River Song: Goodbye Sweetie?
Guest contributor K-Ci Williams examines River’s finale appearance and ponders her future.
And so it came to pass that the seventh series of revived Doctor Who ended, with an emotional goodbye and a shocking twist. Professor River Song was along for the ride, and in an unexpected way. In my previous article, River Song: A Love-Hate Relationship, I examined the character and offered my verdict on whether or not she was beyond redemption. I am one of those fans who absolutely adored her character in The Angels Take Manhattan (2012) and I would be glad to see her again in future series. That being said, did Alex Kingston’s reprise of Professor River Song do the trick? Did Steven Moffat redeem his ‘baby?’ Did The Name of the Doctor truly represent the River that we love?
The Conference Call
For me, what has always been the likable factor of River is Alex Kingston’s portrayal of the character. But then, Steven Moffat comes in with his sometimes plothole-laden writing and forces the character down our throats. But, River in the series finale is almost like her Library-self. Well, of course she is, because her library-self came to the conference call and then sustained a mental-link with Clara.
Moffat has truly outdone himself. I particularly enjoyed the conference call scene, which re-introduced River into the fold. She met Clara (though perhaps not for the first time – Rule 1? Like husband, like wife) and Strax realized that Professor Song was a woman. His comedic ‘Neither did I’ just sent me down memory lane. With all of the stakes high, it being the finale and all, I was sure that River’s simple introduction would be disturbed with a chilling revelation about the Doctor. Moffat’s establishment of River having a mental link with Clara further on was a stroke of genius. So that was how she could be preserved after the Library and brought back to the show.
The scene on Trenzalore with Clara and the Doctor in the graveyard offered some touching moments for River. She was able to see her sweetie standing over her grave, quite chilling don’t you think? Although I do think that she was there more for a plot convenience, so that the Doctor could use his sonic screwdriver (again!?!) and get into his tomb. They wouldn’t have gotten in without River and her revelation. Regardless it was sweet just having her on screen with the Doctor at last. When we last met her in The Angels Take Manhattan, their loving relationship seemed half-done, and after waiting for over 7 months for the finale since the Ponds’ demise, I’m glad to have her back.
After watching the scene where all hope seems lost and the Whispermen are closing in on the Doctor and his gang, I thought that the Doctor would actually say his name. Although I was hoping that some type of mise-en-scène would prevent the audience from hearing this. In the end, after quite a lot of terrorism from Simeon and co. the doors to the Doctor’s tomb opened. But he didn’t say his name, did he? Ah, River Song did! Now the events of Clara’s reflection in She Said, He Said make sense. She heard the Doctor’s name from River, who still had the psychic link. But what did this do for River Song? I’ve constantly said that her mystery became a tad unappealing due to Series 6, but Steven Moffat never ceases to amaze.
I just realised that we still don’t know how she came to know his name. It wasn’t in the aborted timeline in The Wedding of River Song (2012), so when? If River Song ever returns after this, I’d like to know how she knew his name. Actually, on second thought, let’s just leave Moffat be. He’s just divulged major secrets and I think he’s had enough for the moment.
Clara was going to sacrifice herself and be torn into a million Claras across the Doctor’s timestream. River was, as always, the voice of reason in the chaos, but somehow she couldn’t make Clara listen to her. I found parallels between River and Clara. They both wanted to do everything they could to save the Doctor, and nothing would stop them.
Then there is River’s final scene with her husband. Steven Moffat is amazing. That’s all I can say about the script. Alex and Matt were absolutely delightful. After the events of the Library, River would never have closure about saying goodbye to the Doctor. Thankfully, her mental link with Clara that turned out to be seen by the Doctor as well, helped her get this:
“Doctor, please listen to me. At least hear me… There has to be another way. Use the TARDIS, use something. Save her, yes, but for God’s sake. Be sensible!”
And then she goes to slap him, and he catches her arm. And so begins the emotional scene. I heard a music track from Series 6, that just brought memories flooding back. The kiss. The goodbye. This is River Song’s redeeming scene.
So, River Song. Melody Pond. Mels. Mrs Robinson. Her story seems like it’s ended. But I never want to say goodbye. So yes, she has been redeemed in my eyes, and I love the character even more. Alex Kingston portrayed her brilliantly and I honestly hope to see her one more time. Now that we know River can come back via psychic link, why not have her in a book-ending scene in Matt Smith’s regeneration story (goodness knows when that will be). I’ve always said that the Ponds will be my companions, and I still believe that. Amy, Rory and Melody together. Forever…
The Doctor: There is a time to live, and a time to sleep. You are an echo, River. Like Clara, like all of us. In the end, my fault I know. But you should have faded by now.
River: It’s hard to leave, when you haven’t said goodbye
The Doctor: Then tell me, because I don’t know…how do I say it?
River: There’s only one way I’d accept. If you ever loved me, say it like you’re going to come back.
The Doctor: Well then, see you around Professor River Song.
River: Until the next time, Doctor.
The Doctor: Don’t wait up.
River: Oh there’s one more thing.
The Doctor: Isn’t their always?
River: I’m mentally linked with Clara. If she’s really dead, then how can I still be here? The Doctor: Okay, how?
River: Spoilers…. GOODBYE, SWEETIE