‘The Husbands of River Song’ (TV)



Please feel free to comment on my review.

King Hydroflax with the Twelfth Doctor and River Song on Christmas Day

This is supposed to be a comedic ‘Doctor Who’ Christmas Special!

‘The Husbands of River Song’ was the first ‘Doctor Who’ episode that I reviewed on my ‘Bradley’s Basement’ blog from its initial transmission on TV. I found the experience pretty scary back then. I wrote pretty feeble reviews on my blog back in December 2015. I have gained confidence over time.

As stated previously, I didn’t review Series 9 of ‘Doctor Who’ from its initial transmission on TV whilst my blog was currently underway. ‘The Husbands of River Song’ was a chance to have a go at reviewing a ‘Doctor Who’ episode from its initial TV transmission and I was looking forward to try it.

After the underwhelming nature of Series 9, I was looking forward to where ‘Doctor Who’ would go next and how that would be reflected when I shared initial thoughts on every TV episode on my blog. The next episode was a Christmas Special and I was looking forward to share my thoughts on it.

‘The Husbands of River Song’ was shown on Christmas Day in December 2015 at 5.15pm on BBC One in the UK. It was the second ‘Doctor Who’ Christmas Special to be featured in the Peter Capaldi era. This would turn out to be a different beast compared to the first Christmas Special, ‘Last Christmas’.

The episode of course stars Peter Capaldi as the Twelfth Doctor. He reunites with Alex Kingson as River Song who previously appeared in the Eleventh Doctor era with Matt Smith. I did enjoy watching this Christmas episode when shown on TV. I found it strange, intriguing and mind-boggling.

That was on my first viewing of the episode. It was after seeing the episode that I discovered a few people, including ones on my blog, didn’t like it very much. This I can appreciate and understand. After watching it again a second time for this review, I concur with what those have stated about it.

The story takes place in the far future in the year 5343. The setting is on the human colony world of Mendorax Dellora. There, the Twelfth Doctor is reunited with River Song. However she doesn’t recognise him. This is an annoying factor I discovered while I re-watched the episode a second time.

In the episode, the Doctor helps River to get a diamond that she literally ‘married’ and is inside the head of her husband that is inside a giant red robot. Throughout the episode, the Doctor and River go through many escapades in order to make sure River’s husband, King Hydroflax, doesn’t win at all.

Now I can appreciate that this episode is meant to provide a light-hearted flavour compared to the serious tone ‘Last Christmas’ gave us. Ordinarily I would welcome that, since we had a bit of a rather sad departure with Clara Oswald, although the circumstances for how it got resolved are debatable.

But the problem I found with this episode is that most of it wasn’t funny. I sensed Steven Moffat, and yes he’s the writer of this one, was trying to inject humour into the episode for us to enjoy. But it feels rather forced upon us and the humour that’s supposed to come out as funny seems unfunny.

By this point, the storytelling and the acting seems to have gone downhill into pantomime. And that would be appropriate for this ‘Doctor Who’ episode since it was Christmas time. But I recall a time when ‘Doctor Who’ storytelling and acting was good during the Russell T. Davies era from 2005 to 2010.

I actually prefer the way RTD tells his stories in ‘Doctor Who’, especially in the Christmas episodes where he balances the humour and drama very well. Here, during the Steven Moffat, I struggled to appreciate the humour that was being forced upon us. It also came across as rather too silly for me.

Peter Capaldi does well as the Doctor in the episode. He’s able to display a range of emotions to define his Doctor when interacting with River Song. When he became serious and seemed to be in the dark as to what was happening with River, I appreciated that he was trying to work things out.

However there were occasions when the Doctor did go over-the-top in certain moments. This includes him being surprised when he walks into the TARDIS to please River when she doesn’t recognise him. I couldn’t understand why the Doctor didn’t tell River that he had recently regenerated.

I found it cringing when the Doctor was about to put Hydroflax’s head into the garbage chute and he said “WHEE!!!” to the effect. At least he didn’t say “POO!!!” 😀 I admit that moment where the Doctor laughed away as he was being threatened by a bag with Hydroflax’s head inside made me laugh too.

Alex Kingston returns as River Song in this. It’s been a while since we last saw River appear in ‘Doctor Who’ on TV. The last seen of her was in ‘The Name of the Doctor’ in 2013. I admit it was nice to see River again, but saying that I am not a huge fan of her as many ‘Doctor Who’ fans seem to be. Sorry.

