Jan 8 2014 11:30am

The Problem With River Song

Doctor Who, River Song, Alex Kingston

With the Eleventh Doctor now passed into Whovian memory, it would seem that the Era of River Song has ended as well. And while it should be bittersweet, it is also honestly something of a relief.

Let me be clear—I happen to love River Song. Well, let me be clearer... I love what River Song might have been. And it’s telling that what she became is a symptom of everything that fans are lately bemoaning about Doctor Who.

The mysterious introduction to River Song in season four’s “Silence in the Library”/“Forests of the Dead” two-parter leaves a trail of clues that paints a fascinating picture of her relationship with the Doctor. We find out that she knows the Doctor intimately, that they might even be married, that he comes whenever she calls him, that she’s an archaeologist with a taste for adventure and her sexuality has more in common with Captain Jack Harkness than any other character on the series. (Remember, she states that Mr. Lux is the only remember of their expedition that she doesn’t fancy and that she’s dated androids before. Not too picky, then.) We know that her Doctor is a future incarnation, and it seems possible that she has bounced off of other versions as well, given her lack of surprise at running into Ten.

Doctor Who, River Song, Alex Kingston, Tenth Doctor

What makes River interesting is the fact that she is remote for the Doctor. Rather than living on the TARDIS, we learn that she is largely in charge of their time together; she calls the Doctor, he attends, they run off and enjoy the time. Then he deposits her back where she was. It was potential for the Doctor to have a relationship with a companion that was nearly angst-free. If River didn’t travel with him fulltime, there was no danger of losing her too quickly. The next time a note reached him on the psychic paper it could have been three days from the last trip for her, but decades for him.

In River’s introduction, she has all the power: she is the one who calls the Doctor, she is the one who scolds him when he’s being obstinate, she is the one who rallies the group and moves them along. In a telling move for the Davies era, it is she who grabs the Doctor’s hand when the first run together, not the other way around. She is taking him on as a companion in that first meeting. Ten is so moved by her near-death plea to preserve their time together, to never rewrite a word, that the loss of her hurts him as though he has known her for centuries. We’re left with the impression that she is one tough act to beat.

Doctor Who, River Song, Alex Kingston

Then River returns.

And she’s still feisty and competent and one step ahead. But everything that makes her special, that recommended her from the get-go is stripped away from her step by step in the service of complex plotting. It starts with the revelation that she is in prison for a terrible crime—the murder of the Doctor. He’ll come when she calls, certainly, but only to free her from the tedium of a dark cell. So much for having a life of her own on the other side. To make things more involved, the Doctor finds out that River has a closer connection to him than he had anticipated; she’s the daughter of his current companions. And then she is kidnapped as an infant and brainwashed to kill him. So River essentially spends her formative years with an existence that orbits around the Time Lord. She has no ambitions of her own, no purpose beyond his destruction.

Doctor Who, River Song, Alex Kingston, Eleven, Amy, Rory

Once River realizes that killing the Doctor might be a mistake, she promptly gives up all of her regenerative energy to save his life. (You can’t really blame her for the choice; she’s just beginning to recover from her conditioned psychopathy and her parents essentially tell her to save him.) So she winks away thousands of years of her own future for a man she really doesn’t know, having no idea how that’s going to turn out for her. And then in order to get to know that man she saved better, she becomes an archaeologist... so she can find out everything possible about the Doctor.

Let me reiterate; River Song’s occupation as an archaeologist is retconned so that it’s all due to her obsession with a man who is nearly a stranger to her. Not because she adores history, or loves to explore, or needs to answer unanswerable questions. It’s because she doesn’t know her future boyfriend all that well, and textbooks are the easiest place to find him at the start.

Because outside forces still want her to do the job she was programmed for from birth, River is press-ganged to kill the Doctor once again. But rather than let that happen—she went to school to learn to love the guy, come on!—she decides that she’d rather destroy the universe than fulfill that function. But the universe has to be righted, so to appease her, the Doctor agrees to marry her.

Doctor Who, River Song, Alex Kingston, Eleven

So to put it another way, their marriage is not due to any sort of trust built or great romance between them. It is to mollify River the way one might a tantrum-throwing child. “Hey, if I put on a fake ceremony and agree to make you important to me, will you not let every living thing die? Thanks.” Didn’t River get her education in the 51st century? Isn’t is possible (or even likely) that 3000 years from now there will be passages and rights outside of the marriage that allow people to show their affection for and dedication to each other? But apparently being the Doctor’s wife is everything that she was ever hoping for, and she promptly puts the timeline right once they give their ‘I do’s.

In addition, River Song’s sexuality is practically never addressed again. Who knows about those liaisons that she claims in the future? They’re clearly irrelevant once her importance to the Doctor is established. Which isn’t to say that River Song’s sexuality ever needed to be important to her character—but establishing a person with a wide range of tastes in that regard and then proceeding to ignore those tastes once that person is in a heteronormative relationship… well, it sort of leaves a bad taste in the mouth. As though it was used in the first place to make her ever-so-intriguing and then discarded as soon as she finally had the man in her life.

Doctor Who, River Song, Alex Kingston, Eleven

River’s journey, while heartbreaking, exists as a simple countdown. When we first meet her, she is surprised to find that Ten doesn’t know her, and that lack of recognition is immediately painful. But once we get to the heart of that dilemma in Season 6, we learn that River has always existed in this odd limbo with the Doctor, waiting for the inevitable point in their history where he knows her less and less with each encounter. Her confusion in their first meeting no longer plays—it should have been resignation, perhaps, but not the shock that we see in the Library. Is she just acting, then? We know she is pretending through half of her time with Eleven and Amy because there are things she is not allowed to reveal for fear of confusing the whole timeline.

Everything that makes this character interesting and dynamic is pared down so she makes a good mystery, something to fit into Steven Moffat’s puzzle box universe. What’s distressing is that every time he explains a bit of her away, we’re left with the clarified image of a woman who is entirely defined by her relationship to one person, specifically to one man. And while the Doctor does clearly have feelings for River, they are not of the same caliber, not nearly so encompassing. So on top of all this, she’s putting all of her life’s energy (quite literally) into a person who doesn’t focus the same sort of passion on her. It diminishes River, makes her so much less than she seemed in the beginning, an adventurer with her own plans and dreams, someone who the Doctor had to respect and acquiesce to on occasion. Because Gallifrey forbid the Doctor ever has to answer to anyone other than himself.

Doctor Who, Weeping Angel

And this is in keeping with many problems fans pick out as Steven Moffat continues building his own mythology with the show. The Weeping Angels, one of the most terrifying villains on television after a single appearance, have now been reduced to gimmicky pop-ups that barely hold up under scrutiny. They are meant to “kill you nicely,” but suddenly in Season 5, they have an army and will blow a hole in the universe. One of them is the Statue of Liberty, and can apparently amble through New York City without being seen by a single person. Angels are waiting in a forest to grab Clara in “The Time of the Doctor” because… just because. Because scary. Because danger. Danger that has nothing to do with the central plot of the episode.

