The Wedding of River Song

Story No. 244 Look into my eye
Production Code Series 6, Episode 13
Dates October 1, 2011

With Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill
Written by Steven Moffat Directed by Jeremy Webb
Executive Producers: Steven Moffat, Piers Wenger, Beth Willis.

Synopsis: Time stopped at 5:02 on April 22, 2011... the moment the Doctor died.


Almost answered by Clement Tang 22/8/12

Here it is. The Series 6 finale. The Doctor is gonna die and Silence will fall.

Of course, if it were to fall, the whole show would've been axed. This story is able to present itself well, but it gets jumbled up. The two timelines are shown on and off, so viewers must pay close attention to every single aspect of the show to understand it.

But I do love the acting from Matt Smith and Alex Kingston. Sorry, but Karen and Arthur seemed dull. Kovarian isn't that great either. It's only those two who stand out. You can feel the Doctor's pain of going to his death and River's pain for... I'm not gonna spoil it if you haven't watched it.

I can't say much without spoiling it because, as River says, "Spoilers", and way too many spoilers at that. But I will say that I enjoyed the story fairly well. The ending is quite nice, too, albeit a little too simplistic. Nonetheless, go ahead and watch it, but only if you know enough of the background concerning Steven Moffat's arc.

8.5/10... No, 8.25 for being wibbly wobbly.

A Review by David Gottner 19/5/15

I liked A Good Man Goes to War and Let's Kill Hitler, so when I was actually rather surprised to see the show come completely off the rails with this train wreck of a finale. There are problems with the script both logically and thematically.

To review the story, the Doctor must die at Lake Silencio as it's a fixed point in time, but River Song intervenes and doesn't shoot him, causing time to stop, and the Doctor is whisked off to a parallel dimension.

First of all, the premise makes no sense. In the parallel dimension, time has stopped; it's perpetually 5:02, April 22, 2011. However, in the new reality, time is obviously flowing. The Earth spins about on its axis. There is morning, followed by afternoon, then evening, then night. What happens the next morning? The people living there should flip their calendars one day and it becomes April 23! And why would clocks stop when people's hearts are beating? A clock is just a machine with moving gears or vibrating crystals or somesuch; it doesn't measure anything called "time" in any weird metaphysical sense. Maybe time in the outside universe has stopped, but why would the people in the bubble universe know or even care to (or be able to) measure it? They also mention that all historical periods are happening at once, but how would characters who live in the bubble universe know that? We as the viewers know that Charles Dickens shouldn't be writing in 2011, but the residents of the bubble world wouldn't know that.

The second problem is one of theme. The major theme is of the episode is that the Doctor must reconcile himself with his impending death. He had been avoiding it for some time, using the fact that he is a time traveller to postpone the inevitable indefinitely. When he receives a call that Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart has died, he decides it's time to face the music and sets course for Lake Silencio.

When the Doctor is later transported to the parallel dimension, he sees a place where nothing dies (maybe people die, but not species or institutions); Europe is still being run by the Holy Roman Empire and pterodactyls harass people who want to picnic in the park. This ties nicely with the Doctor's reluctance to die, perhaps suggesting that the Doctor's time has come and it's time for the Universe to move on, just as life on this planet moved on to other forms after the extinction of the dinosaurs.

So it just felt cheap when the Doctor got to cheat his way out of death by a mere technicality. I felt a tremendous sense of anticlimax with this episode. Is that it? It also makes no sense: Somehow the Doctor could fake his death and not cause a time paradox when presumably it is his continued existence that causes the paradox (the nature of the paradox is not explained or shown).

This could have been a good final episode if the producers wanted to end the show for good and give the Doctor a somewhat intimate sendoff. It could also have made a good regeneration episode, maybe one with higher stakes, such as having a regeneration in which the Doctor forgets his past selves and has to start over with a blank slate. (That would fit well with the theme of the episode of moving on.)

This episode was a big "Get Out of Jail Free" card for the Doctor, and, what's worse, when you see how he avoided his death, the whole story could have been told in a really short five-minute show.

