River Song

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Name: River Song
Melody Pond (Birthname)
Mels Zucker (Name used by her 2nd incarnation)
Occupation: Time traveler, professor of archaeology
Relationships: The Doctor (husband), Amy Pond (mother), Rory Williams (father)
Fandom: Doctor Who
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River Song is a recurring Doctor Who character. She is a fellow time-traveler and as a result is usually out of sync with the Doctor, meeting him at different points in their personal timelines. She is played by Alex Kingston.

Canon Background

River Song was introduced to the show in 2008, in the fourth-season two-parter "Silence in the Library"/"Forest of the Dead." In this story it is revealed that she knows the Doctor in her past and his future; his first meeting with her is the last time she sees him. In later episodes, they continue to meet out of order, and must refer to journals to determine where they are in one another's timelines. In the final episode of the sixth season of Doctor Who, "The Wedding of River Song," she and the Eleventh Doctor "get married". In the "Name of the Doctor", she makes a re-appearance after her "death" in "Forest of the Dead".

River's timeline in relation to the Doctor's is extremely complex; many fans have attempted to map it out, but there is no single accepted timeline for her.

In season six it is revealed that River Song is Melody Pond, daughter of Amy Pond and Rory Williams. Because she was conceived in the Time Vortex while her parents traveled aboard the TARDIS, she has some Time Lord characteristics, including the ability to regenerate. Kidnapped at birth by Madame Kevorian and the Headless Monks, she is brainwashed from childhood to murder the Doctor, and sent to Leadworth to grow up with Amy and Rory as their friend Mels - whom Amy named her for. With them she meets the Eleventh Doctor for the first time (in her timeline) and, freshly regenerated, attempts to kill him with lipstick. However, she then changes her mind and saves him by giving him all her remaining regenerations. She studies archaeology in order to find and track him through history.

Later, she kills him again at Lake Silencio, Utah. The timeline gets corrupted when she refuses to follow through on her actions in a fixed point, resulting in all of history happening at once. The Doctor persuades her to go through with his murder, by hiding himself in a Tesselecta which she then appears to kill. It is in this Teselecta form that he first marries her, possibly rendering that marriage null and void.

The Doctor then erases himself from history, so that the Tesselecta sent to kill River for killing the Doctor forgets why it is there and she goes free.

After her death and uploading to the Library, she follows the Doctor around as a kind of ghost, appearing in the Paternoster Gang's dream and joining them on Trenzalore for the Doctor's supposed death at the hands of the Great Intelligence. At this time they confirm that they are married, though precisely when and how are not made clear.

Marital status: In her S4 appearance it is strongly implied, though never stated, that River is the Doctor's wife. In S5, 'The Time of Angels,' Amy guesses that they are married, which River declines to confirm, though she does not plainly deny it either. A wedding is performed in 'The Wedding of River Song;' however, the groom is not the Doctor but a Teselecta, a shape-changing robot taking on his appearance. In addition, he does not tell her his name, as it has been implied he would do upon their marriage. Still, Amy goes on to refer to herself consistently as the Doctor's mother-in-law, though Steven Moffat confirmed that the Doctor and River Song were indeed not married.



Fan Reaction

  • Is River a Mary Sue?
  • The secret of her birth - reactions (and how this ties into Amy's loss of agency?) Ships sank (River/Amy, Doctor/River/Amy/Rory).
  • River's loss of agency? Her entire life revolves around The Doctor. (It would also be great to be able to point to some posts from fans who adore her.)

Some fans feel that the character of River Song is not consistent across the four seasons in which she appears. When she first appears she is a professor of archaeology, a time traveler, and an adventurer. Later, she becomes a master criminal, a femme fatale, a brainwashed assassin, a helpless victim of fate. While it is possible for one person to be all of these things, some fans feel that her characterization stretches beyond the point of willing suspension of disbelief. The character as introduced in S4 is strong, vital, and believable, and her chemistry with the Tenth Doctor is explosive. In later appearances she becomes more extreme, more cartoonish, less real in spite of Alex Kingston's compelling performances. This isn't necessarily a detriment to the character, as many fans enjoy her swaggering, high-heel-wearing personality. Other fans, however, remain attached to the honest and forthright character they met in the Library, and have trouble reconciling that woman with her later incarnations.

Promethea Tenk writes:

River Song comes to the library, and I think it’s significant that this is where we meet her and where her journey ends. She’s a professor, a seeker of knowledge. She has a book of secrets. She knows things the Doctor can’t yet know. She knows him better than he does. She’s smart and she’s smug and in the beginning she’s still seeking, trying to place the Doctor in time, to put together the pieces of the puzzle. By the end she makes the intuitive leap and the puzzle comes together: she sees the shape of time, sees her place in it, and then she dies. Her death, however, is really a transcendence as she is absorbed into the library. Now all-knowing and eternal, I don’t think we can really continue to think about her in human terms--she’s become a symbol. She’s also become a storyteller--*the* storyteller. Maybe she is meant to seem maternal in that final scene, but more importantly she’s the wise woman telling the children (and telling us) the tales that give shape and meaning and redemption to our lives.[1]

Common Tropes & Themes

Example Fanworks

Example Art Gallery

Fannish Resources