The Silent arc is the same. Those besuited fellas desperately needed explaining. So in the twilight hour we get something to grab onto—Why are they working with an organization that wants to kill the Doctor? They were commandeered by a splinter sect of a religion that we’ve never heard of previously. A religion with a great deal of power that we’ve never seen before. A one-off, the same as the splinter sect that snapped the Silents up (because we only find out that Madame Kovarian and her cohorts are a religious lot in “A Good Man Goes to War” and it is never really brought up again). These ideas are not laid out ahead of time—they are decided in the moment, for whatever the plot needs to create a lot of explosions and heroism.

Take this example: The Pandorica will open and Silence will fall. Except then the Pandorica did open and there was no Silence, so now… Silence will fall when the Question is asked! Except it didn’t the first dozen times we were told that the Question was Doctor Who, so now… the Question comes on the Fields of Trenzalore, at the Fall of the Eleventh? These aren’t clues—they are morphing tag lines to keep people interested and guessing. But they have to shift every time the story shifts and no longer accommodates the same mystery.

The same as most details surrounding River Song’s entire character.

Doctor Who, River Song, Alex Kingston

Which isn't to say that there are no affecting moments on the show where River is concerned—it’s quite the opposite, in fact. But those moments are not grounded in any sort of devotion to her continual development as a character. You see the frustration, don’t you? It’s easy to gloss over, to just watch and enjoy, but on more careful inspection you find that nothing means anything. Everything just gets written over for a bigger speech, more tears, another world/universe saved because the Doctor is brilliant and that’s what he does. And the Doctor is brilliant, but so are the people he loves. So are Amy and Rory, so is Craig, so were Sarah Jane and the Brigadier, Rose and Martha and Donna, so is Captain Jack Harness. So is River Song.

So was River Song. But she never quite showed us her real potential. We never got to see her date an android or excavate a lost civilization or save an entire species because the Doctor comes when she calls and no one else.

And that’s the woman I feel cheated out of knowing.

Emily Asher-Perrin still loves the River Song she thought she was going to meet. You can bug her on Twitter and read more of her work here and elsewhere.

Shiznatikus the Great
1. Shiznatikus the Great
Exactly. I stopped buying the DVDs at Series 6 when it became obvious that everything great had been pissed away. After the 50th, I don't think I even want to watch anymore.
Shiznatikus the Great
2. GallifreyCIA
Brilliantly put. And EXACTLY what is wrong with Moffat-era. RTD was better at character stuff by far.
Shiznatikus the Great
3. Mels
I totally agree. I loved River Song in "Silence in the Library" and "Forest of the Dead," but I was so disappointed when she returned. She had such potential and it was maddening that Moffat squandered that away. Of course, Moffat's squandered away a lot in his obsession with making the show a puzzle box as you called it. I'm really frustrated right now with Doctor Who because Moffat's obviously more interested in his convoluted mysteries than in characters or story. Russell T. Davies wasn't perfect, but he did, at least, care more about characters than trying to shock the audience with confusing and unnecessary twists.
Shiznatikus the Great
4. RocketGirl75
You hit the nail on the head. Everything in the Moffat era has left me wanting more--nothing stands up to rewatching, to the kind of deep viewing that links all the pieces together and makes you say, "OH! Holy crap, he had that in mind all along!" And River and Eleven's relationship always left me cold; no sexual tension, no attraction, no eal reason why on earth these two people are apparently an epic romance. It's not an epic romance just because you tell us; you have to show us.

I can watch the romance between Ten and Madame Pompadour a dozen times over (and I have) and see more subtlety and attraction there than in River's entire arc (with the exception of Silence in the Library--there were sparks there). In the end, thus far, all of the Moffat episodes have been like eating Tastykakes. Fun while you're chewing it, but nothing but empty calories.
Shiznatikus the Great
5. CE Murphy
What you said.
Shiznatikus the Great
6. Chaco_kid
Thank-you! Finally. It was driving me nuts for the last couple of years. River Song is by far the most interesting and unique character (or could have been) on Doctor Who. And that catch a out traveling in the opposite direction- again something they not only never milked, but honestly never used. Plus they established markers we would expect to see and they failed... Like you mentioned about her life & times outside of the Doctor, her final date with the Doctor, other Doctor versions. They created the coolest, most powerful character in the Whoniverse and utterly wasted her- of no good or reasonable reason. I was really pissed with the wedding of River Song- more than a waste- it was character breaking. Even her "final" farewell - totally sucked!

How can they get Sherlock so right and cut Doctor Who's head (& heart) off so completely. The only episodes I've really liked, over the last couple of years were the 50th special and Dinosaurs on a Spaceship. The rest of the time in there was trite, slow, and quite frankly boring.
Shiznatikus the Great
8. tatere
These aren’t clues—they are morphing tag lines to keep people interested and guessing. But they have to shift every time the story shifts and no longer accommodates the same mystery.

It’s easy to gloss over, to just watch and enjoy, but on more careful inspection you find that nothing means anything.
This. This exactly. Trying to be utterly ephemeral and super deep thought long arc all at once, but really, it's always just whatever we want to do for effect this week and all the rest go hang.
Shiznatikus the Great
9. Eugene R.
To be fair, given what is originally revealed about River Song's timeline running in opposite direction to the Doctor's, what we see is the UN-developement of the character, taking us back to her earlier, less experienced, less self-assured selves. That being said (as explanation, not excuse), I still have trouble "re-winding", as it were, Melody Pond to get to Dr. River Song, even as I smile sadly when River and Eleven share their first/last kiss.

Sadly, the collapse of a Companion under the pressure of the Doctor's story arcs is not a new phenomenon for the show. Many of the more independent Companions have suffered what we may term "Watsonization" (Forgive me, John! James?), where their former self-relience and competency is reduced to "What, Doctor?"/"Yes, Doctor" chorusing.

And, it is still unsettling to see the Weeping Angels reduced to the threat level of a naughty toy terrier affixed to a pant leg. Something clearly went wrong there, as Ms. Asher-Perrin avers.
Deana Whitney
10. Braid_Tug
So maybe someone more into the lore and back stage can tell me.

When River Song was named: was the idea for Amy Pond, with a daughter named Melody Pond, already in the works?
Or did River Song drive the naming of the next companion and her complicated future daughter?

But yes, agree. River was not allowed to live up to her potential.

