River Song Theories

By | Wednesday, June 30, 2010 28 comments
Let me apologize up-front: this isn't comics-related. If you have no interest in Doctor Who, feel free to skip this post and come back tomorrow. But I wanted to get some thoughts down now, so I can say, "See, I called it" sometime in 2011 with the next season of the show.

So there's this question of who is River Song really. The show's made some vague allusions to her, and she's generally presented as this enigmatic future wife of the Doctor's. Writer Steven Moffat has suggested that she's quite different than viewers might expect, and she'll be appeared in the next season. So here's some thoughts I have on her history/identity...

1. Though actress Alex Kingston has compared the character to Indiana Jones, she's been depicted closer to that guy a young Indy gets a fedora from in Last Crusade. She knows about archeology, but she's not a "true" archeologist; she's essentially shown as an antiquities bounty hunter. She is always shown on a mission of some kind, and certainly isn't just gallivanting across time and space for fun. A completely "straight" reading of her would say that she is the Doctor's future wife, and she does love him, but isn't nearly as altruistic as he is and had to go her own way.

2. But it's possible that she's lying about their relationship. She may have accidentally come across the Doctor's real name in an old Gallifreyan birth certificate or something, and is using that information to her advantage. Alternatively, as a time traveler, it's possible that she does legitimately learn the Doctor's name from marrying him, but then tells her past self to put that information to earlier use.

3. She also could have come across his name if she herself is also a Time Lord. Whovians might balk at that idea since another Time Lord (like the Doctor) would recognize her as such, but she could have transformed herself to a human to escape the Time War, much as the Master did. This would also explain how she happens to know Gallifreyan. If she has some sort of deeper Machiavellian plans in mind, the Rani wouldn't be a surprising candidate.

4. Something along those same lines, I could also see River being revealed as Susan, the Doctor's long-abandoned granddaughter. She might feel a bit of resentment for being stranded on a somewhat ravaged Earth and, while she still loves him, isn't going to let him go without taking any hazing for that decision. Claims of incest can be brushed aside easily by simply noting that River was lying about being the Doctor's wife all along.

5. Jenny, the Doctor's daughter, does not strike me as a likely candidate since, by all accounts, actress Georgia Moffett was well-received by most everyone and Moffet has even expressed an interest in giving her a spin-off series.

Alright then. Just needed to get those off my chest. Normal comic-blogging to resume tomorrow.
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One theory I've seen but haven't really bought into yet is that she is a future regeneration of the Doctor.

The more I think of it, the more I want her to be who she says she is but that she hasn't given the Doctor all the information about herself. While the Doctor is an open book to her (she knows how to fly the Tardis better than he does,) she has never been completely honest with him at any point in his history and hides her secrets behind the idea of "Spoilers."

I don't buy that she's a future Doctor. Too far out of character in the first place, and in the second place, why hide her identity? The Doctor has interacted with future versions of himself plenty of times already.

I do prefer the "straight" reading of the character, too. Admittedly, though, I do think kind of dig the seriously old-school continuity angle if she turns out to be Susan.

Matt K said...

"...that guy a young Indy gets a fedora from in Last Crusade."

Abner Ravenwood (unofficially), chief. :-)

Really? Did not know that! That in the novelization or something?

Patimus said...

I'm gonna throw my two outlandish ideas out there for trial - and they might be kind of spoilery if you haven't seen up to The Big Bang yet.

River song is another aspect of Amy Pond. River's said in the past that she often doesn't meet the doctor in sequence, so what better way to get to know him, but from when she was a little girl. And how else would she be able to fill up a whole diary? Kinda like the Time Travelers Wife* in a way (which we already know Moffat has kinda cribbed from for the Girl in the Fireplace). And let's face it, Amy's life had been pretty one dimensional. The Big Bang kinda touches on why we never see her Mum or Dad, but even still there's a bit of verisimilitude missing...

Which leads me to my second outlandish theory. Amy Pond is a product of a Timelord-Human metacrisis.

It was never really explained why Amy never remembered the Daleks when they met Churchill, largely we were being teased with the notion of this crack causing it... But what if she didn't remember them, because she was forced to forget them?

Let's also look at her upbringing in Leadworth; no parents, totally bucolic scenery, no mention of anyone ever going anywhere else. Very dream like. So what if this is all taking place in Donna's greatly expanded Timelord-Human metacrisis dream state? Puts the Dreamlord episode into an interesting perspective.

My last outlandish idea could well be nothing more than a red-herring though:

Donna Noble > Amelia (latin for Industrious or Admiring - i.e. Noble) Pond > River Song (and we all know that the Doctor Donna's song was going to end.

I've probably given this too much thought, but after the Big Bang, there's still so much left to be explained.

*Time Travelers Wife disclaimer. Never saw the movie, but read the book, in addition to the traditional love story taking place, it also seems to be a love story with the city of Chicago.

