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The Husbands of River Song was the 2015 Doctor Who Christmas special. It was the show's eleventh Christmas special since its revival, and the second Christmas special starring Peter Capaldi as the Twelfth Doctor. It saw Alex Kingston return to reprise the role of River Song once more.

It was noteworthy for closing the book on River Song's timeline that began with her debut. It also showed the Twelfth Doctor's first encounter with River. For River, this was the final adventure with the Doctor before she met her demise in the two-part television story Silence in the Library / Forest of the Dead. This episode also revealed that it was the Twelfth Doctor who turned up on River's doorstep with a new haircut and a suit, their night on Darillium to see the Singing Towers, and the Doctor giving River his sonic screwdriver, all of which had been previously mentioned by River in the character's debut story.

In The Time of Angels, River stated that she had "all [the Doctor's] faces". This is proven true, for the Doctor's original regeneration cycle at least; this even included a picture of the War Doctor, whom the Ninth, Tenth and Eleventh Doctors all tried to keep buried in their memories of the Time War.

The Doctor takes River's assistant, Nardole, with him after this story as his companion. River's passing would also continue haunt the Doctor for some time, right into the next year's Christmas special The Return of Doctor Mysterio.

Synopsis Edit

The Twelfth Doctor is on the planet Mendorax Dellora in 5343, where he is asked by a man named Nardole to follow him, thinking he is a surgeon, on the orders of River Song. A surgeon is required to remove a diamond from the head of the tyrannical King Hydroflax from a ruthless act of thievery gone wrong, and River seeks to recover it. Surprised that River cannot identify his newest face, the Doctor struggles to break the news to her while learning how she acts on her own- and how many other lovers she has had. However, both he and River soon find that the time is drawing close for the last page in the diary of their journeys together to be written...

Plot Edit

On Christmas Day5343, on the human colony of Mendorax Dellora, Nardole finds the TARDIS parked and knocks on the door. The Doctor opens the door, asking if there is something on his head; Nardole confirms that there are antlers on the Doctor's head. The Doctor closes the door, yelling at the TARDIS for trying to cheer him up with holographic antlers. He opens the door again, with Nardole asking if he's the surgeon; stating it's close enough, the Doctor is told that he's needed. He asks if there will be caroling, to which Nardole denies.

They take off with Nardole explaining that they weren't sure where his "capsule" would land. The Doctor states it's a common thing for him, before stating he's had a bad day of "people turning into lizards" and a piano falling on him. As they pass the street, an elderly man with a bag asks a citizen if they were looking for a surgeon; obviously Nardole went the wrong way. Nardole brings the Doctor to a crashed spaceship.

A cloaked woman exits the ship, asking who the Doctor is. Noting the Doctor does not look like the surgeon's photos, the Doctor jokes that it's an on-going problem. Sensing that the woman is familiar, the Doctor asks if they've met. She states they have not, removing her hood to reveal herself as River Song. Smiling, the Doctor says her name. River is shocked he knows her name, asking how he knows her. The Doctor laughs, stating it would take a flowchart; however, River doesn't take the hint. Nardole tells the Doctor that he must refer to her as Dr. Song, or Prof. Song. Annoyed, River tells them to never speak her true name again or she will remove their organs in alphabetical order. Amused, the Doctor asks which alphabet. River scowls and head back inside.

Heading inside, the Doctor asks what the emergency is. River states that it's her husband. The Doctor is shocked, asking her to repeat that. River responds that her husband is dying. Stopping in his tracks, the Doctor is asked by Nardole if he's alright; not too pleased to hear River is married to someone other than him, the Doctor states "I'm going to need a bigger flowchart."

River leads him to her dying husband, King Hydroflax. To the Doctor's disgust, Hydroflax recalls having many romantic nights with River. Due to the guards being genetically-engineered to have anger problems and sentient laser swords, Nardole tells the Doctor to not do anything upsetting, like crossing his arms; the Doctor tells Nardole that he's got cross arms, crossing them anyway. River then tells Hydroflax that she called in the best surgeon in the universe to save his life.

The Doctor tells Nardole that he made a mistake, quietly; he tells him not to "make puddles". Seeing he has no choice by to help, the Doctor approaches to study the patient, being told bow in the king's presence. However, the Doctor states he cannot do so because of his back. He examines Hydroflax, determining that something is jammed in his head. River takes him to an adjacent room to discuss the operation he is supposed to be performing.

