Christmas 2015 heralds the return of River Song to the lore of Doctor Who, and her return could not be more welcome. Alex Kingston has been a colossal miss, having last appeared in 2013’s ‘The Name of The Doctor’, and this is the first time fans will see her sparring with Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor. Officially and canonically River has interacted with every Doctor, though fans have only seen her with the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors (the others occurred in varying medias), so this news is very exciting indeed. We’re predicting less flirting, and more arguing (like the old married couple that they are).
To celebrate River’s return, we bring you her top five moments to date – in no particular order.
Naturally River’s introduction to Doctor Who makes the top – simply because the story is ingenious. We meet her, we fell in love with her, and then we lose her all in the space of one story. As fun a character as River can be, everything about her is heartbreaking.
In ‘Silence in the Library’, we see the Tenth Doctor meet River Song for the first time, and he is extremely wary of her. She knows more about him than anyone – and yet he knows absolutely nothing about her. This uneasiness continues into the following episode, ‘Forest of the Dead’, in which we learn that River knows the Doctor’s name. His true name. All of this builds up until River sacrifices herself for the Doctor, realising as she does so that the Doctor has known all along how she will ultimately end. Cue the sobs.
Canonically speaking, River’s death isn’t her final appearance, as five years later she returns as a ghost to bid farewell to the Eleventh Doctor as he prepares to sacrifice himself to stop the Great Intelligence. Once more, this breaks many hearts. All River wants is a proper goodbye from the Doctor – no promises of further adventures, just a simple goodbye and a final kiss. I think my eyes are watering now. No, I’m definitely not crying.
Series six was all about River. We saw her in three regenerative forms, the second of which was extremely unstable – well, more so than Alex Kingston’s form. Mels was a delight, even if her appearance was short-lived. I think it would have been cleverer to give her a less obvious name, and have her join the Doctor, Amy and Rory onboard the TARDIS for the second half of series six before revealing Mels to be River in the finale. Imagine the surprise!
It was a delight to see River (Alex) in her first moments as she spars with the Doctor. You can’t quite believe the hostility between the pair because you know that they’ll ultimately marry, but it is fun nevertheless. Her standout moment (EVER) simply has to be this line: ‘Well, I was on my way to this gay Gypsy bar mitzvah for the disabled when I suddenly thought, “Gosh, the Third Reich’s a bit rubbish. I think I’ll kill the Fuehrer.” Who’s with me?’ Pure. Comedy. Gold.
River’s true identity was a mystery for a long time. Was she the Doctor’s wife? The Doctor’s killer? Amy and Rory’s daughter? These were the three prevalent theories amongst the fandom as the hype was upped and, smartly, Steven Moffat made River all three.
The entirety of the first half of series six was building towards this moment. Fans knew it was coming. Fans barely dared believe. ‘The only water in the forest is river,’ River tells Amy, and goosebumps start to rise. In this moment it all clicks, but still the fans barely dare to believe. In hindsight it was glaringly obvious, but River’s reveal was breathtaking.
Though, admittedly, Hitler wasn’t too happy about his would-be killer’s identity.
This one may come as a surprise, but the short scene in which River and Rory bond whilst hunting the Silence (or did they? I forgot…) is a shining gem as it highlights exactly what the fandom knows: that River and the Doctor can never truly be together. Their timelines are too out of synch, and this is entirely heartbreaking for River. She knows that ultimately there will come a time when she encounters a Doctor who doesn’t know who she is, and that it’ll crush her.
Alas, she does indeed encounter such a Doctor. And ultimately it leads to her death.