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River Song’s Timeline: The Ultimate Guide

Written by: shauny

7th February 2024


River Song’s timeline is a complicated subject – we kept meeting her in the wrong order, and as the Doctor says, most people need a flowchart. Well here’s something better – an explanation, story by story, of River Song’s life in the correct order.

Warning: Major spoilers for Doctor Who Series 4, 5, 6, and 7, plus the 2015 Christmas Special!

RIVER: How do you know me?

DOCTOR: Well, it’s a tiny bit complicated. People usually need a flowchart.

The Husbands of River Song
River Song, smiling. Nardole in the background.

Conception

It’s a bit unusual to have to start an explanation of someone’s life with their conception, but then River Song’s was no ordinary conception.

After the events of series 5, Amy and Rory are married, and they spend their wedding night on the TARDIS, which is when River was conceived. The Doctor realises this in A Good Man Goes to War:

VASTRA: But could the child have begun on the TARDIS in flight, in the vortex?

DOCTOR: No! No! Impossible! It’s all running about, sexy fish vampires and blowing up stuff. And Rory wasn’t even there at the beginning. Then he was dead, then he didn’t exist, then he was plastic. Then I had to reboot the whole universe. Long story. So, technically the first time they were on the TARDIS together in this version of reality, was on their w-

VASTRA: On their what?

DOCTOR: On their wedding night.

A Good Man Goes to War
The Doctor

Birth

Amy’s pregnancy is an unusual one – she tells The Doctor she’s pregnant first in The Impossible Astronaut, but then she thinks it is a mistake – possibly due to The Silence messing with her memory. Throughout Series 6 we see The Doctor scanning Amy and it says pregnant / not pregnant. This is likely what made him suspect something is amiss.

We also get a bit of drama here where we are led to believe that maybe The Doctor is the father (she did flirt with him a lot when they first met!).

The Doctor investigates The Flesh in the two parter The Rebel Flesh / The Almost People and at the end of the second episode it is revealed that the reason for investigating is because he had suspected Amy was replaced with a Flesh Avatar a while ago:

“She’s having a baby. I needed to see the Flesh in its early days. That’s why I scanned it. That’s why we were there in the first place. I was going to drop you off for fish and chips first, but things happened and there was stuff and shenanigans. Beautiful word, shenanigans.”

— Eleventh Doctor, The Almost People
The Doctor

It is then that he discovers Amy is held captive, and he soon finds her, with her new baby Melody Pond, in Demon’s Run – it turns out the baby is also a Flesh Avatar (fool you twice!) and Madame Kovarian gets away with her again, but not before telling her motive for stealing the baby:

KOVARIAN: The child, then. What do you think?

DOCTOR: What is she?

KOVARIAN: Hope. Hope in this endless, bitter war.

DOCTOR: What war? Against who?

KOVARIAN: Against you, Doctor.

A Good Man Goes to War
Kovarian on a screen

(The endless, bitter war is referring to The Church of the Papal Mainframe’s war to prevent The Doctor speaking his name, and thus letting Gallifrey back into the universe and restarting The Time War, these events happen during The Time of The Doctor. The Silence are a religious order who separate out from the Papal Mainframe with the mission to kill the Doctor in the past, to prevent the universe being endangered.)

So Melody is taken away, with the intention of using her to create the perfect weapon to kill the Doctor. Having been conceived on the TARDIS, she was exposed to the Time Vortex, and whilst this is not enough to create a Time Lord, the Church of the Silence tweaked her DNA even further in order to make her one:

DOCTOR: It doesn’t make sense. You can’t just cook yourself a Time Lord.

VASTRA: Of course not. But you gave them one hell of a start, and they’ve been working very hard ever since.

A Good Man Goes to War
The Doctor talking to Vastra

Childhood

River is stolen away and we next see her in The Impossible Astronaut. Someone has been calling President Nixon asking for help, and the Doctor comes to Lake Silencio to die.

You see, this is the moment that Melody Pond succumbs to her brainwashing and kills the Doctor – but more on that later, as this happens when she is older.

