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This is the official blog of Phoenix Roleplaying, a multi-genre simming site, created in August 2010.

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Monday, 28 December 2015

Where's Your Head At (Review: 'Doctor Who' 2015 Christmas Special, "The Husbands of River Song")

Yes, I did get the TARDIS LEGO set for Christmas. It took me nearly 5 hours to assemble it and bar some minor niggles, looks very nice. I built my own TARDIS console room out of LEGO as a kid, so it's nice to have the real thing.


While having a sulk on a human colony in the far future, the Doctor is unintentionally roped into a caper with his missus, River Song. Unfortunately, she doesn't recognise him due to the fact that they meet out of order (and she's not met this version), with hilarious consequences.

This review contains spoilers.

The Doctor quotes Hamlet, or something close to it and does end up getting very hammy at points in this episode. All the Doctors have eaten scenery at one point or another, including Capaldi, who is a good enough actor that he can overact effectively - most notably the scene where he does the whole "bigger on the inside" speech. He does a good job here, having gotten the 'old grump act' down to a fine art, but he really needs a proper companion to fully ground him. He makes a rather Bond-esque quip at the demise of one character, which is definitely off and his comment at a crash site that there's no-one worth saving also seems very cold.

Alex Kingston's River Song, like Flynn Carsen from The Librarians (of course played by Kingston's ER co-star Noah Wyle), is best in small doses. While her flirty, lightning quick personality is enjoyable in this episode, once she gets all slushy towards the end, I was rapidly getting bored. Unlike Root from Person of Interest or for that matter the Doctor himself, she lacks the level of development and overall charisma to sustain a regular role. (Goes to check if there is Doctor Who/Person of Interest fan fic with Root in it)

River isn't alone in her operation, in which she is attempting to retrieve a very valuable gem from inside the head of a genocidal dictator, being joined by Nardole (Matt Lucas) and Ramone (Phillip Rhys, who is best known to me for being a terrorist suspect in Season 2 of 24), the latter who is married to River. These are two reasonably well done male companions, although I must admit I've never really watched Little Britain. Both of them end up losing their heads - literally.

They lose their heads (which remain alive, something of a Moffat trademark over the years) at the hands of King Hydroflax, a dying tyrant who likes to eat his enemies after battle, whether they are alive or dead, and is still worshipped by those on his planet. Doctor Who has done wonders over the years of conjuring up entire worlds and campaigns in dialogue, with images being created in the dialogue that the writers of The Blacklist or Game of Thrones wouldn't put onto screen. Hydroflax's head is played by Greg Davies, a stand-up comic who at 2.03m (6 foot 8) is the second tallest actor to appear in the show this year - being beaten by the tallest man in Europe, one Neil Fingleton, who played the body of the Fisher King- at 30 centimetres higher, he has also played a giant in Game of Thrones and did the motion capture for Ultron in the most recent The Avengers movie. He (Davies) does a very good job with only his head sticking out of a red metal suit, which is separately voiced by Nonso Anozie, who demonstrates a ruthless efficiency to the point where to survive he will happily disintegrate his own head.

(Answer re Root - one is here - S4 spoilers)

Effects Speaking of disintegrating heads, I'm not sure that reducing one to a pile of ash is entirely suitable for 6pm on a Christmas Day; we also get an alien opening up his own head to retrieve a metal ball from inside it. Anyway, the days of 'wobbly sets' are long gone (indeed, they were never as big a feature as popular myth has it - some of the set design was superb considering the budget and space available, most notably the TARDIS) and as a result, the CGI is looking very good, especially the stuff nearer the end on Darillium.

As mention earlier, this is a very zany plot; something that wouldn't be out of place in an episode of The Blacklist (no crossovers there sadly). This said, once we're done with the caper, the romantic scenes at the end, which are setting up the 'end' for River in her timeline (i.e. "Silence in the Library/The Forest of the Dead" from Season 30) weren't holding my interest and I really didn't like the "happily ever after" caption at the end.


While there is a brilliant madcap energy in the first half of so this episode, it starts to lose the pace badly and by the end, I'd kind of had enough. Sixty minutes is too long a time for a Doctor Who episode in general unless it's really good and this isn't.


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