"It's the Geek Out hour!" by Thomas Cookson 20/6/15

As an insatiably imaginative pre-teen kid, I was a sucker for Back to the Future, and Bill and Ted's time travel paradoxes. I got the crazy idea that time travel might just be a future technology waiting to happen and one day my future self would have a domestic time machine of his own. I even drew a chalk marker outside my doorstep, so he'd visit, and hopefully transport me back a few years so I could get all the Space Lego sets that they'd since deleted from stock.

Who needs Santa?

So let's address Moffat's prominent timey wimey trope (in some quarters, his most tiresome trope).

I've argued The Girl Who Waited and The Wedding of River Song are both examples of doing timey wimey right or wrong, respectively. Put simply, the latter uses it as a narrative cop-out, the former certainly doesn't.

As my childhood anecdote indicates, the problem with time-travel solutions is they can be the priceless path to getting everything you want. Drama becomes meaningless then.

I give Moffat some leeway on this. Time Crash's 'I survived because my future self showed me how' solution works because the story's about the two Doctors discussing their experiences and accumulated wisdoms that made them who they are and the journey where one became the other. It feels like a catharsis when one learns the crucial solution from the other. When repeated in Space/Time, it becomes a less special, more throwaway moment.

The Big Bang's timey wimey solution to how the Doctor got out of the Pandorica has bothered many who were otherwise fully on board with the story. Since if the Doctor later escapes and goes back in time to give himself the means of escape then it's just saying "he escapes because he does".

For me, it was one of many hurdles the Doctor still had to overcome once free, so I could let the story off for giving him the first easy out when everything else was still so daunting and challenging. The Doctor was facing an unprecedentedly massive universal catastrophe; thus he had to adapt quickly to keep one step ahead, relying on tools and tricks in his arsenal he'd never dared use before. There's no danger of messing up the timeline if there won't be a universe left.

And yet, for time loops to work dramatically, there should be some vague sense that a natural starting point made it inevitable. What the Tenth Doctor did in Time Crash might have been possible without the time loop, if what he'd done was originally a desperate fluke that paid off. Then after the time loop was established, it became witnessed and remembered by his earlier self, thus creating a perfect circle. Likewise, Sally Sparrow only gets gradual snippets of Tennant's DVD messages perhaps because they're still a temporal work in progress but reaching completion the more she works at the mystery and closer she gets to the resolution.

So on the surface of it, there was no such starting point for the Pandorica paradox. The Doctor never had to do anything to escape. It simply comes to him from the future in a way that justifies its own circular occurrence, or from nowhere. Perhaps it'd be better if the future Doctor didn't give Rory the sonic screwdriver, but rather encourages him to remember his Auton knowledge of the Pandorica key code to break his current self out. That way it depends on Rory doing practical thinking and coming to an inevitable conclusion with some future motivation.

However, I think the solution exists in what's onscreen. It's established the Pandorica keeps its prisoner alive eternally. So the Doctor would be alive inside for billions of years, therefore the possibility of the Doctor breaking out at some point, and releasing his younger self gradually becomes more of a probability. The time loop might be instigated from the most distant billion year future point, but once the loop happened, the Doctor's escape became instantaneous.

The Wedding of River Song likewise operates on the sentient universe giving the Doctor a helping hand in its crisis. Preserving a small portion of itself as long as possible to give the Doctor the time and resources to repair the damage.

In this case, keeping the brief milliseconds where River almost pulled the trigger on a loop until she can be persuaded to fire.

Given that Moffat is a Davison fan, River's arc is inevitably a reprise of Turlough's arc. A companion secretly dangerous to the Doctor and tasked by nefarious forces with killing him. Often mistakenly vaunted as a brilliant idea. I'll give Moffat credit for setting up an elaborate, nebulous organisation like the Silents as River's paymasters. It hides this re-enactment of Turlough's deal with the Black Guardian, and as such it doesn't feel derivative.