In Day of The Moon, the Amy follows a lead and finds out that the girl has been living in an orphanage. She is being held captive there by The Silence, who have fried the mind of the orphanage owner by constantly messing with his memory. Amy stumbles across a photo of her with the baby (when was this photo taken, and why is she happy? A bit of a mystery there).

The team follow Nixon’s lead and find an old, disused warehouse with Apollo Astronaut spacesuits in. One of them is ripped open – the girl has incredible strength. The Silence manipulated human history to make them decide to go to the Moon, just so they could get a suit like this – it contains life support software and is designed to keep her trapped until she can kill the Doctor.

The mystery surrounding who the father is is resolved here, in another twist that makes you believe it was The Doctor, Amy talks about her life being so boring before the man she loves “dropped out of the sky” – turns out it was a metaphor, she was speaking about Rory. Amy only told the Doctor first about her mysterious pregnancy in case it had “three heads, or like a time head or something”.

Melody escapes, despite Amy trying to shoot her, mistakingly thinking she will rewrite history and save the Doctor, and not knowing of course it was her own child. The shot damages the suit, allowing the Melody to escape.

We then see Melody, months later, on the streets of New York City. She is ill, perhaps dying of starvation, and she tells a tramp it’s not a problem, she can regenerate:

TRAMP: Are you okay? Little girl, are you okay?

GIRL: It’s all right. It’s quite all right. I’m dying. But I can fix that. It’s easy, really. See?

(Her skin glows with golden regeneration energy. She smiles, and the tramp runs.)

Day of the Moon

This was a big shocking moment when we realised the girl is, in fact, a Time Lord!

Growing up as Mels, regeneration

The next time we see Melody, it’s in Let’s Kill Hitler. We are introduced to Mels, Amy and Rory’s childhood friend – surprise, it’s Melody!

It turns out, the reason their friend Mels was so unruly at school, and so obsessed with Amy’s imaginary friend “The Raggedy Doctor”, was because of the brainwashing.

Amy and Rory are desperate to find the Doctor, sine after Demon’s Run he said was going to find their baby. They make crop circles in Leadworth and it leads him here, but Mels comes along too. The Doctor never met her – she never came to the wedding. “I don’t do weddings”, Mels says. How ironic.

After forcing the Doctor to travel to Nazi Germany in an attempt to kill Hitler, Mels is accidentally mortally wounded and she starts to regenerate. This is when everyone realises just who she is, it’s Melody Pond.

MELS: When I was little, I was going to marry you.

DOCTOR: Good idea, let’s get married. You stay alive and I’ll marry you, deal? Deal?

MELS: Shouldn’t you ask my parents permission?

DOCTOR: As soon as you’re well, I’ll get on the phone.

MELS: Might as well do it now, since they’re both right here. Penny in the air. Penny drops.

Let’s Kill Hitler
Mels, dying, speaks to The Doctor

DOCTOR: Mels. Short for-

MELS: Melody.

AMY: Yeah. I named my daughter after her.

DOCTOR: You named your daughter after your daughter.

Let’s Kill Hitler
Amy, The Doctor, and Rory, looking stunned

Attempt # 1 to murder the Doctor

Melody is different to the River Song we know – she was trained and conditioned to kill the Doctor. She very quickly does her job – kissing him with poisoned lipstick. The Doctor slowly starts to die, and the Teselecta, a time-travelling shape-shifting robot operated by miniature cross people, designed to punish people for their crimes, starts to torture Melody for her role in killing the Doctor.

Amy manages to stop the torture, and find out more about The Silence. The Silence are a religious order, who want The Doctor dead, with one core belief – Silence will Fall when the question is asked. But they would not reveal what the question was.

Melody manages to fly the TARDIS to rescue Amy and Rory – this is when she is taught how to fly it (later referenced when she says she had “lessons from the best – but the Doctor was busy that day”.

“I seem to be able to fly her. She showed me how. She taught me. The Doctor says I’m the child of the TARDIS. What does he mean?”

— River Song, Let’s Kill Hitler
River Song, flying the TARDIS

The Doctor is dying, killed by the poisoned lipstick. The only person who can save him is his assassin, Melody. Everyone keeps calling her River, and she gets frustrated by this, asking who River Song is, and only being told “Spoilers” (the first use of her catch phrase).

