After a summer off, while the producers of Doctor Who apparently awaited the growing of corn, the Doctor has returned. And what a return it is! Finally, we learn how Melody Pond became River Song … and it’s a heck of a story!

“Let’s see, you’ve got a time machine, I’ve got a gun. What the hell, let’s kill Hitler.”

We begin with Rory and Amy barreling through a lush corn field, with Amy shouting coordinates. With a flourish, they pull into a clearing, and before you can say, “Doctor Who?” the blue box has appeared. A petulant Doctor demands to know why they have been signaling him with crop circles …. Aah, that’s what they’ve been doing! He shows them a newspaper with pictures of the crop circles – but those aren’t their crop circles! On cue, a flashy red sports car careens across the field, scattering our intrepid friends, and from that car emerges …. Mels. Who? Well, apparently Mels is Amy (and Rory’s) best pal from childhood days, a ne’er-do-well whom Amy and Rory have attempted to keep out of trouble throughout their schooldays, with little success. Little Mels is all grown up now, and she’s got a gun. And she’s always had a hankering to meet Amy’s friend, the Doctor. So … let’s kill Hitler. At gun point, the Doctor, Amy and Rory begin their journey.

En route, Mels decides to test the Doctor’s statement that guns will not work in the Tardis. It does, and the controls are damaged enough to cause a rather untidy crash landing in Der Fuhrer’s very own office. They have, in fact, saved Hitler’s life, as he was just about to be assassinated by a shape shifting robot, internally operated by a race of very small people. Shades of ‘Fantastic Voyage’!  

These tiny people have a mission. They travel through time, finding people who have been judged guilty of murder, and, well, murder them. To do so, they have a shape shifter, able to morph into any person in its vicinity, with the help of a very anal makeup artist, resident inside its form. These little people are housed in a sort of Star Trek environment, complete with resident guards that look like jellyfish, who will ‘exterminate’ on sight anyone who has not got the appropriate and up to date information on their identity bracelets. Got that? Good.

So – the Tardis crash knocked out the robot, and Hitler is appropriately grateful, until the robot ‘revives’. Hitler pulls his own gun, firing randomly, until subdued by Rory, who then puts Hitler in his own closet. But Mels has been hit by one of the bullets, and begins to regenerate. Surprise! Mels is actually River Song aka Melody Pond, Rory and Amy’s daughter. She seems very pleased with this new body. However, our little men in the robot body are also pleased to see River Song, identifying her as …. the killer of the Doctor! Oh dear. It just gets more complicated as River and the Doctor do a semantic dance that ends with River holding a banana instead of the gun she expected to find in her hand. (Sometimes a banana is just a banana.) Amy is terribly disappointed in this incarnation of her baby girl as a psychopathic killer.

While the Doctor and River verbally joust, she leans in for a quick kiss. Ah, that would be the special lipstick she’s wearing. River swans to the window, enjoying the view of Berlin spread before her, and warns ‘Mummy and Daddy’ not to follow her. “No warning for me, then?” says the Doctor. “No need my love, the deed is done.” The Doctor has barely a minute to ponder this statement before his knees give out. That kiss, laced with the juice of the Judas Tree, has begun to poison him.  He will be dead in 32 minutes. And from this death, there can be no regeneration! “Kiss Kiss” says River, and leaps from the window. Leaving a dying Doctor behind.

River lands in an alley guarded by a group of Nazi soldiers, who ask what she’s doing. She lips them off, and they respond with a volley of bullets. “Tip for you all …. Never shoot a girl while she’s regenerating.” The bullets fly back to the shooters, and River’s off to go shopping! Amy and Rory seize a motorcycle and dash off to find their errant child, hotly pursued by RoboCop.

The Doctor, mortally wounded, crawls into the Tardis, where he desperately seeks an answer. He calls up a physical interface, but the interfaces visible are of himself, and his past companions. “Give me someone I haven’t screwed up yet!” he cries. Finally, the Tardis shows him a young Amelia Pond, who can only repeat over and over that he will die in 32 minutes. As he writhes in agony, he begs for something for the pain. Suddenly the interface says “Fish Fingers and Custard.”  (Though where he’ll get that on the Tardis is a mystery to me.)

