Upshot, Amy and River manage to make subtle friends even as the story's mostly only interested in them as two connections to the Doctor. He and Doctor Song get right to it, working out the crash of the Byzantium in near-code, but when River steps out of the TARDIS he shuts the door behind her and gets ready to leave again. Amy goes all Dalek: "Explain! Who is that? And how did she do that museum thing?"
He answers, honestly, that it's both a long story and one he mostly doesn't know. The thought shakes him. Good, she should shake him. She's one of the most interesting things about this iteration of the franchise, but that's downplayed by the fact that she's so blasÃ© about everything. Amy asks if he's running away -- cute Scottish "running awee" -- and he quite honestly says yes: "Because she's my future." Amy asks if we can run from that, and he's cute. "I can run away from anything I like! Time is not the boss of me."
But per their discussion twelve thousand years hence, Amy's been A) Promised a planet, which this is, and B) Loves the idea of River, because from what she can tell River is to the Doctor as the Doctor is to Amy: Something that moves around him in space and time, terrifying and disappointing and enlivening and thrilling, all at once. So she demands they stay. He agrees to exactly five minutes: "I'm telling you now, that woman is not dragging me into anything!" Which -- even if we weren't aware that most stories are 44 minutes long and this one will be 84:13 in total -- would still be laughable, because of course she is. She pulls him forward.
"What caused it to crash? Not me," says River, something she's already considered as a matter of course, and he checks out the damage: As the Homebox has it, the Starliner's warp engines "had a phase-shift." Everybody's dead. Man, I wanted to know what a Starliner was and what the Tuxedo guy was doing and why that meadow was so beautiful, if it was just a recreation area on a cargo ship or what. Guess I forgot what show I was watching.
...Well, maybe not. This is a pretty good episode, and even if they are bad, bad episodes can exist in service to something greater -- it's just that they don't need to be bad to do so. The thing is that Moffat has so many obvious tics it's hard to differentiate them from actual motifs: What he's doing on purpose, and what he's doing because he can't help himself. And I've no illusions that RTD was the same, it's just that he and I happen to share the same obsessions and language. But to go off that idea, maybe it's best to just focus on what actually turns me on about these stories, which is how the Long Game happened in the first place.