The problem with Turlough coincides with the problem of Adric's death. Under Saward, it was the wrong time to do it. Adric's death could've worked as a symbol of the dangers that come with travelling with the Doctor. But that needs to co-exist with a sense that things the Doctor does and what he stands for are generally worth putting your life on the line for. But Warriors of the Deep destroyed all that. Suddenly there was no such case anymore for the Doctor's greater moral purpose, or his devotion to ensuring his companions' safety. He was now someone who'd put people's lives in danger for worthless, despicable reasons that make no sense to anyone but himself.

There was such a Sawardist ethos of negation where none of the companions seemingly liked being here or each other's company, that caring about these companions' loyalty or otherwise was a non-starter. Turlough's disdain for the Doctor seemed almost business as usual. There was no contrast, no counterpoint. It became impossible to care about the message of coming to value the Doctor's compassion, because no one seemed to be taking him seriously. And, after Warriors of the Deep, why should they?

If you had River witness the events Turlough did, she'd have no incentive to spare the Doctor the bullet. And this illuminates where Moffat got it right. When River Song can't kill the Doctor here, it's obvious why. Turlough on the other hand would've easily sold the Fifth Doctor down the river (no pun intended) and eventually it makes no sense how the snide, hopeless Fifth Doctor ever earned his or anyone's respect. Warriors of the Deep makes it look like it's the Doctor who's more likely to sell Turlough and Tegan down the river along with all of humanity, to appease his genocidal chums.

So Moffat has somewhat worked around the worst problems of Turlough. Maybe because as a Davison fan he extrapolated the best qualities of the Doctor's characterisation and era and embellished them, whilst jettisoning the unsalvageable dreck. So we have a four-team TARDIS, but a likeable one where the people will stand by each other, and where River's loyalty is a fierce one, spurred on by personal penance. And where the Doctor is every bit as wonderful as Moffat convinced himself Davison was.

That's not to say Series 6 wasn't critical of the Doctor's actions. It was, far more often than you may think. But it wasn't Saward's brand of perma-sneery perpetually critical misanthropy that channelled a nasty side of himself that wanted to leave everyone with the worst impression of things and of his ugly personality. With Series 6, ultimately the faith River has in him is justified. The very faith that the Davison era almost seemed determined to retroactively erase from trace.

After all, a part of me felt that even in Moffat's contentious criticisms of the classic series, there was the promise of a producer who was sharply critical enough of faults and flaws to know what to rectify and jettison and how to focus on and elevate the show's best qualities. It was his gushing praise of RTD's work that made me worry and I suspect made some of the anti-RTD crowd expect the worst from him, contrary to the overriding impression of him as the show's great white hope.

But one of the worst traits of noughties Britain was how we became such a success-fixated culture. We were force fed the idea that judging and pouring vitriolic scorn on someone's lesser achievements or lesser lifestyle is somehow laudable and for people's own good, and a healthy form of 'constructive criticism'. It's in all our home improvement shows. Moffat's attitude that classic Who just didn't measure up so let's kerb-stomp it into dust, seemed horribly indicative of this culture. As did his willingness to have the Doctor destroy Amy's lesser ganger in cold blood, for being an inferior imposter of Rory's wife. And what was worrying was how much it ran roughshod over the rest of that Ganger two-parter and the same scenario in The Girl Who Waited, where in each case the original author was dead against that ethos. Arguing that even a clone of someone is valuable. Even if they're unhappier or more bitter and resentful or even their very existence is disturbing to the original is inherently every bit as valuable and important as the original. A less endearing personality doesn't make them a lesser person.

This is also worrying in that it suggests Amy's strength as a bereaved mother is in not falling to pieces over what happened, like a normal person actually would, but holding it in long enough to have it spur her to go for her revenge the first chance she gets. To be ruthlessly kerb-stomping, like everyone should.

Unfortunately, with all that laid out, The Wedding of River Song is a failure. As MrTARDISReviews argued, it came so close to perfection, yet its faults make it ultimately worthless. Hell, the story almost seemed to keep getting blackouts every time it approached greatness. So how could Moffat have fixed it? Frustratingly he could have done it so easily.