It’s not that Alex Kingston’s a bad actress. On the contrary, she’s very good. I just find the character of River Song to be overly sassy; overly sexy and overly smug. It’s a female role model that I’m not attracted to really. But I found it interesting to see River paired up with Peter Capaldi’s Doctor in the episode.

I did find it annoying when River didn’t recognize the Doctor for most of the episode when he kept telling her he was him, despite not saying he regenerated. I wouldn’t like to think of River as being that stupid. I know it’s all played out for comedic effect. But most of the time, it just felt so unfunny.

In fact, most of the time this episode is spent on River flirting with supposed husbands like King Hydroflax and Ramone whilst the Doctor watches nearby. Some of the episode has River making sexual innuendos and references which aren’t appropriate for this Christmas themed family drama.

I wonder what other unfunny moment there was in this episode that felt rather inappropriate.

FLEMMING: “Ah, Dr. Song. Your table is ready.”
RIVER: “Flemming! How are the twins?”
FLEMMING: “Still digesting their mother, thank you for asking.”
RIVER: “I’m sure it was a lovely ceremony.”
FLEMMING: “Oh, there were tears. And just a hint of screaming.”
Both River Song and Flemming laugh.

Moment of silence: Tim disbelieving it.

Hang on. Just a minute. Don’t go away. I’ll be right back.

Tim leaves computer; goes and gets Cuddles off-screen.
Tim: (off-screen) “Cuddles! Get over here! Get over here!”
Cuddles: (off-screen; protests) “Hey! What are you doing?”
Tim: (off-screen) “Just get over here!”

Cuddles get thrown up onto the computer screen by Tim.

Tim: (off-screen) “Now comment on this scene!”

Cuddles: “Why?”

Tim: (off-screen) “Because this is supposed to be a family TV episode on Christmas Day and I’d like to know whether this scene is appropriate for little kids or not. And I think a little cuddly toy dog can be the best judge of that!”

Cuddles shrugs and watches the scene as instructed by his master.

FLEMMING: “Ah, Dr. Song. Your table is ready.”
RIVER: “Flemming! How are the twins?”
FLEMMING: “Still digesting their mother, thank you for asking.”
RIVER: “I’m sure it was a lovely ceremony.”
FLEMMING: “Oh, there were tears. And just a hint of screaming.”
Both River Song and Flemming laugh.

Cuddles: (shudders) “I don’t want my master to eat his mummy! I love my master’s mummy!”

Tim: (off-screen) “That’ll do! Now get out of here!”

Cuddles: “But it’s not very nice!”

Tim: (off-screen) “I said get out of here!”

Tim picks up Cuddles and throws him away. Cuddles whines as he gets thrown out. Tim returns to the computer and is about to continue his review before he thinks for a moment.

Actually, yeah it’s not very nice.

The episode also features Greg Davies as King Hydroflax. Greg Davies is a Welsh-born, English stand-up comedian and actor. I’m afraid he didn’t register on me as a celebrity as I’ve never come across him before. Not to my knowledge anyway. This TV episode was the first time I had seen Greg Davies.

I did like the idea of a robot that can take someone’s head and put onto itself. It’s a pretty frightening idea and I wish it was utilised to a more dramatic and scary effect in the episode. But unfortunately, this episode was too comedic to take on board that sinister effect and it made it less dramatic here.

Greg Davies as a villain wasn’t intimidating enough and it’s clear that both he and Matt Lucas were meant to provide the comic relief (perhaps too much) for the festive feel of the Christmas episode. It’s a shame really as there were nice set-pieces in the episode that made it feel Christmassy earlier.

Matt Lucas makes his first appearance as Nardole in this ‘Doctor Who’ Christmas Special. At the time, I didn’t think Nardole would ever appear again in ‘Doctor Who’. I knew of Matt Lucas since he had appeared in the BBC comedy series, ‘Little Britain’ with David Walliams. He seemed good in that.

I’m not sure what it was about this episode that prompted Steven Moffat to want to have Matt Lucas return to ‘Doctor Who’ as a companion in the series. It must be something since he was clearly impressed by him in this episode. Maybe it’s because he is a ‘Doctor Who’ fan as well as a comedian.

However I did find Matt Lucas a little grating at times in his performance as Nardole, especially when he didn’t seem to contribute much to the story apart from getting beheaded and attached to the Hydroflax robot body in the episode. How he gains his body back is something for the next episode.

