By T. Mack
Since her introduction in season four of Doctor Who‘s regenerated life, River Song has managed to become an instant classic character in the show’s epic line-up. The brain-child of Steven Moffat, River first showed up with David Tennant’s 10th Doctor, went on an emotional journey through time with Matt Smith’s 11th Doctor, and is scheduled to meet up with Peter Capaldi’s 12th Doctor during this week’s Christmas special. River is vivacious and voluptuous, sexy and romantic, a badass with a vulnerable side. She’s a doctor in her own right, a professor, a historian and an archaeologist. She has been Cleopatra, she created the oldest graffiti in the universe, she breaks out of high security space prison whenever she feels like it and she jumps out of space ships into deadly outer space while wearing a ballgown and a smile. She’s just totally stinkin’ cool! Here are only 10 of the innumerable reasons to love River Song.
1. SPOILERS! The Woman Who Knew the Doctor
When River first arrives on Doctor Who, she is the woman who knows the Doctor, though he doesn’t know her. She knows his faces, his future and his true name. She is mysterious and playful and secretive. The Doctor has questions, but she will not answer them. Instead, she smiles. “Spoilers,” she says. That is when the Doctor begins to love her. And so do we.
2. The Death of River Song
River Song dies early in her Doctor Who journey. Most of the life we see her lead comes after we experience her death (it’s a time travel thing). However her death still remains one of the most memorable things about her. She dies knowing the Doctor, without him truly knowing her. She dies for what she believes to be a greater good. She dies for memories that she is not willing to lose or change, times that she refuses to have rewritten. It is River’s conviction and love that bring about her death. It is all this that makes us begin to respect and love River and desperately want to know what her past (and the Doctor’s future) hold that was worth dying for.
3. River Song’s Style
River song is a beautiful woman. She is voluptuous and vivacious with big hair and a bigger personality. Her style reflects all those aspects of her. She finds a way to look sexy and fashion-forward no matter where she goes in space and time.
4. River Song’s Secrets
River’s past is the Doctor’s future. She knows what he will do and who he will become. She knows him better than he knows himself, just as he knew her when she was young, long before she knew who she was (it’s a wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey thing). Because of River’s knowledge, she has secrets. And if there’s one thing River Song can do, it’s keep a secret. She knows there is a time and place and occasion for knowledge to be gained. She knows that people need to reach that time and place before they get the answers they desperately want. River guides the people in her life to the places they need to go, but she doesn’t help them cheat. River doesn’t give away spoilers.
5. The Birth of River Song
Depending on the context, the birth of River Song could mean any of a few different moments from the show. There is, of course, the birth of River as an infant child. Then there is the birth of River as the woman we know. But there is also the awakening of River, when she discovers who she actually is. Each of these moments is a birth. And each of them is another reason to love her.
6. River Song, the Flirt
River Song sauntered into the Doctor’s life when he was more than 900 years old. However, she managed to know and love the youngest version of him. Her spunk, sass, whit and charm pulled out of him something that had never been discovered before. She flirted and the Doctor surprised others and himself by flirting back. It was actually interesting to watch his evolution with her as he tried to figure out just who River Song was and attempted to resist the urge to love her. He failed, of course. And by the end of their time together, the Doctor and River would sling innuendos, winks, banter and the knowledge of their private secrets back and forth.
7. River Song’s Gun-Slinging
River Song is many things: a daughter, wife, archaeologist, professor, convicted murderer and a doctor. She is also a heck of a good shot. That girl knows her way around firearms and isn’t at all afraid to use them. It’s interesting that the Doctor, who (generally) never uses guns has actually commented on the fact that he finds her gunslinging somewhat sexy. He’s not the only one!
8. How River Gets Her Guy’s Attention
River finds interesting ways of getting the Doctor’s attention. Sometimes, there is graffiti on the oldest rock face in the universe. Other times, there are carvings on ancient artifacts or video surveillance of a crime. Occasionally, there is even an old-fashioned phone call. However she does it, though, her guy always gets the message. And he is always there to catch her whenever she jumps off a building or out of a spaceship.
9. Hello, Sweetie!
River loves her catchphrases. She manages to deliver them with just the right amount of sass, sweetness, mischief, and charm to make us love them, too. However, they aren’t really just about the phrases themselves. In the case of both “Hello, Sweetie” and “Spoilers,” they’re really also about the flirtatious dance between River and her Doctor. Her simple, “Hello, Sweetie” is at once a greeting of the moment, a reminder of the past, a promise for the future and a declaration of love. Similarly, “Spoilers” is a reminder to the Doctor that they are equals (after all, he isn’t the only one who gets to know things others don’t) as well as a promise that the past and future both hold wonderful things for them to share.
10. Goodbye, Sweetie.
The death of River Song is quite literally only the beginning of her story (remember, it’s a time travel thing). The end of her journey comes much later in the form of a sad, sweet, and oh-so-romantic goodbye with Matt Smith’s 11th Doctor. It seems quite appropriate that when he finds himself at the one place he never wanted to go–his own grave–River is there to meet him and say a final farewell. This is when the audience says goodbye to River as well. Her exit is heartfelt and heartbreaking. And her story is completed, doubling back to the beginning in a perfect circle.
River Song’s journey with the 10th and 11th Doctors is so perfect, it causes some conflict of feelings about her return later this week to meet up with the 12th Doctor. While I love her and am somewhat eager to see her again, her story is one that wrapped up perfectly with her final bow in Season 7. However I am reserving judgement until I see the new Christmas Special and figure out how to fit this adventure into her story line.
If you love River as much as I do or are interested in getting to know her a bit better, you should consider trying a “River Song Day” in which you marathon her episodes in chronological order from her perspective instead of the Doctor’s. It’s kind of a trippy ride, but it’s also fascinating to experience the Doctor the way she did–as he goes from being an older, wiser version of himself who knows everything about her to being a younger, less experienced Doctor who looks right through her without knowing who she is. If you’re interested, be aware that there is a lot of overlap as her timeline backtracks on itself and several episodes have differently aged versions of her character. However, this is the episode order I suggest. Instead of trying to start with her birth and very early childhood, which are mixed into other episodes, I recommend starting from the time she remembers and is intentional about her actions:
- Let’s Kill Hitler
- Closing Time (end scene)
- The Wedding of River Song (all except the end scene)
- First Night (webisode–if you can find it)
- Rain Gods (webisode–if you can find it)
- A Good Man Goes to War
- The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon
- The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang
- The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone
- The Wedding of River Song (end scene)
- The Angels Take Manhattan
- Last Night (webisode–if you can find it)
- Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead
- The Name of the Doctor
Hit the comments and let me know: do you love River Song or do you groan whenever she’s on screen? If you love her, will you try a River Song Day? If you don’t care for her, tell us why. And whatever you do, try to enjoy this week’s special. It’s Christmas… Make it Merry! Have a great and geeky holiday, friends!