River shows the Doctor a holographic x-ray of Hydroflax's head, which reveals that the Halassi Androvar, the most valuable diamond in the universe, has become lodged in Hydroflax's brain during a raid on the Halassi Vaults and is slowly killing him. Having been hired by the Halassi to recover the lost treasure, River posed as Hydroflax's nurse and pretended to love him. River wants "the surgeon" to remove Hydroflax's entire head, considering it quicker and easier. "I'll kill the lights; you kill the patient." The Doctor is shocked by River's behaviour, wondering if this is what she's like without him to keep her homicidal tendencies in check. He states that he'll decide what needs to be done because he's the Doctor; however, River doesn't get this obvious hint about his identity. Instead, River states he reminds her of someone; the Doctor starts to describe his last incarnation, but River exclaims that it's her second wife that he reminds her of.
Hydroflax

Hydroflax learns of his wife's betrayal

They are interrupted by Hydroflax who has listened to their conversation. Hydroflax reveals he is nothing more than a head on a mechanical body. River notes she thought it was strange they never shared a bathroom. He demands to know who his wife really is; River tells him that she's Professor River Song, archaeologist hired to retrieve the diamond and give back to the people he's taken so much from. She's even got a sonic trowel. While River defends herself the Doctor grabs Hydroflax's head and threatens to put him in the garbage disposal, creating a stalemate and allowing Ramone, River's contact, to teleport her and the Doctor.

The two end up in the snow, laughing at the ridiculousness of being threatened by a bag, which has Hydroflax's head in it. The Doctor now thinks River was just messing with him, asking if she really does know who he is. River states that she does not, as Ramone arrives; River pulls him into a kiss. The Doctor wonders "doesn't [kissing] get boring? It's not a varied activity." River reveals Ramone is her (third) husband, whose memory she wiped of their marriage because he was getting annoying. The Doctor sarcastically asks if she's going to murder him as well.

Ramone informs River that he has not found Code Name: Damsel in Distress, despite his capsule being in the village. River asks Ramone if he's sure as he does have twelve faces. Ramone unfolds twelve pictures, which are of the First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, War, Ninth, Tenth and Eleventh Doctors; he adamantly states that none of these men are in town. River is flabbergasted as she crashed Hydroflax's ship in this location because it's where she had the best chance to meet up with the Doctor. Deciding to tease River, the Doctor states that he may have a face she doesn't know about; knowing the Doctor wasted a regeneration, River states that he has "limits."

On board Hydroflax's ship, his robot body decides to upload information about River Song from Nardole; it does so by decapitating him and placing his head in place of Hydroflax. It now has the information about where the TARDIS is located and that River is known to be assassinated with it.

The Doctor follows River and Ramone to the TARDIS, where River states she'll just borrow it. Taken aback by this, the Doctor notes that "Damsel" sounds dangerous and might be angry with her for stealing his ride. River states that he's never noticed before when she borrowed the TARDIS and put back where it was before, so why would she worry about it now. Aggravated to hear this, the Doctor states that he'll start noticing NOW. River sends Ramone off to get ready for their beach holiday. She heads inside, telling the Doctor that it's not as snug as it seems inside. Seeing it's "his turn" to play the shocked companion, the Doctor pretends to be shocked by the "bigger on the inside", giving a better monologue than others. The Doctor is then shocked to see that River turned one of the roundels into a cupboard for alcohol.

Ramone lighter

Ramone hears Nardole

Outside, Ramone hears Nardole call for help. He finds the robot holding Nardole at gunpoint, wondering why Nardole is aiming a gun at himself. Nardole states he's not, it's the robot. The robot demands that Ramone deliver a message to the former queen River Song. Ramone asks what the message is that he's supposed to deliver.

Inside the TARDIS, River preps things for taking off. The Doctor learns to his shock that a button he usually uses doesn't help pilot the TARDIS, but instead causes the waste tanks on Deck 7 to be released. Deciding to avoid Deck 7 for a while, the Doctor watches as River tries to take off. With her confused, the Doctor reveals that the "real time" envelope cannot be sealed as the TARDIS registers Hydroflax as inside and outside at the same time. Being called good for a doctor, the Doctor is annoyed River still hasn't figured it out.