The guest cast also includes Rowan Polonski as the aforementioned alien Flemming; Robert Curtis as Scratch; Chris Lew Kum Hoi as Aphonse and Phillip Rhys as Ramone, one of River’s husbands. There’s also Liam Cook as King Hydroflax’s robot body and Nonso Anozie as the robotic voice for Hydroflax.

I was pleased to see some nice continuity references make their way through in this ‘Doctor Who’ Christmas Special from River Song’s first TV appearance in the series – ‘Silence in the Library’/’Forest of the Dead’. At last, River gets the sonic screwdriver she was given to by the Doctor from that story.

That was something that had bothered me from watching the series under the Steven Moffat era as I wondered when River would get her new screwdriver before ‘Silence in the Library’ came along. It’s certainly a lot better than the sonic shovel that River seemed to have. Seriously, that was so silly.

It’s suggested that this might be the last time the Doctor will ever see River Song in the TV series itself. This gets hinted at when he gives the sad look to her that she recognises. It seems familiar, especially when the Doctor and River are seeing the Singing Towers at the restaurant on Darillium.

But of course, since ‘The Husbands of River Song’, River has been returning to the Doctor’s past lives again and again in the Big Finish audio series, ‘The Diary of River Song’ as well as in the ‘Doom Coalition’ series with Paul McGann’s Doctor. I’ve not heard those audios yet, but they are rated well.

The DVD special features on this episode are as follows. On ‘The Husbands of River Song’ DVD and on Disc 6 of ‘The Complete Series 9’ of ‘Doctor Who’, there’s ‘The Adventures of River Song’ documentary; ‘The Husbands of River Song – Doctor Who Extra’ featurette and ‘The Husbands of River Song’ trailer. There is also the ‘Sublime Online (Best of Social Moments)’ for Series 9 on Disc 6.

On Disc 7 of ‘The Complete Series 9’ of ‘Doctor Who’, there’s the ‘San Diego Comic Con Panel 2015’; deleted scenes from Series 9; and an interview with Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman by Wil Wheaton (who played Wesley Crusher in ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’). Yeah! That’s extraordinary, isn’t it? 😀

‘The Husbands of River Song’ is not a great ‘Doctor Who’ Christmas Special in the series. It tries to be funny but in the end comes across as unfunny in certain parts. But I liked the interaction between Peter Capaldi as the Twelfth Doctor and Alex Kingson as River Song throughout this Christmas story.

It’s extraordinary to think that there wouldn’t be a ‘Doctor Who’ season shown on TV in 2016 after this Christmas Special was shown in December 2015. But I learned to be patient and I had plenty of other ‘Doctor Who’ items to occupy me as well as continuing to write reviews on ‘Bradley’s Basement’.

‘The Husbands of River Song’ rating – 5/10

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For the Twelfth Doctor was

  • ‘Rhythm of Destruction’ (Audio)

For River Song was

The next story

For the Twelfth Doctor is

For River Song is

  • ‘Animal Instinct’ (DRS) (Audio)

For Nardole is

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Return to River Song’s Timeline
Return to Nardole’s Timeline
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4 thoughts on “‘The Husbands of River Song’ (TV)

  1. Timelord 007

    God i loathe this Christmas Special.

    Pantomime acting, silly plot, inappropriate humour, poorly written dialogue, Grrrrrrr typical shambolic Moffat era penned clap trap of nonsensical bafflegab, thank god for Jodie & Chibnall giving us stories with dramatic depth, well written characters & emotion because this era had none of the above.

    Tim I’m worried how you behaving with Cuddles your venturing into the dark side my friend be kind to Cuddles a dog can be a man’s best friend……..hang on Cuddles HE’S A PUPPET lol.

    Brilliant review Tim brilliantly summed up I’d rate this 2/10 i remember watching this swearing obscenities at the screen i thought Soldeed from Horns Of Nimon was going to make a appearance, my mom looked at me in utter disdain thinking I’d lost the plot again lol

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tim Bradley Post author

      Hi Simon.

      Yeah I recall you not liking this Christmas Special back in December 2015. 😀

      I also recall you saying you liked the last five minutes of this episode whereas the rest you more or less described as pantomime and silly. I concur with your viewpoints. I enjoyed it on some level, but yeah after a re-watch I can see this Christmas Special not being the greatest. I’m glad you agree about the humour being inappropriate and that you find the dialogue poorly written.

