OTP: River and the Doctor

Why River is the Best Match for the Doctor

The Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) and River Song (Alex Kingston)

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).

An adventure without the Doctor

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).

From Keep Calm and Time Travel

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 saying goodbye to the Doctor for the very last time

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 Doctor and the TARDIS catch River (sort of)

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.

14 responses to “OTP: River and the Doctor

  1. River Song is the worst character ever to be introduced to Doctor Who. She is a complete Mary Sue character. She’s not even a character. She’s just a female “Doctor” that’s better than the Doctor in every way. She can fly the TARDIS better than the Doctor? What kind of bull shit is that? I don’t know why Stephen Moffat felt like he had to try to emasculate the Doctor on his own show, but that’s what he’s done with this River Song “character.”

    River Song sucks and I hope she’s never in another episode of Doctor Who.

    (I don’t mean to troll. I just have very strong feelings about River Song.)

    • Clearly you have strong feelings about River Song. Wow. “She’s not even a character”? That’s harsh.

      Obviously, I disagree with you. I think she’s fascinating. I don’t think she’s just a “female Doctor” (I don’t get why you think that, other than the fact that she’s familiar with time travel and seems pretty comfortable with dangerous situations: she’s not a Time Lord; she’s far more likely to use a gun than the Doctor; she’s nowhere near as talkative as the Doctor; she like archaeology; they don’t have the same history). She’s not “better than the Doctor in every way.”

      And as to it being bullshit that she flies the TARDIS better than the Doctor, well, I disagree once more. It might make sense, actually. She was clearly taught how to fly the TARDIS by someone who knows how to do so (who may or may not be a future version of the Doctor who presumably would’ve refined his skills). Was the Doctor ever actually taught how to fly the TARDIS? From what I’ve heard, he stole the TARDIS; to me, this implies that he may have had to learn as he went. Additionally, I believe he made a comment about throwing away the TARDIS’s user manual, so he clearly didn’t learn much from that. Since River Song didn’t have to teach herself, it would stand to reason that she would know how to do things such as use the stabilizers.

      Regarding your feeling that River Song emasculates the Doctor, um, what? Excuse me? I’m sorry you feel that having a strong female/woman-identified character on the show makes the Doctor less manly. Frankly, I think the notion that River Song emasculates the Doctor is bullshit.

      And lastly, despite your protestations to the contrary, it does rather appear as though you are trolling. You didn’t engage with anything I actually mentioned in my post; you just used this as a platform on which to rant about your “River Song sucks” feelings.

      . . . . And I just checked facebook and realized that I do, in fact, know you, which means that you aren’t trolling (I thought you were just some random person who decided to post on a random blog about how much he hated River Song). In light of new information: Matt, really, seriously? You think River emasculates the Doctor? You sound like such a sexist jerk! I’m a little embarrassed. And disappointed in you. Enough with the overly rigid, binary gender roles. River Song doesn’t make the Doctor a lesser man. Frankly, I think it does him good to be a little caught off balance at times.

      You’re welcome to your opinions about River Song (frankly, even if she is a Mary Sue, I don’t really care; I love her anyway); I’m not going to judge people about which TV characters they like and dislike (although perhaps for their reasoning). But bringing gender into it goes too far, I think (and thus I’m calling you out on it). I’d be interested in hearing more about your thoughts, though — as long as they’re more substantial than “River Song is the worst character ever” and “River Song sucks” (at least give me reasons).

    • Out of curiosity, who’s your favorite character of the new Doctor Who?

  2. OK, let me go into more detail about why I loathe River Song. In essence, she seems to me what a character would be like if the character was created by a committee of people. It’s like Moffat and company got together and said to themselves, “Why do people like? Well, they like the Doctor, so we’ll make someone similar to the Doctor (travels in time, flies TARDIS, fights crime, etc.). They also like James Bond, so let’s make this person similar to James Bond (secret agent, uses guns, flirty). Oh, and they also like hot chicks, so let’s make this new character a hot chick. And what do people like about the Doctor? He knows the future and he flies the TARDIS. So let’s make this character know *more* about the future than the Doctor and fly the TARDIS *better* than the Doctor. Then the fans must like this new character! It’s a can’t miss!”

    Let me give you two examples born out of comics that are related to this topic. In Batman, writers are always trying to create new kick-ass villains. And inevitably, they all use the same method: have the new villain beat up the Joker. “Wow, this new guy Blackwing can beat up the Joker? What a total bad-ass!” This has happened several times and *it never works* because simply beating up the Joker is not enough to replace the Joker’s rich history and unique traits. It’s not enough for a fan to like a new villain just because he can beat up the Joker. Here’s another example. Imagine you’re watching the “Superman” cartoon. The show introduces a character in the fifth season of Superman who is pretty much exactly like Superman in every way except he can fly faster, is stronger, smarter, and is immune to kryptonite. Wow, how can you not like this character? He’s like Superman except better. The problem, of course, is that we’ve watched FIVE SEASONS of Superman. We like Superman and we’re used to him. We don’t want to watch a carbon copy. Characters are compelling because they have their own unique talents and traits. Making a character based almost entirely on another character but better is incredibly boring. Making minor changes to that character isn’t enough to disguise the tactics used to create that character.

