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New Series Episode 91:
The Wedding Of River Song

Plot

The Doctor is destined to die on the shores of Lake Silencio, Utah, at 5.02pm on the 22nd of April, 2011. However, River Song refuses to let history play out as it was intended, and inadvertently fractures time in the process. The Doctor now finds himself on an Earth where all history is happening simultaneously, and only a special few -- including Amy and River -- remember time as it was meant to be. But even as the Silence spring their final trap, the Doctor knows that in order to stop time from disintegrating, he must still die at Lake Silencio...

Production

Nicholas Courtney passed away on February 22nd, 2011. Since 1968, Courtney had played Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart in Doctor Who, most recently appearing in the 2008 story Enemy Of The Bane for The Sarah Jane Adventures. Around the time of Courtney's death, Doctor Who executive producer Steven Moffat was beginning to work on the Season Thirty-Two finale, which would wrap up the story arc of the Doctor's own apparent demise at Lake Silencio, Utah. The writer felt that an actor and a character which had meant so much to Doctor Who for so long deserved more than just a dedication running front of an episode.

Instead, Moffat incorporated two pivotal elements into his script as a tribute to Courtney. Not only would the Doctor be galvanised to face his own fate after learning that the Brigadier had died, but the wearing of special eyepatches would also factor prominently in the story. The latter was an homage to Courtney's role as the alternate-universe Brigade Leader in 1970's Inferno, which had inspired one of the actor's favourite convention stories. The stopping of time at 5.02pm, meanwhile, was prompted by what was intended to be a red herring in a list of predictions found in Doctor Who: The Brilliant Book 2011, edited by Clayton Hickman.

Filming for the finale had begun in the United States months before Steven Moffat tackled the script

Unusually, filming for the finale had begun months before Moffat tackled the script. As his plans for the season coalesced, Moffat knew of certain developments which would have to take place in the concluding episode and so wrote a few pages of script back in the autumn of 2010. These became part of director Toby Haynes' shooting schedule while filming material for the season premiere, The Impossible Astronaut / Day Of The Moon, in the United States. On November 19th, Haynes recorded the revelation of the mysterious astronaut's true identity at Lake Powell in Page, Arizona (although not all of this would ultimately suit the script in its final form).

The director for the balance of the episode, however, would be Jeremy Webb, who had recently completed work on The Curse Of The Black Spot. The finale was made as Block Seven-B, actually the ninth and final production block of the thirty-second season. Webb's first task was to shoot the material aboard the Teselecta at Upper Boat Studios. This took place on April 4th, during the recording of Let's Kill Hitler. Also completed in advance of the main shoot, on April 7th, was the sequence at the late Brigadier's nursing home -- actually Hensol Castle in Hensol.

On April 14th and 15th, filming occurred on the premises of Mir Steel in Newport. Material completed there included the bar on Calisto B, Chess Pit 47, the wrecked spaceship and Charles Dickens' interview. For the Chess Pit, Mark Gatiss was virtually unrecognisable as Gantok. Gatiss had written various Doctor Who episodes (most recently Night Terrors), and had also played the titular role in 2007's The Lazarus Experiment. For his appearance in the finale, he would be credited as “Rondo Haxton” -- a tribute to actor Rondo Hatton, who had suffered from acromegaly (leading to a series of villainous roles in the Forties, in movies such as The Pearl Of Death and The Brute Man) and whom Gatiss felt he resembled in his Gantok make-up. The inclusion of a Dalek was the culmination of a deliberate wind-up on Moffat's part. While the writer felt that the Daleks should appear regularly in Doctor Who, he had been teasing the British press that they were being “rested” for Season Thirty-Two. Returning for a cameo as Dickens was Simon Callow, who had previously played the author in 2005's The Unquiet Dead.

