While playing catch-up with the Verity! podcast, (yes, I am in a constant state of catching up with my podcasts), River Song came up in the discussion, particularly with the way fans viewed her. I loved River Song’s introduction. A woman who was as smart and witty as the Doctor, and who came from his future was great! I don’t agree with the view that the Doctor should always be the smartest in the room with the biggest swagger. He should see competition from rivals as well as villains. That’s how I saw River Song initially, as a rival to the Doctor. Someone who could give him a run for his money. This River Song is the one I could see his wanting to know more about, and be a real mystery to unravel.
And then Moffatt took all that wonderful mystique and tossed out it to make River plot device. A rival to Rose instead of the Doctor, competing for his affections and being there only to throw breadcrumbs out about the future, and constantly call out catch phrases such as “Spoilers!” and “Hello Sweetie.” I have grown to HATE both of those phrases, more so since I can only hear them in my head in River’s voice. I never bought the romance between the Doctor and River because we never saw it. It was spoon fed to use with River saying she was returning from a date with the Doctor, but there was never any chemistry that I could actually see. The “flirting” was more of a tease than any there being any actual feelings behind it. More of a “ha ha I know more than you”, and that’s all she was there for. Even the so-called “marriage” had no feeling to it. They were just going through the motions and saving the universe rather than actually pledging any vows to one another.
Moffatt created a character that had so much potential and squandered it away to try to create another love story for the Doctor. He stole any agency River should have had and made her nothing more than a tool for the Doctor that he could pull out whenever he needed to get the Doctor out of some jam. I know we don’t have to actually see River go on any of her adventures to believe she had them, but we never saw any indication that she did, because we only ever saw her being “clever” by breaking out or back into jail. I realize this is a problem with telling a story backwards as Moffatt tried with the Doctor and River, and only shows that much more how much it didn’t work.
River should have been a rival for the Doctor, an equal. Instead she got silly lines such as claiming he always left the brakes on when landing the TARDIS, or calling the Doctor an “ageless god.” She was a nag, not an equal, which is what she really deserved to be. If Moffatt had left River Song alone, had left as we saw her, as a woman who had traveled with the Doctor but wasn’t dependent on him, she would have been a much better character and probably not as controversial.