With the recent Dr. Who Christmas Special, “The Husbands of River Song” it looks like the fans have seen the last of Dr. Song. The character came in like a hurricane but somewhere along the way momentum was lost and her appearance was less of a treat. What went wrong? How did this character go from being a fan favorite to having a less than welcoming appeal? It should be noted the fault was not with Alex Kingston, the actress who portrayed River as she always seemed to come in and put all she had into the character. Instead, it would be better to look at River Song’s complicated backstory.
The character was introduced in “Silence in the Library” as a mysterious woman who knew the Doctor in a very personal way. Fans were immediately hooked on this peculiar woman and intrigued with what connect she may have with the Doctor. Unfortunately, in the very next episode, “Forest of the Dead”, River died saving the consciousness of many innocent individuals. The incomprehensible nature of the character was still fascinating and fans wanted to see more of her and learn about the intimate connection she shared with the Doctor.
Though her death was inevitable, with the Doctor’s ability to travel through time it would not be long before the two would meet again. Sure enough in the two parter, “The Time of the Angels” and “Flesh and Stone” River returned with more intrigue about who she really is. This time it was revealed she murdered someone, saying it was “The best man I ever knew”.
With the curiosity of the character at an all time high fans were hoping questions would be answered in the 5th series finale. Unfortunately, a side track would occur with “The Pandorica opens” and “The Big Bang” as the bigger threat of the Legendary Pandorica was revealed. River was still a welcome addition though as few beings in the universe are able to get a Dalek to beg for mercy.
It was in the next two part story line (“Impossible Astronaut” and “Day of the moon”) where people seemed to have had enough of the question “Who is River Song?” A much more pressing issue had been introduced with The Doctor fated to die (permanently) by the Impossible Astronaut. This grim impending future was much more of a concern than whatever the truth behind River Song could possible be. Fans had waited long enough and seemed to scream in unison “Just tell us who she is already.”
This time the wait only a few weeks as in “A good man goes to war” the truth was finally revealed. River Song was the daughter of Rory and Amy and her ability to regenerate came from being conceived in the TARDIS. This was what the fans had been waiting for and they weren’t really happy with it. Frankly, it felt uncomfortable. The daughter of one of the Doctor’s best friends would grow up to have a relationship with him. It didn’t really help their were blatant suggestions to the idea Melody Pond (River’s Birth name) was actually the child of Amy and The Doctor. It was an awkward situation to say the least.
In “Let’s Kill Hitler” it was further revealed Amy’s childhood friend Melody was in fact River before her regeneration into her more recognizable form. This additional information just complicated the character’s origin even greater.
The final nail in the coffin would come with “Closing Time” and “The Wedding of River Song.” It was disclosed River was the Impossible Astronaut and tied together early clues which showed she had been manipulated by the creatures known as the Silence into killing the Doctor. The quick save for fixing was she had killed a robot and not the actual Doctor. This tepid ending and the feelings for River Song had reached a new low. To quote from “The Wedding of River Song” itself:
River: “I’m his wife.”
Amy: “And I’m his mother in law”
River: “Father: dear I think mummy might need a drink.”
The fans felt the same way and wanted to drink away the bad taste in their mouths which was the mystery of River Song. This feeling of disdain would continue in her next appearance (“The Angels Take Manhattan”) where by the end of the episode the married companions of Rory and Amy were sent back in time by the Weeping Angels to be stuck in a paradox which cut them off from the Doctor. The feeling of malcontent was cemented. River was a bad penny, whose appearance was a cause for dread, and she had delayed her death long enough.
She would make a brief appearance in “The Name of the Doctor” which seemed to reflect the fact fans could only take a brief appearance of her anymore. She was too complex and burdensome of a character. The love was gone and fans wanted her to take her trip to the library as soon as possible.
Now with the most recent special it appears as if fans have gotten their wish and seen the last of her. The episode showcased her next mission would be to the library where she would meet her end. Knowing her fate the Doctor took her to a planet where the two of them could enjoy one last night together but revealed a night on the planet was 24 years. River had finally found the moment where she and the Doctor could be together, truly and it was this touching moment which made fans remember, why they fell in love with her in the first place.
Though the complications behind her backstory had spoiled the sentiment a bit, overall she was another of the Doctor’s great companions who kept the fan community hooked on the show for quite a while. Farewell, Dr. Song. Perhaps, further down the road, the Doctor will pop into the library you now reside and seek solace from his journey with the woman he once called his wife.