The Doctor Meets The Husbands of River Song In This Year’s Christmas Special
It’s been two years since we last saw Alex Kingston’s motorcycle jacket-wearing archaeologist River Song, the only woman who’s ever held the title of Doctor’s Wife—although it turns out that level of marital fidelity hasn’t been as equally reciprocated on River’s end. Song’s got a wallet full of husbands, and who can blame her when the Time Lord she truly loves shows up only sporadically? Sometimes you just want a partner who can be relied on to take out the recycling.
So River employs devoted stand-ins like Ramone who are, while husband in name, more like assistants in practice, doing her bidding as she crosses the galaxy in the name of space archaeology and jewel heists.
Perhaps the unluckiest of River’s husbands is King Hydroflax, whom she loves not for his looks or position of power but for what’s inside him—the massive diamond buried deep in his hulking, square skull. And so the diamond (and River’s need of a surgeon who’ll dig it out of Hydroflax’s frontal cortex) brings Song and the Doctor together once again. Maybe for the last time.
For the Who fans mourning her final appearance (and likely death—that diary is running out of pages fast), take heart. Steven Moffat, who penned this most recent Doctor Who Christmas special has said of River: “I killed her off in her first adventure, I wrote her as a ghost in another adventure, I wrote some minisodes for a DVD which were definitely her last appearance. There is no way to kill off River, she started dead!”
So whether “The Husbands of River Song” is or is not the last time we’ll see Kingston in the role, the episode was a fitting send off for a character who’s acted on screen opposite three Doctors (though she claims to be well acquainted with all twelve).
The caper kicks off with River in search of a diamond so magnificent she married it—so that she could sell it on the black market for billions. Of course there’s a hitch in her plan and it’s here where the Doctor comes in.
Together, and with her not having a clue who he is, they evade a headless armoured robot body even Iron Man would envy, making off with a duffle bag that contains said robot’s cybernetic noggin. In the noggin is the diamond and in the diamond is a whole lot of cash (or whatever currency they use in 5343).
Highlights of their escape include: River’s complete obliviousness as to the Doctor’s identity, watching Capaldi pretend to have never seen the inside of a TARDIS, and listening to actor Greg Davies’ Hydroflax threaten to rain destruction down on the pair—from the inside of a gym bag. Even the Doctor laughs.
After a second escape from a cruise ship for genocidal extraterrestrials (the sale of that diamond doesn’t go as planned) the Doctor and River finally keep their long-planned date for dinner on Darillium—in a restaurant the Doctor has specially built for her (time travellers give the best gifts). It’s a happy/sad moment because even though River has been looking forward to this date for ages, she too is a time traveller and she’s read some spoilers about the night. Chiefly that it will be her last one with the Doctor.
When the Doctor all but confirms that their story is approaching an unavoidable end, River gets teary and the Doctor gets uncomfortable (as he typically does in the presence of human emotion), telling her that there are some fates he can’t change. “Happy ever after doesn’t mean forever, it just means time,” River replies, proving once again that the Doctor has a habit of underestimating his friends. Of course a Doctor Who Christmas special can’t end on such a low note. In the end it’s revealed that the Doctor has chosen the ideal place for his final date night with his wife—a planet where a single evening spans 24 years.