This will contain some spoilers.
Also Blogger lost the first version of this post, so I'm writing bits of it hurriedly from memory.
The Doctor Who team are meanies. Big, rotten meanies!
In country where our series are short but complete they decided to borrow the US-style gap in the middle of the series, rather than the increased episode count.* Why cut a much loved series in half, unless it's to make an episode into an event? Are they just trying to top themselves?**
The episode was fast-paced and exciting with a lot going on -maybe too much at some points. It was obviously trying to be all epic, and while it mostly succeeded it was at time trying too hard.
Many new characters are introduced very quickly -I had to watch Confidential to find out what a lot of them were called. The character introduction montage was a lot like the Tenth Doctor's goodbye flit about -here are some characters, here's a quick sum-up of their situation- except that it covers a variety of new and interesting times and places. Will we ever see these settings again?
The sympathetic soldier-girl Lorna Bucket (whose role was made very obvious from the beginning) was good, and provided foreshadowing as presumably the Doctor will meet her as a child later on. The Victorian Silurian sleuth/adventurer (Madame Vastra) with her maid/lover was a lot of fun. The Sontaran nurse (Commander Strax) was mostly amusing. The blue, Buddha-looking black marketeer (Dorium) was funny and well done. Although one can't help but wonder why, if the Doctor has all these interesting contacts and acquaintances from all over space and time, does he only ever travel with humans, and mostly ones from the early 21st Century? Not that I have a problem with such people -obviously- but it seems like the TARDIS could have a bit more variety in it's crew.
Who (not just RTD) seems to like big set pieces with cameos by previously seen characters/creatures, and while it can be fun it can also feel a bit crowded as well.
Also, shouldn't those pirates be stuck on their hospital ship?
There were good bits:
I loved badass Roman Rory, mostly because you know that he's still lovely Rory underneath. It was really nice to see him with his daughter.
The appearance of the Doctor on the Demon's Run asteroid base, it was obvious but still fun. Those headless monks are clearly the best guys to disguise yourself as.
The baby turning to goo was horrible, and it was good that it was announced because springing that on people would have been nasty.
River explaining that all this happened because of the Doctor's reputation. I thought that his big shouty speech at Stonehenge would come back to haunt him, turns out it wasn't only a reason to put him in a box.
Not so good was River's rise high and fall hard line, which built up expectations that weren't fulfilled. Yes it all seemed good and triumphant until the trap was sprung, but we were clearly told it was a trap. Too much was going on and there didn't seem to be the emotional peaks and troughs needed to fulfill the expectations
So there were answers, but were they good ones?
The situation with Amy's pregnancy wasn't very surprising. It occurs to me that it was great way of having a pregnant character without any pesky stuff like morning sickness or a great big bump getting in the way of all that running.
I'd already suspected that Eyepatch lady (Kovarian) was in some way monitoring the pregnancy and obviously we all kinda knew that the girl in the spacesuit was probably Amy's baby. Though why the Doctor let an obviously very important little girl just slip away between episodes is beyond me. Especially as he'd earlier promised he'd help her, and there's been a big focus on the Doctor as a helper of children (Amelia Pond, the sad child on the Britain spaceship, I'm sure there are others).
The identity of River Song was rumoured on the internet. I don't know if that was a leak or just people figuring it out. I'll admit I didn't think that that necessarily was the case, guess I was wrong. I don't think it felt necessary for River's identity to be further tied to the Doctor and his companions, she was already a good intriguing character. This development does lead to interesting questions, but now River can't be revealed to have breezed into the Doctor's life from place/time unknown (as Captain Jack did).
Amused as everyone was by the title of the next episode, I can't help but feel that it doesn't seem like a continuation. I enjoy a fun, adventurous, timey-wimey episode as much as the next person, but it sounds like they'll make us wait all the longer for answers and I'm afraid of plot threads flapping loose and being unresolved. It happened in Life on Mars and I was fairly disappointed by that at the time.
There are still questions left unanswered:
Why did the TARDIS explode?
Who kills the Doctor? River seemed as surprised by that as everyone else.
What happens to spacesuit girl (River/Melody) after the Doctor, Amy and Rory surprisingly forget her to go gadding about with pirates? And actually how did she end up with the Silence in the first place?
Overall I enjoyed the episode, but it was slightly overshadowed by the knowledge that this will be the last Doctor Who fix in months. I think that the episode probably loses some appeal if you think too much about it so -for once- I'm trying to restrain myself from doing that.
* The whole mid-season break thing is actually one of the top 3 reasons I would not move to the US. I just cannot understand the point of it, other than being a good way for a programme to fail.
** When I say 'top' here I mean outdo, not kill. It occurred to me that that could be misread.