The Wedding of River Song
The Wedding of River Song was the thirteenth and final episode of the sixth series of Doctor Who.
The episode featured an unusually extreme alteration to the course of history resulting from a change to a fixed point in time. It also showed how the Doctor survived his supposed death and it concluded a long-running story-arc when the Doctor married River Song. However, a new arc arose in its place with a prophetic statement about the Doctor’s future battles, which would become a pressing matter in due time.
This episode was notable for featuring Simon Callow to briefly reprise his role of Charles Dickens, who was last seen six years prior to this episode in the Ninth Doctor’s story, TV: The Unquiet Dead. The Eleventh Doctor stories had up until then remained somewhat detached from the Russell T Davies-era, introducing a purely new entourage of human and humanoid characters to work with instead of bringing back the old ones. This cameo effectively broke the practice.
Equally notable was the surprise appearance of American celebrity Meredith Vieira as herself in an announcement for The Today Show.
The War of the Roses enters its second year as London picnickers are warned not to feed the pterodactyls and Charles Dickens is interviewed on television about his new Christmas ghost special. Holy Roman Emperor Winston Churchill returns to Buckingham Senate on his personal mammoth.
Churchill complains about his conference with Cleopatra in Gaul, saying that she’s an excellent dancer, but not very likable. He asks his Silurian physician, Malokeh, for the time; it’s 5:02 PM on 22 April 2011. He finds this troubling, despite being reminded it has always been the same date.
He orders that his soothsayer be dragged from the Tower. Upon the soothsayer’s arrival, Churchill reminds him about his constant rambling about how something has happened to time. He asks to be told in simple terms what happened. Slowly, the soothsayer looks up, revealing himself as the Eleventh Doctor, who tells him why: “A woman.”
In a flashback, the Doctor walks up to a figure from the shadows in the a dark, damaged room with a fire burning in a corner. Speaking at a fizzling monitor, he addresses it with cold tranquility: “Imagine you were dying. Imagine you were afraid and a long way from home and in terrible pain. Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse, you looked up and saw the face of the devil himself… Hello, Dalek.” It’s revealed that Dalek Supreme is damaged beyond repair; the Doctor takes it apart, scanning its memory banks for any information regarding the Silence.
The Doctor next arrives at a bar, asking the barman for a Father Gideon Vandaleur. The barman doesn’t give a straight answer, until the Doctor brandishes the eyestalk of the same Dalek he dismantled. Vandaleur meets with the Doctor as he reads Knitting for Girls, but the Doctor knows the envoy has been dead for 6 months. The Doctor zaps him with the sonic, revealing Gideon as the Teselecta in disguise. He stares into the eyes of the vehicle and asks to speak with the captain. The Doctor knows they’ve been spying on the Silence; he wants to find their weakest link.
With the Teselecta‘s information, the Doctor tracks down Gantok. He challenges Gantok to a game of live chess, an illegal game that has electricity run through the pieces that increases with each move. The Doctor corners Gantok, with the queen being his only legal move; however, the voltage is too much, even with the protective glove he wears. Gantok asks the Doctor to concede in exchange for a favor; though fearful of retribution from the Silence,. Gantok agrees to take the Doctor to Dorium Maldovar, who can answer the Doctor’s questions. Gantok brings the Doctor to the Seventh Transept, where the Headless Monks keep their heads. The richest have their heads preserved in boxes, which shocks the Doctor upon finding Dorium’s, which sneezes. Gantok then tries to kill the Doctor in revenge for being beaten at chess; however, he falls into a trapdoor that drops him into a pile a ravenous skulls.
The screams awake Dorium, who jokes about his condition. The Doctor asks about the Silence, and why he got stuck being killed at lake Silencio; the location was chosen as it was easier to create a fixed point to ensure that the Doctor died without fail. Dorium insists that if the Doctor lives, on the fields of Trenzalore, at the fall of the Eleventh, when no creature can speak falsely or fail to answer, a question that must never be answered will be asked: the first question, hidden in plain sight. To Dorium’s surprise, the Doctor doesn’t know the question, despite its significance to him. He asks if his visitor wants to know the question. The Doctor agrees nervously.
Taking Dorium’s head with him, the Doctor determines to continue his farewell tour. However, when he learns his old friend the Brigadier is dead, his bravado crumbles. He accepts his time has come. He gives the Teselecta invitations to deliver, since it would involve crossing his own timeline, which is a bad idea. He goes to Lake Silencio with Amy Pond, Rory Williams and River Song, where they drink a bottle of wine Napoleon threw at him. An impossible astronaut rises from the lake and he goes to meet it; as before, he orders his companions to stay back and not interfere not matter what they see. The astronaut’s visor lifts to reveal River Song, trapped in the suit by the Silence. She has no control over the suit as it prepares to kill the Doctor. He forgives her unconditionally, shutting his eyes as her arm rises to deliver the three deadly blows.
