DVD Extras for this story on the 14-episode box sets include:
I actually liked this story more than a lot of the one-off adventures of the second half of the season. It successfully aims for a tone that we haven't seen too much of recently, and brings some better resolution to many of the ideas we have seen.
His Head is Sold Separately...The story's tone becomes both a strength and a weakness here. On one hand, the humour factor is quite a bit stronger here than in most of the previous season, and while matching up with the adventurous nature of the episode and its fun factor, these elements work quite successfully. But there's also a habitual sick horror factor as well, which is off-colour enough to ensure that some of the intended humour doesn't work, but appears callous instead. For my tastes, the horror elements could probably be dropped altogether and it would produce a much better end product.
"I haven't laughed in a long time..."Of course, Alex Kingston and her character of River Song make a really strong impact on this story, dictating much of its style and energy and pace. It feels much like the whirlwind of a typical Matt Smith era adventure. Peter Capaldi does a really enjoyable job of showing his character slowly winding back up to this speed, matching Kingston in the fun factor and humour and adventure, and then taking the lead to slow her down a bit into something less manic and more meaningful.
This adventure really is a bit of a showcase for both Kingston and Capaldi, who I think both performed quite excellently. And in fact, I somehow felt that, while David Tennant's Doctor might have been an okay match for River Song, Peter Capaldi's Doctor seems so much more right for River than Matt Smith's Doctor. This may indeed represent the first time I can actually take the Doctor and River together seriously as a couple. The misgivings I had about whether or not their so-called "wedding" actually had anything to do with love kind of melt away when I see these two tackle the parts. The chemistry here seems to be at its best.
And finally we end up at the Singing Towers of Delirium, or whatever... which is great as a worthy off-planet setting for this show. Overall, this one story has fulfilled a lot of the promise of the series that so many other episodes ignore - showing us something of the universe. Healthy extra points right there.
Though at many points the adventure seems to barrel along at too great a pace for its own good, there are a number of standout scenes that redeem it and give it better weight. Firstly, there is a running gag throughout most of the first 2/3 of River not recognizing the Doctor no matter how many obvious clues pile up, and it does stretch credibility considering that the TARDIS is at her disposal and she did plan to pull this caper off in his vicinity. However, the big scene that provides payoff for this gag is so nicely done and so strong that I wind up wanting to give the contrivances all the rope they need. That scene is nearly worth the price of admission all on its own.
The actual clever solution to defeat the story's big bad robotic leftover from "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship" (story no. 232) is actually kind of forgettable and probably wouldn't stand-up to much scrutiny... but in the case of this story, it doesn't feel like that part of things is really all that important. The Doctor's investment in this adventure isn't really to do with all the wild things River is getting up to. His investment is simply in having a proper conversation with River, and catching up, and I think the audience tends to be there with him in that regard.
The second big really worthwhile sequence is the final ten minutes, where River and the Doctor simply have a great, honest, heart-to-heart talk in front of a really exquisite, slightly Christmassy, largely romantic backdrop. The drama here is good, the actors nail it, and it provides Season 35 with the kind of send off that it really needed.
Is it all that different from what was intended for Clara? Both cases feature a pre-planned doom weighing heavily on both women's characters as they make some attempts to say reluctant farewells to the Doctor. I'd say River's case is significantly different because of the convoluted sequencing of their encounters, which has prevented her and the Doctor from just traveling together in the TARDIS from the start. The fact that there is a proper fun adventure here better balances the final sentiments, which never really descend to the previous maudlin levels. Plus, tonight's visit with River may last a good 24 years. Nice that it slotted in between regular companions.
Regular readers will have noted that I had feared that Peter Capaldi hadn't put enough of his natural charm into his first year of stories to keep the franchise running at full steam. Well, this adventure nicely underscores the fact that Capaldi has conquered this factor, and been suitably more charming all throughout Season 35. Here's one more adventure making that shift abundantly clear. Excellent.
Season 35 Rankings:
This story is available on DVD and Blu-ray:
Bonus features include:
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