As usual with these examination of ‘Doctor Who’ stories shortly after transmission, if you haven’t seen them, I’ll try not to give away too many unintentional spoilers, although I will give a quick resume of the plot. Much of the analysis will be about it so feel suitably warned.
After a season of mid-evening shows, it now feels unusual to have the December episode on at tea-time for a change, more so as this story starts off so dark with a head taken from a cyborg body and to acquire knowledge, takes other heads for its use. Thankfully off screen.
River Song (actress Alex Kingston) is back and is after a diamond lodged inside dictator King Hydroflax’s head (actor Greg Davis) and one of her companions, slightly dim-witted Nardole (actor Matt Lucas) thinks he’s found a surgeon who turns out to be the Doctor (actor Peter Capaldi) to help get it. Oddly, it is the Doctor that River wants but she only has photographs of twelve of them and doesn’t recognise his new regeneration, let alone check his hearts.
So, for a great part of this story, the Doctor has an opportunity to see what River Song normally does, archaeology for profit, with a few lovers along the way, including her latest temporary love, Ramon (actor Phillip Rhys), although that doesn’t last for long. It’s no wonder River Song has a price on here across various times and galaxies. There’s also a nice touch that she steals the TARDIS for a second once in a while, although quite why the Doctor doesn’t notice any discrepancy in its inner time clock is anybody’s guess. More importantly, how does she know where to go and if she is using a space/time device, why not just use that instead?
Trying to sell the diamond on, River and the ‘surgeon’ find out who they can trust and there aren’t that many, especially when you try to do deals in restaurants. It also takes time before they…now we are in spoiler territory. Plot complications come into force here.
There’s a certain joie de vivre about this story. Peter Capaldi at long can go for comedy and has perfect timing as always. Alex Kingston plays the perfect rogue River Song. She might do questionable things but you want to see what she does to get out of these jams. Mind you, that can often require looking around for a certain Time Lord. Both of them together make for an interesting match which must be done again. After all, even River realises that her own time-line must be drawing to a close. Thinking about that, I do have to wonder as another earlier prophesy about hearing the Singing Towers has now been fulfilled.
One thing I am grateful about is this is the first time in a decade that the Christmas motif has been relegated to the sidelines. They’ve been stretching this connection for far too long. If the Doctor wanted Christmas every day, he could adjust the TARDIS to deliver that. Hopefully, this story might keep swinging away from that.
Steven Moffat wrote a good one here. He claims in an interview he was pretty tired when he wrote the story. Maybe this is a good way for him to write future stories.
25 December 2015