Eventually she asks the shape-shifting Teselecta what River looks like – and it transforms into a copy of her. Suddenly everything dawns on her – the person this man loves is her in the future. Obsessed with killing him, she is going to soon have another kind of obsession – love.

She kisses the Doctor, pouring in all her regenerations to save him. This is also the first utterance of her other catch phrase – Hello, Sweetie.

RIVER: Just tell me. The Doctor, is he worth it?

AMY: Yes! Yes, he is!

(River pours her golden regeneration energy into the Doctor, and he revives.)

DOCTOR: River. No. What are you doing?

RIVER: Hello, sweetie.

Let’s Kill Hitler

They leave River in the hospital, recovering after saving the Doctor, and he gives her her signature TARDIS-blue diary. “She will be amazing”.

The Doctor has data from the Teselecta about his death on Lake Silencio, and off they go in time and space. River recovers and the next time we see her, she is enrolling in The Lunar University, 5123, to become a Doctor herself:

PROFESSOR: So then, tell me. Why do you want to study archaeology?

RIVER: Well, to be perfectly honest, Professor, I’m looking for a good man.

Let’s Kill Hitler
River Song

Attempt # 2 to murder the Doctor

River studies to be an archaeologist, and on the day she is to become a Doctor, she is studying witness reports about the Doctor’s death at Lake Silencio when Madame Kovarian and The Silence come back to get her. This is all shown in a scene at the end of “Closing Time“.

KOVARIAN: By Silencio Lake, on the Plain of Sighs, an Impossible Astronaut will rise from the deep and strike the Time Lord dead.

RIVER: It’s a story.

KOVARIAN: And this is where it begins.

Closing Time

The Silence put her in the Apollo Astronaut suit, and take her to Lake Silencio. Here she experiences the scene from The Impossible Astronaut – meeting the older version of the Doctor (1103 years old), and she shoots him dead, preventing him from regenerating. River leaves.

Alternative Timeline, River’s wedding

In an alternative timeline, River doesn’t shoot the Doctor. She decides not to. But with the death of the Doctor being a fixed point in time, this causes time itself to stop. River cannot bear the thought of killing him, and is willing to risk all of reality to try and save him.

If the two of them touch, history asserts itself and she will kill him in the lake. She refuses to touch him, and with Madame Kovarian tied up and The Silence defeated, she takes the Doctor to see the beacon she has created.

We find out all she wanted to do was first show him how much he means to the universe, before he has to die:

“Those reports of the sun spots and the solar flares. They’re wrong. There aren’t any. It’s not the sun, it’s you. The sky is full of a million, million voices saying yes, of course we’ll help. You’ve touched so many lives, saved so many people. Did you think when your time came, you’d really have to do more than just ask? You’ve decided that the universe is better off without you, but the universe doesn’t agree.”

— River Song, The Wedding of River Song
River Song, looking at the Doctor, teary eyed.

RIVER: I can’t let you die without knowing you are loved by so many, and so much, and by no one more than me.

DOCTOR: River, you and I, we know what this means. We are ground zero of an explosion that will engulf all reality. Billions on billions will suffer and die.

RIVER: I’ll suffer if I have to kill you.

DOCTOR: More than every living thing in the universe?

RIVER: Yes.

The Wedding of River Song
River Song, looking at the Doctor, teary eyed.

The Doctor is aghast, and angry with River for being so selfish. We are led to believe that the only thing that can make her change her mind is if he marries her. He takes a piece of cloth, and as they are in the middle of a combat zone Rory is the one who officiates the wedding. The Doctor whispers something in her ear – he says it is his name – but whatever it is, it makes her immediately agree to kiss him, and thus restore the universe back to the way it was.

Why the sudden change of heart? It wasn’t because of the wedding (which happened in an aborted timeline, in a world that never was), but instead because when he whispered in her ear, he actually said “look into my eye”. She did, and she saw that the Doctor and the TARDIS were inside -it’s the Teselecta! It was the Teselecta which was killed at Lake Silencio. The Doctor never died, he just engineered it so everyone thought he died, to get The Silence off his back.

