Like last year’s season finale, The Big Bang, Doctor Who ended the season by resetting the universe and with a wedding. The Wedding of River Song mostly answered the questions raised over the past season of Doctor Who. Earlier episodes of the season provided two possible ways in which there could be a replica of the Doctor who might be the one to die at Lake Silencio. A two-part story earlier in the season (The Rebel Flesh and The Almost People) dealt with doppelgangers, including one who had replaced Amy Pond. Let’s Kill Hitler introduced the Teselecta, a time traveling ship with miniaturized people which takes the shape of a person. I thought that the Gangers were a more plausible explanation for who took the Doctor’s place, believing that a Ganger would be more likely to go into a regeneration cycle than a Teselecta if shot, but apparently Steven Moffat didn’t see it this way. I imagine that the Doctor, knowing that the Teselecta was going to simulate his death, managed to develop the appropriate special effects to make the death scene look convincing.
In order to create the drama for this season, as well as to prevent the Doctor from changing history to solve other problems, the concept of a fixed point in time was established. The Doctor revealed in The Fires of Pompeii that he couldn’t change the events of history as this was a fixed point. Similarly the destruction of the base in The Waters of Mars was a fixed point in time which could not be changed. But what happens if a time traveler does change the events of a fixed point? The Wedding of River Song showed what happened when River Song did change a fixed point by initially failing to kill the Doctor. When River failed to kill the Doctor, there was a bizarre traffic jam in time, in which events from a variety of eras got lumped together:
The description of a time traffic jam in the above video is preferable to the description given by Winston Churchill of all of history happening at one time. Even though the clocks did not move, there was obviously a concept of time as events were occurring. We saw Charles Dickens being interviewed about his upcoming Christmas story despite the fact that the calendars were not moving towards December 25, and we saw the Holy Roman Emperor (Winston Churchill) seek out the Doctor, who had previously been imprisoned. All of history could not have been happening at once or we would have seen every British leader in history, along with everyone else who has every lived in London.
Seeing time getting messed up made for memorable scenes, regardless of whether it made sense. Additional highlights of the episode included an homage to Nicholas Courtney (the Brigadier) while an off-screen homage to Elisabeth Sladen started the season, the homage to the Indiana Jones movies, River seeing the Doctor in the eye of the Teselecta, and “Pond, Amy Pond.” It seemed totally consistent with her character to have Amy remember the Doctor as opposed to wasting time in the episode finding a way to restore her memory, but I wonder what the people around her thought of all the weird pictures on her wall. In other revelations, the eye patches turned out to be “eye drives,” a way in which to store memory of the Silence, and there was more foreshadowing of the Doctor’s future. Some questions have not been answered, such as where the picture of Amy holding Melody in the orphanage came from.
Some of the key events of the episode, such as the wedding of River Song and the death of Madame Kovarian, occurred in an time line which was reset. It appears likely that the wedding remains real based upon events in other episodes. The major change to occur in this episode is that, after becoming too prominent a hero in earlier episodes, the universe must now think that the Doctor is dead. One possible explanation is that the Doctor can cheat the fixed point in time as he did by remaining alive, but the history books must still record that he died at Lake Silencio. Presumably, if the Doctor could later reveal it was all a trick and he is alive he would have done so to save River from going to prison. Instead River must spend her days in prison and nights traveling around the universe with her husband, the Doctor. There is another possible interpretation below. More on River Song’s story was reviewed on Doctor Who Confidential, with a copy of the video posted here.
The God Complex gave the Doctor reason to question the prominence of his role. This episode caused him to realize that, “My friends have always been the best of me.” Besides changing the character of the Doctor into a hero who must act behind the scenes, the episode seems to foreshadow the Doctor’s future. Presumably talk of when the Eleventh will fall refers to the Eleventh Doctor, while the question in plain sight has been asked before: “Doctor Who?” Does this foreshadow the next regeneration, or just another moment in which the Doctor must cheat destiny and prevent his fate from taking place? Perhaps the survival of the Doctor ensures that it is the Silence who will fill at the fields of Trenzalore. The Doctor pretended to be trapped in order to surprise the Silence in Day of the Moon. I wonder if the real reason the Doctor must now appear dead is to once again surprise the Silence, to ensure that it is the Silence who fall and not the Eleventh.
Other than the Christmas episode, which has started filming, we will probably have to wait around a year for more new episodes. Doctor Who Confidential will not be around when the series resumes, having been discontinued due to BBC budget cuts. There is this one brief episode of Doctor Who to watch. The winner of a writing contest held among school children was filmed as a mini-episode, Death Is The Only Answer: