Wednesday, June 08, 2011

River Song: A Confession

I know this is going to be a bit of a shocker, particularly to fellow Doctor Who fans, me, River Song gets less interesting every time she shows up in the series.

I obviously don't want to give anything away for "A Good Man Goes To War", which hasn't officially aired in North America, but suffice to say that Big Revelations about River are in the offing. And like all the other Big Revelations about River Song, it seems to me to diminish her in my imagination just a little bit more. When we first saw River Song, she was a larger-than-life human able to hang with the Doctor on his own level, a woman who may or may not have been his lover (or even his wife) who has her own tremendous, exciting adventures that only occasionally intersect with those of the Doctor...and those not necessarily in consecutive order at that.

Now? She's that woman who lives in Stormgate Prison and breaks out every once in a while when the Doctor needs her. She's someone who lives life backwards to the Doctor, not sideways and upside-down and at crazy non-Euclidean angles. She's someone who, not to spoil "A Good Man Goes To War", has a specific and finite character arc that we have already seen, in a sense, the beginning and end of. It's hard to see her as an equal to the Doctor in that light. After all, he's a man with an unlimited past and a wide-open future. River is anything but.

I miss the River who wasn't anything but. I miss the River whose story couldn't be told on television because you can't hire an actress to time travel fifteen years into the future to pretend to be her own younger self. I miss the River who might only have lived into her forties (assuming she wasn't from an era where someone could live to be two hundred and still look like they were in their forties...) yet spent those years full of life and adventure, crossing paths with twenty-seven incarnations of the Doctor in her career as archaeologist, smuggler, burglar, professional jailbird, and dozens of other professions in a rich life filled with incident. Like the Star Wars prequels, River fails for me not because of any failings of Steven Moffat, but because the River Song in my head was mine and nobody else's is ever going to be as good.

I know that a lot of people aren't going to agree with this. They like Moffat's River Song, and I don't blame them. But I think if you could meet mine, you'd like her better too.


Eric Qel-Droma said...

John, you are absolutely right. The possibilities offered by "Silence in the Library" are just endless. Moffat's really missing an opportunity to create an enduring character by locking her down to a very specific arc.

And why do they need diaries if they're meeting linearly in opposite directions?

Jeff McGinley said...

The same thing happened (albiet probably on a lower intellectual level) with Boba Fett and Darth Vader in the prequels. As the mystery is stripped away the infinite potential coolness is replaced with a specific story.

Mory Buckman said...

Personally, I'm still expecting River to be the ancestor of all the Time Lords. (I think what the Doctor read on the crib was his full lineage, going back to her.) This could still be awesome.

Jim S said...

You're my hero. What you say is absolutely true. But in addition to your problems with the character and reveal, I have my problems.

First, the way Alex Kinston plays the character. It doesn't work for me. Your mileage may vary, but for me, she comes off as cloying and smug. She's arrogant without ever having done anything to be arrogant about. Just don't like the character.

Second, SPOILERS AHEAD, she said she's been convicted of murder and in her first appearance brings the doctor to the weeping angels as part of an effort to gain her pardon. This presents two possibilities. She is innocent, or the circumstances of the incident that resulted in death aren't cut and dried, making her conviction unfair. Thus her presence in prison is unfair. Or she is guilty of murder, first or second degree, so her sentence is fair.

Now if it's case 1, the Doctor shouldn't be returning to her to prison and since he has access to all of time and space, he can place her anywhere but a deary prison cell. If it's scenario two, I really object to the Doctor treating a fairly convicted murderer so lightly. It's not his place to bring a killer on fun adventures. Murder is a terrible, terrible crime and should be treated as such, and not a lark.

Also, like I said, I really hate the character, whether it's the way she was written or performed, just really bugs me, and that really kills the stories she's in.