Doctor Who, Series 9 Episode 13 of 13
By the Tripwire LiveBlog Team
♦ Join us tonight at 17.15 for the Doctor Who LiveBlog. Because, let’s be honest, it’s unlikely you have anything else to do… Meanwhile, if you’re bored go here for Peter Capaldi et al introducing the episode and a snark-filled LiveBlog of Christmas Top of the Pops
Well, here we are, bloated with Christmas cheer. And here to revive us, or put us further into a coma is the Doctor and his missus.
With a shudder of recollection, I remember where we are. The horror of the preview we were left with. Matt Lucas is coming, a terror greater than any weeping angel or [insert ominous robot/zombie repeating a polite threat over and over here].
We are in the year 5443, and the Doctor has left a quirky note on his TARDIS about carollers. Matt Lucas is bimbling around. He knocks on the TARDIS. The Doctor is wearing antlers, albeit hologram antlers thrust upon him by the TARDIS. Matt Lucas informs him there is a medical emergency. It is an ‘ilarious case of mistaken identity.
Matt Lucas takes him to a flying saucer. The occupant approaches; hooded and ominous. It’s blatantly River Song. Matt Lucas is her son. It turns out to be River Song. She doesn’t know the Doctor yet; Timey Wimey banter ensues. Her husband is dying, which complicates things as I thought the Doctor was her husband. So did he, apparently.
The husband turns out to be Gregg Davis. In a giant red robot body. He’s also Hydroflax, King of a name I missed. River lavishes love upon him (Greggtron, not The Doctor), this upsets the Doctor in a comedic fashion. It is actually quite funny to be fair. Many millions are watching
this on TV.
It becomes apparent to Matt Lucas that The Doctor is not… a doctor. It also becomes apparent to the Doctor that he is genuinely the wrong person for the job. So naturally he goes on a rant about how terrible the concept of monarchy is. This angers the king.
River takes the Doctor away to discuss the surgery. There is a super-valuable diamond lodged in the king’s brain. Uh oh.
It turns out it’s a shuck. A con. A scaaam. River doesn’t actually love him, she’s in it for the diamond. And she wants the Doctor to kill the king for her and scoop the diamond out of his brain. She’s an archaeologist (or a thief with patience as she says in a pretty great line). There is an argument about it.
Unfortunately, it is an argument the king overhears, and boy is he mad. In a rookie move, he takes his own head off and starts a fight. River Song busts out her battle trowel and fights the royal guard for a bit. The Doctor holds the head ransom, they escape, it turns out the trowel is a sonic trowel. The head is in a bag and is very angry about being in a bag.
River’s minion teleports them out and then comes to meet them. He’s also her husband, they kiss, Doctor cringes. They’re here looking for… DUN DUN DUUUN… The Doctor. They think he only has 12 faces. *sad trombone*
Meanwhile, poor Matt Lucas is in trouble with the surprisingly intelligent robot body the king has left behind. In short order, the king has a new head. A head with which he banters, mightily.
Back with River and Co., they are at the TARDIS. They are going to steal the TARDIS, and apparently have done before. This rankles the Doctor. But happily, he finally gets a go at the whole ‘bigger on the inside’ spiel. He makes the most of it, it’s pretty funny.
River turns out to know how to fly the TARDIS way better than the Doctor does (we’ve been told about this before, but, this time, I think we actually see it for the first time, I could be wrong). But even so, the ship won’t take off. It’s a safeguard, the Doctor ‘theorises’. The TARDIS can’t take off with someone partially outside the vehicle. The King’s body is outside, his head is inside. It’s a problem.
Meanwhile, outside, some sinister business ensues. River’s minion hears the voice of Matt Lucas coming from an alleyway. The Robot Body is holding a gun to his head. Uh oh.
Turns out there’s a bomb in the robot body that would destroy the entire solar system if the King dies. But pretty soon the robot body is knocking on the door, trouble ensues. They end up on a cruise ship somehow, I missed it because I was typing. There is banter with some gruesome alien guy whose children have eaten their mother. Clear proof that Moffat really does hate women.
