Out of Time: the Life of River Song


Beware: this article contains spoilers.

It began in a library. Or, rather, it ended there. It began, in truth, outside of time and space–and it ended at the singing towers of Darillium. Or did it?

Confused yet? If you’re familiar with Doctor Who, you know how nonlinear and nonsubjective time can be–wibbly-wobbly, even–and the timeline of River Song’s life is somewhat nonlinear to say the least.

It began–for the Doctor–in the biggest library in the universe. There he met a beautiful and feisty archeologist named Professor River Song. River seems to know more about the Doctor than a stranger should, but she’s not telling why. Spoilers, Sweetie. River’s life story ends in the Library when she gives her life to save the Doctor and all the people trapped in the Library’s database. But it doesn’t end there.

No stranger to time travel, River has been moving through time and space since she was a tiny zygote, a speck in her parents’ eye. Conceived on the TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimension In Space–a fancy name for a time machine/spaceship), River is kidnapped by adversaries of the Doctor shortly after her birth and brainwashed for one purpose: to kill the Doctor.

Which she does…and she doesn’t. But I digress. That happens much later–and much earlier.

The next time the Doctor sees River (in his timeline, at least), he’s answering a distress call that she left for him in the past, written in Ancient Gallifreyan. To rescue her, he travels through…well, you know by now. In soon-to-be classic River style she rescues herself, jumping out of a spaceship and falling through the vacuum of space into the TARDIS, which shows up precisely when and where she told the Doctor to be. How, exactly, did she know when and where to send him when she wrote her message all those years in the past? Again, spoilers.

Oh, and did I mention that River is the Doctor’s wife? Yep, the woman trained to assassinate him falls in love with him in the end. Well, not really the end. First she tries to kill him–twice. Or once. Depends on how you look at it.

Named Melody Pond at birth, River first meets the Doctor in her adult life when she hatches a plot to get close to him through her parents, who she grew up with and went to school with. Amy and Rory Pond, two of the Doctor’s companions, do not yet know River’s true identity, though the Doctor figured it out long ago when he tried to rescue baby Melody from her captors. Melody herself doesn’t even know that she’s River, because she hasn’t become River yet.

River is present throughout much of the Ponds’ time with the Doctor and sadly is there to watch her mother and father be taken by the villains known as the Weeping Angels to a time and place where the Doctor cannot save them. Knowing that it is a fixed point in time, she must stand by and watch her husband’s heart-break as he kneels at his friends’ grave. They’ve been dead for years, though he only just watched them taken by the Angels a moment ago.

Her last meeting with the Doctor before the Library is bittersweet. Having never known Peter Capaldi’s Doctor, River doesn’t recognize her husband when she sees him. It isn’t until she has just finished declaring her love for the Doctor and stating that she knows he doesn’t love her back that he reveals himself to her, telling her in no uncertain terms that he loves her as well. This is news to River, but with the good news comes the bad and she realizes that her date with the Doctor at the Singing Towers will be their last night together.

She doesn’t know it yet, but the next time she sees him she will die.

Thus ends the life of River Song. Well, there is more…but I don’t want to spoil any more for you.


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