Matt K said...

Sean, regarding Abner Ravenwood, I don't exactly recall where I read that identification. It might be in a novelization; that would be cool. I probably read it on IMDB or theraider.net.

As I recall, it was in the script at one point, but obviously in the final cut the character is never named. Makes perfect sense though, IMO. Given that Indy himself is more of a treasure hunter than a scholar, by modern standards, it seems plausible that his mentor in archaeology engaged in a little relic poaching, at least early in his career.

Regarding Doctor Who... you got me man. I know what a Tardis and a Dalek are, but that's about it. :-)

@Patimus - Definitely two of the more creative theories I've heard, but they don't strike me (speaking, of course, as only an amateur writer) as likely. I think Moffat, et. al. would have to jump through too many hoops to sufficiently explain those to the audience.

@Matt - To Indy's credit, he at least has the "This belongs in a museum!" lines in both Raiders and Last Crusade. He wasn't a careful archeologist (much like Giovanni Belzoni) but he wasn't trying to profit off the dead as Abner Ravenwood (and River Song) seem to do.

WVIZ used to air classic Dr. Who episodes on Saturday evenings. They were one of the last 5 or 6 stations (I think) airing them in the US before the new stuff began a few years ago. Cheesy as the effects were and as hole-ridden as some of the plots were, I loved the character and watched pretty religiously. I think that's really what you have to buy into: you either really love the character and are willing to give a pass on everything else, or you don't and it's all just styrofoam and particle board. :)

Matt K said...

"This belongs in a museum!" "SO DO YOU!" Heh. One of my favorite books, Foreign Devils on the Silk Road, actually describes a number of archaeologists who explored central Asia around the turn of the (last) century, and their real exploits are not entirely unlike the methods of Dr. Jones. They, too, drew the line at selling artifacts into private ownership, but were otherwise considerably focused on finding and grabbing the treasure.

And, while I've never seen much of Dr. Who, I do appreciate the charms of older BBC programs. I, Claudius, which was probably big-budget by comparison to be honest, is still mostly a chamber piece restricted to tightly-cropped interiors, but I love that one.

I feel like movie commentary should pretty much dispense with the term "special effect" nowadays. Once upon a time, even lavish sets and costumes cost a lot of money; I guess they still do, but between CGI and larger budgets, once-special effects are pretty much a given for most major films and even TV series these days.

Note that I just said "effects" and not "special effects." Because you're right; they're not. :)

marcphotoman said...

Could River be Romana?

nessa said...

I have a theory, that I've not finished working out, that River Song is actually a human version of the Doctor's TARDIS. Take a close look at River's diary. Looks like the TARDIS. And that would possibly explain why she has pictures of all her regenerations. It's a possibility.

nessa said...

Oh. I meant all of HIS regenerations.

Unknown said...

I think that the another Timelord theory has merit. There were two other timelords in the old series were opposed to the Doctor besides "The Master". One was "The Meddling Monk" and other was "The Roni" my spelling)like "The Doctor" or "The Master". The Roni is a Hebrew word which means "song". Given the new series multi season story acs, I think that River Song is The Roni. The Roni is one of the only multi episode "villans" (I put that is quotes because she was a really goofy one) that hasn't been rebooted (yes Omega is the other). Also, in the Big Bang, River specifically says that the next time they meet he will know who she is and that everything will change. iT would also explain how she knows so much about The Doctor, Galifrey, and how to fly a Tardis since she had her own.

Unknown said...

I have also thought that she might be the Tardis. It seems to be alive, it seems to be in synch w/ the Doctor. River ends her life as a computer program. (Uploaded, no less, from the sonic screwdriver. Another device that appears to have a psychic tie to the Doctor.)She might also be the Doctor's mother....just a thought!

Anonymous said...

So I have a few theories, all could be wrong but I gotta get them out lol

1. River COULD be a future Rose Tyler. Many people will disband that theory because she is in a completely different universe which is "impossible" to get to. But really in Doctor Who, nothing is impossible.

2. She could be good old Susan. It's been disputed if Susan is even truly the Doctors biological granddaughter so the flirting between them wouldn't be so weird. And I highly doubt Susan would have participated in the Time War, so she could be somewhere out there like Jenny.

I highly doubt she's the Rani because she never seems like she wasn't to kill the Doctor and I don't think the Doctor is who she kills in the future. Matt Smith is staying as the Doctor till 2013 and River Song is said to die in Series 6, if River confesses to killing a future regeneration of the Doctor then the Doctor would easily avoid it in the future. Truth is, is that River will be someone we know but who it is, is a mystery.

Also, I like the Human TARDIS theory but it seems just a little out there. Like how would that happen? A TARDIS is like a plant, you grow them lol

God Emperor said...