And if I see the Angles in the first 3 episodes of Peter’s time, I will have to scream. His first few lines were lame. Which is a shame, since Matt’s goodbye lines were so good.
Alan Brown
12. AlanBrown
At first, River Song was perfectly intriguing, and idea that her timeline and the Doctor's ran in reverse, and the scene where she and the Doctor kiss for the first/last time was heartbreaking. But after being used for a bon mot, that concept is abandoned, and later meetings suggest that, they are, after all, living most of their lives in parallel.
River is a perfect example of the need for authors to retain mystery when they spin out a yarn. We don't need everything, explained, nailed down, and put before us in detail. Most backstory is meant to be left unpublished, so that we readers and watchers can fill in details in our own imagination, and become part of the tale. Instead of becoming larger as more is explained, her character becomes smaller.
And I also was disappointed that, in the end, her character was reduced to a 'moon,' forever orbiting around the 'planet' that is Doctor, rather than someone with her own aims, goals and life to live.
I still love her as a character, but I have to squint a little when I look at her so that some details that irritate me are obscured.
Alan Brown
13. AlanBrown
At first, River Song was perfectly intriguing, and idea that her timeline and the Doctor's ran in reverse, and the scene where she and the Doctor kiss for the first/last time was heartbreaking. But after being used for a bon mot, that concept is abandoned, and later meetings suggest that, they are, after all, living most of their lives in parallel.
River is a perfect example of the need for authors to retain mystery when they spin out a yarn. We don't need everything, explained, nailed down, and put before us in detail. Most backstory is meant to be left unpublished, so that we readers and watchers can fill in details in our own imagination, and become part of the tale. Instead of becoming larger as more is explained, her character becomes smaller.
And I also was disappointed that, in the end, her character was reduced to a 'moon,' forever orbiting around the 'planet' that is Doctor, rather than someone with her own aims, goals and life to live.
I still love her as a character, but I have to squint a little when I look at her so that some details that irritate me are obscured.
Ursula L
14. Ursula
I'm not sure that River's life in the prison is all that bleak. She can get out whenever she wants, and does so.

Plus, it seems that she continues her studies in prison. She is often seen reading or writing. When she enters prison, she's just finished her thesis on the Doctor. By the end of her stay, she's become an expert on the weeping angels, with enough unique skill that the clerics will offer her a pardon if she will help them with the Angels.

River is an academic, and being shut up in a small room with books to read is not that much of a hardship. The prison seems a humane one, and River has her own room, access to books and research materials. No reason to worry about food or shelter. And a vacation whenever she wants. It seems a reasonable "home base" for an academic adventurer.

We later see her investigating the Angels independently in New York - without calling for the Doctor. That seems to be an area of expertise she's developed on her own, and she persues her own career investigating Angels without the Doctor. And River shows no interest in calling the Doctor, even after Rory shows up, until the Doctor signals that he needs her help. She believes she can handle this on her own, and she probably could - escape their captors, use her vortex manipulator to bring Rory back to Amy.

I also now wonder if River was hired for the Library expidition because they suspected Angels were involved. It would explain everyone disappearing, which we later learned was a result of the teleport.

The problem with River's awesome life apart from the Doctor is that she lives it apart from the Doctor. And we're constrained to the Doctor's point of view, seeing her only when he does. So we can only get hints of what she's up to.
15. Ithilanor
Very well said. This encapsulates the issues with Moffat's treatment of River; a lot of the issues with Moffat's time as showrunner, really.
Shiznatikus the Great
16. coppermop
When I look at the way River relates to the Tardis and the fact that it just happens to arrive in Amy’s garden on the eve of her wedding, it does make me wonder. Perhaps, in the end, the biggest influence on River’s life wasn’t the Doctor but Idris.
Shiznatikus the Great
17. RiverVox
Spot on! Thank you for articulating this. Moffatt couldn't tolerate this strong, brilliant, wild-haired, adventurous, adult woman messing up his narrative and so she was contained, and silenced.
Shiznatikus the Great
18. DerekS
Thanks -- good criticism of a long time favorite show, and not just regarding River but the short shrift other elements of plot and character have received. Still love Doctor Who, but I'd love it more if more opportunities for depth are taken as you describe.
Shiznatikus the Great
19. SpaceBoots
"It’s easy to gloss over, to just watch and enjoy, but on more careful inspection you find that nothingmeans anything. Everything just gets written over for a bigger speech, more tears, another world/universe saved because the Doctor is brilliant and that’s what he does."

Yes, to this bit and all the rest! So much potential; so much disappointment.
Shiznatikus the Great
20. RiverVox
I also want to point out that Gaiman wrote "The Doctor's Wife" for 10, before all the Pond-related madness began. I wonder what Davies backstory was for her? Like coppermop, I like to think Idris and River got on well.
Shiznatikus the Great
21. AngelsWeep
River Song, or the idea of her and what she could have been, was more important to me then my dislike of Alex Kingston as an actress (I don't generally like her characters). Here's what I thought we'd have:

River Song, this famed archeologist, traveling the universe (and possibly time), randomly popping into the Doctor's life if she wanted someone to have a lark with or who could shed some light on some pesky mystery that she was having trouble figuring out. (Look if I had a Time Traveller/TimeLord on tap I'd call them to tell me the answer to some of the universe's mysteries too).

Instead this is what we got:

River Song, archeologist only after going to Prison for Murder. Calls the Doctor for "dates" (which essentially is what they're doing), is a bit brainless at times (even if things had to play out, River Song not seeing the trap of the Pandorica was hard to swallow for me) and throws temper tantrums until people give her what she wants.

I had hoped that the "greatest man" she had ever known she had killed was her father--not because I hated Rory, but I think it would have been more engaging to have her emotionally distraught over the fact she had to kill her "father" to save her mother (obviously Rory wouldn't really be dead, she would have killed his plastic self, but it remains).

I had hoped that "Professor Song" was a bit like Indiana Jones in that her students thought her to be rather dull, but she really lived this life of adventure and mystery.

I had hoped that even after we learned who her parents are and what kind of convoluted nonsense it took for them to have the way she is, she'd run off and have her adventures. The greatest scene to me was when she came into Amy and Rory's backyard and sat down with her "mom" and they shared a bottle of wine while River spoke about what had just occurred.

I like to believe that the reason River didn't call the Doctor for the Angels Case was because she knew what it meant for her parents and just once in her life wanted to believe that she could just the future and change their (or I suppose Rory's in particular) fate.

I like to think that the reason River seemed surprised to see Ten was because she thought he was the incarnation after 11. and was afraid that her Doctor had forgotten her somehow and that hurt almost as badly as finding out this was their last meeting.

I did like the twist that the River we saw in "The Name of the Doctor" was the River post-Library of Silence. I wish it could have made more sense and felt less shoehorned, but that's problematic of most of Moffatt's writing for her.

I can understand that Moffatt was like 'SHINY STORYLINE' and got a bit distracted and misguided, but it fell apart so horribly. And that I can't understand.
Emma Rosloff
23. emmarosloff
One has to wonder when Moffat wrote "Silence in the Library/Forest of the Damned" just how much he already had planned for River Song. Those were his episodes, after all (although we all know how great he was for his one shots). I've no doubt Doctor Who is a tough show to make... there's an infinite amount you can do, and so many ways it can go wrong. But I can't help but get the feeling from the majority of Moffat's episodes that his plots are reactionary, a desperate attempt to weave a mystery he feels complex enough for the show. As if he's trying to prove something... but ultimately it seems he can hardly keep up with his own story, and not only does it grow increasingly more convoluted, the characters - the very reason we're watching - are largely lost in the process.

I didn't mind so much that River Song was Amy and Rory's daughter, although I can definitely get behind the frustration that her whole life and purpose are defined by her relationship to the Doctor. The Bechdel test comes to mind -- wherein you look at a work of fiction (book, movie, television show, you name it) and try to find two women who are talking to each other about something other than a man. While there are examples of this in Doctor Who, there probably aren't as many as there ought to be.

Of course, the show is all about the Doctor, who happens to be a man. Wouldn't it be nice if he were a woman for awhile? Or maybe a person of color? But that's a whole other argument...

