Having had the opportunity to watch the The Husbands of River Song again, I have to agree with the wise words of the mighty Fyler, it was neither the best Christmas episode of Doctor Who nor the worst. However, and it is a big however, I think it fits perfectly with the themes of Series 9. Yes, it would have been nice if it hadn’t been, if not scraping the bottom, scraping near the bottom as far as ideas and plots goes, but the important thing about Series 9 was not what happened, but what was said. Who could forget the anti-war speech from The Zygon Invasion/Inversion episodes for instance?
I was not a fan of Capaldi when he took over, and to be honest much of Series eight has passed into the nether regions of “nope can’t remember”. For me, he didn’t have an identity as the Doctor, he was an actor filling the roll. (Ducks for cover behind the sofa whilst Whovians throw things.) And we are back to the 'however' again, in Series 9 he has found his voice, quite literally. Say what you like about Capaldi, but he does have a velvety soft voice, honed from years of doing voiceovers and classical acting. So, when the Doctor speaks, he speaks with real authority weight behind the words. This is the Doctor of the soliloquy, the monologue, and the softly spoken reply. This is the Doctor who has lived for thousands of years and seen too much.
I and others have criticised the series for trying to be too clever by half. So many of the episodes have relied on a last minute clever fix. However, if you step back and ignore the plots, ignore the electric guitar (shame there wasn’t more of it), ignore the angst and suffering of the Doctor, and listen to the words…
“Nothing’s sad till it’s over. Then everything is.”Just two short lines, but with so much depth of meaning.
I could include pretty much all of the “Truth or Consequences” speech but I’ll just stick in:
“I fought in a bigger war than you will ever know”Shame they didn’t listen.
“I did worse things than you can imagine.”
“Because it's not a game, Kate. This is a scale model of war. Every war ever fought right there in front of you. Because it's always the same. When you fire that first shot, no matter how right you feel, you have no idea who's going to die. You don't know whose children are going to scream and burn. How many hearts will be broken! How many lives shattered! How much blood will spill until everybody does what they're always going to have to do from the very beginning… sit down and talk!”
Then there is Heaven Sent which is, by its nature, a monologue of Dr-isms, but I’ll just put in:
“Clara said, “Don’t take revenge.” You should know I don’t always listen.”And then there is the Christmas episode, hidden in the humour and slapstick is the almost throwaway Riddick like quote:
“My back is playing up, It simply refuses to carry the weight of an entirely pointless stratum of society, who contribute nothing of worth to the world…”And at the end, after almost quoting Spock’s “all things must come to an end" speech, he says,
“Because there is no such thing as happy ever after, just the lie we tell ourselves because the truth is so hard.”
In Capaldi we have a Doctor of philosophy, a Doctor who tells us how it is, even when we don’t want to hear it, and all conveyed with the richness and subtle nuance of voice that can only come from a fine actor. Series 9 may not have been the best of the Doctor's tales and adventures, but the words and voice will live on for a long time to come.
Rick is the writer of comic fantasy series the Lyonnesse Tales. He hasn’t been able to give up the day-job yet, whatever it is, but lives in high hopes. When not reading, writing or watching a boxset, he tours around the UK and Europe on a motorcycle looking for interesting roads and sampling the local equivalent of beer.