On the spectrum of Christmassy-ness, The Husbands of River Song definitely falls on the more distant side of the scale, but then again so did Voyage of the Damned, The Time of the Doctor, and The Runaway Bride for that matter. It’s certainly not a prerequisite, but as our recent post re-stating our Christmas special rankings shows a relative bias towards the more Christmassy, Christmas specials are certainly judged on a continuum mostly distinct from the Series which they are more or less separated from.
And the lack of separation, in this case only 20 days between Hell Bent and The Husbands of River Song inevitably takes some of the special-ness away from Husbands. In fact, The Husbands of River Song would seem to fit perfectly well within Series 9 as a perfectly serviceable one-off in-season story which, under the circumstances, is just a bit of unfortunate.
The Husbands of River Song rides almost entirely on the charm of the leads. Capaldi and Alex Kingston play off each other terribly well (so much so it makes her interactions with Matt Smith seem just a bit odd in retrospect) and the plot moves along well enough, even though there’s some conspicuous box-checking going on throughout. But the long shadow of a Series quite recently passed looms large here, unfair though it may be. We here at the Tour suspect that The Husbands of River Song will resonate better with some time taken for reconsideration.