To me, the biggest offense Moffat committed against River Song was bringing her pseudo back in "The Name of the Doctor". Not only did her bizarre psychic link with him seem to make no sense (and felt awfully convenient), but their goodbye as they stood in the ruins of Trenzalore was downright schmaltzy. She got in one more "Spoilers" and "Sweetie" as if those two phrases encapsulated her character, and indeed it felt as if that was all she had been reduced to.

It took all the impact out of her and Ten's meeting in the Silence in the Library/Forest of the Damned. Of all the moments in the current run of Doctor Who, that is one of my favorites, for how poignant, stirring and sad it was, for the Doctor to meet the love of his life and not know her at all -- and for it to be the last time she ever saw him. Moments like that are why I LOVE Doctor Who. Only in a show like this could you have two characters relate in such a unique, bizarre way. It was a beginning and an end all at once, and I was damned impressed by it.

We see Moffat do the same thing in the last episode with Eleven (spoilers... although I'm assuming everyone reading this has seen it by now), when he brings Karen Gillan back so she can cradle Eleven's cheek and call him her raggedy man one last time. I didn't mind so much the brief glimpses of her as a child, because that was where Eleven started, but Clara was where he ended and it honestly felt like a bit of snub to her to bring Amy back for Eleven's final moment just so all the fans could go Aww. Although the Angels were overdone, I liked how Amy and Rory had a permanent end. I guess I could've tolerated Eleven taking a brief moment to visit their timeline and peak in on them in whatever era they landed in (much like Ten did at the end of his run), but instead we get yet another sappy moment that frankly felt unnecessary.

At the end of the day I feel like if you give characters the attention they deserve you don't need moments like that to highlight them. They'll shine all on their own. One of the things I love about Doctor Who is that despite its epic concept and worldbuilding, it always seems to have been character driven. Yet Moffat continually reduces his characters to plot devices for lack of anything better to focus on, and I think that's what frustrates me the most.
Shiznatikus the Great
24. bryan rasmussen
Could part of the problem be that Matt Smith's portrayal just was not a character that would ever really have sexual chemistry with anyone - I don't mean that negatively I love his Doctor, although the last season he was maybe phoning it in slightly, but he just isn't sexy - so the chemistry you found between Tennant's Doctor and River Song might just be because Tennant was the sexy Doctor.
Jennifer Redd
25. JennRedd
Fantastic. The next time I hear anyone defending the awfulness of the last few seasons, I'm simply going to hand them this article. You've done a lovely job of articulating all my greviances with the Moffatt era.
Emma Rosloff
26. emmarosloff
@24: You know it's funny because I actually thought Eleven and River had more chemistry (as actors) than River and Ten (although Ten was my favorite Doctor by far). And I largely got the impression that River's relationship with the Doctor was with Eleven (as opposed to any of the Doctor's other iterations), which is why her somewhat lack of chemistry with Ten made sense in my brain. Guess that goes to show though how we can all have our own unique interpretation of things.

I thought that River and Eleven's actual kiss on Tenzalore was sweet, it was the circumstance around it that bothered me. I don't fault Matt Smith for any of it... I think he did the best with what he was given. That he always has. I definitely thought he and River had some touching moments throughout her whole storyline... it was really more the writing and plotting of River that bothered me, much like the author of this piece.
Emmet O'Brien
27. EmmetAOBrien
bryan rasmussen@24:Could part of the problem be that Matt Smith's portrayal just was not a character that would ever really have sexual chemistry with anyone - I don't mean that negatively I love his Doctor, although the last season he was maybe phoning it in slightly, but he just isn't sexy - so the chemistry you found between Tennant's Doctor and River Song might just be because Tennant was the sexy Doctor.

Couldn't disagree more. Matt Smith's Doctor, at least earlier in his run is charming, with flashes of depth, in ways that are interesting. Tennant's is a borderline-megalomaniac angstmuffin acting out his PTSD issues by making promises he can't keep, over and over again.

I agree with pretty much all the critiques of Moffat's writing posted here so far, but I vehemently disagree with the notion that RTD's pining and whining character dynamics were any better. The RTD era has two interesting companions, Martha and Captain Jack, and not near enough of the latter (three if you want to count Wilf, but that then gets into supporting characters which would also allow in Idris and Craig and so on and does not on the whole vary that much between NewWho Doctors) but I don't think that lifts it above an era which has an interesting Doctor a higher percentage of the time than the good bits of Eccleston.
Shiznatikus the Great
28. Frobisher
I agree with the feelings of the article, as I've also been disappointed with River's lack of character development, but I still definitely want to see her back so we can do something about the problem that she's created:

There's a standing issue we have to address since the character has been added to the continuity - if the Doctor has a Time-Traveling wife, that's some one you are physically unable of ever really moving past or breaking-up with, since she could pop up at any time being any age - and anything flirty that the Doctor does in the meantime only makes him seem like a big creep (like slapping Clara's bum at Christmas and earnestly agreeing to be her boyfriend during a misunderstanding), and the Doctor should not be portrayed as a creep.

We've "pulled the trigger" on marrying the Doctor off, and we either need to plan a longterm way to incorporate River into the show, or bring her back and write her character off the show in a way that establishes that she *won't* be back, so that the Doctor can move on, otherwise she just becomes this enormous piece of baggage on the program.

I still like the idea of having her give the Doctor a son or daughter (a new development from her perspective), and then gets Matt's call to finally go to the Singing Towers (implying that she's at the end of her timeline, and future versions of the Doctor *with* a child are ones she never met). That way her character is given a form a payoff, and then we establish that the Doctor can assume he won't see her again, and move on.

... and really, unless we write in a way for the character to continue even without Alex Kingston (long-term), that's what you need for closure, because you can't have closure while it's still implied you're going to meet the character again (like in Name-of-TD).

She CANNOT just stay as baggage in the background of the show. She needs to either EVOLVE as a character that can be used in the show longterm, or GIVEN A PAYOFF OF SOME SORT AND WRITTEN OUT OF THE SHOW.
Jenny Thrash
29. Sihaya
I agree with alot of what you've written, but disagree, unfortunately or fortunately, with the very first line. I would not assume that her part is complete just because 11 has regenerated. I would guess that any of her later appearances will be one-offs anecdotes rather than an integral part of a seasonal arc, but that's only a guess.
Shiznatikus the Great
31. Dr. Cox
Very good article.
Do y'all think that Moffat was creating a "stunt character," in the tradition of "stunt casting"? At least that's the way River seemed to end up!
Mig Archey
32. Quilld
Yep. Pretty much agree with every point you made. How disappointing it all became. River's potential was completely squandered. She began with such promise and became a caricature. They made me dislike her. Shame on them. The Weeping Angels were also squandered and definitely over used. With a potent spice a little goes a long way. They should have left us wanting more, at least until they had some better idea(s) of what to do with them than what they came up with. Instead they chose to dilute the concept. The Silence, annoying to me from their first outing only grew more so. I'd be happy if they decided they were played out and we never saw them again.
Shiznatikus the Great
33. Mark Mercer
This explains Clara too. Yet another woman, with a warped timeline, defined entirely by the needs of the Doctor. Implied strongly even down to that leaf she blew in on.
marian moore
34. mariesdaughter
Interesting article. You've given me much to think about even though I love the River Song arc. I think that I disagree that River cares about the Doctor more than he cares about her. I saw the scene where he admits that he always sees and hears her very telling. We see him "married' several times (Marilyn, Elizabeth), but River is the one that he won't let go of until she gives permission.

