Doctor Who thing: the problem with River Song


Emily Asher-Perrin at pegs everything that Steven Moffat did to River Song that reduced her from an awesome babe with a life and adventures of her own to a crazy chick obsessed with the Doctor. I could have written this piece. In fact, I’ve said much of it before. But Asher-Perrin gets it all down in one place:

In River’s introduction, she has all the power: she is the one who calls the Doctor, she is the one who scolds him when he’s being obstinate, she is the one who rallies the group and moves them along. In a telling move for the Davies era, it is she who grabs the Doctor’s hand when the first run together, not the other way around. She is taking him on as a companion in that first meeting. Ten is so moved by her near-death plea to preserve their time together, to never rewrite a word, that the loss of her hurts him as though he has known her for centuries. We’re left with the impression that she is one tough act to beat.

Then River returns.

And she’s still feisty and competent and one step ahead. But everything that makes her special, that recommended her from the get-go is stripped away from her step by step in the service of complex plotting. It starts with the revelation that she is in prison for a terrible crime—the murder of the Doctor. He’ll come when she calls, certainly, but only to free her from the tedium of a dark cell. So much for having a life of her own on the other side. To make things more involved, the Doctor finds out that River has a closer connection to him than he had anticipated; she’s the daughter of his current companions. And then she is kidnapped as an infant and brainwashed to kill him. So River essentially spends her formative years with an existence that orbits around the Time Lord. She has no ambitions of her own, no purpose beyond his destruction.

Asher-Perrin goes on to explain why it’s all so much worse than this makes it sound. Read it and weep.

(If you stumble across a cool Doctor Who thing, feel free to email me with a link.)

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Tue, Jan 14, 2014 10:26pm

i *love* that photo of River and the Doctor…

Wed, Jan 15, 2014 3:12pm

I think that’s a fair summation of my reaction, but the same process is visible in microcosm in Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead. Even before the stuff with the Doctor begins, we meet her as a space archaeologist of some sort, a person bossing a crew and doing an interesting and challenging job. (Rather better than the Parry-Kaftan expedition approached a similar task.) And by the end of that original story, she’s had her body taken away and been relegated to an eternal job as a nanny. A sign of things to come.