Doctor Who “The Husbands of River Song” Review (2015 Christmas Special)

I don’t know that any other character in modern Doctor Who has been more divisive than River Song. While I think most would agree her first story was a stellar debut, some have felt her arc has taken up too much focus over the past few years, despite her limited number of appearances. For my part, she’s mostly served as a great addition to the series, which made “The Husbands of River Song” a Christmas special to look forward to. That it ended up serving as a conclusion for the character, and such an effective one, was a pleasant surprise.

In a lot of ways, this episode was split between the first forty minutes and the last ten. I say this because, tonally, there’s a major shift between the two parts of the story, the beginning serving as a rollicking silly adventure, the end an emotionally-charged send-off. Given how Clara’s departure ultimately played out over three entire episodes, I appreciated the split here, with the episode only offering small hints at where things were headed for the majority of the runtime.

Of course, this worked primarily because the diamond-focused, head-smuggling adventure the Doctor and River shared was so much fun. The Christmas specials have certainly skewed sillier in recent years, but I think it worked well this time out given how serious this past season has been. It was a good mix of jokes, too, with broader laughs about the ridiculous Hydroflax as well as character-driven humor coming from the Doctor getting to mess with River for once.

Those character moments were important, too, giving references to all of the interactions between River and the Doctor we’ve seen over the years. Even though River had yet to meet this incarnation of the Doctor, Capaldi and Kingston were able to sell their connection effortlessly, which helped to remind how well the characters work together before River’s final farewell at episode’s end.

As far as goodbyes go, it managed to be one of the sweetest in modern Who history. Sure, we know she’s destined for a final date with the Tenth Doctor, but the 24-year date with Twelve is where the emotion comes in, future rewatchings of “Forest of the Dead” notwithstanding. It’s a shame to see the character go, but letting her have such a wonderful goodbye gives a welcome sense of closure.

What did you think of this year’s Christmas special? Let me know in the comments!