Imprisoned in Stormcage

River Song is imprisoned in The Stormcage Containment Facility for murdering The Doctor. The Eleventh Doctor, much older now and he knows all about River, picks her up during her First Night:

DOCTOR: How’s Stormcage?

RIVER: I’m on the first night of twelve thousand consecutive life sentences, kind of early to say.

First Night

The Doctor tells her about the diary, and tells her the rules – they meet in the wrong order, so she must keep track of all their adventures in the diary and they can know where they are. Things get complicated already, with a future version of River from 5 years into her sentence coming along during Last Night.

The next time River sees the Doctor is once again in A Good Man Goes To War. This is, from River’s point of view, the first time meeting Amy and Rory as “River” instead of “Melody”, and she tells Rory she cannot come to help until the very end, because “This is the day he finds out who I am” – presumably also because crossing her own time stream as a baby would be dangerous.

After the battle, and when the baby is taken away, River joins them. The Doctor is angry with her for not helping, and she explains why The Order of the Silence fear him so much:

“This was exactly you. All this. All of it. You make them so afraid. When you began, all those years ago, sailing off to see the universe, did you ever think you’d become this? The man who can turn an army around at the mention of his name. Doctor. The word for healer and wise man throughout the universe. We get that word from you, you know. But if you carry on the way you are, what might that word come to mean? To the people of the Gamma Forests, the word Doctor means mighty warrior. How far you’ve come. And now they’ve taken a child, the child of your best friends, and they’re going to turn her into a weapon just to bring you down. And all this, my love, in fear of you.”

— River Song, A Good Man Goes to War
River talking to the Doctor

The Doctor is the first one to figure out who River is, and excitedly leaves, promising that Amy’s daughter will be found, and she will be safe. Amy is angry, and threatens to shoot River if she doesn’t explain.

After showing Amy that her babies’ name in the language of The Gamma Forest translates to “River Song”, the penny drops:

RIVER: It’s your daughter’s name in the language of the Forest.

AMY: I know my daughter’s name.

RIVER: Except they don’t have a word for Pond, because the only water in the forest is the River. The Doctor will find your daughter, and he will care for her whatever it takes. And I know that. It’s me. I’m Melody. I’m your daughter.

A Good Man Goes to War
River and Amy

River witnesses her own murder attempt

Back to The Impossible Astronaut, River receives an invitation to Lake Silencio like the others. She synchronises diaries with the Doctor, and they discover they have had many adventures together, including Easter Island and Jim the Fish. River is forced to watch herself shoot the Doctor, and has to play along and pretend like she doesn’t know what is happening.

Later, when a younger Doctor (909 years old) arrives, invited to get to the bottom of his future murder, River asks about Jim the Fish and he doesn’t know about him.

River works with the team to find out about the murder which she committed, and to investigate the girl in the astronaut suit which is actually her – she is having to lie a lot. One moment of pure truth comes when she says she is not afraid of the Doctor’s death, or her own, there is a far worse day for her coming. She explains to Rory in the next episode:

RORY: What did you mean? What you said to Amy. There’s a worst day coming for you.

RIVER: When I first met the Doctor, a long, long time ago, he knew all about me. Think about that. An impressionable young girl and, suddenly this man just drops out of the sky and he’s clever and mad and wonderful, and knows every last thing about her. Imagine what that does to a girl.

RORY: I don’t really have to.

RIVER: The trouble is, it’s all back to front. My past is his future. We’re travelling in opposite directions. Every time we meet, I know him more, he knows me less. I live for the days when I see him, but I know that every time I do, he’ll be one step further away. And the day is coming when I’ll look into that man’s eyes, my Doctor, and he won’t have the faintest idea who I am. And I think it’s going to kill me.

The Impossible Astronaut
River opening a locked door

I think it’s going to kill me” – ouch, remember that because it just might…

Once The Silence are dealt with, The Doctor returns River to Stormcage – she says she has a promise to live up to – and as the Doctor leaves she is surprised that he doesn’t kiss her goodbye, so she kisses him:

(River kisses the Doctor.)

