River Song: The End is Nigh
Guest contributor Tim Manion speculates on what’s left for the character.
Before we begin, it’s important to note down that the details of River Song are still “Wibbly Wobbly” in the mind of the Whovian audience. While this may be Moffat displaying his love of complex, interesting and enigmatic stories, it’s apparent that no matter what view you take of River, The end is nigh! As I’m sure you know, her story is deeply complicated, so to keep things on task, I will be focusing on the information provided in the episode Silence In The Library and Forest Of The Dead. Two of Moffat’s early episodes, prior to becoming showrunner.
River first appeared during the Davies era in the episode Silence In The Library as Professor Song, an archaeologist and a intriguing character who knew way more about the Doctor than could have been imagined. From the ‘click’ feature of the TARDIS doors right down to his name. There were many details to show the two were old friends, and so far some have been explained.
First of all there is the obvious tattered blue diary of “spoilers” that River so confidently brought out. The diary contains notes of all the Doctors previous faces and traits as River had spied on the Doctor in past lives so she could identify him in future regenerations if they should meet in the wrong places. This diary we now know was left to her in the hospital shortly after she saved his life in Let’s Kill Hitler by the Doctor himself to make sure her future encounters could not give the Doctor any information to his own future. This is why she stops the Doctor from reading it, due to HIS own rules. At this point she realises that her message had been received too early (her spying had helped her to recognise him) and that she is encountering a previous version of the Doctor as one of her earliest recordings, the Byzantium crash is yet to happen.
Another less noticed point from this episode is the gun River uses to create holes in the wall. It is the same gun Jack Harkness used back in The Doctor Dances referred to as the “Squareness Gun” by Rose. This should have implied that River had travelled in the TARDIS where it’s likely Jack left it after being stranded on Satellite Five, or that she had shared encounters with Harkness for herself (as is currently being rumoured).
The Byzantium crash is the second time the Doctor encounters River, now in his 11th form. Amy questions the origins of the strange blue book, the Doctor calls it “Her past, my future” indicating that while he is the later version of the Doctor, River is the early version of herself from the library, the Doctor’s memory serves as the opposite to the diary from this point on. The guilt expressed in The Name Of The Doctor reminds us that there is more to come for the two of them, because he knows at some point soon they will have to part at the library. Possibly, this will resemble the final bow the 10th Doctor took when saying one last farewell to his trusted companions in The End Of Time: Part 2.
Now, to business. One very important thing that seems to have been lost in the excitement of Rivers story is the screwdriver she brought to the library. In her final moment she explained:
“The last time I saw you. The real you. The future you, I mean. You turned up on my door step with a new hair cut and suit. You took me too Darillium to see the Singing Towers. Oh! What a night that was. The towers sang, and you cried. You wouldn’t tell me why, but I suppose you knew it was time. My time. Time to come to the library. You even gave my your screwdriver.”
Her speech could be a huge eye-opener as to what is to come. As we know, when she says “The Real you” she is referring to the familiar face of Matt Smith as the 11th Doctor, who we know is soon to be leaving / regenerating. Thus “New hair cut and suit” could be her polite way of saying regenerated. However, recent pictures of Smith on set do show him in what appears to be a previously unseen suit and having his hair up differently. But only time will tell if he will get such a forgiving swan song as the 10th Doctor.
Also, rumours in the wind suggest that the sonic screwdriver may get dropped from the series in the future, and what better way to let it go than having the Doctor leave it to one of his most trusted friends to save their life? But fear not, Whovians, The Eagle-eyed among you will point out that the adapted screwdriver is of the 9th and 10th Doctors style. Perhaps it was fashioned together with scraps, such as the communication device used to sustain thought waves in the expedition suits, in the interest of rivers safety.
Needless to say, the future of River Song is clear, but how she will get there is yet to be discovered. I’m sure whatever Moffat delivers will sum up those questions raised 5 whole years ago in a way that will please fans everywhere. River Song has played such a large role in the Doctor’s life, I’d go as far as to say when the Doctor catches up to Darillium it won’t be the last we see of her. Maybe she will at some point be seen skipping off into the sunset like Jack when he revealed he was the Face Of Boe. Maybe she’ll get a few more adventures alone between Darillium and the library. Maybe the Jack and River spin off will come to exist. But she will certainly not be forgotten whatever the outcome.