‘Doctor Who’ loves to bring back fan favorites but maybe it’s time Steven Moffat stops bringing back River Song.
Whenever Doctor Who makes its valiant return from being on hiatus, the news of the new season is always exciting. Last year Season Eight jumped right into the introduction of the Twelfth Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and early rumors heralded the end of Clara Oswald’s (Jenna Coleman) run with the Doctor. Of course by the Christmas Special, it was revealed that Clara’s time in the TARDIS was not actually at an end (an update on this particular flippy-floppy bit of news can be found here). This left a lot of speculation up in the air for Season Nine. Having a TARDIS team we are familiar with leaves a lot of hope for characters from Doctor’s past to return. And then came the news of River Song’s (Alex Kingston) inclusion in this year’s Christmas Special.Alex Kingston, Billie Piper & Karen Gillan in Doctor Who. Photo: BBC
For half a century now, Doctor Who has had this undeniable ability to create characters that are so beloved that children and adults alike can speak of them for hours on end to anyone who will listen. However, these conversations often take a more interesting and deeper turn when discussions about characters they dislike arise.
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This is especially common when a new Doctor comes onto the scene. The change of face and the different takes on personality are hard to adjust to, especially when you just watched your favorite Doctor regenerate into this strange new person. Companions often reiterate these feelings when they pointedly tell the Doctor that he’s not “him” or other variations of that.
Everyone has a favorite Doctor, I expect that, I respect that. I may not agree, but I know why I hold my favorite Doctor close and I am genuinely interested in who your favorite Doctor is and why. A more divisive discussion often occurs when it comes to companions. These are the people that are supposed to be the regular people. The people who don’t think they’re special but the Doctor shows them that they are.
River Song came into our lives already equipped with knowledge of the Doctor. She showed up in the library and we are immediately supposed to enjoy her presence because, well just because she’s River Song and according to Steven Moffat you don’t need any real tangible reason. This is perhaps an unpopular opinion, but I find River Song to be intolerable. Insufferable. And an all around awful representation of the kind of solid characters that Doctor Who has been known to create.Alex Kingston in Doctor Who. Photo: BBC
I never liked River. We meet her in Season Four, Episode Eight Silence in the Library and while I enjoy the episode I could do without her inclusion. Something could be said for the fact that she shows up and immediately mentions that this is not her Doctor. The mere mention of a Doctor leaving is hard. Season Four is full of it and as we headed toward the inevitable it was difficult to meet a character who knew this new Doctor. Then she gets really sad when Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) asks about her future and it throws the whole season into perspective. After time and space between that episode and where we are now I feel like Moffat was preparing us for his turn at the helm of the show.
There are numerous elements that prove this from the unseen, but deadly Vashta Nerada to the way Ten (David Tennant) is treated throughout the episode and on and on the reasons go, but nothing shows us exactly the type of show runner that Moffat is than River Song!Alex Kingston in Doctor Who. Photo: BBC
After her inaugurating and life ending entrance, we are assured that this will not be the last time we see River. In an extremely telling line she tells Ten that her Doctor is older and the irony is not lost that when we meet Eleven (Matt Smith), he is the youngest Doctor to date. As the seasons go on, we learn the Doctor knows her future and she knows his past. This makes each of their meetings almost impossible because River, won’t spoil what she knows but she’s all the more annoying for that knowledge.Steven Moffat Doctor Who show runner. Photo: BBC
I have never understood the great love for River. To me she is some fantasy that Moffat created and he enjoys his creation so much he insists on bringing her back, whenever he feels like it. Like the Weeping Angels, but more frustrating than scary.
Quite possibly the most egregious thing that River has ever said is when she tells the Doctor that the TARDIS isn’t supposed to make that grinding noise. That whole moment is not just rude to the Doctor, who has been flying the TARDIS much longer than her, but to the fans, writers and the creators of the show. The TARDIS has always made that noise. That noise is so iconic that it showed up during the London Olympics opening ceremony.
As if to make up for this line or perhaps just because he forgot it was a thing to begin with Moffat has “The Moment Rose” (Billie Piper) in The Day of the Doctor tell the War Doctor (William Hurt) that that sound represents hope. Knowing Moffat’s track record, I think he just forgot he had River say anything contrary seasons before, which really deteriorates River’s credibility.