    And it’s not just that River Song is like the Doctor but “better”. She’s written with this arrogance that just makes my stomach hurt every time I look at her stupid smirk. It’s not enough that she knows the Doctor’s future, she lords it over him. Ditto with when she calls in the Doctor to get her out of a jam, she doesn’t even thank him when he bails her out.

    Let me be clear, this is not about gender. It makes no difference whether Song is a man or a woman. A character like the one I’ve just laid out would be equally annoying whether they are a man or a woman, and equally emasculating. If you’re better at being the Doctor on the Doctor’s own show, you’re emasculating him. It doesn’t matter if you’re a woman, man, alien or robot. Song doesn’t make the Doctor a “lesser man”, she just treats him like crap. Contrast Song to Donna. Donna challenges the Doctor as well, but she does it respectfully at least.

    Song is less of a character and more a collection of ideas cynically calculated to make us as fans like her. I don’t like being manipulated like that and so I vent that rage at her, but it’s not really her fault. It’s the writers’ fault.

    So to sum up: Song is a Doctor-lite character who is better than the Doctor in multiple ways and is written to be an arrogant jerk. So I don’t like her.

    To be honest, beyond Song I like all the rest of the characters on New Who. I don’t really have a favorite though.

    • Right, so, I’m actually a bit pressed for time right now, so this is going to be short. Let me just say that I think your reasoning about the Mary Sue-ishness of River Song makes far more sense, now that you’ve explained a bit more. More on that later.

      See, the thing is, the word “emasculate” has gendered connotations. So, what you’re saying can’t not be about gender. If you just mean “treats him like crap,” you should probably find a different word. I would disagree with you then, but I wouldn’t be so “I must argue this point!” Merriam-Webster says that “emasculate” has three definitions, basically: to weaken, to castrate, and . . . something to do with flowers and cross-pollination.

      Unless you specify that you mean it in a “to weaken” sense, I think assuming you mean it regarding castration (figuratively)/depriving of manliness is reasonable (although perhaps not correct). It seemed to me that you were saying being shown up by River made the Doctor seem like less of a man. Perhaps you just meant that being shown up by River made him seem less competent, in a somehow nongendered way.

      Okay, more thoughts later.

      • Yeah, when I used “emasculate” I meant the second definition of it on Dictionary.com, “to deprive of strength or vigor; weaken.” Perhaps it was a poor choice of words ;). I meant that having River always show him up deflates the Doctor and makes him seem like a chump.

  3. Um…I left a response but it’s held up in moderation. Test…test…test….

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  5. Those are the reasons why I love River Song! I mean, it’s weird because to me, she’s a completely AWESOME character… if they made a spin-off with her as the protagonist I’d most definetely watch it!
    Problem is that I do lover her, and I’m sure she loves the Doctor, but somehow I can’t see how the doctor could lover her. I don’t really know how to explain (’cause English is not even my language), but I feel like the Doctor is just a little bit intrigued by her at this point, not really impressed or crushing on her or whatever.
    Anyway, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see… by the way, you know what would’ve been cool? Nine and River! That could totally be my OTP. LOL!

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  7. I am sorry, but River does suck. She is the worst character on Doctor Who. Actually she is the only bad character on the show. Her character has no depth, and I agree it seems like the only purpose of River is to have someone show up the Doctor. As far as the way she carries herself: She treats the Doctor like she already knows that whatever she does, she will still get the Doctor to fall in love with her. Where is the fun in that? Her character is so boring. Please get rid of her.

  8. Fascinating… all of it.
    River’s introduction to the show was quite amazing, to say the least. Why not have an almost female version of the Doctor? It adds character to the Doctor, the show and even the captivated audience.
    A lot people have issues with her carting off the Tardis with excelling skills, as opposed to the Doctor, but remember, she is a child of the Tardis. 🙂
    As a long time fan of the show, books and the like, I have great interest in her character and feel there’s much more to her storyline that has yet arrived.
    Theories and antics all over the web and from all walks of life, concerning River, but who’s correct and who’s not? Again, there will be much more to come and the Doctor and River in the Tardis; amazingly perfect.
    If anyone has interest, Marc Platt’s last book in the New Adventures, Lungbarrow, gives reference to some interesting show facts that are just taking place. Read the book and if you cannot find it or it seems way to expensive on eBay or something, there’s a free pdf file floating around the net.
    I’ve said my two cents and believe me you, River is one bad ass Time Lady! Grrrrr

  9. Perhaps I should edit before sending?
    “As a long time fan of the show, books and the like, I have great interest in her character and feel there’s much more to her storyline “that” (edit as, than) has yet arrived.”
    Correcting myself, as future mishaps are inevitable.
    Thanks for allowing my comments, it is well appreciated.

  10. I totally agree with everything you say here, I think she is definitely his OTP. As a girl-power kind of person and someone who deeply values knowledge, I feel like she stands equal with the doctor in a way none of the others have. She’s exactly what he deserves after so long alone, she is very capable, dedicated, fun and he obviously trusts her completely. With the other companions I always felt like he was kind of being their babysitter…taking them on cool trips but always having to take care of them and keep them out of trouble. River can take care of herself and I love her for it. She doesn’t just follow him around like a puppy, she has her own life and adventures and is totally in control. At the same time she obviously loves him completely and would never abandon him.

    I can see why people might not like her…but personally I have always loved girls to be strong, very intelligent and independent. I think the doctor deserves someone like that for a wife 🙂

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