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

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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.

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