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As any Doctor Who fan will tell you, it's not always about where an episode takes place – but rather when the events you're about to watch take place. No time is that distinction greater than when Alex Kingston's River Song is in play, and we finally know where her next appearance will fit in her wibbley wobbley timeline: between The Angels Take Manhattan and The Name Of The Doctor.
Steven Moffat, in an apparently giving mood, addressed the fan concern of when this latest sighting of Professor Song would fit in the canon of her chronologically confusing timeline. Seeing as it's the Christmas episode and all, Moffat gave the folks at the Radio Times the following nugget of information:
It doesn’t really matter, but for those who care, it’s immediately after “The Angels Take Manhattan.” River’s just seen Matt Smith’s Doctor lose Amy and Rory, and obviously before “The Name of the Doctor” because she’s dead in that.
With only the slightest of scoops, Moffat has given fans a lot to work with when it comes to this year's Christmas special. For starters, placing the events of the Peter Capaldi's second Christmas outing in-between two really big moments for the Eleventh Doctor has helped solidify River's timeline. Not only do we know that “The Name Of The Doctor” is a posthumous appearance that occurs after “Silence In The Library / Forest Of The Damned,” but we now have more evidence that the older Doctor, with his new suit and haircut, might be the one she mentions before her death in the Moffat scripted two-parter from Season 4.
Of course, Doctor Who news usually comes in bunches, and the release of the official synopsis for this year's still untitled Christmas episode has been released. If you pay close attention, there's a really big hint that links into what we were just talking about:
It’s Christmas Day on a remote human colony and the Doctor is hiding from Christmas Carols and Comedy Antlers. But when a crashed spaceship calls upon the Doctor for help, he finds himself recruited into River Song’s squad and hurled into a fast and frantic chase across the galaxy.
Through that synopsis, two very big hints have been dropped towards what this yuletide holds in store for The Doctor and River: Professor Song won't recognize The Doctor's new face, and the “destination the Doctor has been avoiding for a very long time” may seal her timeline. That destination is the infamous Singing Towers of Darillium, the location where River and The Doctor have their final date, before he sends her back to the Tenth Doctor's timeline to save him and Donna in The Library. With Season 9 kicking his puppy thanks to the loss of Clara, the Doctor has been said to be re-considering his relationships – it sounds like Christmas might be a bit of a downer for the Time Lord victorious.
For now, we might want to be thankful for the fact that Steven Moffat has given us at least one more Doctor Who adventure with Professor River Song, which we'll get to see air on BBC America on Christmas night. However, let's first get through the next two weeks of show, which will both air in their usual slot on Saturdays at 9 PM EST.