      Cuddles is a ‘cuddly toy dog’ actually. Mind you, the way I play with him is almost like a puppet. And sometimes he’s believable and real when I move his head. Anyway, don’t worry about Cuddles. He’s fine. I won’t give him his sausages though. 😀 The reason I included him in the review was to illustrate how unfunny that scene in the episode was. I hope I’ve provided some entertainment with Cuddles reacting to that. If I was writing that scene between River and Fleming, I would’ve made it better and funnier compared to how Steven Moffat wrote it.

      I’ve changed my rating on this episode from 6/10 to 5/10. I can’t go to the lengths of hating this episode as for many other episodes of the Steven Moffat era. I found it pretty average. At least Peter Capaldi and Alex Kingston were okay in this episode and they gave some dignity to their characters towards the end.

      Yeah I agree with you. The Jodie Whittaker/Chris Chibnall era of ‘Doctor Who’ feels superior compared to the Steven Moffat era, despite the division of fan opinion I’ve come across. I’ve enjoyed the episodes of Series 11 far more than I enjoyed the ones in Moffat’s era. I thought the direction of the TV series was going downhill at that point during Moffat’s era. I wondered if my perspective on how the series was presented was incorrect since other critics were praising the episodes of that era. Thankfully I don’t have to worry about that as the latest era of ‘Doctor Who’ on TV has restored my faith in the show.

      I wouldn’t say Steven Moffat’s era was all that bad since there were some good gems of that era like ‘The Eleventh Hour’ and Series 5 overall; the first half of Series 7; some of Series 7’s second half; ‘Mummy on the Orient Express’, ‘Flatline’, the Zygon two-parter, ‘Heaven Sent’ and ‘Smile’. But yeah, looking back on the Steven Moffat era, I’m likely to think more of the bad stuff than the good stuff which is a shame.

      Very pleased you enjoyed my review Simon and that you find I’ve summed up this episode brilliantly. I can just imagine swearing obscenities at TV screen back in 2015 when you saw this. That just makes me smile somehow. 😀

      Soldeed coming back into ‘Doctor Who’ and the Doctor making him appear more idiotic wouldn’t be so bad. 😀

      Tim. 🙂


  2. Timelord007

    Wish you could’ve seen my reaction & comments when leaving the cinema after The Last Jedi I filled a swear box lol.

    yeah the last 5 minutes with the Doctor were completely different in tone to what had gone beforehand I get very annoyed when Doctor Who played for laughs & becomes campy which is something Moffat did he diluted the heart & drama out the show, I’m watching series 11 which originally I had no faith in & it’s restored my faith in the show on tv, theres moments of humour but the stories are actedin a more serious tone, theres drama & consequences & people die & stay dead which adds dramatic depth.

    This Christmas special is a hollow weakly scripted mess of pantomine villainy & atrocious hammy acting I’m surprised there wasn’t audience interaction “he’s behind you”.

    Just pre-ordered Doctor Who: Scratchman audiobook Tom’s narrating it & I wanted to read this story for years now im getting to hear it read by the man & author himself.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tim Bradley Post author

      Hi Simon.

      Ironic that you were looking forward to ‘The Last Jedi’ at the cinema and now you loathe it and with ‘Doctor Who’ you were loathing Jodie Whittaker’s casting and now you love Series 11. I’m planning to do a ‘Star Wars Month’ for next year including ‘Solo’, ‘The Holiday Special’, ‘The Last Jedi’ and ‘Lords of the Sith’.

      Yeah I welcome a balance of humour and drama into ‘Doctor Who’ like with some of the Douglas Adams stories such as ‘City of Death’ and ‘Shada’. At least those stories take themselves seriously whereas very often Steven Moffat ‘Doctor Who’ comedies like this episode and ‘The Curse of Fatal Death’ can often come across as silly sometimes. I’ve done the same with balancing humour and drama in my ‘Doctor Who’ stories such as ‘The Space Hotel’.

      That would’ve been great if they had “He’s behind you!” in the ‘Doctor Who’ Christmas Special. I would’ve welcomed that. I wouldn’t mind a ‘Doctor Who’ story with the Grinch and everyone spoke entirely in rhyme. 😀

      Great you pre-ordered ‘Scratchman’ by Tom Baker. I hope I’ll get onto reading/listening to that someday. In fact, I just remembered. I pre-ordered ‘Scratchman’ via Kindle too as well as ‘Lords of the Sith’. I’m looking forward to watching the Blu-ray box sets of Season 12 and Season 19 of ‘Doctor Who’ over Christmas soon. I’m so pleased to hear about Season 18 getting a Blu-ray release. The more Nyssa, the more the merrier! 😀

      Tim. 🙂



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