DOCTOR: Right. Okay. Interesting.

RIVER: What’s wrong? You’re acting like we’ve never done that before.

DOCTOR: We haven’t.

RIVER: We haven’t?

DOCTOR: Oh, look at the time. Must be off. But it was very nice. It was, it was good. It was er, unexpected. You know what they say. There’s a first time for everything.

(The Doctor goes into the TARDIS.)

RIVER: And a last time.

Day of the Moon
River kissing the Doctor

This is absolutely heartbreaking. As it is the first time the Doctor kisses River from his point of view, she realises there will be a last time they kiss from hers, and it may even be this one.

The Pandorica Opens, and the Vortex Manipulator

It’s 5145, River Song is still in prison, and she receives a phone call from Winston Churchill (the TARDIS rerouted the call to her, as he was busy). Learning about a new threat to the Doctor, River escapes (using her hallucinogenic lipstick) and buys a Vortex Manipulator from Dorium Maldovar – this begins a time when River is free to explore time and space by herself, and isn’t constrained to waiting for The Doctor to pick her up.

River contacts the Doctor by vandalising a diamond cliff at the dawn of time with the words “Hello Sweetie”.

Along with the Doctor, they foil a plan for his enemies (including Daleks, Cybermen, Sontarans, and more) to trap him inside the Pandorica. The reason they do this is because they have seen a future where the TARDIS explodes and the universe collapses – they know it is him because he is the only one who can fly the TARDIS.

But, with the knowledge gained as “the child of the TARDIS”, it is actually River who is flying it and caught inside the explosion, living in a time loop at the heart of the explosion until the Doctor fixes it by flying the Pandorica. This reboots time (“Big Bang 2”), but the Doctor no longer exists.

During Amy’s wedding, with her parents now existing again as the crack in her bedroom wall never happened, River drops off her now-blank diary as a present, which triggers Amy to remember everything, and the Doctor is restored.

He meets River outside, at this point he doesn’t know who she is, so she teases him a bit:

RIVER: Did you dance? Well, you always dance at weddings, don’t you?

DOCTOR: You tell me.

RIVER: Spoilers.

The Big Bang
River Song

DOCTOR: River, who are you?

RIVER: You’re going to find out very soon now. And I’m sorry, but that’s when everything changes.

The Big Bang
River using her vortex manipulator

She disappears using her vortex manipulator, and the Doctor is left to wonder why the TARDIS exploded (it was another plot by The Silence).

The crash of the Byzantium

River is recruited by Father Octavian, and promised a pardon if he helps them track down a Weeping Angel. She decides to get the Doctor’s help, once again by vandalising an ancient artefact, this time the Black Box of the Byzantium.

This is the first time the Eleventh Doctor meets River, from his perspective. There is a lot of intrigue about why she is in prison, who she killed – and hints about it being him. We also learn that River has pictures of all the Doctor’s incarnations:

“I’ve got pictures of all your faces. You never show up in the right order, though. I need the spotter’s guide.”

— River Song, The Time of Angels
River Song, looking up from her diary

The Doctor accidentally refers to her as “Professor River Song”, and she gets a spoiler about her future. She offers one to The Doctor later, when she tells him the next time they’ll meet (which she has just experienced):

DOCTOR: Octavian said you killed a man.

RIVER: Yes, I did.

DOCTOR: A good man.

RIVER: A very good man. The best man I’ve ever known.

DOCTOR: Who?

RIVER: It’s a long story. Doctor. It can’t be told, it has to be lived. No sneak previews. Well, except for this one. You’ll see me again quite soon, when the Pandorica opens.

DOCTOR: The Pandorica. Ha! That’s a fairy tale.

RIVER: Doctor, aren’t we all?

Flesh and Stone
River laughing

River is beamed back onto the prison ship, hoping she has done enough to get pardoned this time.

A short while after this, River uses her vortex manipulator to visit Amy from sometime in Amy’s future, after she has witnessed the Doctor’s death in The Wedding of River Song. She tells Amy that he’s alive, and Amy makes a realisation of her own:

RORY: Are you sure, River? Are you really, properly sure?

RIVER: Of course I’m sure. I’m his wife.