In a fabulous, opulent restaurant, local Nazis, and their wealthy supporters, are dining. A string quartet plays soothing melodies. Suddenly, River appears in the doorway, with a machine gun blazing in each hand. “Ladies and Gentlemen,” she says, “I don’t have a thing to wear. Take off your clothes.”

Rory and Amy, searching for River, wonder how they’ll find her. Their question is answered when a bevy of diners run screaming from the restaurant, half naked. Beside them, another motorbike pulls up, this one piloted by a Robo Amy. Inside, River is trying on clothing from the patrons. As Amy and Rory realize that they’ve been miniaturized, and swept inside the Robot, Robo Amy confronts River in the restaurant. River, of course, has no idea that Robo Amy is not sweet, docile, motherly Amy, and admonishes her for following against her instructions.

Rory and Amy now have a new problem … the security ‘jellyfish’ in the miniaturized world have recognized them as intruders, and they are about to be incinerated. A mini person slaps an authorization bracelet on each of their wrists just in time, and they are welcomed aboard the Justice Vehicle 6018. Welcome aboard, matey!

As River admires her new finery in a mirror, Robo Amy accuses River of killing the Doctor. “On the orders of the movement known as The Silence and the Academy of The Question, do you accept and know this to be true?” says Robo Amy. River says it was all a bit of a jumble … but Robo Amy directs a death ray at her.

“Sorry,” says the Doctor, appearing magically in the room, leaning against the Tardis, and dressed nattily in top hat and tails, “did you say she killed the Doctor? Doctor Who?” Robo and River stare in disbelief. “You’re dying … and you stopped to change?” says River. Brandishing a ‘sonic cane’, he confronts Robo Amy and discovers that she is indeed a robot, with 423 tiny people inside. Checking first that Amy and Rory are inside and okay, he then again suffers a leg collapse. River takes the moment to try and escape, and Robo Amy again directs a death ray. The Doctor yells at Robo Amy to stop, and to not harm River.

“You’re dying.” She says. “Well, at least I’m not a time travelling, shape shifting robot, operated by miniaturized cross people, which I have got to admit, I didn’t see coming.”

As the Doctor confronts Robo Amy with the fact that he is actually alive, the commander inside of the robot uses Amy to explain why they are attempting to bring River to justice. “Throughout history, many criminals have gone unpunished in their life time. Time travel has responsibilities,” he says. Establishing that the mini people extract criminals at the end of their time lines and ‘give them hell’, the Doctor says, “I’d ask you who you think you are, but the answer is pretty obvious.”

The Doctor asks for a peek at his own records, but the commander says the records are sealed. Amy seizes control – “That man is my best friend. That woman is my daughter. You give him anything he wants.”  As family, Amy is given access, and Robo Amy acts as a conduit for the information. “Who wants me dead?” asks the Doctor. “The Silence,” is the answer.  “the Silence is not a species. It is a religious order, or movement that believes that silence will fall on the universe when the question is asked.  The first question, the oldest question in the universe. Hidden in plain sight.” “But what is the question?” “Unknown,” is the answer.

The Doctor writhes again in pain, and the mini crew doctor says, ‘he’s finished.’ Well then, says the commander, let’s do what we do. Give her hell.’ River writhes and burns in agony. The Doctor calls for Rory and Amy, and Amy takes over the microphone to speak directly to the Doctor.  “Just stop them,” he says, “she’s your daughter. Just stop them!” Amy uses the sonic screwdriver to deactivate the protective bracelets that keep the crew from being destroyed by their jellyfish guards. The only way for the crew to save themselves is to shut everything down … including Robo Amy. River is released, and falls to the ground. The mini crew signals the mother ship to beam them up, and they all vanish. Only Rory and Amy remain on the ship, as the jellyfish close in.