What if River Song is causing the Silence that leads to something big, which we haven't seen yet? Think of it this way, throughout Series 5, every race encountered the Silence one way or another, all are trying to escape it. If River Song knows about time travel, perhaps she could manipulate events by causing the Silence to lead to a much bigger event. The TARDIS exploding is an event that probably led to something else. I'm thinking along the lines of causing a distraction in order to perform a heist. OR Causing all these Silences in order to lead to something much bigger, sort of like a catalyst. Either she is aware of the Silence or she isn't. I would like to think that she is a future wife, but I suspect that's misleading us to a happy ending, which in DW is never a happy ending.

The other theory is that, River Song has a master and that he's twisting her arm in order for her to do the "bad" things to mislead the Doctor. She's perpetually toying with the Doctor, but through this toying, we know that she actually loves and respects him. In the season 4 scene in the library, just before she zaps herself, the Doctor declares that he will only tell someone his name if... it's trailed off. If he dies? If he marries them? I'm more inclined to think that he will tell them if he dies...DW always stresses that a name is powerful, and Old High Gallifreyan can topple Gods and burn the sky etc.
The idea of her being his relative is just yuck. Wife maybe, in the future, perhaps married and divorced for a certain reason, but if it was his daughter or future self, or female version of the Doctor, loving and kissing "himself" is not the best idea to write for television, it sounds so incestrous!

River Song as Amy Pond just doesn't sound right either, there are too many things that Amy knows which River doesn't. And I doubt she's Donna Noble, for Donna cannot remember the Doctor without causing her head to burn.

Of course, all this is pure conjecture, wrapped in speculation.

Anonymous said...

Donna isn't Romana OR the Rani. If she was, even with a Chameleon Arc like the Doctor used in "family of blood", the metacrisis wouldn't have caused any problems.

Donna *IS* River Song. Silence in the Library when River tells the Doctor "his name", it's because it's a future Donna and she knows his name only because of the metacrisis..."If it's in your head, it's in mine".

Anonymous said...

Moffat is on record in Dr Who Confidential, when considering options, that the truth is "much darker". Whoever River is, she isn't anyone as bland as a "future companion". Also: someone, somewhere has spotted that Amy and River wear the same watch. Both could be Time Lords. Or dressed by props in the same watch.

As for River ... I've always thought, emotionally, she ought to be the Master, who the Doctor tried so long and so hard to save. River's relationship with him feels just feels like the competitive, combative oneupmanship the Doctor and Master would indulge in. Almost anything could happen to the Master once the Doctor got rid of the drums in his head. That Diary, by the way, can't he River's. She reads from it as soon she meets the Doctor. You can't consult a diary until it is written. It's someone else's.

Anonymous said...

River Song is an archeologist perhaps in the most literal sense. Perhaps she knows so much about Gallifrey and The Doctor because she has been to Gallifrey.

Everything changes? The silence and the TARDIS exploding, perhaps she's attempting to find a way to break the timelock (silence) and release the time war, perhaps causing it to reverse, thus Gallifrey and the time war will survive, while the rest of the universe will be in silence?

Anonymous said...

Do like the above comment - River is literally an Artchaeologist. If she is from Gallifrey, though, how did she get out of the time lock. If she is an Archaeologist who has excavated it, how did she get in?It does explain everything though - how she understands Old High Gallifreyan.

Octavian, though, does seem to know who and what she is. She is investigating the Weeping Angels for him, one assumes, not the rift. Otherwise, he would never have brought her into the business.

Unknown said...

She could be a character that the doctor accidentally married...... Marilyn Monroe? Any thoughts?

Anonymous said...

I may be mistaken, but in The Doctors Daughter, did he not say he had a family once? If we all think back to his Grandaughter Susan in the beginning. To have a grandaughter you would have to have childeren. Having childeren you could be married. It's never been fully explained what happened to his family.

Ron M said...

I think River Song could well be the regenerated Time Lady Romana (Romanadvoratrelundar) back from E Space, having not been destroyed with the rest of the Time Lords.
Who else could it be? She is a time traveler who handles the TARDIS better than the Doctor. And she knows who he is, no matter what face he is wearing.

Anonymous said...

My new pet theory after day of the moon is that River is the regenerated Little Girl, who is Amy and Rory's daughter, born part Time Lord because of Amy's exposure to the time vortex from travelling in the TARDIS

Anonymous said...

Anyone thought that she is Amy Pond's daughter?

Anonymous said...

river song is amy ponds daughter as seen in when a good man goes to war

Anonymous said...

Anonymous person who posted on May 4: I came to this site to see if anyone guessed that River was Amy and Rory's daughter before A Good Man Goes To War, and wow you were spot on! Even the part about her being partially Time-Lord because she was conceived in the TARDIS! So props to you haha! :)

i like all your theories except the one with her being a time lord. remember the master? the doctor could sense him the second the got to the time he was prime minister. so unless she was time lord but didn't remember (which is impossible considering she knows everything.