Doctor Who - The Husbands of River Song (TV) [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - United Kingdom - 2 entertain Video
Review written by and copyright: Rick Curzon (25th January 2016).
The Show

The eleventh Doctor Who Christmas special to be broadcast since the programme came back after a 16 year hiatus, and one of the better examples of the form; breezy, bubbly entertainment perfectly designed to help settle the Christmas lunch. At first I found the Christmas specials to be rather annoying as the first two broadcast were subpar to my mind (The Christmas Invasion, The Runaway Bride). However, I've mellowed towards the seasonal fare and the more comedic approach since those days and The Husbands of River Song is very much in the comedy vein.

Greg Davies and Matt Lucas are both on fine form playing to their strengths; neither is really stretching themselves but they are very funny. Confession: I find both funny just by looking at them; they don't have to do much to get a chuckle from me. Davies plays a big booming villain - King Hydrofax - whose head has been grafted onto a robotic body but has developed a fault so River Song (posing as his wife) sends flunky Nadole (Lucas) to go and find "The Surgeon" but he stumbles across the Doctor instead. The Doctor has landed on a human colony in the far future to try and enjoy Christmas quietly in his own way when he's disturbed by Lucas, who looks like one of his George Doors characters in a red jacket and hat.

Writer (and show runner) Steven Moffat seems to be channelling Douglas Adams in this one with very little sense of threat being in evidence and the accent on humour that is by turns both satirical and zany. We get a nice coda to the story of River Song that paves the way for her first appearance and hopefully this will be her last in the show. I've never really been a big fan of the character as she seems to be more a male wish fulfillment figure; all voluptuousness, catch phrases and one liners albeit well played by Kingston. That said, Professor Song was fun in this story.

If they wanted they could actually have a spin off from this dealing exclusively with the relationship between the good Doctor and River; anyone fancy a sitcom set in the 24 year period between the end of this story and The Silence in the Library? That would probably go down better with the public than the proposed new spin off Class set in the Cole Hill School featured in the very first Doctor Who story.

Runtime: 56'08"

Video

1080/50i in keeping with the original UK TV broadcast; 1.78:1. DW under Steven Moffat has a beautiful visual design that seems to revel in artificiality which is in keeping with his fairy tale approach to the show. Robust colours, plenty of gel lighting and good, deep black levels; none of your grim, desaturated look here. If there is a mild criticism it is that the image was a tad soft, but that could have been a design choice. I found that to bring out details in sharp relief I had to increase the sharpness level on my TV from the desired 0 setting to the halfway mark but this is not recommended as it's adding guff to the image to artificially enhance things; best to switch off all the "enhancements" on modern TVs in order to see the image as intended by the production team (BD-25, MPEG-4 AVC).

Audio

English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. A robust, lossless soundtrack that gives the surround system a real workout with plenty of LFE boost through the subwoofer; particularly good was the deep, throaty robotic voice of Hydrofax sans head. Good separations with no bleeding from the front to rear unless part of the sound design. No distortion when cranked up to very high level. I suspect that if I played this side-by-side with a mega-budget blockbuster this might be less robust, but for a TV production it's a very high quality soundtrack and is a great soundtrack by any standard.

A serviceable English Dolby Digital audio description track is also included. Optional English subtitles for the hard of hearing are also available for those who need them; as is usual for these BBC discs.

Extras

All extras are 1080/50i (1.78:1) with English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo and optional English HOH subtitles.

Doctor Who: Adventures of River Song (9'36")
Narrated by actress Nina Toussant-White (who played River Song's alter ego in Let's Kill Hitler); a short puff piece recounting the history of the character ever since her first appearance in series 8 (2008). Features interviews with Alex Kingston & Steven Moffat.

Doctor Who Extra: The Husbands of River Song (19'23")
Narrated by Matt Lucas (Nadole in the episode). Puff piece behind the scenes segment backed by pop songs details the making of this latest Christmas episode. Features interviews with Steven Moffat, Peter Capaldi, Alex Kingston, Matt Lucas, Greg Davies and Ray Holman (costume designer).

Trailer (32")
Presented in a cropped 2.40:1 ratio, this was probably used to promote the show in the run up to broadcast on BBC1.

Overall

An excellent presentation of a very recently made production with great image and sound, but alas the extras are par for the course and from the looks of things will not be exclusive to this release. When series 9 comes out on DVD and BD in March 2016 everything here is going to be on that set. Disappointing, because in the past the specials have exclusive material not found on the boxed sets. However, this is one of the better Doctor Who Christmas specials with a fine and witty script, decent performances and first class production values.

The Show: B Video: A Audio: A Extras: D+ Overall: B

 


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