A knocking is heard on the door, with Ramone yelling for River. River opens the door to find Ramone's head on the robot body. It starts attacking, with the Doctor grabbing Hydroflax's head. He threatens to send Hydroflax down he trash shoot if he doesn't "get himself under control." This works, with River piloting the TARDIS to land in the starship Harmony and Redemption.

To the Doctor's surprise, River pulls his hand instead of the other way around, leading him out of the baggage area and shutting the door behind them. River meets the Maître d', Flemming, who has met her before; apparently, his children have eaten their mother in a "lovely ceremony". River asks him to deadlock seal the baggage hold, reminding him of the trouble it caused when he didn't during the last time when she was transporting dragon eggs. Haunted by the very memory, Flemming tells her it will be done; the doors are locked just as the robot begins pounding on them to get out.

Flemming asks if the Doctor is here for dinner, which River confirms; however, it turns out Flemming misunderstood this as actually eating River's guest. River clears up the confusion, asking to be taken to a table. Flemming leads the way, with River changing her clothes thanks a strange perfume. River also reveals that she's 200 years old, thanks to augmenting her lifespan. River reveals that this ship is full of genocidal maniacs, and the suites are reserved for those who have destroyed worlds; even the staff need to have proven themselves capable of killing.

Rather than return the diamond to the Halassi, River reveals that she intends to sell the diamond; the Doctor is surprised as she was hired to bring it back. Laughing, River asks if the Doctor was born boring or he had to work hard to be so. The Doctor notes that deadlock seals can be broken; "by geniuses" River retorts, and a robot body isn't going to be one. Seeing River reading her diary, the Doctor asks if it's a sad story; she sadly notes that the one who gave it to her knew how long it should be, and there are only a few blank pages left for her to write in. River stops talking as a buyer named Scratch arrives, asking for the diamond. Scratch opens his head, pulling out an orb that connects to every bank in the universe to pay her. River hand him the bag with the head in it, telling Scratch he'll have to dig for the diamond. Annoyed, he reveals that he filled the meeting point with members of his own species to ensure honest transaction.

After receiving payment, River and the Doctor discover that Scratch and his compatriots worship King Hydroflax and are after the diamond in his honour. Despite attempts to hide the bagged head containing the diamond, they are forced to reveal the truth to create a distraction. Though it's considered heresy to try paying for the king, the Doctor laughs "He can't be much of a king if you can't put a price on his head." They toss Hydroflax away and flee, only to be stopped by Flemming, who was tricked into entering the baggage area by an under-duress Ramone. Sensing that Hydroflax's head is beyond recovery and will die imminently, Hydroflax's body destroys it, leaving only the diamond.

Flemming takes River's diary, explaining it is a guide to the best replacement head in the universe: the head of the Doctor. Scratch backs this up as the Doctor is a legendary being with multiple faces, which would be Hydroflax's crowning achievement; why they still consider the robot the king is bizarre. River is asked for the whereabouts of the Doctor, but she explains that although she loves the Doctor they are mistaken in thinking that he loves her enough to find himself with her, as she believes the Doctor to be incapable of falling in love. Seeing the steady gaze and mild smirk on the Doctor's face, River realises he's been with her all along and the Doctor confirms this by saying, "Hello, sweetie."

Being a time traveller, River is aware that the ship is about to be crippled by a meteor strike, which she uses as their escape plan, taking the diamond in the process. River chose this place based on a guide book that tells when to get a free meal at a restaurant when time traveling. The Doctor uses Scratch's universal bank transfer device to overload Hydroflax's body, before heading to the ship's bridge. While the ship is crashing, River realises that they are heading towards the planet Darillium - home to the Singing Towers mentioned by the future River as the place where she spent her final night with the Doctor. The Doctor retorts "I'll make sure to give them a wave as we pass by." Realising that they're unable to save the ship, they flee back into the TARDIS, but the impact of the crash knocks River unconscious.

After avoiding taking River to Darillium for as long as possible to avoid their last date together mentioned by her future self, the Doctor decides to give in to the inevitable. After travelling to the next morning, the Doctor suggests to a man searching for survivors of the crash that he build a restaurant where they're standing, with a view of the Singing Towers, and gives him the diamond to fund its construction. Travelling forwards in time once again, the Doctor enters the now-built restaurant and books the table on the balcony for Christmas Day in four years' time.

