If the theme of the first half of the season had been “keep questions unanswered,” this appears to be the episode in which the answers to those questions were thrown at the viewer. This might have been more palatable if the answers had been given in the context of a fun adventure episode. The title of the episode suggests a fun adventure episode. Instead what we got was a great deal of information about River Song/Melody Pond, and none of it really enlightens the audience. Instead the answers we got draw a line under many of the previous questions, as if to say “there, that’s done, moving on.”
Chiefly this can be seen in making it explicit that Melody was the girl in the astronaut suit was Mels was River. Yes, “time can be rewritten” has been suggested as a theme for the Eleventh Doctor era, and that idea is reiterated here, but establishing that Melody has been with Amy and Rory all their lives cuts off the dramatic necessity of searching for the baby, as now she is already an established part of Rory and Amy’s timelines. Granted, a dramatic reshuffling of the timelines is still a possibility at this point, but the impression given by the characters in this episode is that they have resigned themselves to the current status quo as it plugs the existing holes in the Melody Pond timeline. That this also makes the universe of the show ever smaller by making Melody and River and Amy’s best friend all the same person is just another frustration with this episode.
Let’s go back to the title. That is a title that promises a romp. Instead we got an infodump. Yes, it was nice to see Alex Kingston chewing the scenery as a newly regenerated Melody Song, and displaying some of the behavior that earned her the reputation she apparently enjoys. But all of that only served, in the end, to provide other characters an excuse to detail River’s timeline or the backstory of the latest baddies. The closest we get to the sort of fun that the episode promises are the two brief Nazi punching segments. The only other bit of aggressive weirdness in the episode, the Tesalecta, was unfortunately given short shrift as well. An overly bureaucratic race of shrunken humanoids who travel through time punishing the greatest villains of the universe because they never received the ending they deserved? That’s a mad idea, a big crazy idea, suitable for the show. Instead they’re used for exposition and some pointless false dangers for Amy and Rory while River gets to be the main villain.
The episode’s big dramatic reveal was also frustrating, mostly because it was arbitrary. It’s suggested by River’s dialog that her desire to kill the Doctor is left-over programming from the Silence, but also that the Silence are, by this point in River’s timeline, no longer a going concern. Despite the insistence that “Mels” River had a crush on the Doctor before she met him, the transition from “psychopathic murderer” to a person willing to give up her regenerations in order to save him was far too abrupt and without a clear motivation. And that’s probably the real problem with this episode. There’s now so much the show has to do, in terms of character and plot and explanation, and so little time to do it in, that everything feels rushed and hurried. There’s no time to enjoy the highlights, because the two-series long arc has to be resolved.