Ah, the Christmas Special. One of my favorites of the year. Because it’s the last episode of the season I want to hold onto watching it for as long as I can… *But* if I wait too long it’ll wind up being spoiled. Ugh. As usual don’t read until you’ve watched the episode. Well you can, but don’t get mad at me when I spoil it for you.
We start seeing a landed “flying saucer” and a caption that says we’re on Mendorax Dellora (Human Colony). There’s snow, Christmas carols, lights, the whole works. It is Christmas Day in the year 5343, after all. This is going to be fun… unless you’re the Doctor, who has a sign on his TARDIS reading “Carol singers will be CRITICISED”. We spell that with a “Z” here, Doctor.
A random person who looks lost knocks on the door of the TARDIS and the Doctor appears wearing antlers. It seems the TARDIS had decided to cheer him up, though it just seemed to annoy him. Anyhow, the man had come to collect a surgeon for a medical emergency and wound up with the Doctor. They headed over to the flying saucer and a caped figure with a very familiar voice came out to meet them. Hello sweetie. That’s right, River Song! The Doctor is pretty excited to see her, but she doesn’t know who he is.
This explains quite a lot, though it’s not such a surprise if you’ve been paying attention (or, like me, have been waiting for this). If this is the first time River has met the Doctor, then they’re closer in age appearance-wise than she with his other recent incarnations. That means that she’d be more likely to fall for him and have the relationship carry forward/back. With me so far? Good, now back to it.
So the Doctor asks River what the medical emergency is, and she says that her husband is dying. We arrive to see a man in a big metal suit lying on a table surrounded by guards with swords who is *not* any form of the Doctor (that we’re aware of). On top of that, the whole thing is being televised to 4 billion people and the Doctor is being his normal weird self. Also, jealous. River sent for the finest surgeon in the galaxy to save her husband (King Hydroflax), and instead was brought the Doctor… her *other* husband.
The Doctor and River leave the room to discuss the procedure. As it turns out, the King has a giant diamond lodged in his head. River is only pretending to love the King so that she can have the “surgeon” remove his entire head and she gets the diamond. Her idea is that the King is an awful person and she doesn’t have to feel bad for murdering him. The surgeon she’d actually hired had agreed to this. The Doctor is still horrified and hasn’t agreed yet, but the King comes into the room during the discussion. He’s a cyborg, so doesn’t actually need his head, and he proves that by removing it. They get in a fight and River gives a speech about how he’s taken too much from too many and she will be the woman to take it all back. The Doctor looks impressed.
River starts fighting the guards and the King’s body with a SONIC TROWEL (I just had to make sure you understand how insane this is), while the Doctor grabs his head and threatens to drop it down the garbage disposal if anyone harms her. Of course that works and they do geek out a bit over the cyberbody before getting transported out. Oh, they’re cute together! Also, when River talks into her watch it looks like a Fitbit.
When they get a moment alone, the Doctor calls her out again, saying she knows who he is. Again, she says she has no idea, then kisses her partner (the one who teleported them out). River introduces him as her husband, Ramone. I’m going to need to make a spreadsheet to keep track. River asks Ramone if he’s found the Damsel… She’s actually looking for the Doctor. She doesn’t know his current face, and thinks 11 was his current incarnation. The Doctor asks if he could have a new face and River says it’s not possible. So they go to the TARDIS and River says she’s stealing it. She has a key…
Okay, so maybe steal is the wrong word. It’s more like borrow. She plans to return to the same spot a second in the future (when she’s finished with the TARDIS of course) so that the Doctor will never know it’s missing. She thinks he won’t notice because “he never has before”. Uh oh. She goes inside and wants the Doctor to come along (but not Ramone for some reason). He’s excited to do the “it’s bigger on the inside” bit but he’s kind of a terrible actor and way overdoes it. She doesn’t seem to be surprised and half ignores him while prepping for takeoff. He finishes and says he just wanted to see that done properly but again she doesn’t react. Instead she offers him a drink from his own hidden wall compartment.
When it’s time to take off they can’t, and the Doctor “suggests” it’s because there’s a life form that’s registering as being inside and outside at the same time, tripping a safety measure. And yet, River still doesn’t clue in. Was she this dumb before?