When River awakes, she is told that the Doctor is waiting for her at their table. Changing for the occasion, River runs into Hydroflax's body, now peacefully controlled by the heads of Ramone and Nardole; thanks to the Doctor attaching the orb to the robot, the A.I. was deleted in a bank merger. The body was pulled from the wreckage and the two of them have been working as a waiter in the restaurant since then. River shows attraction to Ramone's new body, but is told to calm down by the Doctor, who has arrived in a new suit.

River compliments him, to which the Doctor tries to return the favour. However, River notes that her husband never knows when she looks good, but it was kind of him to try. The Doctor gives her a box, stating it's Christmas; River notes that the Doctor has never given her a gift before.
River Gets Her Own Sonic Screwdriver - Doctor Who The Husbands Of River Song - BBC02:51

River Gets Her Own Sonic Screwdriver - Doctor Who The Husbands Of River Song - BBC

The Doctor gives River her own sonic screwdriver.

To her surprise, it contains the sonic screwdriver she will use in the library; "I saw the sonic trowel, and thought it was embarrassing." The Doctor demonstrates it to River, discretely scanning her into the neural relay hidden in it, so his tenth incarnation can upload her data ghost into the virtual world in the Library computer. River laughs with joy, as the Doctor hands her Christmas present back to her.

The Doctor leads River to the balcony, which has an amazing view of the Singing Towers. River listens in awe to the beautiful music. She then notices the Doctor is crying, something he blames on having wind in his eyes. The Doctor states that it is, the wind blowing through the crystal formations inside the towers cause the music, according to some legends. He asks why River is ignoring the Towers, to which she sadly says "[you're] ignoring me."

River and Twelve Happy

"And they both lived happily ever after"

River reveals that her diary is nearly full, and asks whether the stories that this will be their final night together are true, to which the Doctor only responds by saying, "Spoilers": after knowing River for so long he had finally caught up with her in his timeline, and can't bring himself to reveal that this would indeed be their final night together. River begs him to find a way around this event, but he insists there's no way to avoid the end of their times together and refuses to tell River the future. They both discuss the fleeting nature of things, River pointing out that "happily ever after" does not mean "forever", just "time".

Fearful that not much time is left before they part, River asks how long a night on Darillium is. Smiling, the Doctor informs her that one night on Darillium lasts for twenty-four years. Overjoyed, River once more tells the Doctor, "I hate you." He again replies, "No, you don't." As the two smile at each other, the words "And they both lived happily ever after" are displayed on-screen. Little by little, the message dissolves into gusts of snow, becoming more truthful as it gets reduced to "And they both lived happily", then only "happily", until it has all been swept away.

Cast Edit

Uncredited cast Edit

Crew Edit

General production staff

Script department

Camera and lighting department

Art department

Costume department

Make-up and prosthetics

Movement

Casting

General post-production staff

Special and visual effects

Sound







Not every person who worked on this adventure was credited. The absence of a credit for a position doesn't necessarily mean the job wasn't required. The information above is based solely on observations of the actual end credits of the episodes as broadcast, and does not relay information from IMDB or other sources.


References Edit

The Doctor Edit

River Song Edit

  • River states that the Doctor has planned to take her to Darillium numerous times but has always cancelled at the last minute.
  • River references her father, Rory Williams, by pointing to her nose (Rory had a prominent nose) and stating "Don't tell dad" while offering alcohol to the Doctor.
  • When searching through her bag at the beginning of the episode, River pulls out a red fez. This is a reference to the 11th Doctor, who sometimes wore a fez.
  • River Song owns the book History's Finest Exploding Restaurants with the tagline "The Best Food for Free, Skip the Coffee". She used it as a source when plotting her escape from the meteor strike that hit the Harmony and Redemption.
  • River has a unique perfume spray that lets her change her clothes as she pleases.

The TARDIS Edit

  • The roundels are once again used for storage purposes. In this instance, alcohol is inside a cupboard behind one of them.
  • The TARDIS is able to produce a pair of hologrammatic antlers for the Doctor.

