Mon
May 2 2011 5:46pm
River Song’s Timeline Captured in Infographic (Though We Beg to Differ!)

River Song and The Doctor timeline by Andorian Blues

io9 has found a beautiful infographic by Reddit user Andorian Blues showing the respective timelines of the Doctor’s adventures with River Song. Something that has become necessary since the start of the Eleventh Doctor’s adventures, and which will only become even more so as season 6 continues onward.

We think the above graphic (click to enlarge but beware, it is massive) might be incorrect in a couple places, however.

Massive spoilers below.

In the season 6 opener “The Impossible Astronaut,” River reveals that she and the Doctor’s timelines are moving in opposite directions. The first time he sees her is the last time she’ll see him, and vice versa.

We personally love this declaration, if only because of the drama it churns up. Already, Moffat has made good use of it in the end of “Day of the Moon,” and it gives an even more tragic recoloring to so much of what we’ve seen in “Silence in the Library” and “Forest of the Dead.”

But we don’t think Moffat means this statement literally, based on the evidence we already have. Both of them seem to traveling generally perpendicular to each other, but there also seems to be a healthy dose of looping back that is occurring.

For example, in “The Impossible Astronaut” Rory and Amy (while speaking with River) refer to the events of “The Big Bang,” and River seems to be aware of this, making this a post-“Pandorica” River, the same one who delivers the dire warning to the Doctor about a worse day to come in “The Time of Angels.”

This changes the above timeline dramatically, putting the latest episodes after “Pandorica/Big Bang” in River’s timeline, and possibly after the “Angels” two-parter, as well. If that’s the case, River and the Doctor are traveling in the same direction for now, even if this little grouping of adventures takes place near the end of their relationship (from River’s perspective).

Regarding the ending of “Day of the Moon,” there’s also some doubt as to whether this was actually the last time River and the Doctor kiss, as River fears. In their last meeting in the “Library” two-parter as an exceptionally loving affair, with the Future-Doctor keenly aware that this is the last time he gets to see her in a romantic capacity. It’s not impossible that they don’t kiss then, but it seems highly unlikely, even for a militantly platonic Doctor.

This tells us that not even River is entirely sure of the direction their timelines are flowing in. Some things she’s taking as truth we’ve heard about in a different manner.

Aside from this, we think the River/Doctor timeline above gets it pretty much right, even down to the possibility of the Tenth Doctor being the one taking River on her picnic to Asgard. (And hey, that certainly opens up the possibility of Tennant returning for a guest spot....)

What other clues might we be missing here? The status of River’s doctorate/professorship? Her progression in regards to her TARDIS-flying expertise?

15 comments
JOhn Johnson
1. smileyman
I rewatched the Silence in the Library two parter the other night, and a big clue jumped out at me. When she's talking to Donna River says that they've met out of order. She's supposed to already know the Doctor now, but something screwed it up. IMO it's entirely possible that the events of The Big Bang either fixed their timelines so they're now going the right (mostly).
xeny
2. xeny
I'd suspect it's more likely to be the Silents that screwed it up. Note that they have some kind of time travel technology. Also, Amy would have remembered the order of theit relationship when she recreatd the universe in TBB.
xeny
3. Canis
I was confused by something in the recent two-parter: The Doctor refuses to trust River Song -- is scathing about the idea, in fact.

And it seems this is supposed to be an emotionally brutal part of River's reverse journey, as (seen from her personal chronology) the Doctor forgets about her piece by piece.

Yet, in the Doctor's timeline, he has already been to the Library. He might not know about their relationship together, but he should remember River whispering his true name into his ear, and he has seen her give up her life for him.

Also: The Doctor seems to be going through regenerations at a rate of about one every handful of his personal years these days. Yet more than a century later, he's still the 11th Doctor?

(Not to mention -- stepping out of the fiction for a moment -- I can't believe the BBC would simply end the series when Smith decides to move on. Which would suggest there will be more regenerations to come, between defeating the Silence and being shot by the Impossible Astronaut.)

Perhaps he settles down a bit when he gets together with Ri... no, wait, what am I saying? The pair of them are clearly going to tear strips out of the universe. I can't see his life being more stable with River Song in it...
xeny
4. Tatterbots
Something else: there seems to be no reason why River's and the Doctor's timelines should move in opposite directions. While she does her fair share of time travelling, each of her adventures seems to start and end in her home era; meanwhile, he jumps around all over the map. She knows this, and when she meets an 1100-year-old Doctor who's already met Jim the Fish on Easter Island, she doesn't seem surprised.

I think what she has is simply a general feeling that things are coming to an end. When they compare diaries, it's always her asking him "Have you done _____ yet?" Never the other way round. So far that's because most of the diary really is still in his future, but knowing him, it might also be because he doesn't need to ask. He can tell the age of a garden shed by licking it, and he can probably tell her age by voice analysis or something. (Or by licking, who knows?) If he doesn't even ask her about adventures she hasn't had yet, it must contribute to the impression that there aren't many of them. Also, she's just seen him die. Naturally she's feeling melancholy. By The Time Of Angels (assuming that hasn't already happened for her) she'll have got over it.

I like to think that when he's older and she's younger, he'll be the one saying to her, "Spoilers!" They'll both have picked it up from one another, and its true origin, if any, will be lost in the mists of timey-wimey.
xeny
5. PhoebeSF
For example, in “The Impossible Astronaut” Rory and Amy (while speaking with River) refer to the events of “The Big Bang,” and River seems to be aware of this, making this a post-“Pandorica” River, the same one who delivers the dire warning to the Doctor about a worse day to come in “The Time of Angels.”

