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Decapitation, Cuckoldry and Rock Opera are but three of the romantic elements of this Christmas Special

The Doctor has landed on Mendorax Dellora specifically to criticise its lacklustre choirs, but the Glasgow Grinch is quickly dragged antlers-first into adventure when he’s mistaken for a surgeon by the nebbish Nardole, gibbering goon to queen-for-a-day River Song.

Not recognising whichever ordinal number husband of hers the Doctor is, she is quick to introduce him to his next patient, King Hydroflax: murderous monarch, blood-thirsty bionic bastard, and her husband, who’s on the brink of vacating his throne for good.

With the most valuable diamond in the universe lodged in his cerebellum, River would quite like Hydroflax’s crackpot cranium removed and for sale, and whatever his cuckolded qualms, Doc is in for the ride. If only his wife had room for one more headshot in her wallet.

Hilarity ensues?

NB: This is the second time we’ve had a chat about this episode. If you haven’t already, check out the Instant-Reaction-Review we recorded at the time!

(Listener minis will be added to this page shortly – yep, along with the minis for the last Classic review :-)…)

Here's what we think of N130 The Husbands of River Song

We rate Doctor Who stories on a scale from 0.0 to 5.0. For context, very few are excellent enough to merit a 5.0 in our minds, and we'd take a 0.0 Doctor Who story over a lot of other, non-Whovian stuff out there.

Leon | @ponken


Drew | @drewbackwhen


Marie | @hammashandjelly


Jim | @jimmythewho


Here's what we think of N130 The Husbands of River Song

We rate Doctor Who stories on a scale from 0.0 to 5.0. For context, very few are excellent enough to merit a 5.0 in our minds, and we'd take a 0.0 Doctor Who story over a lot of other, non-Whovian stuff out there.

Leon | @ponken


Drew | @drewbackwhen


Marie | @hammashandjelly


Jim | @jimmythewho


Here's what you think 6 Responses to “N130 The Husbands of River Song”
  1. Awesome Alfie

    One of the best Christmas episodes. I liked the snowy intro as it was rather Christmassy. It was nice to see River again but her sexism wasn’t appreciated but I’m not gunna lose sleep over it. It was nice to see the photos of all the other doctors including, say it with me, the SevEnTh DoCtOr.

    I liked the big red Robot or cyborg body but the head was distracting but oh well. Was a bit annoying that they kept going on with River not knowing he’s the doctor. Finally it had a nice ending. This episode is a 3.

    From the sonic trowel using, gun head Alien hating awesome Alfie.

  2. Kieren Evans | @kjevans2

    Hi folks

    So a post series 9/Clara palette cleanser? Yeah.

    While I don’t think this is one of the best, it’s fun enough (especially rewatching it for this mini). The stunt casting of Matt Lucas and Greg Davies mostly works for this, though I feel Lucas is given much better material in series 10. River and 12 get on so well, I actually like her here (I went off her during series 6). The scene where the Doctor bursts out laughing in the snow is a really nice one.

    And just tying off the Doctor/River arc is just nice. It underlines it properly and allows us to move on. I’m in two minds over the alternative title sequence with the snow and the bauble planets. Like, it’s a bit naff but I didn’t notice it on the original transmission so it isn’t offensive or anything.

    The plot is a bit loose but nothing really offensive. And as much as I dislike saying it, it’s a Christmas special so I’ll let it off. 3.2/5 (I’m surprised by this, I don’t think I would have gone that high back in 2015)



  3. Michael French

    This episode was simply wonderful. If we are rating it on how Christmassy it feels I think it’s about the third best not counting Regenerations. I love seeing River again, though considering we find out later in the episode that she’s recently come back from New York, not to mention the fact that her next chronological time she sees the doctor will be her last, that doesn’t leave a lot of room for her return considering this is the first time she’s seeing this face of the doctor, but then again we got Jack back for the series 12 New Year’s special so who knows.

    My favorite parts in chronological order are when the doctor gets to pretend to not know what he’s walking into when he’s going into the TARDIS, The amount of scene chewing is glorious, followed by when River talks about how much she loves the doctor and how he doesn’t but then realizes he’s right there, and then finally by finding out that a night on Darillium is 24 years long, it almost brings a tear to the eye.