I rather liked the idea that we never saw her adventures or all of their adventures together. There are loads of stories for us to tell in our heads. I think that both Moffet and RTD used storylines dropped by writers before them. There are still plenty of threads to pick up for later show runners and writers.
Shiznatikus the Great
35. AuntyJack
She's the cut-rate version of Benny Summerfield.
Shiznatikus the Great
36. GallifreyCIA

Actually no, Gaimain wrote THE DOCTOR'S WIFE for Eleven....but the episidoe was intended to run in Series 5, not Series 6 (as it ended up). Otherwise it was ostensibly written for Matt, not David. Moffat only asked Gaiman to pen an ep for Series 5 after RTD left as showrunner. So it was post-Amy Pond.
Shiznatikus the Great
37. GallifreyCIA

"Tennant's is a borderline-megalomaniac angstmuffin acting out his PTSD issues by making promises he can't keep, over and over again."

You are aware that this is EXACTLY how PTSD sufferers deal with their affliction yes? In that vein Tennant's performance is spot on excellent. Just cause you didn't like watching it play out, doens't make it any less realistic a portrayal.
Emmet O'Brien
38. EmmetAOBrien
GallifreyCIA@37: I didn't say that I didn't think it was a realistic portrayal of PTSD. I said I find it utterly the opposite of romantically interesting or sexy, and I stand by that; Tennant's Doctor positively radiates "I am caught up in issues that have damaged me and can damage other people; keep well away for your own safety's sake."
Shiznatikus the Great
39. GallifreyCIA

And that's why that portrayal was such a great Doctor. RTD FTW.
Shiznatikus the Great
40. Daniel Ayala
Pretty much hitting the nail on the head.
And it's still nowhere near as bad as RTD's writing. All of New Who just makes my eyes roll.
Shiznatikus the Great
41. ConsultingTimeLord
All this is fine. To have disagreements with an era is fine.
To have disagreements with style or substance in a television show is acceptable. What isn't is the incessant whining about Steven Moffat. Like this one man has a cabal to turn all of modern television into the Fourth Reich. Hatred for Moffat has gone from simple honest discussion to a movement. I sincerely fear for the man's life. Short of maybe Obama I don't think anyone is singularly hated more than Steven Moffat.

The first annoyance is this nonsensical heyday diatribe that goes on whenever people bring up the mystically perfect "RTD era."
The entire Moffat era is sexist and RTD was the epitome of female written perfection. Rose Tyler, devoid of any substance and was a co-dependent lifeless human rag doll. The Bella Thorne to Tennant's Edward Cullen in space. Martha Jones, Rose part two. The Rebound Companion. Whose sole purpose was to hang around and mope cause the Doctor didn't like her as much. Donna Noble, The most important woman in the universe, well until she had to have her mind wiped. Save the universe, then have it all taken away. Doomed to a life of working temp jobs and feeling like her life meant nothing.

Women under RTD aspired to greatness though. But no one has the legs to stand on when you can't explain away Ursula from Love and Monsters. Transformed into a paving stone and lived out an existence to perform oral favors on the man she loves. Well, when you're a cinder block you really have no choice, now do you? Jackie Tyler, thirsty old woman. Jape of the forests, dead. Lynda with a Y, dead. Astrid Peth, dead. Madame De Pompadour, dead. (Yes I know Moffat wrote the episode) Commander, Adelaide Brooke, there's a strong woman. Oh, yes, she was a fixed moment in time and because there's no way she can actually live and contribute she just kills herself, so, dead.

One of the more interesting women to come out of the RTD era to me was Joan Redfern. And RTD didn't write her, Paul Cornell did. Women throughout this show's history are simply supposed to meet the Doctor, fall in love with him and travel the world. Redfern didn't. This points out why I disliked that era if we're basing it on how women are written. Ten was the Tony Stark of Doctors. "Everything is fine, my hair is great, don't mind all these people dying around me" He loved Rose so much, but was way more expressive when The Master died. In fact he was happy go lucky unless he wasn't able to score. If women are just mysteries and plot devices under Moffat, they were simply eye candy or accessories until their time to die under RTD. And throughout this show's history. I personally find the sexual objectification of women that's gone on in all of storytelling to be far more distressing. River Song became less interesting to me because her character threatened to overshadow the Doctor's. I felt the same way after a while about Amy and Rory. It's not the River Song Show. It's Doctor Who. And I don't want companions that diminish the Doctor. Sorry, but not sorry. I am also sick of every storyline having to be a love story. I'm sick of fanfiction. And And the incessant need to make a companion fall in love withthe Doctor. It's the epitome of lazy writing. When the story isn't compelling enough just add "I love you" it's sickening.

There are things good and bad in both eras. But to keep with this glorification of the past is just annoying.
Shiznatikus the Great
42. Steve Wilcoxon
Very well said. I loved the character of River Song after Silence in the Library. I liked portions of some of her appearances but always felt let down and like Moffat was screwing up a brilliant character and pissing away some great potential plot.

When I first saw Matt Smith as the Doctor, I wasn't sure I liked him. Pretty quickly, I realized it wasn't Smith that was the problem - it was Moffat. Like some others, I've stopped buying the DVDs and am no longer excited to even watch Doctor Who.

I really wish they would have dumped Moffat and kept Smith for another season so we could see what someone else could do with his version of the Doctor. Here's hoping BBC wises up and dumps Moffat soon (he does a good job with Sherlock but sucks on Doctor Who - not sure why).
Jessica Trevino
43. Ciella
@ 41. ConsultingTimeLord

I considered writing a longer post in response to yours, but I figured this gif said it best.
Shiznatikus the Great
44. Steve Wilcoxon
@ConsultingTimeLord, I'm not saying there weren't issues with the RTD era but I'd much rather watch any RTD episode (except Love and Monsters) than any Moffat episode (except Doctor's Wife). When there's a total of one episode I really liked and it was written by a guest (Gaiman), there's a problem. As I said, I've stopped buying DVDs once Moffat took over and have thought of stopping watching the show entirely (at least until they get rid of Moffat (who I do like for Sherlock - just not Doctor Who)). If I see one more episode centered on a "creepy kid", I'm going to scream...
Shiznatikus the Great
45. 2nihon
I too was somewhat disappointed at how River turned out, but I'll forgive all if they'll bring the Doctor's daughter back. :)
Michelle Morgan
46. goblinbox
Holy shit, what's wrong with you people?

You do realize that the Doctor Who franchise is a massive universe with many, many writers? You do realize the Doctor Who cannon is so huge that it's unlikely that any of you, from the OP to the commenters, would be capable of writing an episode that would make any sense at all in context? You do realize Song's story arc was not written by one writer nor all at once, but is in fact a patchwork of different visions and interpretations and that under those conditions we're lucky she makes any sense at all?

