of stealing a spot and all, but with Capaldi Kingston was flawless. Damn, I think I'd love to see them have a go in TARDIS for a full season or something.
Regarding River not being able to be one step ahead and see that doctor was the Doctor, well, while kind of silly was also so much fun. And while it did indeed felt like a final farewell to River, I hope we'll get glimpses of her in the futire, 'cause she is just too awesome of a character
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Dec 27, 2015
I completely agree!
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Dec 26, 2015
I pretty much agree with everything you said, Kaitlin. I've been running through ER for the first time lately and I really do enjoy Alex Kingston. The episode was okay, but I'm much older than her and I ain't dead yet. Why does she have to die--I'd be happy if she was the next Doctor. I really like this lady, and she deserves better. The show is whimsical with some pathos thrown in. Don't bring her back just to resolve her story this way--not good enough. She knows how to drive the freakin' TARDIS f' gawds sake.
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Dec 26, 2015
Well, she was born in the TARDIS, of course she knows how to drive it.
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Dec 26, 2015
So, as I said before, the Doctor would risk breaking time and space for saving Clara but not for River. He just sent her to her death, and that's it. I can accept he doesn't love River as she loves him, but I can't swallow that he loves Clara more than he loves River. The only possible ending of River Song for me is she being fully alive and well, so I'll try to think of the Christmas Special as another chapter, not the final one.

I will now root for a spin-off of Missy, Clara, Ashildr and River. They cover all moral spectrum. Should be fun.
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Jan 02, 2016
All the points below, but also this now happens after Clara's story. Even though he can't remember Clara doesn't mean that deep down he didn't still learn the lesson. Not to mention, it's the start of 24 years. Who's to say what will happen at the end of those 24 years.
Plus, I believe someone already pointed out that there may still be a copy of her at the library. Now think how the Doctor kept bringing himself back from a stored copy in the first room of the tower in his confessional dial.....
See where I'm going with this?
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Jan 04, 2016
Yeah, but he actually confronted and rejected the stored copy of River. He said she just wasn't the real her and that he had to forget her and move on. He didn't even try to restore her. Not once. And it seems that he won't, or care.
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Dec 27, 2015
like River says - she expects the Doctor to pull out a Happy Ending right at the last moment - maybe he will - he could still go back and save River right before she dies - he has a time machine and this new incarnation likes to tell us that he can break rules his predecessors were too scared to break
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Dec 26, 2015
You can also make a very real point that he knows what happens when he stops fixed points. River's death is a fixed point and a fixed point that saved....a lot of lives. Clara's death felt a bit meaningless which is why I kinda liked it in the end. River saved the Library by sacrificing herself. It is a fixed event that cannot be changed without consiquences.
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Dec 26, 2015
Yeah but I don't think the Doctor Who fixed point stuff is anything more than a convenient plot device. There is no consistency on the show about what is a fixed point.
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Dec 26, 2015
River's death occurred when she stopped the Doctor from sacrificing himself and took his place. How exactly could he stop that?
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Dec 26, 2015
And she made him promise not to change their history.
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Dec 26, 2015
And she has an afterlife too.
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Dec 26, 2015
I very much liked the episode, even though she might/should have recognised him. But the explanation given is just enough.

Where for River Song it is the last time she will see the doctor, it does not need to be the last time they do something together in the series. As was explained in ' The silence in the library', that moment was the first time the doctor met River, but River had met him before. They have met many times through all of time, so from the doctors point of view, it would be logical to assume there will be encounters that take place after this last evening near the singing towers where for River they all happened before that last evening.

That's what you get from hopping around in time.

Now off to rewatching some of season 4.
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Dec 26, 2015
True, there are plenty of periods where we can meet River again. For instance we still don't know who the hell Jim the Fish is.

The thing is that if River only knew the Doctors first twelve incarnations (1-11 and War) and this is the first and only time she meets the 12th Doctor then it is doubtful we will see her again outside of audio adventures with Kingston and previous Doctors.

Of course there is always the possibility that River will somehow escape the core of The Library like she did in The Name of the Doctor.
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Dec 27, 2015
spoilers
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Dec 26, 2015
And she can meet a new Doctor and not to know he is the Doctor.
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Dec 26, 2015
Ah, you're correct, hadn't thought of that ......
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Dec 26, 2015
Best quote - "Hello, Sweetie." Spoken by the Doctor instead of River. I thought it was brilliant!
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Dec 26, 2015
You are right. Knowing Moffat's problem with closures we will probably see River again which of course will spoil the great ending of the episode.
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Dec 27, 2015
Thing is this story didn't even provide that big a closure. It was quite low key in my opinion.
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Dec 26, 2015
It's not so much his problem but a problem with the series overall. We've seen Davros die a few times but he keeps coming back. And The Master was suppose to have been finally dead a number of times. Even the original series brought him back after his supposedly final regerneration.
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Dec 26, 2015
And the text recap is up, as soon as it clears the cache.
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Dec 26, 2015
I liked it a lot.

Although her dismissing the fact that he is The Doctor is far fetched, I can also see that that can come out of her arrogance, her diary is nearly full and she pretty much knows everything there is to know about him.

Since their time together is fragmented and consist mainly out of intense moments, and he never stuck around with he longer, of course she thinks he doesn't really love her, and he is figure larger than life. Funny how that turns out, as she is the same from his perspective.

As xms episodes goes, this was one of the best (if not the best, they always feel too Dr Who light and schmaltzy in contrast to the actual series, which is of course the point).

Bring on the series 10! Can't wait!
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Dec 26, 2015
I think River has a point. The Doctor risked everything to save Clara several billion years after. But when it comes to River, he just sent her to her death. Just like that.
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Dec 26, 2015
She made him promise....
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Dec 26, 2015
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