Steven Moffat had wound up the British press by teasing that the Daleks were being “rested” for Season Thirty-Two

It was back to Upper Boat on April 16th for scenes in the TARDIS. Also recorded on this day was the Doctor on the bridge of the Teselecta, plus the Doctor and River's dialogue at Lake Silencio (performed against a greenscreen). Cast and crew then remained in studio from the 18th to the 21st. The first two days concentrated on the chamber of skulls and the effects shots of the disembodied Dorium Maldovar, while the last two were dedicated to the Area 52 control room. In these scenes, Dr Kent was originally written as male. Also recorded on the 20th was a shot of River wearing an eyepatch for the episode's online prequel, which depicted two guards checking on the imprisoned Silents in Area 52.

On April 22nd, Cardiff City Hall offered a space appropriate for the Senate chamber. Ian McNeice returned to play Winston Churchill, as he had done the previous year in three stories, most notably Victory Of The Daleks. A busy April 25th saw a Roman centurion hold up traffic on St Mary Street in Cardiff; the Glamorgan Building in Cardiff serve as the exterior of Buckingham Senate; and Dyffryn Gardens in St Nicholas pose as Churchill's offices. In the latter, Richard Hope reprised the role of Dr Malohkeh he had originated in Season Thirty-One's Cold Blood. Meanwhile, at Upper Boat Studios, Meredith Vieira of the American Today show agreed to record a cameo appearance as a newsreader. Work on the 26th began at Cardiff's Bute Park for the pterodactyl chasing the children, before the scenes in Amy and Rory's home and back garden were filmed at a dwelling on Archer Road in Penarth.

Webb and his team then returned to Upper Boat for the remainder of the shoot. April 27th focussed on scenes on the roof of Area 52, alongside additional filming in the chamber of skulls. The next two days dealt primarily with sequences in the pyramid corridors, with those aboard the train also recorded on the 29th. The latter day also saw producer Marcus Wilson film the rest of the prequel. Finally, production on Season Thirty-Two wrapped up on April 30th with the completion of a variety of pick-up shots.

In post-production, the term “data core” was changed to “eye drive” for clarity

In post-production, one major change to the episode -- which acquired the title The Wedding Of River Song -- was the introduction of the “eye drive” terminology. Originally, these devices had been called “data cores”, but Moffat came to worry that viewers might not know that this was referring to the eyepatches. All of the relevant dialogue was duly amended. The prequel for The Wedding Of River Song was released online on September 24th, immediately after the transmission of the preceding episode, Closing Time.

The thirty-second season of Doctor Who then came to an end on October 1st. While the programme would be back at Christmas, unfortunately this date would mark a more permanent end for the companion series Doctor Who Confidential. On September 27th, it was announced that the behind-the-scenes documentary -- which had premiered in 2005 -- was being cancelled as a consequence of budget cuts at BBC3. Consequently the installment which accompanied The Wedding Of River Song, called When Time Froze, became the series finale. However, the team behind Doctor Who Confidential would continue to produce featurettes for future DVD releases and the BBC's Doctor Who website.

Sources
  • Doctor Who News.
  • Doctor Who Magazine Special Edition #31, 8th August 2012, “The Wedding Of River Song” by Andrew Pixley, Panini UK Ltd.

Original Transmission
Date 1st Oct 2011
Time 7.05pm
Duration 45'20"
Viewers (more) 7.7m (16th)
· BBC1/HD 7.7m
· iPlayer 1.3m
Appreciation 86%


Cast
The Doctor
Matt Smith
Amy Pond
Karen Gillan
Rory
Arthur Darvill
(more)
River Song
Alex Kingston
Madame Kovarian
Frances Barber
Dorium Maldovar
Simon Fisher-Becker
Emperor Winston Churchill
Ian McNeice
Dr Malokeh
Richard Hope
The Silent
Marnix van den Broeke
Voice of the Dalek
Nicholas Briggs
Charles Dickens
Simon Callow
As herself
Sian Williams
As himself
Bill Turnbull
Newsreader
Meredith Vieira
Gideon Vandaleur
Niall Greig Fulton
Barman
Sean Buckley
Gantok
Rondo Haxton
Dr Kent
Emma Campbell-Jones
Nurse
Katharine Burford
Carter
Richard Dillane
Canton Delaware
William Morgan Sheppard


Crew
Written by
Steven Moffat
Directed by
Jeremy Webb
Produced by
Marcus Wilson
(more)

