As Doctor Who closes in on its fiftieth anniversary, it’s nice to know that while the future is bright, this new chapter and celebration appears it will be built on paying homage to long, rich history that has come before it. No where was that more evident than in Saturday evening’s cliffhanger that once again tries to inject the “Who?” back into Doctor Who.
The concept of delving into the exact nature of who and what the Doctor is isn’t new. The series did it in the mid-80s under script editor Andrew Cartmel and his infamous “Cartmel masterplan.” And while fans can argue until the Gallifreyeans come home about whether or not Cartmel had an end-game for the questions he and his writing staff raised, it’s nice to know that this time around there will probably be some kind of plan and end-point to the conversation about just “who is the Doctor?”
Namely because we have Steven Moffat in charge. And while I don’t necessarily believe he’s got every little nuance worked out, I still have enough faith in him to have an end point in mind and work toward it.
The sixth series finale of Doctor Who only confirmed that again for me.
Moffat understands that you can give the audience answers, assume they’re intelligent enough to follow a long-term storyline that offers pay-offs along the line and still tickle their curiosity over the course of just under 50-minutes of running time. The fact that he does all that, while telling a pretty compelling story is just further testament that fans are watching an era with as much story telling confidence as we got in the days when Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks or Phillip Hinchcliffe and Robert Holmes were running the show.
“The Wedding of River Song” felt like the type of sweeping episode that “The End of Time” was trying to be (and pretty much coming up short). Coupled with last week’s “Closing Time,” we get to see the Doctor resignedly accepting his fate that it’s his time to die and then finding a way to cheat it. After far too long of having the Doctor be some kind of intergalactic superhero, so revered that many of those he’s helped during this travels would show up to aid him in his final hour, we see the Doctor find a way to pull back into the shadows a bit. The Doctor sets up his own death to be a game to withdraw from what the legend he’s become and I can’t wait to see where Moffat will take the series next season.
Once again, Moffat almost demands that upon watching this episode that you go back to all of his pivotal episodes and watch them again for clues he put in place there. He also continues his willingness to examine the nature of time travel and its implications. The idea that time stopped because River couldn’t accept killing the Doctor, thus creating two moments in conflict was nicely done. Again, Moffat is able to bring back familiar faces and have them be not only welcome but also pivotal to the story he’s telling (again, unlike every other Russell T. Davies season ender, especially the incredibly self-indulgent “The End of Time”).
And just like we saw last year, Moffat is confident enough in his audience, his show, his cast and his writers to offer enough answers to be satisfying but also to leave some things dangling for next season. And he’s got this fan eager to see where the journey will take us next.
It’s going to be a long hiatus….