Every Doctor Who fan has a favorite companion. From the tough-as-nails-Amy Pond to the sweet-and-clever-Clara Oswald, countless women — and a few men — have strolled through those TARDIS doors. But my favorite isn’t even technically a companion; no, she’s too busy having her own adventures to need some man to show her the universe. I’m talking about Alex Kingston‘s River Song, aka Melody Pond, aka the Doctor’s Wife.
Which is why I screamed out loud when I heard that she’s returning for the Doctor Who Christmas Special this year, alongside the Twelfth Doctor, Peter Capaldi. Flirty and brash and ridiculously in love with the Doctor, River Song is a bit polarizing in the Doctor Who community. But for each of the 15 episodes she’s appeared in, she’s undeniably stolen the show. I, for one, ‘ship River Song and Matt Smith’s Eleven until the end of time.
It will be interesting to see how Kingston plays off of an older Doctor, particularly because the last time we saw her she was a ghost — and the first time we saw her, she technically died. Score one for time travel, or as producer Steven Moffat says, “As ever, with the most complicated relationship in the universe, it’s a matter of time…”
In honor of the return of River Song (yay!), here are my top six favorite River moments (so far).
Warning: major River Song spoilers ahead!
River’s True Identity Revealed
Part of the reason I love River — and why others despise her — is how complicated her storyline is. She’s not just part Timelord, she’s also the long lost daughter of beloved companions Amy and Rory. Because their timelines are all mixed up, River often has to hide this information from the others. This scene is the big reveal, the moment they all realize the significance of their curly-haired friend. It’s touching and lends a compelling depth of mythology to the show.
OK, so maybe this isn’t just one moment, but can you really blame me? Despite their age difference, Matt Smith and Alex Kingston have a chemistry that burns up the screen. Companions and Doctors have a long history of unrequited, wholesome love. River brings a sexual edge to the show with her drawled out “Hello Sweeties,” and the way she can always make the Doctor squirm. Whenever he matches her flirty innuendos, the chemistry soars.
I pretty much loved all of “Let’s Kill Hitler,” from River and Eleven facing off to the final scene of her saving the Doctor. But the moment where she regenerates was such a fun surprise. Not only was Amy and Rory’s longtime friend actually their daughter, but she even has the Timelord ability to regenerate. This madcap scene, with Kingston rushing around like a Tornado and the rest watching her in bewilderment will always be one of my favorite Doctor Who moments.
“The Wedding of River Song,” is another one of those crazy-ambitious, visually stunning, slightly confusing episodes of the Moffat era. I, of course, love it. Not just for the complicated factor — a fixed point in time has been changed, making all of time exist at once — but for the romance. This is the episode where we finally see the Doctor and River get married. Sure, it’s on the roof of a pyramid (Don’t ask!), and may or may not be legal. But from this point forward, both River and the Doctor refer to one another as husband and wife. It’s a big romantic step forward for a character who is so often portrayed as asexual.
The tragedy of River’s story infused her every moment, because from the very start we knew how her story would end. “Silence in the Library,” and “Forest of the Dead” are her only two episodes with David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor, and they’re heartbreaking from the beginning. It’s the first time the Doctor doesn’t recognize her, even though she clearly knows him. So when she sacrifices herself to save him, there’s a poignant sadness to the whole thing. This is the beginning of the entire mystery of River Song: how does this woman know him so intimately that she’d die for him? What is the journal she carries around that he can’t see? The Doctor, and the viewers, were instantly intrigued.
Bonus Scene: Their Final Kiss
To this day, this is the only kiss the Doctor initiated himself. River is a ghost, the Doctor is on his way to his death (or so he believes) and they share one final moment before she disappears. It makes me want to cry and squee at the same time.
Doctor Who: The Angel’s Kiss: A Melody Malone Mystery, Justin Richards (BBC Books, October 2012)
Any Whovian will recognize the novel as based on the one the Doctor reads in The Angels Take Manhattan, secretly written by River Song. The book becomes a guide for the Doctor, River, Amy and Rory, as they battle the Weeping Angels in both 2012 and 1938 New York. In the show, it was called Melody Malone: Private Detective in Old New York Town, and the Doctor was pretty smitten with the cleavage-y cover. This tie-in novel tells the same story, recounting Amy and Rory’s last day with the Doctor.