This space cruise ship turns out to be where all the space bastards go to party. ‘Where genocide comes to relax’ River says. So, France then. River is reading the TARDIS-style diary the Doctor gave her a while back. She’s also talking about how easy it is to con men into thinking she loves them. That Moffat. The Doctor is sad. There’s a lot of pathos over the diary and such and the Doctor.
Meanwhile, the Minion’s body on the cyborg’s head is in some kind of ship docking with the cruise ship. Uh oh.
A man with a big gruesome scar down his face turns up to buy the diamond. He’s gross, he splits his head open and fishes the payment out of his brain. It also turns out that everyone on the ship is a durn scar monster.
Awkwardly, it turns out the scar-faces are doing this deal in honor of their king… no points for guessing who the king is. The situation grows troubling.
Meanwhile, the robot body is interrogating the disgusting blue waiter guy. The blue waiter guy is a total coward and offers to tell the body who River is really married to.
The head-based standoff comes to a close. The Doctor reveals the head, the scar people bow in awe. The king wakes up and the body rolls up to claim it. Or does it? Turns out the king is basically fucked, so the head disintegrates him and goes off in search of a good new head. The Doctor and River are in trouble.
The blue alien bastard has the diary. He begins reading excerpts from it, showing us that we’re at a point in her timeline where she’s already met him several times. The blue guy knows she’s his wife. There’s a whole bunch of glurge about how much River loves the Doctor, but she doesn’t love him. There’s a big gruesome speech about it. Moffat is sooo in love with the Doctor.
Eventually, the penny drops. It’s cringey.
It’s 6 pm and now we’re back to the usual hijinks. In a clever bit of time stuff, it turns out that there’s a meteor shower about to hit the ship. River knows this because she dug up the ship 400 years in the future. Uh ooooh. Escaping begins.
The diamond is imperilled, several times. Usual catching and throwing and such. For some reason, the robot lets the Doctor connect the money-ball payment the scar man gave River to its neck stump. This overloads its brain and breaks it, because capitalism is evil, and money has firewalls. It’s a bit ersatz.
The ship is crashing into Darillium – the planet that the Doctor promised to take her to a bunch of times. He teleports her into the TARDIS, she teleports the TARDIS to the ship. Someone was gonna make a noble sacrifice, but it devolves into some guff about how much they love each other. I don’t know why.
They both end up knocked out in the TARDIS. Doctor wakes first, goes outside, the singing towers are there but no restaurant. An enterprising young lad is searching the wreckage for survivors. The Doctor gives him the diamond and tells him to build a restaurant there. Time ensues, and he gets a reservation there. The Doctor even dug up the old robot body and such.
There’s a whole bunch of stuff that ties up all the stuff set up in the Library. The weird sonic screwdriver, the whole ‘You took me to Darillium to see the Singing Towers. Oh, what a night that was! The towers sang and you cried. You wouldn’t tell me why, but I suppose you knew it was time…’ biz. It’s quite touching, but all kind of undermined by the depressingly twee dialogue and River all crying and such.
It ends with River saying, ‘I hate you!’ and the Doctor replying, ‘No, you don’t,’ – a variation of the exchange featured in episodessuch as Flesh and Stone, The Impossible Astronaut and Forest of the Dead.
Nice that they tied up all the loose ends and that the ending is appropriately ambiguous. The plot thread that the Doctor’s last night with River Song is at the Singing Towers somewhat mitigated by the fact that a night on Darillium lasts 24 years. So they have a fair amount of time. Stephen Moffat may well be leaving the show soon, and wanted to write a last story for River. If she doesn’t appear again (and there is no reason why she shouldn’t, given where she is at both ends of her timeline) this is an elegant ending. The LiveBlog team hope we see her again, which frankly is more than we can say for most of the companions except Martha. Oddly we used to feel sad in old Doctor Who when a companion left (ok, Adric…) but these days it’s a sign of relief more often than not. If a new showrunner joins this is one of the issues that needs addressing with the show. Not a bad piece of acting in the show, with Capaldi and Kingston given the opportunities, if not the lines sometimes, to shine. Matt Lucas and Greg Davies redeemed this show’s often appalling record with guest stars (looking at you Corden!), and Rowan Polonski (I think) as Flemming especially good. Let’s hope this is a harbinger of next season.