So, that’s it until September (I think). While the mid-season break may be a bit annoying, it does at least give me a chance to have a breather and catch up – as these reviews have been getting later and later. And, at least it was an interesting episode to go out on.
Interesting, but probably divisive, as it did involve Moffat taking his frantic storytelling style to a ridiculous extreme. Personally, I liked the episode for that – it definitely didn’t waste time in getting where it was going (so couldn’t have been more different to the last two weeks’) and, I was a bit worried that it’d turn out to be another Cyberman snoozer, so I’m glad they got them out of the way in the first few minutes. I also quite liked the idea of introducing a load of completely new characters as if they were old friends, although I expect that the rushed introductions caused by the sheer amount of them proved irritating to some (and to be honest, it was slightly confusing that the actors who played Commander Strax and Madame Vastra had already been in the series playing different, but very similar, parts).
Perhaps, with all the manic introductions, there wasn’t time for much of a story; it was pretty much just action scenes from the start. Although it did mean that we got to see Rory in unlikely action hero guise again. I’m still not entirely sure that he makes a convincing man of action, but he is an endearing one. Commander Strax was also a good character – possibly the first time that could be said about a Sontaran – and had probably the best dialogue of the episode (even if the ‘I can produce magnificent quantities of lactic fluid’ line was a bit unsavoury). And to be fair to Moffat, he is clearly aware of the series’ ridiculous plotting, as shown with the Doctor describing his adventures with Amy and Rory as ‘It’s all running about, sexy alien fish vampires’ and ‘Rory died, then he didn’t exist, then he was plastic, then I had to reboot the universe’.
The villains were a bit less successful. Kovarian was great – although with her eye patch and highly camp stylings she is getting dangerously close to the Who villains of the 80s (remember the infamous Martin Clunes appearance?) – but Colonel Manton and the Headless Monks were getting into Russell T. Davies levels of anti-religious unsubtlety, in particular Manton denigrating the Doctor as ‘The man who reasons’. On that note The Thin One and The Fat One were also very Davies-esque, I’m a bit torn about them – remembering what TV was like when I was growing up, I would’ve appreciated having gay characters (especially not screamingly camp ones) included in programmes aimed at family viewers, but they added precisely nothing to the story.
With the promise from Moffat that the episode would end on a major cliffhanger, I was worried that it would end just before the reveal of who River was, although fortunately that wasn’t the case (even if River’s exposition did seem a bit clunky – she generally seems work better as a character when she’s running about or being inappropriately flirty). Congratulations to everyone who guessed weeks ago that she would turn out to be Amy and Rory’s daughter (out of curiosity, was River’s true identity hinted at in previous episodes, or was it just a matter of having a lucky guess?). I suppose looking back, it’s odd to think of some of the conversations she’s had about the Doctor with her parents (such as mentioning her exploits with two Doctors at once to Rory at the start of the episode), they don’t exactly seem like something somebody would say to their parents. Although there is the question of if Amy and Rory will get to raise their daughter – I can see the Doctor only being able to get Melody back from Kovarian when she’s more fully grown, if only to avoid having to include a baby in every future episode (the other option being that Amy and Rory leave at the end of the series to give their child a normal upbringing, which I hope won’t be the case, although I can see Lorna Bucket coming in as a replacement companion).
I’m a bit confused about the flashback to the girl from The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon on the reveal of the baby having part Time Lord DNA (with all the DNA testing and parental revelations, it did start to feel a bit like a soap/Jeremy Kyle episode), are we meant to think that the girl is also River, or was it a red herring? I’m looking forward to September when we should find out (as hinted at by the ‘Time Runs Out’ teaser at the end of the episode, referring back to the Doctor’s death at the start of the series) of course it’ll no doubt still take a few episodes to get there, but there’s still the ludicrously named next episode ‘Let’s Kill Hitler’ to look forward to.
So, good episode/bad episode/weird episode – what did you think of it?