Outside, the King’s body has replaced the head with the one from River’s assistant, and it lures Ramone into an alley. It holds the assistant hostage (I’m guessing his head and body aren’t attached anymore, but it’s a guess) to make Ramone do what it wants. Which is to replace the assistant. The King’s body arrives at the TARDIS around the time the King’s head is telling River and the Doctor that if it’s killed the body will burn the entire solar system. It attacks River, but they shut the TARDIS doors, fly away, grab the head and run out. They seem to be on a ship with the TARDIS parked in baggage. River has a staff member deadlock seal it so the King’s body can’t get out. They also appear to be staying for dinner, as this seems to be a restaurant of some kind.
River makes a quick change into a dress and fancier hairstyle, and it comes out that she’s 200 years old. She seems to be keeping some pretty sketchy company, as this ship is full of criminals and she’s actually trying to sell the diamond here. When seated at their table, River starts telling the Doctor how men are easy prey while she looks through her diary – you know the one, the TARDIS-blue one. The Doctor asks River if her diary is sad. She looks very sad while telling him that the diary is almost full and she was given it by someone not special who was the type of person who would know how long a diary she might need. In other words, she knows that either she is reaching the end of her Doctor interactions or will die soon. I don’t know how old she was in Silence In The Library when she was uploaded.
River’s buyer arrives and we find out that the entire restaurant is “with him”. He gives her payment and she puts the bag with the head on the table. Before opening it, they all start chanting that they’re doing this in the name of their King. King Hydroflax. The King whose head is in the bag…
Ramone on the King’s body begged the staff member to be released. When he arrived the King’s body grabbed him and he quickly turned on River.
In the meantime, the buyer demanded the bag, and the Doctor basically started everyone bidding on the head… I’m a little unsure of how that happened even though I backed it up and watched it again. The Doctor woke the head and everyone bowed, so they went running… straight into the King’s body. Guards grabbed them and the body went to the head but refused to take it because it had deteriorated. The King’s body destroyed his own head, leaving behind dust and a diamond. The waiter grabbed River’s diary and said this was the guide to the new head he required. As the waiter reads the diary we’re taken on a small journey through River’s history. It seems this is right after she’s been to Manhattan, so I’d assume this is set right after The Angels Take Manhattan. It explains her bitterness.
There is a discussion about River being the one the Doctor loves. She says he’s never loved her, and the King’s body confirms she’s not lying. He looks rather sad about that. But she also says she loves him but he won’t be there when she’s in trouble. That they can scan the ship and not find him – she rants and raves about how much he doesn’t care… then looks over and he says “Hello Sweetie”. They have a quick chat about escape routes, but River’s already planned this so they’re standing in what would be considered the safest spot to be during a meteor strike. Coincidentally, one is starting.
They fall through the floor, have a quick back and forth and grab the diamond. Close behind is the King’s body. The payment sphere from the buyer falls as well and the Doctor sticks it where the head should go. Zap. The Doctor then scoops up River’s diary and heads to the bridge, where River is trying to get control. Some banter, then the Doctor tricks River into being teleported back to the TARDIS, which she promptly materializes around him, then runs out. He chases her, then they realize they can’t stop the crash and run back inside it.
The impact knocks them both out, but the Doctor comes to first. He travels forward in time a touch and tells a worker at the crash site that he should build a restaurant overlooking the singing towers that are just beyond that spot. Why? Because River talked about wanting to go to a restaurant that was in that spot. That they always make plans to go then he cancels. He then he gives the worker the diamond and tells him it’s because he wants the restaurant there. He moves forward in time again and this time the doors open into the restaurant. He makes reservations for Christmas Day in 4 years time. River finally wakes to an empty TARDIS, still in her evening gown. When she goes out into the restaurant, the greeter tells her the Doctor is waiting for her on the balcony.
She puts on another dress and heads up. Ramone (still on the King’s body) is working, although now it’s just a body with a couple different heads that swap out. The Doctor comes out with a proper suit on and a gift for River – a sonic screwdriver. So this is where that came from! They look at the towers and it’s all very date-like. River says there are stories about them, about her and her Doctor. She says the stories suggest that the last night they spend together is at that location, at the towers. He doesn’t deny it, just says “spoilers”. If you recall “Silence in the Library” you’ll remember that the last time she saw his face he was much older… This would fit well with that. She asks how long a night there is, since they most likely only have the one night, and he responds with 24 years.
After *just* losing Clara, this just about killed me. I cried *again*. I do believe the intent here is that this is actually their “last night” together. If that is the case, then we can’t see River again while Peter Capaldi is the Doctor. This was the first time she’d seen this face, so unless he gets another face and they meet somewhere in the middle of her timeline it’s just not happening. I can’t see them doing that, since this wraps up her storyline quite nicely. It makes me sad, but it’s nice to see her have a “happy ending” before Silence in the Library.