It's entirely possible that I am far too easy for River Song but I loved that. Loooooved it. My inner ten-year-old is petrified every time there is some movement in my peripheral vision or a mote swimming across my eyeball. There are, as ever, caveats... but IS IT NEXT WEEK YET? IS IT? HOW ABOUT NOW?
Caveats out of the way first: (a) wish they had paid more attention to who they are killing off among the poor old redshirts. (b) Steven, you like creepy use of voices etc as much as I like surveillance and small fires -- to whit, your writing tics are showing.
Okay, that done with, may I give a sort of thrilled squeal at how fabulous I thought that was? May I? And can I give the English two-fingered salute to the first person who calls River a Mary Sue? Why thank you so much.
I liked River last season and I was glad to see her back in this. I really like the way Alex Kingston plays River as a performer almost -- she's flamboyant in a very confident, cool way, with her laser gun, teasing, fuck me shoes and utter belief that if she throws herself off any particular building, the Doctor will catch her. That performance isn't just for her antagonists, it's also for the Doctor, some of the time. She's very like him in that respect -- the Doctor sometimes performs for audiences to get them to believe him; River sometimes performs for the Doctor so that he will help her.
Then in the smaller moments, she's no less clever or determined, but it's as though she sheds the facade, and you see someone less sure of how she's going about her tasks.
I predict that next week we'll find out what River was in prison for, but not who she is, why she's so unusual or how come she knows high Gallifreyan. I think she'll probably appear to die -- cue screaming that she's died already in season four and HOW CAN THIS BE? from the fanbase, and it's perhaps the reason for that whole speech about how history can be re-written -- only to reappear in the finale.
This is tonight's first wildly wrong guess.
Second thing I loved: Amy. More specifically, how good Karen Gillan was as Amy. From that little moment where she talks the Doctor into letting her go outside for five minutes because it's her first alien planet to defeating the Angel by hitting pause at just the right moment, Amy was amazing and Karen Gillan made her feel very quirky and real.
I've read a couple of complaints that Amy's too quick to assume that River is the Doctor's wife and to assume that she knows how he would normally be talked to, but then again, she might have known him for just a few weeks but she's imagined him for years and years. She must feel she knows him very well.
I liked Amy's reaction to River, it read to me like curiosity and interest and a tinge of hero worship/admiration: there's this woman and she gets away with teasing the Doctor and sending him messages across 12,000 years, she has a gun and can call down the soldiers of God and order them about. She has met all the doctors and keeps their pictures in a book so she can keep the timeline in order. When she gives out orders, he obeys in a grudging fashion. Who wouldn't be impressed? I certainly liked it better than Donna's hostile reaction to River in season four, which only works if you rationalise it as Donna thinking "Who are you and why are you messing with my friend's head when he says he doesn't know you?."
And again we continue with the mild taking the piss out of some RTDisms -- "oh the songs they'll sing" in The Beast Below, and tonight, "I'm not that clingy" when Amy is telling the Doctor to leave her behind. And he bit her to get her to move. (♥ the script.)
Tonight's second wildly wrong guess: that stuff River injected into Amy will have some plot significance in the next episode, and will not be what River said it was.
Third thing: the Angels were not as pant-wettingly terrifying as they were in Blink -- how could they be now that they are familiar? -- but damn, if they weren't scary again.
How many children are going to be in hysterics tomorrow morning when they wake up with a bit of sleep in their eyes and think the Angels are coming to snap their necks? How many are going to follow the logic that if you see the Angel on the telly, the Angel can escape from your telly?
When they started going on about the Aplans and their maze of the dead, and them having two heads, I did notice that the statues only had one head and thought it was a bit of a design error, only it turned out to be a clue, which I did not get until the script did. I so like it when that happens, even if I do feel a bit thick. I still don't know what the hell is going on. In a good way.
Fourth thing: Drugged Mike Skinner! That is my second favourite music cameo ever, right after Ian Brown of The Stone Roses as a wizard in The Prisoner of Azkaban
Fifth thing: I was not so keen on the Soldiers of God bit. I hope that turns out to be leading somewhere other than mere daft comedy about the verger's explosives.
Sixth thing: It looked great, from the wreck of the Byzantium to the massive Maze of the Dead. Good job there, Team Cardiff.
Seventh thing: Smiff was ace. As usual. I think he's made such a brilliant start.
Eighth thing: I have no idea what's going to happen next. I love that. And next week, we get into the business of the sinister crack in time. Yay!
What with this, and how thoroughly excellent the third series of Ashes to Ashes is, I am enjoying my weekend TV very much. Which is just as well since the week that precedes it currently is rubbish.