Doctor Who: who is River Song?

News Simon Brew 16 May 2011 - 14:55
River Song

The mystery of River Song is slowly drawing to some kind of conclusion. So then, perhaps we should get around to the question: just who is River Song?


One or two spoilers for The Doctor's Wife are included here if you've not seen the episode yet...

We’re surely not too far away now from finding out the significance of River Song in Doctor Who, significantly where she first into the Doctor's life. It's been a long time coming, too, for this is a relationship that has been teased since she first made her appearance in the Steven Moffat-penned Silence In The Library/Forest Of The Dead two parter, back in series four of the revived Who.

But viewers of this last weekend’s story, The Doctor’s Wife, might just have caught a line that may yet have ramifications: “the only water in the forest is the river”. This, instantly, fuelled some speculation about the other female character in Doctor Who at the moment with an aquatic name, Amy Pond. And this, then, got further theories running.

So, and it’s about time we did it, let’s go through the assorted theories for just who River Song is…

SHE’S THE DOCTOR’S WIFE!

When the episode title of Neil Gaiman’s story, The Doctor’s Wife, was revealed, this played very much into the hands that River and the Doctor were once married. And that’s the narrative that’s been teased pretty much from the off. The constant calling of the Doctor “sweetie”. The kiss. The lingering looks. The spoilers. The hurt in River’s eyes as she appreciates she and the Doctor are moving further and further apart. It does all point to a husband and wife being pulled apart.

Yet Steven Moffat rarely does this the obvious way, and as he himself has pointed out, stories rely on surprises. And it would be little surprise were River and the Doctor actually married at some point. Still, you can hardly write this one off.

SHE’S AMY POND!

Now this is where it gets interesting. Get past the hair colour, and there are other reasons why these two may yet be the same person. That would, in part, go some way to explaining the aforementioned line from The Doctor’s Wife (accepting that Amy Pond wasn’t a character in Doctor Who when Forest Of The Dead was broadcast), but more importantly, it would explain Amy’s continual longing for the Doctor.

Granted, this has been downplayed a little this series, as her and Rory seem to be getting on better, but remember the wedding in The Big Bang? Where, on her wedding day, she couldn’t have been happier to see the Doctor? That would fit River’s behaviour, wouldn’t it?

Or how about…

SHE’S A TIME LORD!

Right, this one’s got some legs. Go back to her first episodes. She knows the Doctor’s Gallifreyan name. This can, in theory, only be pronounced if you are from Gallifrey. She can write in the language too. She thus has a very, very strong Gallifrey link, and it’s not a massive leap then to conclude that she’s from the Doctor’s home planet. And that she may well, in theory, a Time Lord. Heck, she can even control the Tardis.

This fits into lots of things, too. Take the mysterious regenerating girl in Day Of The Moon. Could she be River? Or about to regenerate into her? This could tie into the Amy Pond theory too, if River and Amy turn out to be the same person.

Is your head hurting yet? Because if so, how about…

SHE’S AMY’S DAUGHTER!

Well, it’s possible, isn’t it?

We’ve met River Song at the end of her life, effectively. Every time we meet her, she and the Doctor are drifting further and further away, as time continues to play its tricks. So it’s entirely feasible, and could potentially be quite brilliant, that Amy’s daughter turns out to be River Song. Perhaps even in a parallel universe, which would explain the on/off pregnancy test that we keep seeing throughout series six?

Were we to lean towards one theory on this list, we suspect it might just be this one. There certainly seems to be a strong link between Amy and River, so is this it?

But! How about…

SHE'S THE DOCTOR’S KILLER!

We know that River Song is in prison, and we know that she is in prison for doing something very bad indeed. That something very bad indeed might just be shooting the Doctor, perhaps while dressed up as an astronaut (perhaps a parallel universe version of her)? That would make sense, and explain why River was quite so protective of spoilers…

SHE’S THE RANI!

I was never much of a fan of The Rani, the other major renegade Time Lord villain in Doctor Who, but inevitably, when people start mapping out potential paths for the character of River, The Rani is one conclusion. She’s no friend of the Doctor, certainly, and time would thus presumably get to a point where the Doctor and River Song were mortal foes. Yet while Steven Moffat is happy to dig into Who history for monsters – the Silurians, the Autons – this one strikes us a very long shot.

Still, if River Song does turn out to be The Rani, then Alex Kingston might just get a job as a recurring villain. We could live with that.

SHE ISN’T A SHE, SHE’S A WHAT!

We’ve just had an episode of Doctor Who where the Tardis appeared in the form of a woman. Surely that changes a few rules along the way? Who says River Song actually has to be a person, then? Why can’t she be a thing, or an entity? Could she be House? Could she be the Tardis? Long shots, maybe, but a more lateral way at looking at River shouldn’t be discounted…

SHE’S A MIXTURE OF ALL OF THE ABOVE THEORIES!

It’s entirely feasible, and this is the beauty of speculation pieces, that River Song is a cocktail made up of many of the above ingredients. Because lots of the theories we’ve talked about here (and this is by no means a definitive round-up) do overlap with each other. So a mixture of two of three elements (Amy’s daughter, who happens to kill the Doctor, perhaps in some Rory-inspired rage attack? Ahem…) might just be right.

SHE’S SOMETHING ELSE ALTOGETHER!

Ah, the cop out entry in the list. Could she be the Library from Silence In The Library? Could she be Steven Moffat’s cleaner? What about that she’s the Doctor, and thus in love with herself? Why has she written everything down in the blue book? Is she the blue book? Is it her book? Is it a book at all? Have we gone barking mad?

OVER TO YOU…

We’re not sure we’ve helped, but that single line from The Doctor’s Wife we talked about at the start has certainly put the proverbial cat amongst the even more proverbial pigeons. Leave your theories, then, in the comments below, and feel free to come back to this post and be smug should your theory prove to be correct…

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