    I know I haven’t talked about many of the negatives. But I really can’t think of many that actually bother me, except maybe the sonic trowel. I don’t know if I love it or if it’s the dumbest thing ever.

    With all that being said I give this episode 4.2 severed heads to put on a robot out of 5

  4. Eddie Rock | @TheEddieRock

    Hey WhoBackWhen,

    I know in my reviews I often have what Leon would refer to as a “huge heart” but in this case (Spoilers) it’s a MASSIVE heart! This is easily one of my all time favorite episodes. It is the epitome of all the best things Doctor Who has to offer. The epic action had me on the edge of my seat. The sharp, quick witted humor had me in tears (the good kind), the heart wrenching emotion had me in tears (the sad kind). Both River and The Doctor are on the absolute top of their games. Davies as Hydroflax was a blast and who doesn’t love Nardole?

    Best moments: The Doctor finally getting to show how you’re supposed to react when you see inside the Tardis and the moments of realization for River. The sonic trowel is a little silly as is The Doctor wearing antlers (though it does make me laugh).

    I doubt we’ll ever get to see River again and I have mixed feelings about it. She’s one of my favorite television characters ever, performed to perfection by Alex Kingston. But this was an absolutely fantastic send off for her. It’s the happy ending we were all denied during Forest of the Dead.

    I don’t know that I can ever justify giving an episode a perfect score, therefore I have no choice but to give this a 4.9 out of 5 sunsets that will never admire me back. Until next time, ROCK on!

    -Eddie Rock

  5. Andy Parkinson | @caffreys71

    Hi Gang,

    Here’s my review of The Husbands of River Song

    Ok so it’s a Christmas episode, but aside from the opening few minutes there’s very little Christmas in evidence, especially when the story involves the decapitation of, first King Hydroflax, quickly followed by Nardole and Ramone. What is in evidence is some fabulous performances from Capaldi and Alex Kingston. They riff off each other brilliantly with River frequently coming out on top. There are too many fun lines to list but among my favourites are: –

    I’m gonna need a bigger flowchart

    I’m an archaeologist – look I’ve got a trowel

    I’m never sure. I don’t like being sure about things. One minute you’re sure, the next everybody turns into lizards and a piano falls on you.

    The supporting cast are a bit of a mixed bag however, with Matt Lucas largely underused and reduced to a whiny character with not much to do. Greg Davies is much better at importing his Taskmaster persona into Hydroflax. He also gets to do some wonderful threats even when his head is in a bag.

    Altogether it’s a fun episode in stark contrast to the darkness, rage and sadness of the previous 2 stories and although there’s some melancholy at the end it delivers thanks to Capaldi and Kingston’s wonderful performances and some good writing. Whilst it may not be a classic story it does what Doctor Who should – entertain.

    I award this story 4.3 sonic trowels out of 5

    To all of you guys and podcastland, may you all live happily ever after

    Andy Parkinson

  6. Tracey from America | @yecartniatnouf

    Hello all on the new Who track!! Glad to be here. I’ve been hanging on as best I can but I’ve missed this greatly.

    Review time!
    Wellll, I loved this one. LOVED it. There’s romance, murder, time wibbling, and throughout it all, the running banter of River and the Doctor.

    Best bits: The Doctor acting shocked at the unique properties of the TARDIS.

    All the times the word “Doctor” comes up and River just, doesn’t, get it.

    Best lines:
    (River) Hush, Mummy and Daddy are busy.
    (River again) I’m an archeologist from the future. I. Dug. You. Up.

    This episode encapsulates something really evocative about the kind of love the Doctor and River share. River gives a monologue about how loving the Doctor is like loving a sunset, which she later claims was a play for time. But it’s difficult to escape the very real place this comes from. River has a depth of admiration for the Doctor that is so expansive, so all-encompassing, it borders on worship. She must have difficulty imagining those feelings might be returned. Yet, to her surprise, there he stands, next to her. To discover the sunset actually does love you back, well…I fully get why River needs a minute to recover.

    River and the Doctor both have other loves. (I like to think of them as time-polyamorous since they often meet when one of them is unaware of their marriage). But together they make something both unique and powerful. Although I tend to reject the notion of one true love, perhaps I can state it this way: the Doctor and River each has a part of the others’ soul. Their love tells me fundamental things about the nature of my own reality.
    Therefore I give the following rating- a love that is the walls of the universe

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