AMY: Yes! And I’m his — mother in law.

RIVER: Father dear, I think Mummy might need another drink.

The Wedding of River Song
Amy Pond, coming to a realisation she's not happy about

River is pardoned

It seems helping with the Weeping Angels, and who knows what other jobs, wasn’t enough to get River pardoned – that happened when the Doctor erased every mention of his existence out of every database in existence, as we saw in the mini episode The Inforarium, and is mentioned in The Angels Take Manhattan. River is also now a professor.

River finds another way to get the Doctor’s attention when she needed help – she wrote a book about them. The Doctor, Amy and Rory follow the clues and find her:

DOCTOR: So where are we now, Doctor Song? How’s prison?

RIVER: Oh, I was pardoned ages ago. And it’s Professor Song to you.

DOCTOR: Pardoned?

RIVER: Mmm. Turns out the person I killed never existed in the first place. Apparently, there’s no record of him. It’s almost as if someone’s gone around deleting himself from every database in the universe.

DOCTOR: You said I got too big.

RIVER: And now no one’s ever heard of you. Didn’t you used to be somebody?

DOCTOR: Weren’t you the woman who killed the Doctor?

RIVER: Doctor who?

The Angels Take Manhattan
The Doctor and River, playfully flirting. River's arm is trapped by a Weeping Angel

This episode is the very last adventure with Amy and Rory, as they seal their fate when the Weeping Angels take Rory, and Amy volunteers to go with him and live the rest of their lives together in New York. The Doctor can never travel there again, with the timeline being too scrambled.

River consoles the Doctor, and tells him not to travel alone, but that she won’t be travelling with him all the time: “One psychopath per TARDIS, don’t you think?”. She writes the book that will lead him to here again, and sends it back in time for Amy to get published – Amy writes a touching afterword for him.

Failed attempts to visit Darilium

The Doctor knew, from his Tenth incarnation and first meeting with River, that just before her final hours he took her to Darillium to see the Singing Towers. He has been putting it off many times, including when in Rain Gods he meant to visit a restaurant but ended up somewhere else, and in Last Night when he was taking her there but later we find out he kept cancelling.

There are many, many audio, book, and comic adventure featuring River Song throughout all of her timeline, and a huge number of them are set here, after her last TV appearance with the Eleventh Doctor but before her ultimate demise.

River’s final night with the Doctor

River is trying to contact the Doctor (whom she refers to as “The Damsel”), but thinks she failed to get in touch when she meets the Twelfth Doctor, but does not recognise him. This is because she has pictures of all his faces, and she knows he only has a limited number of regenerations, but does not know the Eleventh Doctor was given an extra set by the Time Lords during The Time of the Doctor. Hilarity ensues, but then River has a moment of sadness when she realises her diary is almost full:

RIVER: The man who gave me this was the sort of man who’d know exactly how long a diary you were going to need.

DOCTOR: He sounds awful.

RIVER: I suppose he is. I’ve never really thought about it.

The Husbands of River Song

And then River lays out her feelings for the Doctor, not realising he is standing next to her:

“When you love the Doctor, it’s like loving the stars themselves. You don’t expect a sunset to admire you back. And if I happen to find myself in danger, let me tell you, the Doctor is not stupid enough, or sentimental enough, and he is certainly not in love enough to find himself standing in it with me!”

— River Song, The Husbands of River Song
River Song

This story never fails to make me teary-eyed.

It all ends, rather poetically, in a crashed spaceship by the Singing Towers of Darilium, and the Doctor pays someone to build a restaurant there, and travels forward in time to see it built and reserve a table. River walks in, and the Doctor arrives – wearing a new suit, and a fresh haircut. He gives her his sonic screwdriver as a present. Remember this, it will be important later.

River reveals that she’s been reading spoilers about her own future. Rumours are that she will spend her very last night on Darilium with the Doctor. She expects the Doctor to find a loophole, like he always does:

DOCTOR: Times end, River, because they have to. Because there’s no such thing as happy ever after. It’s just a lie we tell ourselves because the truth is so hard.