Returning to the paradox problem, what's here sidesteps the inherent problems, but in its escape route it goes immediately from frying pan to fire. Basically, what I mean is for once the Doctor's solution has nothing to do with the time paradox. In fact, it's retconned that he determined the solution early on, the moment he got reacquainted with the Teselecta. Long before the paradox even started. And the sad thing is, I like this world where time has stood still, but it has nothing to do with the plot at all. It bypasses the problem of the Doctor using time paradoxes to bail himself out, by making the experience and endurance of the paradox ultimately meaningless.

Perhaps that's what's happening. Moffat's trying so many non-linear storytelling experiments that inevitably every fan's forced to conclude at least one of his stories fails by being a stake-absent narrative. Yes the Doctor wouldn't have sought and discovered the solution if his future death weren't pre-witnessed, but that concerns a different story, merely homaged here, not at its heart.

Having set River up as an amoral killer in Let's Kill Hitler, Moffat now must reconcile that with those words in Silence of the Library: "One day I'm going to be someone you trust completely." The day River defied her masters because she couldn't harm the Doctor and now never would. Had River simply fired as we saw in The Impossible Astronaut, the Doctor's escape plan wouldn't matter. His relationship with and trust of River would cease making any sense. It had to be done this way.

But River's choice and the ensuing paradox still should have mattered. And there's one simple way both could have. With all of time happening simultaneously, 1930's Berlin and the Teselecta should be here too. The Doctor has to race there, find the Teselecta and bring it and River to Lake Silencio, then fake his death. Have the earlier Teselecta cameo be a reminder to him, but not the solution itself.

Moffat, it was right under your nose!

"Silence must fall" would be a better translation by Evan Weston 3/6/19

The Wedding of River Song is, in my view, completely given away by its title. Because, while the moment is built up for the viewer as the most important part of the story, it really doesn't have to happen. The Doctor is seeking River's faith in him, I understand, and it's certainly pretty cute, but necessary? Not at all. She would have followed him in whatever he decided, marriage or no marriage. But isn't this the second time she's ever met the Doctor, after, you know, trying to kill him? The infatuation angle makes sense, but isn't there something missing...

This is a series finale that is clearly attempting to course-correct for a rubbish arc, not by bringing it to a satisfying conclusion but by lighting off enough distracting fireworks for the viewer to say, "oh wow, that was a neat and unexpected way for it to end." And for a while, The Wedding of River Song comes very close to succeeding in this regard. It's probably the most entertaining bad episode of Doctor Who ever produced, and it has some wild ideas and wonderful set-pieces to carry it through. While they are a red herring, they do deserve some praise, and I would be remiss not to mention what this episode does well.

The visual of time happening all at once, an inconceivable concept, somehow manages to be a success. Ian McNeice is far better in his return as the Holy Roman Emperor Winston Churchill because, well, he's not actually playing Winston Churchill. The train rides to nowhere and cars held up by hot air balloons were only a couple of the nice chronological touches, but I think my favorite is Simon Callow's tremendous Charles Dickens, all the way back from the series' third episode, returning six-and-a-half years later for a cameo. There are also some terrific, inventive moments that deserve to be singled out. The game of live chess is truly exciting, and the subsequent scene with the hungry skulls is great creepy fun. It's all produced and shot marvelously, with the effort required of a series finale. There's a lot of care that goes into the design of The Wedding of River Song, and that is to be commended.

So, too, are the performances. None of the leads have to do nearly as much here as they did in the previous three stories, of course, but Smith, Gillan and Darvill all do a fine job. Matt Smith in particular gets to display a lot of emotion, and he's really come on quite strong down the homestretch of Series 6. However, they are all badly beaten by another great turn from Alex Kingston, whose River Song remains entertaining even though at this point she makes absolutely no sense. Kingston and Smith are delightful together, and she has the ability (like he does) to go from silly to serious in the blink of an eye. The only misfire is Frances Barber's lousy Madame Kovarian, who is over the top and then killed - by Amy, which at least seems right - before she can do anything. Good riddance.

