Rethinking River Song

I’ve been rewatching Doctor Who lately and the other night Silence in the Library / Forest of the Dead came on. I have to admit that I’ve never really liked River Song. Okay, let me back up a bit. I’ve never loved River Song. I’ve never fangirled over her like so many other Whovians. To be completely honest, I think she’s great with 11. But when it came to 10… eh, I just felt like she was moving in on something that wasn’t hers. Which is quite accurate but I’ll get to that later.

Now that I know who River Song is, who she becomes, I saw a lot more in these episodes than I’d been able to see before. It made me feel a lot better about my feelings towards River and showed me a light on the Doctor that I’d missed before.

Rose vs. River: FIGHT!

Before, I had felt like River was trying to move intro Rose’s territory. Wrong! However, with how the fourth season sets up, it’s fairly easy to feel that way. When Donna decides to go with the Doctor, in Partners in Crime, but has to get the car keys to her mother, we see Rose in a crowd looking for the Doctor. At the time of Silence in the Library / Forest of the Dead, this storyline is still incomplete. So while Whovians are waiting to see the Doctor reunited with his beloved (whether or not they are on the Rose ship), another love story comes into play. Basically, we get to see what it’s like to be the Doctor and have time go all wibbly-wobbly.

However, there is a part where River becomes terse with the Doctor because he’s not her Doctor. The first time I saw this, this also counted as a strike against River. This time around it evokes an incredible sadness. Knowing that River is his wife, a great love of his, it almost sheds a light on what spouses must go through when their loved one suffers from Alzheimer’s. For River, they’ve shared a long, full life with adventures and love. However, to finally stand next to him again and know you can’t share those memories, those emotions, those experiences, is aggravating. But it’s also endearing. River isn’t upset with the Doctor because of this, she’s upset with the situation. She inevitably knew it would come to this but wasn’t happy about it and she gets snippy. However, because she knows the man he will soon become she still followed him without question.

River’s Sacrifice and Being Saved

There are a couple things I learned from River’s sacrifice. She doesn’t throw herself on the proverbial grenade for 10, she dies for 11. This didn’t make sense to me the first time around since, at that time, it hasn’t been revealed yet who she is/will become. Think about what happens between River and 11. She’s raised to hate him, trained to kill him, falls in love with him and then believes she does succeed in killing him, and even spends the rest of her life in prison for this crime. (Okay, that’s only slightly accurate. No prison can really hold that woman.) That’s some pretty negative stuff and yet not something she would change. The heartache, the suffering isn’t worth trading to have a “normal” life if the Doctor isn’t a part of it.

There are also some major changes in 10 after meeting River. First off, I think 10 has the same reaction a lot of fans did. Here’s this woman who will some day be his wife but she’s not Rose. He hasn’t let go of that heartache (yet) and isn’t able to imagine that he moves on in the future. As far as he knew, marrying again and sharing a life with someone just wasn’t possible.

The reactions he has to the deaths of Anita and River are very telling as well. (If it’s been a while since you’ve seen these episodes, Anita is the woman from the expedition that 10 said was “brave even when she was crying.”) When Anita dies, the Doctor becomes angry. He threatens the Nashta Varada. This is pretty standard for him. He’s a protector of Earth and its people, which I assume Anita was. But with River, he’s almost a confusion of emotions. He knows who she is, what she’ll become but there’s no connection to that and he can’t rightfully mourn her. He’s tempted to read her journal to find out what they will some day share and when he discovers that he can “save” her he shouts “one last run, you and me!” He has no knowledge of the adventures they’ll have together but he knows himself. He knows that if and when he gets to the place that he marries someone that it’s inevitable that together they will fight, they will adventure, and they will run.

So what does all this boil down to? I’m liking River a lot more. Maybe I’ll also end up liking 11 more this time around. Guess we shall see! Now on to Midnight. Stop repeating what I’m saying…

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One thought on “Rethinking River Song

  1. I liked River with 11…the Doctor always changes his personality a bit every time he regenerates, so it didn’t bother me to see River and 11 end up together. Especially because we got that happy ending with 10’s clone and Rose getting to stay together. 🙂 In a way, it’s good the personality changes, so the Doctor can be with someone else, but at the same time, it’s so so sad, because then you have Sarah Jane remembering the good ol days but the Doctor not remembering them quite the same way…

    SO MANY FEELS.

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