This is why I don’t understand why she is returning for the Twelfth Doctor’s second Christmas Special. She did not know him. And the last time we saw her she was a projection and she admitted to being dead to Clara. Of course that’s the episode that we assume we will learn something about The Name of the Doctor, but instead we just learn that River knows that name. Why is River so special?
I have no answer, she’s not. She worships the Doctor and we’re supposed to worship her and it’s a very strange relationship between fans and characters. But this is exactly why she has no business showing up in the Christmas Special.Alex Kingston & David Tennant in Doctor Who. Photo: BBC
She is not apart of this Doctor’s history. Her story has been told. Her story is over and it is time to put her to rest for good. Of all the characters and monsters that should return it is not River. Some might say it should be Jack Harkness (John Barrowman), others might suggest Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman) since she does still have the Doctor’s number. Many would love to see Wilf (Bernard Cribbins) again, since we can’t have Donna. But I would make an argument for exactly why it is time for Donna to make her return.
For starters, Donna’s first appearance was a Christmas special but even more fittingly it is common knowledge that Peter Capaldi was in the Pompeii episode of the Tenth Doctor’s fourth season. Donna insisted on saving him and his family and here we are years later and the Doctor has the same face as Caecilius’. We have been told multiple times that there is a reason for that and it will eventually be explained. But then we have an issue with Donna. When we left her the Doctor was forced to erase all her memories and did not even get a proper goodbye because when he left she had no idea who he was. That being said, Donna is one of the few companions that has been saved.Peter Capaldi, David Tennant & Catherin Tate in Doctor Who. Photo: BBC
For the many reasons I can honestly say I dislike Moffat, I know I will never forgive Russell T Davies for what he did to her. But if we can retcon the loss of Gallifrey and all the Time Lords then I see no reason why we can’t fix Donna. She is after all “the most important person in the universe!” She is also the companion who resonates the most with the audience. The Doctor even tells her she’s not special and he ends up showing her how wrong he was. Donna spent her entire life not thinking she was special, whereas as River knows she is. And the differences between the two could not be more opposite from that sort of characterization. Seeing her again makes considerably more sense than River.
Perhaps, Donna can’t be “The Doctor Donna” ever, but there are ways to make the impossible possible, this is Doctor Who after all! The return of a companion like Donna would pack an emotional punch, something the show has lacked to it’s best ability.
The Doctor has outgrown River. He no longer needs her for some nonsense emotional support that she never actually offered. He has Clara who is just as equally wrapped up in his personal history as River is.
River is a master manipulator when it suited her. And her whole life has solely revolved around the Doctor. And tool Moffat has used to make people forget about anything that may have come before his reign of the show.Catherine Tate in Doctor Who. Photo: BBC
It’s enough. Donna, wanted to travel with the Doctor forever. But now, even if her memories were restored I think she would choose the life she has. River has nothing else and with having caught up with her death in the wibbly-wobbly timeline she literally is nothing. Unless we’re returning to the library! All the more reason for Donna resurface and then have visits from time to time from Twelve.
But the biggest reason to have her return is the comfort she could offer a Doctor like Twelve. He is constantly questioning his own morality. But how can he grow if someone like River keeps returning? Her story ended with Eleven. How can any story move forward if someone like Moffat insists on living in the past? These aren’t easy questions to ask of a show that relies so heavy on it’s own history to create new stories. The only way I can see this working is if River’s return starts a trend of many other new characters.
The sound of the TARDIS is in the distance and the newest season is only a few sleeps away. In the future, perhaps, in a show without Moffat in charge, we can put River behind us. There are so many more stories that finished and yet remain incomplete.
Maybe Maisie Williams’ will be revealed to be just that type of character. We can only hope.Peter Capaldi in Doctor Who. Photo: BBC
Doctor Who returns Saturday, September 19 on BBC America – make sure to check back on Hidden Remote for episode recaps!
Who from Who’s past would you like to see run with the Doctor again? Let us know in the comments!
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