The prevailing point, though, is that she doesn't do anything, and that means the much-hyped Silence doesn't really affect the proceedings all that much. The whole arc is sort of cast aside just because it needs to be. I understand this choice by Moffat, as he's not a stupid man, and he admittedly writes himself out of a corner much better than Russell T Davies ever did, but what had the opportunity to be a powerful villainous force is turned to mush by the end of the episode. The Silents themselves are way underused, getting just one (totally awesome) line and appearing for a grand total of about five minutes on screen. I desperately hope to see them again, as their untapped potential to be wonderful, classic monsters is enormous.

What I hope not to see again, as I hinted in my Let's Kill Hitler review, is the Teselecta, which finally comes about as the obvious plot device it was destined to be. This is an example of Moffat making things too easy, as I called this back in Let's Kill Hitler and again at the beginning of The Wedding of River Song, when the door doesn't close behind the Doctor as he leaves the bar. It's very lazy plotting, and the Teselecta does nothing in this episode other than serve as a Deus ex Machina (Deus ex Moffata?), which is extremely annoying and lowers the stakes dramatically. Fortunately, Moffat lets us at least experience Amy without the Doctor for about two minutes in a lovely scene with a post-Byzantium River Song, but the thing ends too quickly for it to have any real worth.

But the Teselecta, which was in fairness put to good use in Let's Kill Hitler, and a bit of sloppy writing isn't nearly enough for me to give The Wedding of River Song the tongue lashing it so deserves. To get my reasoning across, I'll draw comparison to Steven Moffat's first finale, The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang. That story was incredibly confusing but also deeply ambitious, trying extremely hard to make us understand exactly what was going on. It has holes, but its largest problem is an excess of exposition that weighs down the pace of the story. Here's why that's a better finale than The Wedding of River Song: I'd much rather view something that wants me to understand and appreciate a coherent whole than something that breaks its own rules to make that task easier.

We've dealt with fixed points directly twice in Doctor Who. The first time, which sets precedent, was the wonderful Series 1 episode Father's Day. That story explained exactly what happens in the Who universe when a fixed point is rewritten: the Reapers come to clean it up, and they don't discriminate in their cleansing. The Waters of Mars took on the idea of the Doctor messing with a fixed point, but his change was not dramatic and, while this is a bit of a stretch, you could argue that Adelaide's suicide prevented the Reapers from coming at all. Along these rules, River's refusal to shoot the Doctor should have prompted the Reapers to come claim the Doctor, and all of his friends, for themselves. However, we instead get a brand new universe in which all of time is happening at once, Amy is James Bond, Rory is an army captain and the Doctor has a surprisingly acceptable beard. Excuse me?

Even if they threw in a throwaway line to explain this, I'd feel better about it. River tries to imply that the Doctor touched too many lives for it to be that simple, but the strong implication from the story as a whole is that rewriting a fixed point, any fixed point, was the cause of time's demise. The script even tries to explain why the Silence picks the specific spot at Lake Silencio to kill the Doctor - though it fails - so we know there wasn't an oversight. I read this as a deliberate attempt to clean up the arc in a way that seems satisfying while providing a lot of fun action and spectacle to entertain and keep the viewer busy. While it does a damn good job of that, The Wedding of River Song is the most dumbed-down episode of Doctor Who since The Stolen Earth/Journey's End, and that's saying something. Even the cliffhanger, while clever, doesn't end up meaning anything until The Name of the Doctor, by which point foreshadowing it was pointless.

With this rule-breaking in mind, The Wedding of River Song comes into sharp focus. I can't fault it for being boring, slow, poorly written or even stupid. But I can absolutely fault it for being shallow, condescending and disrespectful of the show's history. Rule-breaking and continuity errors happen all the time on Doctor Who. With a show that's been going on and off since 1963, it's sort of inevitable. But at least in new Who, the rule-breaking has always come with a written-in explanation as to how that could be so. The Wedding of River Song's blatant disregard for the rules surrounding fixed points, which are a huge theme in the series and have come up time and again regarding the Time War, is something that I cannot allow to go unsaid.