Technology Edit

Sonic equipment Edit

Music Edit

Locations Edit

Story notes Edit

  • This is the first episode of Doctor Who since the 2012 Series 7 episode TV: The Angels Take Manhattan, and the first starring Peter Capaldi, to not feature Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald.
  • Gary Russell previously attempted to have the Twelfth Doctor and River meet in his novel Big Bang Generation, but as Steven Moffat set up The Husbands of River Song to be the Twelfth Doctor's first, last and only meeting with River before she sacrificed her physical body, Russell chose to replace River with Bernice Summerfield in the story. [source needed]
  • This is the second Christmas episode, after A Christmas Carol, to have no scenes take place on Earth.
  • This is the first time in a main story that Alex Kingston's name has appeared in the opening titles.
  • When River's sonic screwdriver is revealed as her present, an excerpt of the Series 4 soundtrack "Silence In The Library" is heard, foreshadowing the events to come in River's last adventure.
  • As Mels, River used the phrase "penny in the air" when someone was oblivious to something important, following up with "and the penny drops" when they finally figured it out, seen in TV: Let's Kill Hitler. Ironically, River is guilty of becoming the butt of her own joke for being oblivious to the fact that the Doctor is right in front of her until it is made indubitable.
  • This is the first time outside of mini-episodes that River has been in a story not to feature one of the Doctor's companions alongside her and the Doctor.
  • The little town set used for Mendorax Dellora appears to have been repurposed from the trap street set used in TV: Face the Raven.
  • A variation of The Doctor's Theme is played when River and Ramone discuss the "Damsel in distress".
  • No cast details accompanied the programme listing in Radio Times, which had the synopsis "When a crashed spaceship calls upon his help, the Time Lord finds himself launched on a chase across the galaxy. Greg Davies and Matt Lucas guest-star." However, the listing for the repeat on Boxing Day (26th December) included a cast list as well the same synopsis (but excluded the final sentence).
  • This is the first episode where both the Doctor and his companion are played by people over the age of 50.
  • River's pictures of the Doctors are screencapped from The Smugglers, The Two Doctors, Carnival of Monsters, The Hand of Fear, Resurrection of the Daleks, Mindwarp, Survival, Doctor Who, The Day of the Doctor, The Parting of the Ways, The Runaway Bride and The Bells of Saint John.
  • The Doctor is heard to say "when the wind stands fair and the night is perfect, when you least expect it, but always when you need it the most, there is a song". Though he is referring to the Singing Towers in this context, his statement could also apply to River herself, either symbolically or as a compliment. This is due to his inclusion of the word "song", which is her last name. Moreover, "song" is another name for "melody", which the towers produce; River's birth name is Melody Pond, and her alternate name, River Song, is the result of her birth name being translated into the language of the Gamma Forests, seen in TV: A Good Man Goes to War.
  • The opening titles to this episode have several modifications. The cogs are accompanied by snowflakes. Like in TV: Last Christmas, the clock tunnel is icy, the names for the actors and show title appear/dissipate into snowy particles, the emerging rings have snowflake decals, and the TARDIS is covered in snow (except this time, the snow does not disappear mid-way into the sequence). The planets are also replaced by Christmas baubles.

Production errors Edit

If you'd like to talk about narrative problems with this story — like plot holes and things that seem to contradict other stories — please go to this episode's discontinuity discussion.
  • When King Hydroflax's talking head is resting on the console's telepathic panel, the panel is bending inward. When his head is removed, the TARDIS console is fine again. This is most likely due to the production staff having replaced the panel with a fake one, which would accommodate Greg Davies' head with comfort.

Ratings Edit

  • BBC One Overnight: 5.77 million (29.4% overall audience share)
  • BBC America Overnight: to be added
  • Final UK ratings: 7.69 million

Myths Edit

  • A fragment of Rigsy's portrait of Clara Oswald, which disintegrated at the end of TV: Hell Bent, is visible on the TARDIS door. Inconclusive: some viewers claim it can be seen, but it could also be snow. A special TARDIS panel was created for the portrait (and later featured in the Doctor Who Experience exhibition), whereas the regular TARDIS shell would have been used for filming the episode.
  • Clara Oswald would appear. False. Originated from speculation that Jenna Coleman might have filmed a scene before completing her work on Series 9 (similar to how Matt Smith filmed his cameo for TV: Deep Breath).

Filming locations Edit

to be added

Continuity Edit

Home video releases Edit

The Husbands of River Song DVD

The Husbands of River Song DVD cover

Video game adaptation Edit

  • On the 16 February 2016, a Husbands of River Song level pack was released for the game Doctor Who: Legacy. It used ten non-dialogue levels to visually retell the episode's story.

Footnotes Edit

External links Edit

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