‘Doctor Who’ season 9 Christmas Special review: River’s road

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Doctor Who” has greater challenges on Christmas Day than usual, and that is saying a lot when you consider that there are constantly challenges with putting a show on the holiday. You have to ensure that viewers are paying attention in the midst of other festivities, you have to make it at least remotely seasonal, and you also have to figure out some way to bridge between the previous batch of episodes and the new one.

For “Doctor Who” this year, they also had to tell their first complete story without hope that Jenna Coleman could return as Clara. Steven Moffat worked his way around her death in “Hell Bent,” giving her an end where she can travel about the universe and time before eventually facing the raven. For our title character on “The Many Husbands of River Song,” Moffat ensured that she had a husband who actually acted devoted for a chance. He didn’t change the future or her death (if you want to see it as such), but the funny, action-packed, and witty romp that was this special led to the two arriving at the Singing Towers of Darillium, a place significant to their history, for a lovely dinner date.

For one of the few times in the series’ history, we saw in the special a Doctor who actually loved River in the same way that she loved him. Her devotion to him had at times been frustrating, mostly because of the fact that it didn’t always seemed earned. What did The Doctor do to be worthy of this, other than of course being responsible for almost every key event in River’s life? There is love because of circumstances and then love because of love, and in the closing seconds, we saw the latter.

So with this hole in history now properly filled in, where do we go from here? It feels reasonably clear that River is not going to be the next Companion, and with Moffat and Peter Capaldi staying put, new adventures will await them in season 10. We presume that there could eventually be a time in which River returns to the show, but our showrunner clearly meant at one point for this to be the end, largely because he originally thought this could be his last episode before stepping down.

In the end, we rather enjoyed this special despite its disjointed feel; River is consistently entertaining, but more than that we got to see a Doctor present her some of the attention that she has long handed back towards him. Grade: B+.

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