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Doctor Who showrunner previews the 'shocking' return of River Song

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Ray Burmiston/Simon Ridgway/BBC America

Few Doctor Who fans are likely to be shocked by the much-trumpeted appearance of Alex Kingston’s River Song in this year’s special Christmas episode, which screens Dec. 25 at 9 p.m. ET on BBC America. But the return of Kingston’s character in the episode, titled “The Husbands of River Song,” will come as an onscreen surprise to her “husband,” Peter Capaldi’s so-called “Twelfth Doctor,” who is encountering her for the first time. The last occasion Kingston appeared on Doctor Who — in the 2013 episode “The Name of the Doctor” — the two-hearted Time Lord was still being played by Capaldi’s predecessor, Matt Smith.

“It’s River Song, back in the Doctor’s life,” says Doctor Who executive producer Steven Moffat of the show, which also stars Matt Lucas (Bridesmaids) and Greg Davies (The Inbetweeners). “He probably thought he’d never see her again. So, when she turns up, it’s quite a shock for him. It’s a very pleasant shock for him, because he loves his River.”

Moffat explains it was a real-life treat to have Kingston return to the fold of the long-running time-travel show. “We’re always thrilled to have Alex Kingston back on the set of Doctor Who,” he says. “She’s so brilliant as River, she’s so instantly charismatic, and effortlessly funny. It was just so brilliant to see her with the new version of her husband.”

You can see a trailer for “The Husbands of River Song,” below.