Ranking the Doctor Who Christmas Specials

7 of 12

Peter Capaldi, Alex Kingston and a weird cyborg in “The Husbands of River Song”. (Photo: BBC)

6. The Husbands of River Song

River Song is a controversial character among Doctor Who fans. People tend to either love or hate her, with little room in between. Her complicated timeline means she’s interacted with three different Doctors and it can be hard to keep the arc of her story straight. Or even to know where exactly we are in her timeline. Honestly, there probably ought to be a flow chart. Christmas special “The Husbands of River Song” finally attempts to bring her story full circle and the wonder is — it actually works. So much so, that even the most dedicated River haters probably mellowed a bit.

A crashed spaceship summons the Doctor for help and Twelve meets River. But this version of her character, from earlier in her timeline, doesn’t know him yet. A bunch of silliness ensues, involving the cyborg King Hydroflax and a caper to steal the most valuable diamond in the universe. Almost everything with Hydroflax and his cyborg body’s series of heads is ridiculous. But at least it’s in a predominantly fun way. (Even if it doesn’t have nearly enough Christmas content.)

Luckily, Alex Kingston and Peter Capaldi have fantastic chemistry together, and it’s enough to make you curious about what a few more episodes of River with Twelve might have been like. (It’s a wonder what a bit of age appropriateness can do!) The ending of “Husbands” implies that we’ve reached the natural end of her story. The Doctor gives River a sonic screwdriver and suddenly the events of “The Silence in the Library” loom large in her future. But their final scenes — which show the Doctor finally taking River to the singing towers of Darillium — are perfect and poignant. (And, amazingly, they’re emotionally affecting whether you liked River or not.)