Doctor Who – The Wedding of River Song Review (or “Making It Up As He Goes Along”)

Back in February, when I wrote my review of Warrior’s Gate, I called it “The Emperor’s New Clothes of Doctor Who Stories”, based around the idea that in spite of what we see on screen being crap and making very little sense, people adored it.

Fast forward to now and The Wedding of River Song and the same sort of thing applies.

Doctor Who – The Wedding of River Song Review: What’s This One About?

Cop-outs and desperate attempts to cover tracks.

Thoughts – So What Do The People Say

The Emperor’s New Clothes then; what’s that about?

This'll end well...

This’ll end well…

Well, I look at the sort of reviews The Wedding of River Song gets and I arrive at the conclusion that some of these critics must be convincing themselves that this episode is well written.

As far as I can remember, at the time this season was shown, there was an increasing amount of criticism of the complicated way Steven Moffat was writing the show.

Perhaps these critics, in a bid to make themselves feel clever, decided to ignore the flaws and declare it a triumph.

Because that seems to be what’s happened.

Some examples of critics thoughts on it include…

“A gripping race against time” (time stood still, so how can it be a race against time)
“Simplistic in its resolution” (you’re kidding me?)
“About nine tenths a great, great episode” (I’d love to hear an example of what a really good episode could be described as then)
“Pretty close to a perfect season finale for those not wanting all the answers” (who doesn’t want things to be explained?)


I should point out before I go on, that not every reviewer saw it that way and it’d be wrong of me to call them all out, but I want to focus on the praise of this episode and why I totally and utterly disagree

The Great Cop-Out

To start with, the story is one massive cop-out, but I don’t suppose we could expect anything less.

Oh my God, The Doctor didn’t actually die.

Who saw that coming?!?!?

From the off, Season Six was based around a story-arc that couldn’t end in anything other than the obvious, and at least, I suppose, in that regard, it didn’t disappoint.

That's right; you were lying all the time to preserve spoilers. Suuuuuure.

That’s right; you were lying all the time to preserve spoilers. Suuuuuure.

The basics are that River didn’t want to kill him, so she didn’t and it caused time to jumble up.

And what did that do? Oh I know, it allowed for Moffat to bring back lots and lots of recently used characters for the now completely over-done “Cheap pop”, it allowed him to go back to visual style over written substance and it allowed him to wrap up the character of River Song (in theory, but not in reality)

I mean even the name of the episode is arse-about-face. This is – or at least it should be – the story of how The Doctor died or didn’t die, and yet it’s once again all about River Song and for Moffat to find a way to get her married to The Doctor.

That’s what was important to Moffat here, especially seeing as The Doctor found his way out of the situation right at the start of the episode when he met with The Teselecta.

So River touches the Doctor and time gets reset, and then it turns out it wasn’t really him after all.

Ok, that makes sense on one level, but it’s hardly satisfying.

Where it doesn’t make sense is where The Teselecta starts to regenerate.  How can it? It’s a robot that has taken the likeness of the Doctor, not his DNA.

But again, Moffat probably hadn’t thought of that when he wrote The Impossible Astronaut.

If In Doubt, Call Spoilers and Reset The Universe

Perhaps the most astonishing part of this whole episode was the scene at the end where River has a drink with Amy and says she lies all the time to preserve spoilers. She cites “Pretending I don’t know you’re my mother; pretending I didn’t recognise the Space Suit in Florida” as examples.


Utter bollocks and an absolutely shameful attempt to cover for bad writing.

As I say, before watching them again for these reviews, the only other time I’ve seen these stories was when they were first on, and I had forgotten about pretty much the whole of this one and how it went. So when I wrote my River Song Timeline a few reviews ago, I had no idea Moffat was going to try to explain all that stuff away with that.

Who does he think he’s kidding?

He calls spoilers when it suits his jumbled up, non-sensical plot developments.

The Doctor: Looks sleazy and a bit dirty with longer hair

The Doctor: Looks sleazy and a bit dirty with longer hair

And he does it because even lines in this episode don’t make sense. The Doctor tells the River who is about to shoot him that she won’t have any memory of killing him. Eh?!?!?! Every appearance of River beyond her first has involved talk of how she killed The Doctor.

The other thing that Moffat does is reset the universe when it suits him.

This is the second season in a row that ends with an alternative time line universe being closed off and a new one being rebooted with The Doctor living again in spite of the odds?