It's really too bad you're so butthurt about perceived flaws in an imaginary character on a sci-fi TV show about impossible things. The writing is brilliant and clever, the show is satisfying entertainment, and the people making it are incredibly talented. To say otherwise is just plain bizarre.

Let it go. Let me drop an old trope here and suggest you all go outside and get some fresh air, because it's clear you're wasting far too much time ruminating about TV shows.
Shiznatikus the Great
47. Tia80
"You do realize Song's story arc was not written by one writer nor all at once, but is in fact a patchwork of different visions and interpretations and that under those conditions we're lucky she makes any sense at all?"
Ummm, yeah do you realize that no one but Moffat has ever written River Song. Every episode she ever appears in is written by Steven Moffat and based on the way her character is stomped into the ground and dumped away, he made sure he was the only one to ever write her because he didn't want anyone else giving her character any more positive development.
Shiznatikus the Great
48. dragons3
I have to wonder if some of the problems are due to the actress's limited range and ability. Sorry, but I'm not an Alex Kingston fan. I do agree though, that River Song was more deconstructed than developed. I'd love to see what a better actress could have done with the part.
Shiznatikus the Great
49. Difficat
I completely agree with this article. But I did find one thing to like. Kingston was in her mid-40s when we first saw her, and she had a multi-season romantic leading role. I didn't think that was allowed for people over 30. And it wasn't a later-in-life or sort-of romance, either. She was supposed to be sexy, exciting, and smart, and she had a relationship with the main character. The role may not have broken the mold for a Companion of the Doctor, but it did push the boundaries for a romantic lead.
Shiznatikus the Great
50. HQuinn
The Doctor's Wife... "did you really think it could be anything that simple?"

It's a nice thought, the stuff of fanfiction, to imagine the Doctor finds his penultimate companion and settles down into a real, human, domestic relationship, but that's not really his "thing", is it? It was intriguing because it was so out of character. But that's not how the Doctor rolls.

I, too, was disappointed by the gradual reveal of the lack of legitimacy to their "marriage", but keep in mind, he did (most likely) tell her he loved her ("Well, I'm sure she knows.."), although even *that* was whispered off-the-record, because again, this is the Doctor we're talking about, and to break such new, revolutionary ground with the character- *that* is something that would be above Moffat's station.

Maybe a future showrunner can make such finalized character decisions about the Doctor, but it's too far from the series' end to do something so presumptuous as to give the final word on anything, especially something as potent as marriage.
Alan Brown
51. AlanBrown
@46 goblinbox, If we aren't supposed to use it to complain about the portrayal of fictional characters on TV shows, then why did God invent the internet?
Shiznatikus the Great
52. XinaNail
I'm so glad to find out I'm not alone in feeling that way! It seems like all of the characters have become caricatures of themselves in the Matt Smith era. Some mysteries are best left unrevealed.
Shiznatikus the Great
53. MS
Interesting take. I have to say, seasons 5 and 6 were my favorite seasons, and I thought River was great. The seasons were the best written and most interesting of the current run. Regarding River in particular, I think she was a great character as presented. It is true we don't see her living her own life, go on archaeological digs, dating androids, etc. But I don't think know if that would be particularly good television. She could probably get her own spin off, but having seen parts of Torchwood and Sarah Jane I was disappointed, I don't think I would watch any more spin offs. Not really that interested in Rory's nursing years nor Amy's modeling career either. Doctor Who is not really a character assemble like Downton Abbey. Its about the force of nature Doctor Who and how he impacts people.

We shall see what Capaldi brings. Really looking forward to it.
Shiznatikus the Great
54. lorq
I was going to say that all this anti-Moffat rhetoric was throughly baffling. But I don't think it's baffling at all: I remember certain of my geeky friends falling prey to it in junior high school. Didn't matter what they said or did, the other students would find a way to spin it so it ended up verifying what they wanted it to verify. Apparently peole are hell-bent on being disappointed with Moffat's tenure on Doctor Who and expending a lot of energy to stay disappointed. To me it looks like a mass hallucination. I'm with ConsultingTimeLord above.

(And regarding ConsultingTimeLord's comments, I'm beginning to wonder if the anti-Moffat talk isn't actually a manifestation of a deep, unconscious unease that the RTD seasons aren't actually aging all that well.)
Jack Flynn
55. JackofMidworld
52. XinaNail Some mysteries are best left unrevealed.

My feelings exactly.
Shiznatikus the Great
56. ConsultingTimeLord
A lot of it is simply Steven Moffat doesn't bow to the fandoms as much as they'd like. We all live vicariously through our choices in art. But rarely do well adjusted people want the art to be made in their image. People want fanfiction. They want characters to pine over each other. Brooding boring love stories. Look at Twilight. If you ask some of these people why they are so retroactively fond of the RTD era it all goes back to that nonsensical drawn out boring love fest between Ten and Rose.

Look through half of Tumblr. They're all caught up in their saccharine nonsense. Gifs of Tennant and his sideburns and Rose Tyler. As if Doctor Who was lost and misguided until they turned it into Space Grey's Anatomy.

They even go so far for this basic level nonsense they take Sherlock and Watson and "ship" them together. As if all the world needs is two lead characters in a TV show to love each other. And every time it's ever happened the show goes downhill.

Is Moffat perfect? No. But making one man out of an outfit of many who produce television shows and singling him out is in a way a sort of bullying. People rant about Moffat as if he rules with an iron fist. As if the BBC is a dictatorship and Moffat and his brownshirts stormed the gates and held everybody hostage. Steven Moffat is a showrunner for a television show, not Saddam Hussein. Some of these people take him, and more importantly, themselves far too seriously. If it pains you so much to have to torture yourselves just to watch a television show here's a tip for quick relief: Turn your damn TV to something else like Eastenders and stop whining about it.
Shiznatikus the Great
57. yetidad
Of course, criticism is legitimate and necessary, and I value differences of opinion within fandom. Also, I think the feminist critique of the show and of River in this post is a useful and interesting approach to the series.

At the same time, I have to agree with a lot of the commenters who have pointed out that the ferocious internet rage directed against Moffat is getting out of hand. I also want to point out how excited everyone online seemed to be when he took over as show-runner because of the high quality of his episodes during the RTD-era. There are problems with both (RTD - mawkishness, sentimentality, the overt heroization of the Doctor, fart jokes; Moffat--plotting that is too-clever-by-half or which forces uncomfortable retconning) and there are wonderful things about both (RTD--some of the most genuinely emotional moments in the series; Moffat--darkness, a Doctor who changes and matures signficantly IMHO, a refreshing sense of wonder, Rory).

Personally, I generally liked River (and "Hello, Sweetie" was okay, though "Spoilers!" was a bit irritating). I agree that she was doing fine in prison and wasn't in need of rescue at all. It was more like a game for her. And she did sacrifice a lot for the Doctor, but the marriage was hardly quieting a tantrum-throwing child. That seems a misunderstanding of the context of the episode, of the relationship that had developed between the characters, and of the Doctor.

Also, did the splinter religious sect aspect of the Silence really disappear? I thought that was a central element in The Time of the Doctor.