Stunt Coordinator
Crispin Layfield
Stunt Performers
Nic Goodey
Andy Merchant
1st Assistant Director
Nick Brown
2nd Assistant Director
James DeHaviland
3rd Assistant Director
Heddi-Joy Taylor-Welch
Assistant Directors
Michael Curtis
Janine H Jones
Location Manager
Iwan Roberts
Unit Manager
Rhys Griffiths
Location Assistant
Geraint Williams
Production Manager
Phillipa Cole
Production Coordinator
Claire Hildred
Asst Production Coordinator
Helen Blyth
Production Secretary
Scott Handcock
Production Assistant
Charlie Coombes
Asst Production Accountant
Ceredig Parry
Script Executive
Lindsey Alford
Script Editor
Caroline Henry
Script Supervisor
Steve Walker
Camera Operator
Mark Smeaton
Focus Pullers
Steve Rees
Jonathan Vidgen
Grip
Dai Hopkins
Camera Assistants
Simon Ridge
Svetlana Miko
Matthew Lepper
Assistant Grip
Owen Charnley
Sound Maintenance Engineers
Jeff Welch
Dafydd Parry
Gaffer
Mark Hutchings
Stephen Slocombe
Best Boy
Pete Chester
Electricians
Ben Griffiths
Bob Milton
Alan Tippetts
Supervising Art Director
Stephen Nicholas
Set Decorator
Julian Luxton
Production Buyer
Ben Morris
Standby Art Director
Ciaran Thompson
Assistant Art Director
Jackson Pope
Concept Artist
Richard Shaun Williams
Props Master
Paul Aitken
Props Buyer
Adrian Anscombe
Prop Chargehand
Rhys Jones
Standby Props
Phill Shellard
Helen Atherton
Dressing Props
Tom Belton
Kristian Wilsher
Graphic Artist
Christina Tom
Draughtsman
Julia Jones
Design Assistant
Dan Martin
Petty Cash Buyer
Kate Wilson
Standby Carpenter
Will Pope
Standby Rigger
Bryan Griffiths
Store Person
Jayne Davies
Props Makers
Penny Howarth
Nicholas Robatto
Alan Hardy
Props Driver
Medard Mankos
Practical Electrician
Albert James
Construction Manager
Matthew Hywel-Davies
Construction Chargehand
Scott Fisher
Graphics
BBC Wales Graphics
Assistant Costume Designer
Samantha Keeble
Costume Supervisor
Vicky Salway
Costume Assistants
Jason Gill
Yasemin Kascioglu
Frances Morris
Make-Up Supervisor
Pam Mullins
Make-Up Artists
Vivienne Simpson
Allison Sing
VFX Producer
Beewan Athwal
Casting Associate
Alice Purser
Assistant Editors
Becky Trotman
Carmen Sanchez Roberts
VFX Editor
Cat Gregory
Post Production Supervisors
Nerys Davies
Ceres Doyle
Post Production Coordinator
Marie Brown
Dubbing Mixer
Tim Ricketts
ADR Editor
Matthew Cox
Dialogue Editor
Darran Clement
Sound Effects Editor
Paul Jefferies
Foley Editor
Jamie Talbutt
Online Editor
Jeremy Lott
Colourist
Mick Vincent
Online Conform
Mark Bright
Daleks created by
Terry Nation
Silurians created by
Malcolm Hulke
Original Theme Music
Ron Grainer
Casting Director
Andy Pryor CDG
Production Executive
Julie Scott
Production Accountant
Dyfed Thomas
Sound Recordist
Bryn Thomas
Costume Designer
Barbara Kidd
Make-Up Designer
Barbara Southcott
Music
Murray Gold
Visual Effects
The Mill
Special Effects
Real SFX
Prosthetics
Millennium FX
Editor
Anthony Combes
Production Designer
Michael Pickwoad
Director Of Photography
Tim Palmer
Associate Producer
Denise Paul
Line Producer
Diana Barton
Executive Producers
Steven Moffat
Piers Wenger
Beth Willis

Updated 2nd August 2014