Any fan who has regularly watched Doctor Who since its revival in 2005 will know the character of River Song, played by the wonderful Alex Kingston. Introduced towards the end of The Tenth Doctor’s era as a mysterious figure who would become close with The Doctor at some point in the future, River went on to become a recurring character during The Eleventh Doctor’s era. Due to their meeting out of order, River carries the rare advantage of being one step ahead of The Doctor during most of their early encounters. After a season and a half-long story arc following the mystery of River’s identity, she was eventually revealed to be the daughter of beloved companions Amy and Rory, as well as The Doctor’s future wife.
To celebrate Alex Kingston’s visit to Supanova in Brisbane (5-6 November) and Adelaide (12-13 November), let’s take a look at all the ways this brilliant character proved she was much more than just another companion.
River has her very own Sonic Screwdriver
As all Whovians know, The Doctor’s Sonic Screwdriver is one of his most useful, valued possessions. For most of the show’s history, only The Doctor is known to possess one. In many stories, The Doctor loans it out to companions, and some, like Clara Oswald, become quite adept at using it, but The Doctor always reclaims the Screwdriver by the story’s end. However, during River Song’s first appearance in the episode Silence In The Library, she is shown to possess a Sonic Screwdriver of her very own, one even more advanced than The Doctor’s. River’s Screwdriver exists as an early sign that she will become far more than just another companion passing through The Doctor’s life.
River Song knows The Doctor’s real name
Most characters The Doctor crosses paths with are aware that ‘The Doctor’ is not his real name. However, very few are lucky enough to know what The Doctor’s true name is. For most of Silence In The Library/Forest Of The Dead, The Tenth Doctor is wary and distrustful of River Song and how much she knows of his future… until she whispers his true name in his ear. This proves to him that he will one day grow to trust her in a way that he rarely trusts anyone, causing a huge shift in the way he treats her for the rest of the episode.
River Song can fly The TARDIS
The Doctor’s TARDIS is iconic and, due to a broken chameleon circuit keeping it trapped in the shape of a Police Box, unique to The Doctor. At times, The Doctor will allow a companion to help with elements of flying the TARDIS, and a group of companions team up to fly together in the memorable season four finale, but for the most part, The Doctor is the TARDIS’ only pilot. However, this all changes in River Song’s second major appearance. After The Doctor rescues River when she is thrown out of a ship’s airlock, she immediately begins piloting the TARDIS in pursuit of said ship as it crashes. Her skillful piloting of the TARDIS is yet another moment that proves River is more than the average companion.
River makes a Dalek beg for mercy
Over the years, many of The Doctor’s companions have come into contact with The Daleks, and often play a role in defeating them. River Song takes things a step further in The Big Bang, staying behind to fend off a Dalek while the rest of the group flees. River takes aim at the newly awakened, still recharging Dalek with her blaster. The Dalek brags that she will not take the shot, as associates of The Doctor are known to be merciful. River, equally smug, gives it her name, telling it to check its records again. Soon, The Dalek is begging for its life. Not even The Doctor has made a Dalek beg for mercy.
River defies her training to save The Doctor’s life
Following the reveal that River Song is a grown-up Melody Pond, daughter of Amy and Rory, comes the even more shocking news that baby Melody has been kidnapped by The Order of The Silence, to be raised and trained to eventually kill The Doctor. She comes close to achieving this deadly goal in Let’s Kill Hitler, after poisoning The Doctor with a kiss. However, over the course of just that one episode, Melody comes to realise that her lifetime of training is wrong, and she makes the choice to give up her remaining regenerative energy to save his life. That she is able to so easily shake this programming proves just how strong she is.
River becomes The Doctor’s Wife
The Doctor is not the type to fall in love easily, or often. There may have been some slight flirtation between the Fourth Doctor and Romana in the classic series, and the Tenth Doctor was heavily implied, albeit never explicitly confirmed, to have been in love with companion Rose Tyler.
While River Song openly admits to being in love with The Doctor, The Doctor does not admit to loving her in return… at least, not verbally. However, he is more physically affectionate towards her than any regular companions, and, most notably, he actually marries her. Some fans argue that the wedding doesn’t count, either because it occurred in an aborted timeline, or because The Doctor has been ‘accidentally’ married in the past to both Elizabeth I and Marilyn Monroe without really caring. However, in River’s case, The Doctor honours the marriage, regularly taking her on dates, and openly refers to her as his wife. This suggests that River means something to him, beyond any who had come before.
The Doctor chooses to stay with River
The Doctor is a wanderer, an explorer. Throughout the series, and especially in the revival era, it is said that The Doctor struggles to remain in a single location for an extended period of time without getting restless. Travelling is in his nature. While The Eleventh Doctor briefly considers taking a break from travelling to stay with the Ponds as they ponder a life away from the TARDIS, this doesn’t come to pass. However, there is one special person for whom The Doctor proves himself willing to stay put.
Beginning from her very first appearance, we know that River Song spends her final night with The Doctor at the Singing Towers of Darillium. In The Husbands of River Song, this night finally arrives. However, in a twist at the end of the episode, The Twelfth Doctor reveals that a night on Darillium is the equivalent of twenty-four Earth years. While those years occur off-screen, it is heavily implied that The Doctor remained on Darillium with River the entire time. The Doctor loved River Song enough that he suppressed the urge to roam for over two decades. This is something he was never able to do before River, and has never done again since. This proves, definitively, that River Song was not, and never will be, just another companion.
Alex Kingston will appear at Supanova in Brisbane (5-6 November) and Adelaide (12-13 November)