It's extremely disappointing that Steven Moffat would elect to go this route instead of trying a different way of solving the arc. But you know what? I'm not sure how the arc could have ended differently. This flaw does not completely lie with The Wedding of River Song, but with the four-story Silence arc as a whole. The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon was the only story in the arc that had a chance to be great, if it didn't shoot itself in the foot so much. A Good Man Goes to War and Let's Kill Hitler all lost points for telling such a pointless serialized story. The Wedding of River Song, as the culmination, earns the same penalty.

However, this story itself is not an episode to be utterly loathed, nor is the idea of a serialized season. The real villain in all of this was a dead-end arc that had nowhere to go from the start and was solved with a flick of Moffat's magic wand and an unnecessary wedding. Moffat, acknowledging this, managed to overcompensate in Series 7 by going completely standalone with very few running themes at all, but that's for a different time. For now, understand what The Wedding of River Song is: the final grave of a stillborn story.


Ranking the Stories - Series 6

  1. A Christmas Carol (A)
  2. The Girl Who Waited (A)
  3. Closing Time (A-)
  4. The Doctor's Wife (A-)
  5. The God Complex (B+)
  6. The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon (B)
  7. Night Terrors (B-)
  8. Let's Kill Hitler (C+)
  9. The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People (C+)
  10. The Wedding of River Song (C)
  11. The Curse of the Black Spot (C-)
  12. A Good Man Goes to War (C-)

Ranking the Supporting Characters - Series 6

  1. Kazran Sardick - A Christmas Carol
  2. The TARDIS - The Doctor's Wife
  3. Craig Owens - Closing Time
  4. Canton Everett Delaware III - The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon
  5. River Song - The Wedding of River Song
  6. Strax - A Good Man Goes to War
  7. Rita - The God Complex
  8. Alex - Night Terrors
  9. Captain Henry Avery - The Curse of the Black Spot
  10. Gibbis - The God Complex

Ranking the Villains - Series 6

  1. The Silents - The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon
  2. Elliot Sardick - A Christmas Carol
  3. Melody Pond - Let's Kill Hitler
  4. House - The Doctor's Wife
  5. Jennifer's Ganger - The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People
  6. The Antibodies - Let's Kill Hitler
  7. The Handbots - The Girl Who Waited
  8. The Headless Monks - A Good Man Goes to War
  9. Madame Kovarian - A Good Man Goes to War
  10. The Minotaur - The God Complex


"Is that finger loaded?" by Thomas Cookson 15/11/21

As I alluded in my Closing Time review, I watched the latter half of Series 6 feeling like Moffat was just out to lunch, and hoping when he returned for the finale he'd somehow re-rail the train-wreck this season had devolved into. For the first time, I wasn't expecting greatness from Moffat; I was just praying for some basic degree of heart and coherence. Even then, I was pessimistic.

Unfortunately, it was becoming increasingly clear Moffat now just loved baffling and bamboozling the viewers. Sure, he might've had some kind of answers in mind, but between fan neuroses under the showrunner limelight, he seemed to become like a politician who couldn't give a straight answer to anything.

When A Good Man Goes To War's fireworks, battles and tears are over, it only really served to reveal Amy is River's mother. Let's Kill Hitler existed for no reason except giving us an infodump about the Silence, explaining why River couldn't regenerate in the Library, and where she got her diary. This finale exists to explain that River was in the spacesuit and show how the Doctor survives his assassination. This is also the story where the Doctor and River get married, but it's revealed to be a deliberately unromantic, cold formality.

Another problem was Moffat seemed to keep thinking up wild ideas for big, cinematic 'opening shots' for his episodes. The trouble was, he seemed to quickly come up with an abundance of them, and then couldn't decide which ones to discard, so he'd instead try to contrive to cram them all in.

