River Song has been said to have met many incarnations of the Doctor, though we have only seen her interact with Matt Smith’s Doctor (who she probably sees as her main one, given that he was present through most of the key events of her life, though not neccessarily in chronological order) and David Tenant’s Doctor (who was there when she died). Here she is with Peter Capaldi’s Doctor.
The Doctor is on a human colony on another planet. River Song is here, but, in a reverse of their first (from the Doctor’s point of view) meeting, River doesn’t recognise him. Not only that, but she has another husband, King Hydroflax, which makes the Doctor jealous. A servant of River’s, Nardole, thinks the Doctor is a surgeon, which is why he brought him there. They want him to operate on King Hydroflax as he has a diamond in his brain – the most valuable in the universe. River reveals to the Doctor that she only married Hydroflax for the diamond, and that he is a brutal tyrant. She thinks the easiest way to get the diamond is to cut off Hydroflax’s head and scoop the diamond out of his brain.
Hydroflax overhears this and says they could have just asked. His head is detachable. He has a strong robot body, which has a will of its own, though it obeys Hydroflax. Hydroflax orders the robot to kill them, but the Doctor gets Hydroflax’s head, and then he, the head and River are teleported.
This is done by Ramone, another husband of River’s. He tells River he has located the Doctor’s TARDIS, but not the Doctor himself, neither knowing that the Doctor is with them. River says they can use the TARDIS anyway, implying that there have been many times she has “borrowed” it when the Doctor hasn’t been looking and returned it without him being any the wiser. The Doctor does get to pretend to be surprised that the TARDIS is bigger on the inside though.
The TARDIS isn’t able to take off though, as with Hydroflax’s head being with them, and his body being somewhere outside, that means he is both inside and outside the TARDIS at the same time, so travelling might create a paradox.
Hydroflax’s robot body finds Nardole and Ramone seperately, removes their heads and attaches them to himself, as a way of getting information about where River is. He storms into the TARDIS, which as Hydroflax’s head and body are both inside now, means the TARDIS can take off.
The TARDIS arrives in a luxury starship full of wealthy criminals, where River has already pre-arranged to sell the diamond. Sat at a table, the Doctor sees River reading her diary.
She is sad, not because of the memories, but because it is nearly empty and “The man who gave me this is the sort of man who knew how long a diary you were going to need”.
It turns out the aliens River was going to sell the diamond to are massive supporters, to the point of worship, of Hydroflax, so even though he is still alive, River and the Doctor are wary of handing over his head. Then Hydroflax’s body and a waiter who had promised him the head of the Doctor arrive. Hydroflax’s body decides to destory the head, much to the head’s objections, as it is now beyond repair. The head is incinerated, with the
diamond being all that is left.
The waiter says River will know where the Doctor is, but she replies that she doesn’t. River says that while she loves the Doctor, she says he doesn’t and has never loved her. She doesn’t think he falls in love with people. She compares falling in love with the Doctor to falling in love with the stars. “You don’t expect a sunset to love you back”. But after a while, she finally realises that the Doctor is right with her at this moment, saying her catchphrase “Hello, sweetie”.
Meteors crash into the starship, causing it to plummet towards the planet Darillium, where the Singing Towers are. The Doctor heard River mention it as their last meeting in ‘Silence In The Library’/’Forest of the Dead’, so he always put off his promise to take River there. The Doctor and River manage to survive the crash by hiding in the TARDIS before the starship crashes on Darillium.
The Doctor gets out and looks at the wreckage, and is approached by a man who is looking for survivors. The Doctor suggests to the man that he could build a resturant there, and gives him the diamond as money to invest into making it. The Doctor then goes forward to when the resturant is built and wants to reserve a spot overlooking the singing towers. It’s a popular spot, and the closest they’ve got is Christmas Day in four years. The Doctor agrees, and uses the TARDIS to go forward to then.
River goes to the resturant and is told she has a reservation. Hydroflax’s body, along with Nardole and Ramone taking turns to be its head, are waiters (or a waiter, really). River meets the Doctor at the spot by the Singing Towers. He gives her a gift of a sonic screwdriver. She sees him shed tears, and says she has heard legends that this is the last time she and the Doctor will ever meet. The Doctor refuses to confirm this truth to her.
The Doctor says there is no such thing as happily ever after, as everyone has to die some day, which isn’t a happy occasion. River counters with “Happy ever after doesn’t mean forever. It just means for a time”. They have one night on Darillium, but the Doctor tells her one night on Darillium lasts for 24 years, so while it’s technically their last “night”, they do at least have a fair bit of time together. The episode ends with a caption of how they lived happily ever after.
This episode was similar to ‘Voyage of the Damned’ with it being silly overexcited high sugar-rush daftness, with a villain that’s a head and a robot, plus both were partly set on space cruises.
A good line in this was this from River:
“I’ll remove your organs and rearrange them in alphabetical order”.
While ‘The Husbands of River Song’ started out as a bit daft, it ended up being quite a tearjerker, possibly being a conclusion to the Doctor’s relationship with River. It’s not the last time she sees him, but could it be the last time he sees her?
A lot of us have wondered what people we know act like or say about us when we are not around, the Doctor has some idea of it in this episode seeing how River behaves when she thinks he isn’t there.
The comment about the Doctor being unable to love humans the same way they love him was interesting. He definitely feels very emotionally close to his companions, but perhaps that he is more powerful than humans and that he regenerates and his companions come and go means he can’t quite love people with as much depth and devotion as they do him. Either way, for the Doctor and for us it was sad to hear River say she has never believed her love for the Doctor is returned.
The last moments in the episode by the Singing Towers were especially moving, and did make the Doctor and River look more like a real couple. Obviously the Doctor and River’s marriage isn’t a conventional one, but they have a chance at having one in their last night/24 years in Darillium. Another bittersweet ending too, that night is probably the happiest in River’s life, but we know and she at least suspects its her last one before she goes to the Library. I’m sure a lot of us will have revisited the YouTube videos of her sacrifice in ‘Forest of the Dead’, having now seen for ourselves what she was talking about, and the video of timeline of her early life in series six.
I’m not sure where ‘The Husbands of River Song’ would rank among the Doctor Who Christmas Specials, but it delivers an emotionally poignant yet satisfying ending.