The third series of The Diary of River Song closes out in pretty much the same way it opened, with a really clever and enjoyable first half, then a not-as-memorable second half, though at least the ending wraps things up nicely. So let’s take a closer look and fill in this gap in series’ coverage on this blog, shall we?
Synopsis (of Episode 3 “My Dinner with Andrew”):
Welcome, Mesdames et Messieurs, to The Bumptious Gastropod.
The most exclusive, most discreet dining experience outside the universe. For the restaurant exists beyond spacetime itself, and the usual rules of causality do not apply. Anything could happen.
It is here that the Doctor has a date. With River Song. And with death.
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
It’s like a multi-Doctor story, only there’s just the one Doctor! … So not at all like one, actually…
Episode 3 of the boxset, “My Dinner with Andrew”, is another great example of time travel twists and trickery done right. We hear River arrive at a restaurant called “The Bumptious Gastropod” and talk to the Maitre D’ (Jonathan Coote), who has a table waiting for her and The Fifth Doctor arrives for the meal, which isn’t the guest River was expecting. She knocks him out with a stun gun and locks him up as Madame Kovarian (still played by Frances Barber) arrives for her meal with Brooke, who she assumes has done her job and killed The Doctor. This is where things get complicated and rather hard to explain, as River starts using her Vortex Manipulator to go back in time over and over, talking to the Maitre D’ each time and asking him to pass a message to her previous self and each time it then making something you’ve heard previously make sense. It’s very fun, and all framed with a small bit of narration as if each act of the story is an item on menu.
A key plot point is that old cliché of River happening to have bumped into an exact look-a-like of “her fifth husband” during her travels, a man named Andrew Edwardson. In order to thwart Kavarian’s plan of killing an earlier incarnation of The Doctor in this timeless restaurant to bypass his death at Lake Silencio being a fixed point in time (I forgot that whole thing…) she tried to have Andrew play the role of The Doctor. While there was an interesting twist in Andrew being left so far back in time that he ended up creating the restaurant in the first place and that’s why the Maitre D’ was so happy to help them, the plan doesn’t go well and Brooke succeeds in killing The Doctor with “regeneration inhibitors”. River shoots Brooke in retaliation only for her to regenerate into an incarnation played by Nina Toussaint-White, the same actress who played Mels, an earlier incarnation of River, which leads to the reveal that she isn’t just another assassin but another Kovarian experiment. River is captured as Brooke and her master celebrate their victory…
Hooray, it’s Madame Kovarian, everyone’s favourite villain! … What’s that? Oh yeah, right. Still, good for a laugh…
This leads to Episode 4, “The Furies”, where River is captured in Kovarian’s space station that houses not only Brooke but three more “proto Time Lord clones” dubbed “H-One”, “H-Two” (both played by Francesca Zoutewelle) and “O” (Pippa Bennett-Warner). The station soon comes under attack from a force only known as “The Deterrent” who exist to plug the continuity error that is The Doctor being dead, and to make matters worse Brooke has picked up a liking to killing after her successful assassination and Kovarian herself is starting to be haunted by a ghostly version of the Fifth Doctor, something River says is like “The Furies” Kovarian used to tell her about when she was a child. As everyone tries to stop the invading force Brooke kills H-One in anger and tries to blame it on River, but soon the original assassin manages to get them on her side. Brooke, now sided with River, uses her Vortex Manipulator to go back to the restaurant and switch The Doctor with Andrew Edwardson, meaning the person her previous self killed was a just a regular human and The Doctor was still alive unconscious in the back of the place.
Her plans unravelled, Kovarian is thrown in a prison cell with electrified walls that Brooke, H-Two and O take turns electrocuting their old master with. River tells Kovarian that her mother Amy had previously killed her in a now aborted timeline and while she’d like to do the same, this is just as good and leaves as Kovarian screams for pity. You know I don’t know if I ever really thought about the fact that the canon Kovarian’s fate was still left unresolved, but this is a nice little way to wrap it up for now.
Not a lot. “My Dinner with Andrew” was brilliant and while “The Furies” was a bit less mostly due to “The Deterrent” being rather dull and undeveloped, but it was still fun enough. I’m not a big fan of River happening to have bumped into the Fifth Doctor’s exact duplicate, but at least it was used well here, even if Peter Davison’s country accent left a lot to be desired…
Another look at the overall cover. Can YOU spot the TARDIS? … It’s not actually hard but I’ve only just seen it, somehow.
The whole Kovarian arc was spread across the Eleventh Doctor’s second series (otherwise known as Series 6) with key points being “A Good Man Goes to War”, “Let’s Kill Hitler”, the last few minutes of “Closing Time” and “The Wedding of River Song”. There was also references to other Eleventh Doctor TV stories like “The Pandorica Opens / The Big Bang”, “The Impossible Astronaut / Day of the Moon” and even the last Eleventh Doctor story “The Time of The Doctor”. Basically this set tries its best to unmuddle the whole Kovarian / Silence / Papal Mainframe story that was… well, muddled.
Also plenty to call backs to the previous half of the set, obviously…
So much like the first half of Series 3, this half starts with a really clever and fun time-twisting story and then has a less amazing second half, though “The Furies” does do a good job of tying up the boxset. A good set overall!
Episode 3 “My Dinner With Andrew”:
Episode 4 “The Furies”: