Every Christmas special is spectacular, but I was especially excited for this episode after they began teasing the return of River Song (Alex Kingston), the wife of The Doctor. When they announced the episode's title, The Husbands of River Song, my excitement grew. Despite River's appearance during the high times of Amy and Rory Pond, The Doctor and River's time streams have never quite lined up (you know, because of all that timey-wimey stuff), so when they began hinting that Capaldi's Doctor is actually in sync with Kingston's River, I could barely contain my excitement.
This special did not disappoint.
Filled with guest appearances, such as Greg Davies (The Inbetweeners) and Matt Lucas (Little Britain), this year's special once again showcased the level of talent the writers of Who possess. While the show has taken a bittersweet, unrequited love turn before (anyone remember the heartbreaking departure of Rose Tyler?), the show has never turned Rom-Com before, which is certainly the tone set by this year's special.
Unlike previous years' specials, The Husbands of River Song was a stand-alone episode, leaving the last season in the past (no mention of Clara, which - to be honest - was refreshing), yet without pulling any strings or dropping hints for the next season. It immediately catapulted Capaldi's Doctor into a lighter mood, which was a breath of fresh air, given the darker tone that has been set in his previous two seasons. We get to see Capaldi laughing and joking, with witty one-liners and a jealous streak. We also get to see a different side of River Song - a side that has been hinted at through side comments, but never shown.
Most importantly, we get to see the true dynamic of their relationship.
What has been perceived by The Doctor (in previous incarnations) as an unrequited, equally-matched love story between them, turns out to actually be a very one-sided relationship as River, who has yet to discover Capaldi is yet another face of her one true love, spouts off to her enemy that loving The Doctor is like loving the stars - he never truly love you back.
in it with me!"
— Professor River Song, The Husbands of River Song
This moment, this heartbreaking monologue, suddenly shifts the focus of the episode from a light-hearted, comedic romp to a bittersweet farewell piece.
Almost instantly, the viewers realize they are watching the final appearance of crowd favorite River Song. It is, shall we say, the fated couple's swan-song - as they stand in front of the Singing Towers of Darillium - a place which has been a topic of discussion between the pair multiple times in the past (or future - you know, timey-wimey) and also, the location rumored to be where they spend their last night together.
Filled with beautiful music, heart-wrenching conversation, and stunning scenery, the tail-end of the episode does an amazing job at tying up loose ends on the story of River Song and the love of her life - The Doctor. If this is truly the last we see of Kingston's River Song, the writers saw her off well - allowing her to have her happily ever after moment after all. Of course, for those of you who are long-time addicts of the show, you'll remember we have thought we let go of River before, when the 10th incarnation of The Doctor uploaded her consciousness into the largest library in the universe during the episode entitled Silence in the Library. If there is one thing to be said about a story-line involving time travel, it is that nothing is forever - nothing is indefinitely the end: There's always hope.
The Husbands of River Song marks a fresh start for Capaldi's Doctor, allowing him to start anew in Season 10 - released from all lingering story-lines and characters left over from his spectacular predecessors. I am already eagerly awaiting the premier of the new season, although rumor has it that Season 10 may be delayed, as they haven't even scheduled filming yet (see here).
Oh, and the episode also contained a little Easter egg - a slight nod to Matt Smith's Doctor. Did you catch it?
— Doctor Who, The Husbands of River Song