River lies.

I recently rewatched all the River-order episodes backwards, and it's pretty clear to me that the River from TIA is a prior River than the one from TTOA and TBB. It's mostly made explicit in the acting, and the way River holds the Doctor at arm's length romantically.
xeny
6. Andrew F
Moffat certainly shouldn't mean it literally - if they are meeting in exactly opposite order, and River knows it, why would she compare notes with him when they meet? They would have literally no experiences in common.
xeny
7. brent06611
A thought that just occurred to me - not strictly regarding this, but somewhat. River is theoretically getting younger but actress Alex Kingston clearly isn't - no offense intended, we just sadly don't live in the Who-niverse. This (although not really story based, more show-running based) leads me to further believe that the child/Amy's daughter(?) is River. The kid can regenerate and be a younger River Song, without needing to go through all the OMG they have the same character being played by somebody else! nonsense. I know this is more in the vein of who is that kid speculation, but could be a helpful consideration in wondering about River's timeline.
Ursula L
8. Ursula
As far as the Doctor trusting River goes, their relationship isn't really about trust. They call each other into incredibly dangerous situations, for the sake of adventure and saving the universe.

River called the Doctor to the Library, where Donna nearly died, to the Byzantium, where Amy nearly died, and to the Pandorica, where the Doctor was locked up by an evil alliance, platic-Rory killed Amy, and the whole universe blew up.

The Doctor called River to Utah, where he was killed, and where then the younger version of him is being led around by River, Amy and Rory without them telling him what's going on.

The Doctor is fascinated by River. He's attracted to her. But he absolutely knows that if River asks him to do something, it's apt to be very dangerous. And he absolutely knows that River is keeping and will keep vital information from him (spoilers.)

Emotionally, the Doctor is dealing with River feeling things for him that he can't reciprocate, because he doesn't know her well enough yet. He's being told that he will feel a certain way. But he can't be sure if what he's being told is a reflection of what River wants him to feel, or what he would come to feel on his own. He also knows that as he gets to know River better, his own past memories of her will become more painful, remembering her death in the Library.

So trust her? What does trust even mean, in that context? The Doctor knows that River isn't safe. But as Sarah Jane told Rose, some things are worth getting your heart broken for.
xeny
9. Eric Qel-Droma
When River talks of the Picnic at Asgard, she says, "What a night that was!" with what I interpret as romantic longing/satisfaction. He has to have at least kissed her on such a trip, and I sincerely doubt that Eleven has taken her out for such a significant evening when he has so little personal understanding of the relationship. I got the feeling from "FotD" that their trip to Asgard was, in many ways, the final night for both of them.

I therefore conclude that River's perception of them moving in opposite directions is either erroneous or a lie. I believe it to be erroneous because of her obvious belief in it at the end of "DotM." Besides, as Andrew F points out above, if they really are traveling in linearly opposite directions, they wouldn't need the diaries. The "Jim the Fish" discrepency between 1100-y.o. Eleven and 900-y.o. Eleven also argues against 100% opposite directions.

I'd also like to add that RS is absolutely my favorite character in all of modern Doctor Who. Just, you know, FYI.
xeny
10. Michael David
Since it's very possible that the Picnic at Asgard was the tenth doctor, he might have only given her the sonic screwdriver to save her in the future, not necessarily because he loved her but because he knew he needed it to save her(He says it himself). Since he didn't know much about her at all at that point. He also probably told her his true name because he knew that he needed to trust her in the future.

I'm not sure when these two things ocurred, since he hasn't done either yet in either timelines that we've seen, unless he already did it and we haven't been shown it yet.

It would make sense that as his timeline progresses, he would trust her less and less if she was actually a bad person, and that she would trust him more and more finding out he is actually a good man.
xeny
11. jjph
Found this post while trying to work out the same thing. Here is a link to another attempt at this, incorporating what we have learned up through "A Good Man Goes to War." I've tried to mark what is still speculation, but would be interested in hearing arguments for rearranging things. Obviously this will be updated in September.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/pallrokk/5920825726/in/photostream/

Feel free to download/post.
xeny
12. cwdavenport
The end of Flesh & Stone, The Doctor says time can be rewritten. Let's hope so, River may not kill him? I hope
xeny
13. deedsy
@phoebesf

i don't think impossible astronaut is before time of angels or big bang. because she only first gets her vortex manipulator in the pandorica/ big bang. she tells us that after the pandorica she went on to the byzantium and then she has her vortex manipulator in the impossible astronaut...
so i conclude from her standpoint
pandorica
time of angels
impossible astronaut

also, i don't think it's possible at all that the tenth doctor took her to the picnic at asgard as the tenth doctor is younger than the elventh. if the eleventh doctor doesn't know who river is enough to take her out on a romantic evening how would the tenth?
xeny
14. Guyus
River asks Ten whether he's done the Crash of the Byzantium, so obviously she doesn't know he's an earlier incarnation than Eleven. And, after establishing he *hasn't* done Byzantium, she asks if he's done Asgard... which would imply Asgard happens before Byzantium from the Doctor's perspective. (And in a different incarnation to Eleven, as the moment she realises he *hasn't* done the Byzantium, she would know him for an earlier incarnation)

This is all assuming that elements of their loopy-relationship aren't rewritten from time-to-time, of course.
xeny
15. gal K
think it would be at all helpful to do a "rory-amy" timeline alongside doctor and river's?

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