There are few characters better suited to tap into the concepts of loneliness and longing than The Doctor. He’s constantly marveling at the wonders of time and space but he always seems one step removed from events. More often than not he’s reveling in the ways his companions are taken aback by the beauties he’s presented to them. It’s the ultimate in vicarious living, he’s seeing beauty in their eyes but he’s not partaking in it with them. He stands apart, a being so old and traveled that he no longer feels the sensations that initially drove him to wander. It’s a clever bit of reverse engineering by Moffat; Doctor Who has always relied on the Doctor’s companions as a way for the viewer to build an emotional connection to the series in spite of the inherent unpredictability of the Doctor, but Moffat posits that the companions fill that exact same role for The Doctor. He’s a character who doesn’t truly feel so he uses humans who still feel so very strongly as a substitute for his long faded emotions.
Steven Moffat had a lot of balls in the air when it came to this season finale. He was juggling the death of the doctor at the hands of The Silence, a plotline that reached back into the previous season, and numerous instances of wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey confusion that needed to be straightened out. Does “The Wedding of River Song” smooth out those confusions in 45 minutes? Mostly, yes. Is it a satisfying hour of TV? I’m not so sure. It’s certainly a fun hour, and the final revelation of what the question is hits the so obvious it’s incredible no one thought of it sweet spot, but I can’t help feeling that Moffat fell just a little too far down the complicated narrative hole that sometimes threatens to overwhelm his work.
Most of the episode takes place in an alternate reality where all of Earth’s history is happening at once, it’s vintage Doctor Who silliness that allows for pterodactyls, hot air balloon lifted cars, and Caeser Winston Churchill to exist all at once. Part of the allure of this show is that it’s not that hard for the writers to figure out ways to throw a lot of ridiculousness at the screen and have it all make sense, well, sort of. This episode nails that tone, allowing for all sorts of craziness to permeate the episode without overtaking the main story. That story is the tale of The Doctor arriving at the fixed point of his death at Lake Silence, the first moment of this sixth season, and allowing himself to be killed, seemingly.
This back half of the sixth season of Doctor Who has been an interesting set of episodes, not to mention the fact that splitting a season of Doctor Who down the middle has been an interesting experiment. Where the first half of the sixth season was mythology heavy this half has seemed surprisingly standalone asides from the first episode which dealt with big questions about Melody Pond and the like. That first episode threw most of the questions away though, seemingly content with a few simple answers to tide the viewer over before the show headed into a series of seemingly unconnected adventures. Since this is a Steven Moffat show there was a connection slowly growing, but unlike Moffat it wasn’t a ridiculous, complex plot machination that was tying the episodes together but a subtler thematic thread that eventually united them.
See, The Doctor’s been getting contemplative, what with the knowledge that he’s not long for this world, and more and more he’s feeling that he’s only managed to put people in danger and get them killed and he’s regretting that. He’s not quite ready to head off into death, but he’s also no longer willing to put others at risk of dying, and his own impending demise has made that decision all the more important to him. So at the end of last week’s episode he bid goodbye to Amy and Rory, sending them on their way in their own little blue box of a house and departing to go on a final tour of time and space before saying his goodbyes to the universe that’s shown him so much over the years.
Well then, I can’t say I saw that one coming. Steven Moffat clearly knows his way around a cliffhanger based on his previous work with Doctor Who, but this one pretty well outclassed just about any of the others that have come before. River is Amy and Rory’s daughter, that’s going to need a moment to sink in. I really like it though, in fact I kind of love it, it’s brilliant and beautiful and I get the feeling that we’ve been working up to this moment since Moffat took over because Amy’s last name pretty much has to be Pond for the twist to work. Of course this adds even more questions to the Doctor Who timeline, but given that my brain isn’t quite on the level of a Timelord I’m going to leave that to others and just go along for the ride. Besides Moffat himself essentially acknowledged how confusing this all can get with Rory reintroducing himself to River just to make sure they’ve already met at this point in the timeline. “A Good Man Goes to War” is a dense episode and while it doesn’t answer all the questions the series has posed so far this season, and it doesn’t have to since we have six more episodes to come in the fall, it gave me enough new information and plot threads that I’m more than satisfied with it.