The announcement that River Song was coming back for one last Christmas episode received a mixed across the Whoverse. Many fans were thrilled that their favorite intergalactic badass-turned-archaeologist-turned-first-lady-of-the-TARDIS would have an additional, final hurrah. Others, including former Doctors David Tennent and Matt Smith, were a bit peeved at the prospect of River gallivanting around time and space with another Doctor.
Both the objections and justifications to bringing River back got weird. Smith seemed especially possessive, admitting to a Comic Con crowd in New Orleans, that he begged show-runner Steven Moffat not to “give” Alex Kingston to current Doctor Peter Capaldi. Moffat, in an interview with Radio Times, offered a slightly creepy defense that the Kingston-Capaldi team-up would work because their relationship was now age appropriate.
“It’s strange because they’re now, in our human terms, the perfect couple. They’re both sexy older people. It’s always been slightly strange before with Matt. Now, yeah, they could actually be married. It works. She’s great with Peter. She genuinely hasn’t aged a day since she did The Silence in the Library, which we made in 2007. She looks amazing. She totally gets how to do that part. And she’s very, very funny.”
Setting aside the weirdly misogynistic lead-up, the episode ended up being memorable and worthwhile. Arriving on the heels of one of the darker Who seasons on record, “The Husbands of River Song” was unexpectedly light, a rom-com for fans of River and fans of the least rom com on television.
One of the brilliant parts about “The Husbands of River Song” was the way Moffatt inserted it in the already jumbled River Song timeline without retconning everything. Bare in mind that River, who was introduced at the height of the “wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey” era, experiences her relationship with the Doctor in reverse: the first time he meets her is the last time she meets him and vice versa.
In essence, The Husbands of River Song is meant to fill the gap between The Angels Take Manhattan (the episode in which Amy and Rory die) and The Forest of the Dead which is where River dies, even though her virtual consciousness is stored, allowing her to make a few appearances in the events surrounding “The Day of the Doctor.” Remember that in “Forest of the Dead,” which aired way back in 2008, River tells the Doctor about the last night they spent together in which he showed up “with a new haircut and a suit,” gave her his sonic screwdriver, and cried, knowing what was about to come. Seven years later, Moffat and Co. wrapped this last date in fan bacon.
If you’re looking to challenge yourself for your next Doctor Who viewing party, you can use this handy flow chart to re-order the episodes from River’s point of view. However, if that is a bit more time than you’re willing to dedicate, video editor Lyndon Coleman spliced together parts of “The Husbands of River Song” as “flash-forwards” over River’s death scene in a quick yet surprisingly emotional video montage.
We know Peter Capaldi is going to stick around for at least one more season, but past that, there is little confirmed information regarding the direction the show will go next season. Season 9 was definitely geared toward giving the Doctor a fresh start in Season 10, and “The Husbands of River Song” was a great exclamation point on an excellent season. Whatever may come, Who fans had a great 2015, and should be eagerly awaiting the Doctor’s travels starting in fall of 2016.