Russell T Davies Should Bring This Fan Favorite Back on ‘Doctor Who’

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The Big Picture

  • The return of David Tennant and Catherine Tate in the Doctor Who revival has sparked excitement among fans and is seen as a return to form for the show.
  • River Song, a beloved character from previous seasons, was not mentioned during Chris Chibnall’s era as showrunner and fans are eager to see her return.
  • The possibility of River Song crossing paths with Ncuti Gatwa’s queer Doctor is highly anticipated and would bring a new dynamic to the show.


Now that David Tennant and Catherine Tate are back in The Tardis in the Russell T Davies revival of Doctor Who, it’s feasible that others might be eager to reprise their roles in the iconic British show, The first Doctor Who special, “The Star Beast”, has been met with enthusiasm from hardcore Whovians and embraced for its forward-thinking new direction. It has been hailed as a return to form following Chris Chibnall’s tenure as showrunner and Jodie Whittaker’s run as the gender-flipped Doctor. Every regeneration has its detractors, regardless of the main character’s gender (though sadly, this does factor in). But there were several good reasons for dwindling ratings and formerly committed fans tuning out: the show just wasn’t very good anymore. Doctor Who is a show about change, but did we really need Chibnall to rewrite the show’s entire mythology? Whovians are excited about what possibilities the future (or past) hold and whether we’ll see any of the old faces return.

One pivotal character in New Who and a prominent player in The Whoniverse who didn’t get so much as a mention during Chibnall’s era was the time-hopping Professor River Song (Alex Kingston). Kingston always knocked it out of the park and over the course of her episode arc, became the most interesting character to enter The Tardis in years. It was easy to become emotionally invested because she was a character we genuinely cared about, to root for because she had agency, mystery, and was a tad dangerous. She’d be the perfect former companion for the show with its queer-leanings and Ncuti Gatwa’s queer Doctor — the dynamic between her and the new Doctor would be electrifying, and I’m sure she’d show up in time to help with formidable villains. We want to see the time-hopping, naughty archaeologist cross paths with Gatwa’s Doctor. That would really be something, wouldn’t it?

Doctor Who

The show follows the adventures of a Time Lord “The Doctor” who is able to regenerate, and the Doctor’s human friends. The Doctor and companion’s journey through time and space in the TARDIS – a time-traveling ship shaped like a police box – saving the universe with a combination of wit, bravery, and kindness.

Release Date
March 17, 2006

Cast
Jodie Whittaker, Peter Capaldi, pearl mackie, Matt Smith, David Tennant, Catherine Tate, Ncuti Gatwa, Jenna Coleman, Alex Kingston, Karen Gillan

Main Genre
Sci-Fi

Rating
TV-PG

Seasons
14


Who Is River Song in ‘Doctor Who’?

The character made her first appearance in the Steven Moffat-penned two-parter: “Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead.” It was in Russell T Davies’ fourth season as showrunner, and The 10th Doctor (David Tennant) and Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) arrived at an empty, planet-sized library with a villain known as The Vashta Nerada, shadows that melt the flesh. River Song and a crew of archaeologists are deployed to reopen the planet; it has been silent for a century. Despite River’s familiarity with The Doctor, he has no idea who this woman is. She assures him one day he will come to know her well and trust her with his life. The episode ends with River sacrificing herself and promising she’ll see him again. She reappears in another two-parter in Season 5, “The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone,” meeting Matt Smith’s 11th Doctor and new companion Amy Pond (Karen Gillan), who must face an old foe: The Weeping Angels. We only learn one thing about the enigmatic woman: she is in prison for the murder of a great man. In the season finale “The Pandorica Opens/the Big Bang,” we see her display a very un-Doctor-like ruthless streak and a warning about everything changing to The Doctor before teleporting away.

We are offered answers in the show’s 6th season about River’s true identity and how she knows so much about The Doctor. River Song was kidnapped as a baby by Madame Kovarian (Frances Barber) in “A Good Man Goes to War” to be trained and conditioned to one day assassinate The Doctor. She escapes from Kovarian as a child and ends up in 1969 in “The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon,” where she regenerates and seeks out her parents, Amy and Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill), and masquerades as a woman (and life-long friend) called Mels (Nina Toussaint-White) in an effort to learn of The Doctor’s whereabouts. Turns out Amy names her baby Melody Pond after her friend Mel, who is an earlier incarnation of River. Confusing, right? During World War II, Mels is shot and regenerates into River Song, who manages to poison The Doctor. She later realizes she made the wrong decision and sacrifices her future regenerations to save his life. They later marry in “The Wedding of River Song” before River’s ghost bids farewell to Matt Smith’s 11th Doctor in “The Time of The Doctor.”

How Could River Song Return to ‘Doctor Who’?

River has had the longest lifespan of most companions and, if you consider her Big Finish adventures canon, then she has encountered more incarnations of The Doctor than anybody else. One way we could have Kingston reprise her role could be to take the narrative route of “The Time of the Doctor” where she is a data ghost capable of temporal travel. We know she encountered at least two Doctors after Matt Smith’s incarnation from her photo-file. One was The 12th Doctor (Peter Capaldi) during “The Husbands of River Song,” but who was the other Doctor? Unlikely to be Tennant’s 14th Doctor with only 3 specials — might it be Gatwa’s 15th?

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The conclusion of her storyline was a bit anticlimactic despite fans already knowing where she would spend her final night with The Doctor. If Davies does decide to bring a character back from Moffat’s (okay, so technically she debuted in Davies) era, it should be to catch up with River and see where and when she is and what sort of plot Davies would put together for the character. According to The Big Finish River lore, at some point she ends up in the same prison as The Master and encounters the equally iconic villain Missy (Michelle Gomez). Now there is a pairing Whovians would positively love to see happen.

Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor (and most incarnations of The Doctor) was a pacifist unless pushed to the edge. When a female version of The Doctor was announced, some people assumed we’d get a character a bit like River Song. We didn’t, and that was just fine. In many ways, River is the polar opposite of The Doctor and most of the people he chooses to travel alongside. She has more in common with Torchwood’s tactics and how they deal with alien threats than The Doctor. Maybe The Tardis needs a woman like River Song, now more than ever.

The Doctor Who 60th Anniversary Specials are available to stream on Disney+.

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