‘Doctor Who’ Christmas special spoiler-free review: ‘The Husbands of River Song’

If there’s one thing sassmaster archaeologist River Song likes, it’s being married, apparently.

This isn’t a spoiler, because this year’s charming Doctor Who Christmas caper is titled ‘The Husbands of River Song’.

You can extrapolate from this that at least one will be present or alluded to in the episode: the Doctor is one, obviously, but it would seem fairly evident that those two have a non-exclusive arrangement, though it’s possible that neither the Doctor nor King Hydroflax (Greg Davies, who is so much fun) got that memo.

The two are reunited on an appropriately festive planet, but since River hasn’t been introduced to the Doctor’s sexy new face yet, it’s fair to say there’s plenty of fun mistaken identity action going on, and we get a rare glimpse into just what River gets up to when she’s not making cheeky innuendos at the Doctor.

Doctor Who The Husbands of River Song (ALEX KINGSTON)

There are plenty of giggles, but the episode is not without its moments of emotional gravity. Plus, River’s got a sonic trowel. I wonder what other sonic implements she has as part of her archaeologist kit? Sonic brush? Sonic metal detector?

I’m sure I’m not the only viewer who has felt that each of River’s last few appearances had marked the end of her story. Consider me pleasantly surprised, however, to discover that Mr Moffat and company have plucked a legitimate missing moment in the story of the Doctor and River, and presented it to us wrapped neatly in the little festive parcel that you never realised how much you actually wanted.

The dynamic has changed here, now that the Doctor is not Matt Smith: for one thing, we know that Twelve is by no means tactile when it comes to other people, and that’s a trait he retains here.

It’s an adjustment for them both; nevertheless, it’s enjoyable to see these two fall into a companionable, if amusingly awkward, rapport. As expected, Capaldi and Kingston illuminate the screen like a string of witty fairy lights from their very first scene together.

Doctor Who   The Husbands of River Song Alex Kingston Peter Capaldi

River’s backstory is necessarily a touch continuity-heavy, and I’m not sure this one isn’t going to require the fans in the room to give their patient family members a brief run-through of the salient plot points of certain strategic past episodes (good luck with that), but I don’t think it detracts heavily from the fun.

‘The Husbands of River Song’ is decidedly likeable Christmas fare, and just the sort of thing to settle down with after stuffing yourself silly on Yorkshire puddings and custard.


Airs at 5.15pm on Friday 25 December 2015 on BBC One.

> Order ‘The Husbands of River Song’ on DVD on Amazon.

> Order ‘The Husbands of River Song’ on Blu-ray on Amazon.

Are you looking forward to ‘The Husbands of River Song’ ? Let us know below…

> Read more by Sami Kelsh on her website.

  • Bradlee

    This has the makings of being right up with Christmas Carol as the best Christmas special to date and certainly appropriate given the talent involved. The reviews for this have been amazing and each one mentions how brilliant Alex and Peter are together. Hopefully this won’t be River Song’s last outing with 12. They seem so be the perfect pairing, Great that this will also be on the box set this year too! Love me some Professor Song. Best character in new Who bar the doctors.

    • Andy

      Chimes of Midnight is better than all of them

  • CT14

    Of course River will work without Matt Smith. She worked perfectly in her introduction with David Tennant’s doctor.

  • Beth38991

    Looking forward to it? I’ve been hopping up and down with excitement from the first time I heard River was in it. 😀

    • Notyet

      Me too! I adore River. So glad Steven Moffat was able to persuade her to come back for the show,. She’s really a major part of why it’s been so successful since it returned. Every review has raved about how great she is with Peter’s doctor.

  • Dr. Moo

    It’s good then. That’s all I want from a Christmas Special. If it turns out to be a classic like, say, A Christmas Carol then that’s a bonus.

  • Meggs92

    I am trying so hard to not get overexcited by this but since Peter’s doctor meeting River has been at the top of my wish list from the first moment he was cast I am counting down the days. Very happy that all of those snarking and complaining about River returning are going to have to eat humble pie as the reviews for this have been amazing – some of the best in fact for any episode this year. I just knew they would be wonderful together and I like Alex’s description of the episode that it’s like a classic Hollywood screwball romantic comedy with a lovely bittersweet ending. River can do no harm in my eyes and agree with comments below that she is the best new character in modern Who. I am now also certain that she’ll probably turn up in Peter’s last episode down the track in a few years’ time and hopefully she can make the odd appearance in other series before then.
    Alex is just lovely too and have met her at a convention and have her autograph and everyone says that along with Peter she’s just about the nicest person you could ever meet.

  • drno

    chase the girl, and turn the girl into the doctor. that’s modern doctor who. the best romantic dramedy on television!