That really is this episode. A bombardment of big visual set-piece opening scenes that require the story to keep blacking out and starting again, just when it's beginning to finally start making sense and getting me emotionally involved.

All the things I wanted from Moffat's writing, was of no interest to him. Actually no, that's not accurate. In truth, I didn't want Amy's daughter is abducted plotline in the first place. But once it happened, the show couldn't emotionally afford to have Amy act like it never mattered. Moffat's shock developments demanded some emotional consequences or closure. We got neither. I still don't quite get why this happened.

There were rumours that there was behind-the-scenes interference. Some murmurs that BBC higher ups were demanding Moffat provide answers to the viewers sooner, and so he delivered them prematurely and bluntly without time for refinement or nuance.

One self-professed insider insinuated that actually Series 6 had seen eight scripts falling through because budgetary limitations made them unaffordable (though that seems a little inconceivable considering all the money-burning shown here). Possibly these scripts were tailored to the arc, but when they fell through, Moffat was forced to commission some unrefined leftover filler stories instead that demanded the status quo again.

But there's the grim possibility that the show was all such a joke to Moffat that it didn't matter to him. It's clear that, unlike RTD, he was never one to go along with our post-Diana age of rampant sentimentality and emotionalism. Certainly his writing has never really quite adapted to that. He's comfortable with comedy and flippancy. He delivers emotional shocks, but he never likes to stick around there.

Did he just fail to notice that Karen Gillan was bloody fantastic during the raw, emotional ending of Cold Blood? That we weren't going to just believe she'd just forget having Melody? Was Karen Gillan doing something in the role that Moffat was never equipped to do justice to?

Maybe Moffat's comfort zone was always going to be Season 19, where the companions' emotional batterings and hysterics were severe but were always forgotten by the next adventure. River's plotline suggests his comfort zone's also the days Turlough was plotting to kill the Doctor. In fact, this finale is all Moffat's comfort zone elements. It seems to be the only reason Churchill's back for a scene. Maybe that's why this has no harder impact.

Moffat's whole thinking about Amy's grief of losing Melody just seemed to be "well, kids don't want to see that." But then what's the abduction storyline doing in a kids' show in the first place? There's one scene here that's supposed to make up for that deficit. Where Amy, having Madam Kovarian at her mercy, decides to take revenge by leaving her to fry. Some Moffat cheerleaders tried claiming this as an own against those of us who questioned Amy's absent grief this season.

It makes a horribly cynical sense that this was the only scene Moffat assumed kids were interested in seeing from that emotional story. But it's too little, too late. Moreover, it's so ugly and out the blue, we'd rather it hadn't happened at all. It feels like we've had no emotional connection with the character's grief, yet suddenly it's supposed to justify them doing something unreachably psychotic. It just feels like yet more shock-value storytelling.

Notably, some of the new generation of fans were making their belief known that Moffat was doing his female characters a disservice. Amy's revenge moment here is supposed to show her being strong, but it just shows her being a bully to a helpless captive. More importantly, this doesn't make her feel strong, because we've never seen her actually show emotional weakness over losing Melody. The very thing she'd have to grow strong from, to make this strong moment matter and feel genuine. It's just emotionally incoherent.

Far from redeeming Amy's emotional plotline, it just seems to epitomize the cold ruthlessness of Moffat's writing style and worldview. That this is how Amy's expected to show strength as a bereaved mother, by never emotionally faltering and never being anything less than psychotic. Worse, the plotline of River turning out to be a deadly trap for the Doctor became the first of many treacherous femme fatale storylines, including Missy and Clara.

As a Moffat cheerleader, Series 6 was something I never wanted to see. The limits of Moffat's abilities were shown up. Worse, it was a realization that his ludicrous ambitions blinded him to his limitations. A blow to my belief that there's nothing he could do wrong. Proving Moffat was nowhere near as clever as we thought.

The persistent complaint was always that Moffat was making the show too complicated. On paper I should side with Moffat here. RTD and his fanboys were neurotically paranoid about the possibility that if the show was allowed to get anything approaching too clever, it risked alienating the masses. I always felt that kind of thinking defeated the point of bringing the show back at all. So I should've been inclined to go along with the idea that there's nothing wrong with Moffat braining up the series. Nothing wrong with him leaving imponderables either.