And something similar-ish will happen again in the next season.

It just means he thinks he can do whatever he likes and write it off as an alternative universe, and again, I think that is bad writing.

The Incongruous Death of the Brigadier

I’m all for paying tribute to the Brigadier, but slap, bang in the middle of this episode seemed a touch out-of-place.

For no good reason, The Doctor phones up a nursing home to be told “He’s dead, mate”.

And he’s upset about it, of course, but a) He already knew how and when he died as far back as Battlefield and b) He can go to visit him before he died.

I get what they were going for but it just seemed daft.

Put it this way; it would have seemed in bad taste if he went round to visit Sarah Jane and Mr. Smith told him she had died, would it not?

Random Observations

  • Though Moffat at least explains their motivation, if The Silence are so-called because they want The Doctor to be silent and not speak his name at Trenzalore, why do they hang about Earth, influencing the human race? Oh I know…because he hadn’t thought about that when he first wrote them.
  • No mention of Amy suddenly being a Supermodel here then.
  • Everyone thinks The Doctor is dead because presumably they watched him die and never bothered to look again. They should have known better.
  • Why did they get married anyway? As far as I can see it happened for no good reason, unless The Doctor doesn’t want to kiss someone without a certificate?
  • The Indiana Jones references amused me
  • Another aspect of the story that I don’t quite get is why he changed his mind about dying? At the end of Closing Time, he’d accepted his fate, and yet all of a sudden when we pick up the story he’s dead against it and eager to find a way to get out of it? More “Fill In The Blanks Yourself” stuff probably.
  • This episode didn’t have enough Rory in it. He tends to bring a certain level of sanity to proceedings.
  • Unsurprisingly, a Dalek turns up here. We’ve not seen one of them for a while…
  • I wonder what The Doctor has been doing for the last 200 years while we’ve not seen him?
  • Why are there cars being carried around in hot air balloons?
  • And why would children think feeding the Pterodactyls would be a good idea?
  • The Doctor looks incredible sleazy with longer hair
  • One of the comments from another critic was that this presses the reset switch on Doctor Who. It doesn’t really. It’s not like he’s been wiped from time.
  • Also, on that note, when they refer to him as “The Eleventh” it shows that Moffat hadn’t thought up the John Hurt or the alternate David Tennant stuff yet. What a writer.
  • DWM Mighty 200 Ranking: N/A

Doctor Who – The Wedding Of River Song Review: Final Thoughts

The main thing to take from The Wedding Of River Song is that the worst story arc in Doctor Who history is over.

No, not River Song, but this crap about the Doctor dying. All told, that should have been done in one single episode or maybe two.

It didn’t need to be dragged across an entire season when the punchline was that he didn’t die. We knew that would happen. We also knew it was River Song in the space suit.

Everything else in this episode was just fluff around that. Like A Good Man Goes To War, it can’t really be enjoyed as a single episode either. The narrative is poor and it relies upon knowing about stuff that happened in previous episodes.

We criticised JNT for this sort of thing and so Moffat deserves it too.

But what’s worse is that Moffat is a good writer. We’ve seen what he can do with episodes like Blink and The Girl in the Fireplace.

Yet this is story arc, and indeed the River Song story arc as well is just dire. It’s amazing to think it’s come from the same pen.

Let’s move on and hope things improve in Season Seven…


5 Responses to Doctor Who – The Wedding of River Song Review (or “Making It Up As He Goes Along”)

  1. lukebbtt says:

    Another Moffat fuck-up: River Song knows the Doctor’s name, when he first meets her, but here Moffat decides that is not what the Doctor whispered to her before his ‘death’. So there’s another plot hole…

    And good writing would have been writing in the narrative device that stops the Doctor’s dying before this season, when it is brought up that he is ‘going to die’. That way the moment the Tesselcta showed up we wouldn’t have figured it out.

  2. Flynn Sullivan says:

    Pretty much everything wrong with this episode is also wrong with most of the Series 8 episodes.

    • rlythgoe says:

      You’ve got to be kidding me. I don’t remember any Series 8 episodes that can’t be judged on their own merits, revolve around a cop out, use style to disguise the fact that they’re crap or have pointless cheap pops every 5 minutes.

  3. […] Doctor Who – The Wedding of River Song Review (or … – 20/9/2013 · Another Moffat fuck-up: River Song knows the Doctor’s name, when he first meets her, but here Moffat decides that is not what the Doctor whispered to her …… […]

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