RIVER: No, Doctor, you’re wrong. Happy ever after doesn’t mean forever. It just means time. A little time. But that’s not the sort of thing you could ever understand, is it?

The Husbands of River Song
The Doctor and River Song

But of course, there is always a loophole:

RIVER: So, assuming tonight is all we have left.

DOCTOR: I didn’t say that.

RIVER: How long is a night on Darillium?

DOCTOR: Twenty four years.

RIVER: I hate you.

DOCTOR: No, you don’t.

The Husbands of River Song
The Doctor and River, looking into each others eyes

And so River and the Doctor spend twenty four years together during their final night in Darilium. I’m sure she popped out and had some other adventures here too. This explains why this is the Doctor she becomes the most comfortable with – he is the one she spends the most time with.

River’s death in The Library

Sometime after Darilium, River is recruited by the Felman Lux Corporation to lead Strackman Lux and a team into the Library. She sends a summons to the Doctor for help, but the Tenth Doctor picks up the message on his psychic paper – this is a Doctor who has not met her yet. She says he is younger than he’s ever seen him:

“He hasn’t met me yet. I sent him a message, but it went wrong. It arrived too early. This is the Doctor in the days before he knew me. And he looks at me, he looks right through me and it shouldn’t kill me, but it does.”

— River Song, Silence in the Library

(Remember when River says if she meets the Doctor and he doesn’t have the faintest idea who he is, it’s going to kill her… yeah).

River saves all the inhabitants of The Library, including Donna, by letting the computer use her memory space to teleport them out. She realises this means the Doctor has always known how she would die:

“Funny thing is, this means you’ve always known how I was going to die. All the time we’ve been together, you knew I was coming here. The last time I saw you, the real you, the future you, I mean, you turned up on my doorstep, with a new haircut and a suit. You took me to Darillium to see the Singing Towers. What a night that was. The Towers sang, and you cried.”

— River Song, Forest of the Dead

The Doctor doesn’t want her to do it, he wants to sacrifice himself, but River won’t have that – not after everything they’ve been through. She reuses the famous quote “not one line” from the very First Doctor:

RIVER: If you die here, it’ll mean I’ve never met you.

DOCTOR: Time can be rewritten.

RIVER: Not those times. Not one line. Don’t you dare. It’s okay. It’s okay. It’s not over for you. You’ll see me again. You’ve got all of that to come. You and me, time and space. You watch us run.

Forest of the Dead

But it’s not the end for River. That screwdriver he gave her on Darilium? It turns out, it had some technology from The Library built in, and a way to save her. The Doctor saved her into the database of The Library, so she could live on forever with her friends, in virtual reality. He really doesn’t like endings.

Epilogue: The Name of the Doctor

In a very timey-wimey way, the epilogue of this story actually aired on TV two years previously. It’s during The Name of the Doctor, when the Doctor visits his grave on Trenzalore. River is involved in the ‘conference call’ with the Paternoster Gang, and she appears to Clara throughout the rest of the episode, their minds still linked.

“I died saving him. In return, he saved me to a database in the biggest library in the universe. Left me like a book on a shelf. Didn’t even say goodbye. He doesn’t like endings.”

— River Song, The Name of the Doctor

River gives Clara clues about how to get to the tomb, and then she is the one to utter the Doctor’s name to open the TARDIS doors which serve as his crypt.

Just before the Doctor jumps into his own timeline to save Clara and all of reality, he has this touching and final discussion with River:

RIVER: It’s hard to leave when you haven’t said goodbye.

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.

DOCTOR: Well, then. See you around, Professor River Song.

RIVER: Till the next time, Doctor.

DOCTOR: Don’t wait up.

The Name of the Doctor

And River’s final words? Would they be anything else?

RIVER: “Spoilers. Goodbye, sweetie.”


The Further Adventures of River Song

Thanks to the magic of books and audio stories, River Song’s adventures have continued on – in stories placed in between her TV appearances. She even gets to meet other incarnations of the Doctor!

I will one day write another guide to all those appearances, but for now you can explore every story on the site that features River Song:

View every story featuring River Song





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Written by: shauny

I’m a big Doctor Who fan 😀 Creator of TARDIS Guide!