Why River is the Best Match for the Doctor
As far as I’m concerned, River Song and the Doctor belong together. They are, without a doubt, my Doctor Who OTP (One True Pairing). Granted, I haven’t seen most of the classic Who, but of all of the people in the new Who, River Song is the best person for the Doctor. I love their chemistry; I love their potential.
The Doctor once told Rose, “You can spend the rest of your life with me, but I can’t spend the rest of my life with you. That’s the curse of the Time Lords.” It’s beyond unlikely (given that this is a TV show), but I’d like to think that just maybe, River Song will be involved in the rest of the Doctor’s life. She’s a time traveler.
River is capable of keeping the Doctor off balance — she has knowledge about things the Doctor doesn’t yet know (which is practically unheard of). She isn’t taken in by his “I’m the Doctor. I travel in time and space and save the world” thing. She can fly the TARDIS better than he can. She isn’t as desperate to please him as Rose and Martha were. Donna called the Doctor on his “I know best” attitude at times, but she was still occasionally held back by her “I’m just a temp from Chiswick” mindset. All three of them really only know about 21st century Earth, except for what they experienced with the Doctor (and, potentially, Rose’s experiences in Pete’s World).
River, though, is an enigma. She’s been to the earliest writing in time (defaced the cliff, for that matter). She’s had all kinds of adventures across time and space without the Doctor. She’s isn’t afraid to argue with the Doctor or turn him down (“Maybe when you’re older”) — she teases him and takes charge of situations. River Song is, simply put, an adult. She’s not in awe of the Doctor. She’s his equal (well, insofar as the last of the Time Lords can have a non-Gallefreyan equal).
At the same time, River Song loves the Doctor completely. She dies to protect the Doctor, to protect her times with him (“Not those times. Not one line. Don’t you dare.”), to save 4,022 people (how very like the Doctor). And she absolutely trusts the Doctor. She has total faith in him. I might be worried by her ‘I know things you don’t know, and I’m not going to tell you’ attitude except for how blatantly obvious it is that she loves the Doctor, and she’d never deliberately do anything that had the intentionally resulted in harming the Doctor. I add all of the qualifiers because she uses her own judgement — for example, she hits and knocks the Doctor unconscious in “Forest of the Dead” to keep him from doing something that would end in his death.
River is completely secure in her relationship with the Doctor. When the Doctor asks if he can trust her, she responds, laughingly, “You could. But where’s the fun in that?” There’re no exclamations of her loyalty; she’s not hurt that he questions her. She expresses, at times, a bit of unease about the early versions of the Doctor (“I’m sorry, but that’s when everything changes.”), but she remains surprisingly steadfast in her conviction that the Doctor is, or will become, her Doctor.
Whereas Rose and Martha are sometimes uncertain of their welcome in the TARDIS (and the Doctor’s life) — Rose thinking that the Tenth Doctor wouldn’t want her and being jealous of Sarah Jane Smith and Reinette, Martha deeply feeling the fact that she is not Rose — River knows that Doctor will be there for her. She jettisoned herself off a spaceship, assuming that he would be there to catch her. (The Doctor: “I’m nobody’s taxi service! I’m not going to be there to catch you every time you feel like jumping out of a spaceship.” River: “And you are so wrong.”)
The Eleventh Doctor tries to leave her behind, and River simply anticipates it and manipulates things so that the Doctor’s interest is piqued, and he stays. I can’t see Rose being so serene about the Doctor trying to abandon her (even if it were with her mum in the her proper time).
River Song is just so interesting! And I find myself fascinated by her relationship with the Doctor. I keep wanting more. After only two episodes (River was introduced in a two-parter), River became one of my first characters, second only to the Doctor (well, the Doctors). I loved Rose mostly as part of the Doctor-and-Rose, mostly because she made the Doctor so happy. I love River for River.