I was 10 years old when first watching 2001: A Space Odyssey, and I was hooked to the end by its enigma moments and the powerful cliffhangers that ended each act. I had to see how it eventually resolved, and I fought off sleep to do so. Something RTD couldn't comprehend any modern 10 year old wanting to do.

But it feels like here Moffat wants to have it both ways. He wants the intrigue of 2001: A Space Odyssey but can't imagine the kids being interested unless there's dinosaurs, trains in pyramids and scary Silence to keep them interested. Which is really the most angering part of the story. The whole time-freezing business and all of history happening at once ends up having no bearing on the actual plot at all. It has no part in the Doctor's solution he'd already prepared in advance.

I did entertain the possibility that maybe thematically the time freeze harked back to The Curse of Fatal Death. The line "maybe even the universe can't bear to be without the Doctor". That the rules could be broken because in some ways a sentient universe knew the Doctor was its best saviour and was moving fate and causality as much as it could, to give him an exceptional survival chance so he could put it all right again. Likewise, I read the previous finale, The Big Bang, as the universe giving the Doctor as much time as it could on this lifeboat Earth and the tools to save the rest. But, on reflection, my theory barely makes sense thematically, because the Doctor's saved himself and had it all planned to cheat death long before the paradox started. The paradox didn't need to happen.

Like I said, it could've been justified if the Doctor entered this paradox without a plan, if he was still in a disillusioned state and had to be convinced to save himself by River. Furthermore, if it was actually his realization that 1930's Germany was a part of this paradox landscape too, and that he only needed to recover the teselector from there and fake his death. Then it would all link up.

It seemed Moffat's reputation as the timey-wimey writer is what dictated this story's direction. Even though, by now, some of his fans were hoping he'd do something different for a change.

At the same time, Moffat seems to have the conceit that time travel always appeals to the kids. The idea of time and history being a collection of holiday destinations, nexuses of rewindable possibilities for things to go well and being able to out-think the older adults who don't get the show's time logic.

The problem is, as someone who remembers being that kind of kid, this wish-fulfilment approach can all get old if there's no consequences to it, if the show actually can go back and change the events of Genesis of the Daleks or Mindwarp so it didn't end so horrifically.

What once made the show compelling was that it didn't compromise once it had gone through with that. The Doctor was a realist about the fact he couldn't change terrible consequences once they happened. It was those consequences that made his victories matter. It wasn't a show about getting what you wanted all the time. It wasn't a show in which time travel rigged everything in the Doctor's favour. Sadly, we were beginning to realize by watching Moffat's era what a boring show it'd be if it was.

In this instance, having an entire story set in a paradox environment means no consequences or danger. Non-linear storytelling meaning no real character development or catharsis either. Ironically, the one event this season that's actually worth rewriting is left as it is.

The problem isn't that The Wedding of River Song is a chore to make sense of. Logically, it's the last puzzle piece, and it fits. Emotionally, however, a big piece was still missing and had to be given up for lost (mainly because Moffat clearly wasn't interested). In the end, this season arc was easy to comprehend. It's managing to care about it that's the hard part.

What did I feel in the end? What are my impressions? Well, I remember it as a lot of visuals that looked nice but meant little when attached to such a hollow story. Frankly, I've no interest in watching it again.

I certainly vividly remember the moment River fired those blanks into the Doctor and her harrowed expression turned to her usual smugness as she declared "Hello Sweetie!" Chiefly because it's the moment I suddenly realized I'd be happy if I never saw River again. Unfortunately it was largely just prolonged sound and fury that didn't so much leave me satisfied as merely just relieved the whole chore of a season was finally over. But not in a way that left me looking forward to more. I was very trepidatious now in ways I somehow wasn't under RTD. There'd been plenty of sinking feelings sure, but never before had I felt the show was running on a completely empty cargo.