The Doctor, lying on the ground and close to death, tells River that they now have to save her parents. He knows she’s scared, and wants to run, but you must never run when you are scared.  The Doctor staggers to the Tardis, barely alive, but driven on by Amy’s voice, who begs him to help them. River sits in a chair, patently unmoved by either her parent’s or the Doctor’s plight. “Look at you, you still care. It’s impressive, I’ll give you that.”

“River, please.” “Again? Who is this River? She’s got to be a woman. Tell me about her, go on.” “Oh … just …. help me” begs the Doctor.

Surrounded by a swarm of the jellyfish repeating that their death is imminent, Rory and Amy take a minute to hold hands, and swear their love to each other. They hug …. And reappear inside the Tardis. River tells them she seems to be able to fly the Tardis.  “She taught me, she showed me how. The Doctor says I’m a child of the Tardis. What does he mean?” They dash back to the restaurant, where the Doctor lies on the steps.

“You can’t die now.” “Oh Pond, you’ve got a schedule for everything.” The Doctor has no idea how to save himself, and with no regeneration possible, his only concern is to speak with River. River approaches, and he says “Find River Song. Find her, and tell her something from me.” River bends nearer to hear what that something is, and the Doctor whispers in her ear.  “Well I’m sure she knows,” she says, and the Doctor dies.

River backs away, and asks Amy and Rory who River Song is. Amy asks Robo Amy to access the files for River Song, and the robot begins to morph into River Song. With that, River Song’s heart grows three sizes (oops, that’s the Grinch!) and as Amy asks what the Doctor’s message was for River Song, River begins to glow, and to walk towards the Doctor.

“Just tell me. The Doctor. Is he worth it?” says River. Amy cries, “Yes, Yes!” and River claps her hands against the Doctor’s face. “River, what are you doing?” says the Doctor. “Hello, sweetie,” answers River,with a deep kiss. And hey presto! The Doctor comes back to life. Lovely golden auras surround the two.

But there’s a downside. As Amy and Rory hover over a convalescent River Song, we find out that she has used up all of her regenerations in one go – this will be the last River Song.  “He said no one could save him, but he must have known I could.” “Rule One,’ he says, “the Doctor lies.” River is in a convalescent hospital. The nurse says she’ll be fine, she just needs to rest. “No, “ says the Doctor, “She will be amazing.” The Doctor places beside River’s bedside a small blue book, wrapped in red ribbon.

Back on the Tardis, Amy, Rory and the Doctor discuss River’s prognosis. “Sisters of the Infinite Schism, greatest hospital in the Universe,” claims the Doctor. “But she’s our daughter!”  “I know,” says the Doctor, “but we have too much foreknowledge. Dangerous thing, foreknowledge.” And we see the death information for the Doctor, 22/04/2011 at 5:02pm at Lake Silencio, Utah. So it would appear the Doctor has just found out about his upcoming ‘death.’  He wipes the screen before Amy or Rory can see. The Doctor explains that River did kill him, then used her remaining lives to bring him back. As first dates go, he’d say that was mixed signals.  Rory wants to know if the brainwashing done to River has been undone. In the future, River is imprisoned for murder. Who’s murder?  The Doctor smiles and dashes away without answering.  The Doctor assures Rory and Amy that they will see River again.

Just before we leave, we see an astronomy lab, in the Luna University, 5123, where a professor is quizzing a new student on why they wish to study archeology. Holding her blue book, River answers, “Well, to be perfectly honest, Professor, I’m looking for a good man.”

Well, that was a good one, wasn’t it? I think we have a pretty good idea what Melody/River was doing all of those years when we wondered what she was up to. But I have one small question …. Why did we see that image of River as Kovarian in the flashbacks?
I’ll be watching …. Will you?

Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, Steven Moffat, Arthur Darvill, Alex Kingston, Nina Toussaint-White (as young Mels), Caitlin Blackwood (as young Amy), Albert Welling (Hitler),