A River Runs Through It

6th May 2010 • Blog Post by Christopher Laird •

Although slightly forgotten amid all the timey-wimey headspinnery of “Flesh & Stone”, the identity of River Song looks set to remain one of the compelling mysteries of the Moffat era. But are we any closer to working out just who she’s meant to be? Let’s run down the possible identities of the new-Who character deemed ‘most likely to appear in handcuffs’…

Mrs. Doctor
The number one obvious. The flirting, the banter. Let’s face it, Amy’s probably right.

An especially long-running companion
The dreariest answer possible, but even in character- rather than show-time companions never seem to last as much as a decade. What if River’s been going longer, by far? Fifty years in the TARDIS (we don’t know what species she is, so have no idea how she’d age) would make a huge difference to a relationship with The Doctor.

A con-artist
She’s a female Captain Jack, circa Moffat’s original introduction of that character. She’s certainly got form, being the kind of jailbird who employs hallucinogenic lippy to seduce her way to what she wants. She claims she’s travelled in time? Are we sure about that? Both meetings so far have taken place in the 51st century, and could well be in regular chronology for her – it’s the Doctor who’s pinging around her. Hell, that might not be her diary, just something she stole. This could all be a lie, based on one meeting early in her life.

A part of the TARDIS
Yes, in block capitals – it’s an acronym, goddammit! This is one from The Flatmate of the Site, and you can see the logic. The organic, living ship, a part splinters off and is rendered human…somehow (let’s be honest, the show pulls this kind of nonsense all the time). It would make sense of her familiarity with the ship’s controls, and her close affection for the Doctor. Is the decidedly police-boxy diary cover a clue?

A Time Lord
Ignore for a moment that the Doc can generally spot another member of his species a mile off – something which also dents pretty much every other theory below – and consider her blasé attitude to time travel, the fact that it’s unlikely any other race is handing out TARDIS driving lessons, and her ability to carve “Hello Sweetie” in the mother tongue. All this talk about having pictures of the Doctor’s incarnations could be a smokescreen – Time Lords see the person first, generally, not the outer appearance. (“Hello Doctor. Oh, I see you’ve changed your face.”) And since she apparently only met Ten once, seeing ‘the man’ rather than ‘the face’ is the only thing that explains why she doesn’t realise immediately that she’s never encountered him that early before.

A future incarnation of the Doctor
He’s already faced himself as prosecutor and presented an ephemeral version of himself in advance of his own regeneration. This is, like, totally his MO. Sure, the change of gender thing was sensibly and credibly dismissed when casting for Eleven began, but in a universe where a part-Donna human Doctor clone can go to a parallel universe to shag Rose – despite how totally wrong that is for such a previously-beautiful platonic relationship – why not?

The Doctor’s mother
Alex Kingston fanned the flames of this one in an interview, then immediately dismissed it as being a bit icky given all that flirting. Fair point – but has she actually been shown kissing him? (Something which, admittedly, didn’t prevent George Lucas pulling a blood-relative reveal.) She thinks he’s a “pretty boy”, she calls him “sweetie”. That’s all readable as more than a little Mum-ish. Still, it seems unlikely that even Moffat’s Who would go ‘the full Oedipus’.

The Doctor’s killer
Spurred by the revelation of River as the killer of “a good man, a hero”, the odds are going up on this one. There’s only one time the Doctor can reveal his true name, and until now it’s been –  rather ridiculously – assumed that the time would have to be a wedding (thereby treating the man’s true identity the same way most sitcoms treat a character’s amusingly embarrassing middle name). But what if she’s not just his killer – she’s his end-of-the-line Gallifreyan executioner? Yeah, that name thing seems a lot more fitting now, don’t it, bitch?

We have many happy weeks – maybe even years – of theorising ahead. Theorise now.

Christopher Laird was killed by Cybermen in 2005. Various Doctor Who articles have been found among his personal belongings and are being published posthumously. He has no idea whether he was killed by ‘Cybermen’ or ‘Cybusmen’ because it DOESN’T MATTER.

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7 Responses

  1. Mammalian Verisimilitude

    She has to be a time-traveller, following the “rules” in this episode (not that those didn’t contradict Father’s Day, but still…), since she didn’t forget the Angels et al.

    Besides, if she can pilot the Tardis, that’s also a clue that she’s travelled in it, no?

  2. Rosti

    Amusingly, if her jailers aren’t time travellers she’ll have trouble earning her pardon:

    “So, I dealt with that Weeping Angel threat no one else could cope with.”

    “The what? Sorry, why are you even out of your cage?”

    I mostly hope that she ‘inherits’ all the cunning plans that were planted for mortal Cap’n Jack, irrespective of her true nature. In any case, whilst I dearly want answers, I really hope we don’t know *everything* until the end/beginning of her run as bonus-companion.

  3. Interestingly, nothing River says at the end of Flesh and Stone directly refers to the Angels at all…

  4. Seb Patrick

    >Hell, that might not be her diary, just something she stole.

    That would still pose the question of “Whose diary IS it?” And given that we’d have to have THAT story at some point, it seems odd that Moff would give us such a false start.

  5. As macabre as this sounds, I desperately want that last theory — that she’s his executioner — to be true. Think of the implications!

    Although if he knew that was his/her/their fate, why did he go to pick her up? Why didn’t he just run screaming the second he saw it was her?

  6. Ooh — also — if the implication of knowing his name was that she’d killed him, why would that be her “trust me” ace in the hole? Again, wouldn’t that be her “must not reveal at any cost or he’ll run screaming” card?

  7. I don’t believe that River and Pond are the same person for a moment, but that won’t stop me speculating.

    In The Eleventh Hour, The Doctor says:

    “Amy Pond, there’s something you’d better understand about me cause it’s important, and one day your life may depend on it: I am definitely a mad man with a box!”

    …and then in Flesh and Stone we have:

    Octavian: [about The Doctor] You trust this man?
    River Song: I absolutely trust him.
    Octavian: He’s not some kind of madman, then?
    River Song: [pause] I absolutely trust him.

    Probably just Moffat not wanting to waste a good gag by only using it the once, but there you go.

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