Anyway, I enjoyed reading the post and the comments!
Shiznatikus the Great
58. ConsultingTimeLord
The underlying theme I see often though is how Moffat is sexist or that his female characters are not realistic. My question is how should women be written? Is there a template? If women are written as lovers it's viewed as wrong, if they're written as mothers it's viewed as wrong, if they're written as fiesty and can hold their own then it's wrong. Basically the general thought is if I'm writing is how are women supposed to be written? To say that one way is wrong is basically limiting. Because women are dynamic. What is at risk is a pendulum shift that is far too much the opposite. In trying to defend an opinion or a position what is happening is this limiting belief. I often say it's great to have an opinion. But it's bad when an opinion has you.
Ursula L
59. Ursula
River and Clara seem to suffer from the same problem within the show. Both have full lives that don't involve the Doctor, and both seem like cyphers because we don't get to see what they do when the Doctor is around.

Clara has an active life with friends and family, that we only see in passing. She has jobs, she has travel plans, she moves into a new apartment. She has time in her life to go apartment hunting!

River attends university, earns her PhD. She continues her studies in prison, becoming an expert on Weeping Angels. Once she's out of prison, she has an academic career, gaining a professorship, teaching classes, doing fieldwork. All of which we know about, almost none of which we see directly.

I'm not sure how you could solve this problem within the constraints of the show revolving around the Doctor's travels. Both of them keep their lives, and make an effort to grow. They love the Doctor, but, in the end, don't need him in the way that needing to be with the Doctor came to dominate the lives of Rose and Donna, or the way such need, unmet, led to Martha stopping traveling with the Doctor completely.
Shiznatikus the Great
60. Dr. Cox
@56, "But rarely do well adjusted people want the art to be made in their image."
Oh yeah. Because of my multicultural reading background (before the coining of the term multicultural) in childhood, I learned automatically to appreciate characters with different sorts of backgrounds and still don't watch tv or read to find reflections--I just enjoy the shows and literary works for what they are, for the different interesting characters and their experiences. And in tv and movies, for the background music! :)
Yes, more could've been done w/ the character of River . . . especially if she'd've been left unconnected to Amy and Rory or not connected to them in that way. I had no problem w/ those characters, however; I wouldn't describe them as annoying (like Skimpole in "Bleak House," for example).
Ursula L
61. Ursula
@56, "But rarely do well adjusted people want the art to be made in their image."
This strikes me as victim-blaming people who are parts of groups that are systematically excluded from the media and art - if you object to people like you being excluded, then you're not "well adjusted."

Activism for greater representation becomes a sign of mental weakness - but people who are part of the overrepresented groups who get all upset that others might want to be represented as well are somehow seen as stable and well-adjusted, rather acknowledging that they're insecure at the thought that they might actually experince people unlike themselves in the media and art.
Shiznatikus the Great
62. Dr. Cox
Perhaps it's all about appreciating characters for themselves and what we can learn from them and their creators, whether we're reading Borges, Hansberry, or whoever??? Or watching whatever . . . "Doctor Who," docudramas, etc???
Ursula L
63. Ursula
A few thoughts about the Doctor and River's marriage, that now occur to me.

Yes, at the moment of the marriage ceremony, it does seem as if the marriage is not built on trust and love.

But the ceremony happens when River is quite young. In a way, it mirrors the events of the Library, when River told the Doctor they were married even before he knew her. Each, from a position of experience and love of the other, promise the other when young and uncertain that they will be there for the other in the future.

At the time of the ceremony, the Doctor has known River for hundreds of years. He's had countless adventures with her - adventures where she has been married to him, but he was not yet married to her. And she's handled that inequality with humor and grace. The Doctor does genuinely love and trust River, even though at that moment she hasn't quite grown into the person he fell in love with.

So, it's a promise. A promise from the Doctor that even when he doesn't yet know her, he'll be there for her.

And in a way, isn't that what marriage is? People who care about each other, making a promise for the future, without yet fully knowing who the person they are marrying will be in the future.

I think a key thing for understanding the marriage ceremony is the fact that River, older River, came to Lake Silencio, knowing that is where she killed the Doctor, and where they married. In choosing to go there, to bear witness, River ratifies, from a position of maturity and love, the decision she made when young and inexperienced, when she was infatuated with the Doctor without knowing him well.

That picnic is where we saw River and the Doctor at their best. The promise of what their relationship would be when they are both mature and committed to each other.

It isn't without stumbling points after that. In Manhattan, the Doctor, while happy to be married to River, hasn't quite figured out how to be married to her, how being married changes their relationship. But he clearly wants to support and care for her in a new way, hence his using regeneration energy to heal her - something that River doesn't quite understand the importance of the gesture to him.
Shiznatikus the Great
64. ConsultingTimeLord
Has nothing to do with people wanting to be represented. has everything to do with people dreaming up how they think a television show is supposed to be and pitching fits when it's not.

The people who post their headcanon stories and pray that they are legitimized every episode. Then get upset more and more each episode.

This week on Sherlock the outrage was the fact Sherlock had a girlfriend. Why? Because they all have formed in their heads that Sherlock is a homosexual. And they are outraged to see him getting on with a girl. Sorry, that is not well adjusted.
Shiznatikus the Great
65. Dana Seilhan
First off, Moffat wrote the first two episodes River appeared in.

Second off, a lot of what you've written here to describe River's character is YOUR interpretation of events. No one said that all River ever did was study the Doctor. She was familiar with the native sentient species on the planet where they encountered all those Weeping Angels, and that had nothing to do with him. She had gotten around enough to know who Dorium was, and she had Jack's squareness gun. No one said River stopped shagging people left and right just because she married the Doctor. I shouldn't have to point out to you that she was fancying her entire archaeological crew AFTER she married the Doctor. Wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey, remember?

I'm a feminist and nothing will change that. But I'm sick and tired of this meme in feminism that says a woman can never, ever focus on anyone but herself without betraying the movement. Stop yelling at women for focusing on other people, ever, and start yelling at men for not focusing enough. (Sorry guys, but killing yourself to defend the party is not focusing on other people. Ever notice how the Big Hero characters never seem to clean up their own messes, therefore imposing on everyone around them to do the job? Yeah, I want women to start being like that. Not.) You're just offering another version of the same tired old crap that tells women we have to work twice as hard to be considered half as good. Over it. Enough already.

P.S. Your commenting alias system could use some work. If I were running the site I'd either have people sign up for an account before commenting or I'd use a normal commenting system where they could put whatever they wanted in the Name box. Other sites manage this without much complaint of confusion over names, and people learn to deal.
Shiznatikus the Great
66. Max Gardner
"River Song became less interesting to me because her character
threatened to overshadow the Doctor's. I felt the same way after a while
about Amy and Rory. It's not the River Song Show. It's Doctor Who. And I don't want companions that diminish the Doctor. Sorry, but not sorry. I am also sick of every storyline having to be a love story."

This pretty much sums up my views on River Song. Whenever she shows up, everyone starts acting stupid so she can shine all the brighter. I mean, come on -- the TARDIS makes that noise because the Doctor's such a blithering idiot he left the parking brake on, and River Song knows how to pilot the thing properly? Who didn't wince at that? Oh, she had a threesome with two other Doctors. Hilarious. Spoilers! Sweetie! This is basically all she is.