There are five bursts that make him flinch. The Doctor opens his eyes and demands to know what she has done. River smiles. She has discharged her weapons systems harmlessly, saying that fixed points can be rewritten. The Doctor demands to know who gave her such an idea as everything sudden fades away into white.
The Doctor and Churchill discuss these events; the Doctor compares to how time now being stuck due to River’s mistake to a record skipping. They see they are holding weapons. Tally marks have appeared on the Doctor’s arms. They look up. The ceiling is infested with dozens of Silents. Before they can attack, a grenade rolls into the hall and a troop of soldiers under an eyepatched Amy Pond invade. She shoots the Doctor.
He wakes from the stun gun in Amy’s office on a train; he tries reasoning with her, and make Amy remember the proper timeline. However, he stops once he sees that the walls of the office are lined with drawings of their adventures. Thanks to the crack Amy grew up next to, she can remember alternate timelines; however, she can’t recall Captain Williams, a soldier in her force, is Rory. The train is bound for the Great Pyramid of Giza – Area 52 . Amy wonders if things can stay like they are, but the Doctor tells her that this mess on Earth will spread to the rest of the cosmos until all of reality will fall apart.
In Area 52, the Doctor and Amy walk past more than 100 captured Silents; he is given an eyepatch, which is explained to act as external memory storage to remember the Silents. They arrive in the King’s Chamber, where River awaits them. Kovarian is a prisoner, tied to a chair, annoyed at how the Doctor continues to live. “Did my best, dear; I showed up. You just can’t get good psychopaths these days.” River taunts Kovarian, telling her it was a big mistake to kidnap and raise a girl into a perfect psychopath and introducing her to the Doctor; who else would River fall in love with?
The Doctor goes to take River’s hand, but she knows they are the poles of an explosion waiting to destroy this timeline. She has him handcuffed and tries to convince him to live. The Silents, who have actually just been waiting, escape because it is their trap. As the soldiers retreat to the King’s Chamber, their eye drives electrify and kill them. Kovarian mocks them by explaining that the Silents never allow a true advantage, until her eye drive sparks too. Rory stays to hold off the Silents, while River, Amy and the Doctor go to the apex of the pyramid to see what River has built. The door flies open; Rory falls to his knees as the Silents enter and begin to electrocute him, but Amy, at last remembering who he is, returns to kill them with a machine gun.
A weakened Kovarian asks Amy to help her, having gotten the eye drive off. Amy burns with rage, stating that Kovarian stole and hurt her baby; however, her child is okay now, but will never see her again. Kovarian says that Amy will help her as she wouldn’t want to disappoint the Doctor. Amy points out that while the Doctor means a lot to her, he’s also not with them. Kovarian’s face goes blank with terror as Amy places the eye drive back on, stating “River Song didn’t get it all from you, sweetie.” They leave a screaming Kovarian to join the Doctor and River. Amy then suggests to a very happy Rory that they should get a drink when everything is over.
Atop the Great Pyramid, River has built a beacon, calling the universe across all of time: The Doctor is dying. Please help. She goes on to explain that the sunspots that keep getting reported in the news are actually replies to her message. And every reply is, “Yes, of course”. The Doctor, however, insists that no one can help him. He must die to prevent all of time disintegrating.
River despairs and swears to suffer more than any living thing in the universe for him. Seeing that there is only one way to pacify River, the Doctor tells Amy to uncuff him. He uses his bow tie to marry River in a handfasting. He whispers a secret into his bride’s ear and tells her she must never tell anyone what he has just told her: his name. As she looks at him in wonder, the Doctor asks for her help.
They kiss and time moves again. River shoots the Doctor thrice, preventing his regeneration. He dies. The distorted timeline vanishes.
Some time later, River, fresh from the crash of the Byzantium, arrives at her mother’s home to split a bottle of wine. Amy wonders what the events in the aborted, frozen time line say about her, particularly her murder of Kovarian. She needs to talk about her guilt with the Doctor, but he is dead. River disagrees. Amy notes that her daughter is still having adventures with him in the centuries before his death, but River tells her a secret which she probably shouldn’t. As Rory joins his wife and daughter, they dance for joy until Amy realizes to her horror she is the Doctor’s mother-in-law.
A monk carries Dorium’s head back to the Seventh Transept. Dorium recognizes the Doctor and asks how he escaped. Discarding his disguise, the Doctor explains that he asked for some help from the Teselecta crew; he had it disguise itself as him while he and the TARDIS were safely inside of it. Simply, he was at Lake Silencio, but had someone else take his place.
The Doctor goes on to explain that he got too big, too noisy; now that the universe believes him to be dead, it’s time to step back into the shadows. Dorium points out that River Song has been imprisoned for the rest of her days for a false murder; however, the Doctor says that her nights are between her and him. Dorium offers to help keep the Doctor’s secrets, but calls him a fool since the prophecy is still waiting for him.
The Doctor heads back to the TARDIS. Dorium calls after him the question the Doctor has been running from his entire life: “Doctor who?”