I knew it was a good omen as I sauntered down London’s Berwick Street on Monday and who should be two steps ahead of me but Paul McGann! He was chatting to a chum in a Liverpudlian lilt and wasn’t as tall as I expected, but there passed the short-lived but lovely eighth Doctor, heading to an engagement of his own.
I was due at a press preview of The Wedding of River Song, the highly anticipated finale to series six of Doctor Who, and really had no idea what to expect from it apart from a few long-awaited answers. And my first thoughts…?
Does Steven Moffat gorge on gorgonzola, gulp down a bottle of tequila (and its worm) and have an opium pipe on standby before sitting down at his computer keyboard? You might be forgiven for suspecting as much, as his most delirious drama yet gets under way.
We have Minis suspended by air balloons, pterodactyls attacking school kids, a train emerging Magritte-like from London’s Gherkin building and Charles Dickens (Simon Callow) discussing A Christmas Carol with Bill Turnbull and Sian Williams on BBC Breakfast. Add to that Winston Churchill hailed as Caesar in present-day London and the Doctor shambling about like a bearded apostle. And all this in the first few minutes.
“Something’s happened to time,” spots Winnie. It’s as if “all of history is happening at once”. The time is two minutes past five and the date is 22 April; so it has been for as long as anyone can remember. Can the Lord of Time sort things out, or did he cause the problem in the first place?
The Wedding of River Song necessarily leads us back to the events of The Impossible Astronaut and the Doctor’s demise at Lake Silencio in Utah, but this shocking moment acts as a pivot, not a dead end, for Moffat’s finale and a barrage of bewildering and bizarre imagery that spools forth.
Is it satisfying after so much anticipation? Well, that will be a matter for you. Loose ends are tied up and, more importantly, the series and its heroes are repositioned in line with Moffat’s vision. Sorry to be so cryptic.
A few things to look out for: pyramids, fixed points in time, “hell in high heels”, “the man who dies again and again”, a phone call with tear-jerking news, an unusual use for a bow tie, a plethora of eye-patches (surely inspired by the late Nicholas Courtney’s favourite anecdote) and a lapse in grammar when River talks of “theories about you and I”.
There’s also an answer of sorts to “the oldest question in the universe”. It’s something the Doctor has been running from his whole life. Come on, you all know what it is… I guessed weeks ago.