May 31, 2023
Celebrate 15 years of River with some of her best moments, onscreen and beyond...
Can you believe it’s been 15 years since River Song made her debut in 2008’s Silence in the Library? From her first appearance, it was evident that River would play a crucial role in the Doctor’s future. She even knew his real name! Yet the River Song we first saw fighting the Vashta Nerada at the Lux Foundation Library was an enigma. Over the next 15 years, she would cross paths with the Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors (along with many others offscreen). We saw her battle the Silence, forge an alternate reality and earn her doctorate to name but a few!
To commemorate, we’ve chosen some our favourite moments from River’s onscreen and offscreen adventures.
Her Final Sacrifice
Forest of the Dead
“You've got all of that to come. You and me, time and space. You watch us run.”
Starting our list with River's death might seem a bit grim. However, this event frames her future adventures with the Doctor. It’s the first time we hear the Doctor insist that “time can be rewritten,” in a desperate plea to change her fate. River however, had spent years travelling with the Doctor at that point and it became clear to her that the Doctor had always known her future: that his first meeting with her would be the last time she would see him. In a way, her sacrifice wasn’t just about saving the people trapped in the Library, it was also to ensure that her time with the Doctor would be preserved.
Escaping from the Byzantium
The Time of Angels
“You might want to find something to hang on to.”
River’s introduction to the Eleventh Doctor is suitably dramatic! While investigating the starship Byzantium for its deadly cargo (a Weeping Angel, no less!), Doctor Song found herself needing an escape route. She ingeniously inscribed the ship's home box (sort of like a black box, but for spaceships!) with Old High Gallifreyan, counting on the Doctor to find it 12,000 years later and extract the security footage within, where she had recorded her precise coordinates. Equipped with that information, the Doctor managed to travel back in time, arriving just as she blasted the ship’s airlock and began floating into space. He was then able to catch her in the TARDIS. How’s that for style?
Revealing her True Identity
A Good Man Goes to War
“The only water in the forest is the River...”
It’s strange to think that there was a time when we were oblivious to River’s true identity as Melody Pond, Amy and Rory's daughter. Amy Pond had navigated the Crash of the Byzantium, the opening of the Pandorica, the Impossible Astronaut and her evasion of the Silence, unaware her daughter was with her all along. (Wait until you find out your best friend from childhood is ALSO your daughter, Amy!)
Kidnapped by Madame Kovarian, Amy and baby Melody were imprisoned on Demon’s Run where Kovarian planned to turn the tiny Child of Time into a killer psychopath who would kill the Doctor and ensure that “Silence would Fall”. The Doctor couldn’t save Melody, but River assured the Ponds that everything would be fine because, well, look how she turned out!
Marrying the Doctor
The Wedding of River Song
“I can't let you die without knowing you are loved by so many, and so much, and by no one more than me.”
Picture this: it’s 22nd April 2011 at 5:02pm, and it always has been and it always will be. Everything everywhere is happening all at once and it’s all because River was supposed to murder the Doctor, but she refused (Who fans will know that altering a fixed event is usually a terrible idea, nine times out of ten). River loved the Doctor so much, she was prepared to let the entire universe suffer rather than lose him.
Of course, the Doctor was not about to let that happen and River was well aware of it. Desperate to prevent his impending demise, she sent a distress call out into the universe. Perhaps she genuinely thought they could find help, though it’s more likely she just couldn’t bear the thought of him dying without knowing how he was loved by so many. Unfortunately, he wasn’t a fan of this idea and couldn't let the universe end for himself. And then he married her, so that their kiss could transport them back to Lake Silencio where she could carry out her deadly deed. However, the Doctor that was shot was actually a Teselecta copy, piloted by the miniaturised man himself. He’s terrible, isn’t he?
The Ruby’s Curse
“Come through the doors of the Angel Detective Agency Inc., Floor 33, RCA Building, Manhattan, and maybe you’re expecting just another private eye…”
Most of us know that River wrote a book, but were you aware there's a sequel? The Ruby’s Curse, written by Alex Kingston and Jacqueline Rayner, kicks off with Melody Malone in search of a purloined ruby, the Eye of Horus, which could potentially reveal the location of Cleopatra’s tomb. Meanwhile, the actual River Song is also looking for an object called the Eye of Horus, except this one is a weapon, lethal to anyone who touches it. This adventure takes us from Egypt and Rome in 30 BCE, to New York in 1939, all the way to Stormcage in the 52nd century. River discovers that truth can indeed be stranger than fiction when she has to team up with her own fictional alter ego. The story is a must-read for River fans looking to catch a glimpse into her intriguing mind.
The Diary of River Song
“Fixed points? Not with me around!”
We’re all in agreement that the earliest incarnation of the Doctor that River met was the Tenth in Silence of the Library, right? Wrong! In The Husbands of River Song, we discover that River has pictures of the Time Lord’s first 13 incarnations, and in The Diary of River Song, a series of audio dramas by Big Finish Productions, she meets them!
But how does that square with her comment to the Tenth Doctor that he was the youngest she’d ever seen him? Well, it’s entirely plausible that she meant he was the youngest she’d seen him as the Tenth Doctor, as there’s no reason she might not have had more adventures with that particular incarnation offscreen, in his final years. And, knowing that it was too early in his timeline to meet his previous incarnations, River skilfully employed a variety of mind-wipes and disguises to avoid timeline disruption. (or sometimes, even being trapped in parallel realities!)
That aside, if you're curious about what River and the earlier incarnations got up to, or wish to see River exploring the universe solo, The Diary of River Song is for you.
Meeting the Twelfth Doctor
The Husbands of River Song
“When you love the Doctor, it's like loving the stars themselves. You don't expect a sunset to admire you back.”
The Doctor always meets River Song in the wrong order, and rarely finds himself in a situation where he knows more than she does. Yet this is exactly what happens when she doesn't recognise his twelfth incarnation on Mendorax Dellora. Understandably irritated after discovering that River had been secretly borrowing the TARDIS and returning it without his knowledge, the Doctor decided to have some fun, fully leaning into his assumed identity as a regular doctor - notably a surgeon who had come to save King Hydroflax.
It wasn’t until the insectoid Flemming revealed that he was using River as bait to attract the Doctor that she realised who was standing right beside her. This was the Doctor that she would later describe in Forest of the Dead as the one who “turned up on her doorstep with a new haircut and a suit.” And as she had previously said all those years before, he took her to see the Singing Towers of Darillium, where they spent a very happy 24 years...