But she's sassy, and sass is apparently all you need to make people think you've written a strong female character, so people love her. She's like Bernice Summerfield robbed of all individual agency that isn't relevant to the Doctor. She bothers me, possibly more than even Rose Tyler, who, as RTD's own mawkish black-hole pet character, filled the same niche during his era.

The thing is, I used to be firmly in the "we love Moffat" camp. His one-off stories in the RTD age were the cream of the crop. His first season as showrunner was pretty strong -- certainly more in touch with Doctor Who as a sci-fi show instead of as a love story that happened to have aliens and time travel. These days, I'd be totally okay if he were to leave the series tomorrow, and I'd be lying if I said a large part of that wasn't because of River Song. As the article says, she's just the face of everything that's gone wrong with the show in the past couple of years.

I mean, I won't stop watching the show, of course. I'm curious as to how many of the people who say they're jumping ship because of Moffat have only been watching since the revival. It's a show with fifty years of history behind it. It has its high points (Robert Holmes comes to mind) and its low points (I liked the 6th Doctor, personally, but ask most people and they'll have a different view on that), and sometimes lows can even become highs (the 7th Doctor's first season wasn't so great, but after another two seasons, he's probably my favorite Doctor). So I'll stick with it, and see what Capaldi brings, and whether Clara will start developing a personality now that her whole tedious mystery has been solved.
Shiznatikus the Great
67. TakemetotheTARDIS
The first doctor who episodes I saw were Moffat episodes, and I was super impressed. Then I learned of the show's legacy, and began to watch from Eccleston. Wow, I loved those so much better, the character development was, you know, there. The plot wasn't predictable, but it wasn't convoluted. River was and still is my favorite character, but as I learn the full potential the show had, I am more and more dissapointed watching the Moffat episodes. I also feel the same injustice was done to Matt Smith, though on a smaller scale. And don't talk about " Let's Kill Hitler". Don't. Speak. Of. It. I love River because of how awkward and blushy the Doctor gets around her, to see her all confused and vulnerable was an injustice to the character, the Doctor's confidence was not cute, and made me legit uncomfortable. She's usually so sassy, and it just wasn't fair to take that way from the character, and then on top of it also make her act some ridicuous backstory? It was too much to put on a character. She tends to steal the spotlight; which I love, the Doctor is a bit too cheeky sometimes. But you can't solve that peoblem with a super charcter. Remeber Moffat; you made her give up the regenerations, she' s only human. That said, if anyone could pull it off, it'd be Alex Kingston.
Shiznatikus the Great
68. Ellie231
Thank you for writing this article; it summarized everything I had been feeling about this show but didn’t exactly know why.

I, for the sake of transparency, am (or was?) a River Song fan. I loved how her character could step on to the scene and dominate the performance/episode and give The Doctor a little “what for”. (And yes, even though this is DOCTOR WHO and not the River Song/Companions show, Moffat has done rather poorly in the department of character development--after all, what is the Doctor without his companions.)

Perhaps her character or story arc ended in this way due to Matt Smith’s earlier than planned leave from Doctor Who, as I had once heard it rumored on the net that he was set to sign-on for 4+ seasons (?), and Moffat just did that best with what he had. That is not to say I am pleased with Moffat, but after season 6 it was pretty apparent that River’s time on DW was nearing its end. (I had really hoped to see Jim the Fish, the picnic at Asgard and that whole lot of adventures Eleven & River have together.)

While I had watched the first episode of season 7 back when in aired in 2013, I just now finished the season and could honestly not have been more disappointed. Aside from the whole “River still lingering on bit”—which I guess would make sense sine she (post-Library) hasn’t ‘seen’ the Doctor since Ten stored her ghost--Clara’s story line was absolutely moot. It just was.

Here we had this girl, who deleted all traces of the Doctor from the memory banks of the Daleks--as a living Dalek—muddled down into nothingness in the single telling of a sappy back-story: the universe blew me into existence (literally) to save the Doctor through all of space and time. (Really…?!)

And while I know this series is about doing “the impossible”, after being told for so long that paradoxes can destroy the universe and therefore must be avoided at all costs (River and her journal keeping/Spoilers and that whole bit) how am I supposed to believe it is okay for the Doctor to STEP IN TO HIS OWN TIME STREAM!?!.

Just sayin’.
Shiznatikus the Great
69. Bex929
The accuracy hurt. Because we wanted more. Because she could have been so much more. Endless potential reduced to another female victim to build a male hero. If only 11th's encarnation of the Doctor had only been a woman thing would have been a bit different ;)
Well done!
Shiznatikus the Great
70. Someone You Don't Know
You stole the words right from my mouth! I was so curious to find out what River was...but then she came back, and she was nothing like I thought she was going to be. I was suprised she was even River! She seemed much more immature and innapropiate for no good reason! Then I remembered she is younger and not so experienced, so I gave her another chance. Then she just evolved into a character I've grown to dread. Also, the never-ending questions they keep forming were driving me insane! Who was she? Where did she come from? Then she said in A Good Man Goes to War in the beginning that we were FINALLY going to find out who she is! But then they just disappointed me. Amy and Rory's daughter. Of course. And I totally agree with you about the whole 'I'll marry you to save the universe' thing. I thought it was just me because my siblings keep telling me it's because they love each other. The Doctor doesn't truly love her. I just don't see how they can ever be together. She said that she can't let the Doctor leave without letting him know that he is loved. Well, just to prove that he DOES know he's loved, and to save the universe, he marries her. I FINALLY got THAT off of my chest! I don't want to sound cruel, but I think she is one of the worst things that has ever happened to the Doctor, to the show, and to the WORLD! Everything would have been better off if she had been either A. What she should have been and living up to her true potential or B. Never even existing at all! Wouldn't it be funny if in one of the episodes somethig timey-wimey happens and she gets wiped from existence! *laughs evilly* I better email Steven Moffat my idea...who knows, maybe he'll use it! I highly doubt it though!
Shiznatikus the Great
72. Alena MacLean
You have finally put into words something that I have struggled and struggled to express. I love River Song, she is one of my favorite characters, but after reading this I'm beginning to think that maybe my love for her was what she could have become not what she actually is.

River has so much potential. In Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead she is such a strong character, so full of emotion, gumption and intrigue. I was immediately drawn to her. Almost as soon as she hit the screen I could see endless possibilites for the show stretching out ahead. After Ten's regeneration, the prospect of more River Song was one the reasons I watched any of Eleven's episodes at all.

But then everything turned to crap. The River that I had imagined and everything I wanted her to stand for was thrown aside. After only a few episodes she was already orbiting around the Doctor with no sign of stopping (her lowest point certainly being The Wedding of River Song).

Everything you've said about Moffat is spot on. You've hit the nail completely on the head. It's difficult with him because I can never say exactly what it is that is offputting - like it's an itch that I can't quite reach; but there is certainly something rotten in the State of Doctor Who at the moment. Yes, the effects are more beautiful, the epic spreads of the episodes have more aesthetic appeal and there are some scary villains in the Era of Moffat, but when you look past that and get down to the nitty gritty of the plot devices and characters, everything is much weaker than you thought. A bit like the fake fronts on the buildings in Westerns.

Having someone able to voice those feelings is a blessing. Thank you.

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