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[personal profile] tala_hiding
So. We're talking about the wedding of River Song.

Okay, first of all, I don't like River Song as a character. I like Alex Kingston, and I have nothing against the actress, and I like the way she portrays River to a certain degree, but I do not like the way River Song is written. I think she got the raw end of the deal when it came to dealing with the Doctor, and I think that it's unfair for her to be manipulated both as a child and as an adult. And I think that it's a major character flaw that we never actually feel what she feels for the Doctor - and this "love" that she has is her main motivation for accompanying the Doctor as a (potential) companion.

I know that in New!Who, there's much more emphasis placed on romantic and sexual relations in Doctor Who then there was pre-Eccleston (or pre-McGann, if you want to be nitpicky about it) and I think this is simply a reflection of the times and mores in our present day and age. And so to present River as a romantic companion, no, as THE romantic companion, the One True Love of the Doctor, is to cast aside the others that came before her as nothing more than shadows in the dark. And the thing is, I'm perfectly willing to accept that premise if it was executed in such a way that was belivable and understandable.

Look, Rose Tyler spent two years - three, if we count the year that she missed between "The Unquiet Dead" and "Aliens of London" - and it was very clear, even from the first few episodes with the Ninth Doctor, that there was already something between them that wasn't quite as platonic as we thought there could be. For goodness' sake, even a Dalek was able to see the love the Doctor had for Rose! So when, in "The Parting of the Ways", she was so desperate to get back to Satellite 5 even if it meant her own death millions of years in the future, even if it meant tearing the Doctor's beloved TARDIS apart so she could look into the vortex, you, the viewer, understood why she was doing that, and why she was so desperate to get back that she became the Bad Wolf. 

And when she and the Doctor were separated by the Void, behind the walls of parallel universes, it was absolutely heartbreaking in a way that very few TV shows have ever been able to achieve. Because you knew the Doctor loved Rose, even though he never said it; he burned up a sun to say goodbye. Contrast this with the Eleventh Doctor's treatment of River, and how he manipulated her into a Gallifreyan bonding just so that he could restore the timelines. I mean, he said it himself: "I don't want to marry you." He manipulated River's feelings for him - feelings that, in my opinion, aren't even grounded in a particularly strong motivation for the character - just so that he could save all of history, so that he could fulfill that fixed point in time. 

And look - Martha Jones spend a year with the Doctor, staying by his side despite his less-than-stellar treatment of her, braving The Year That Never Was to save the world from the Tofoclane and the Master's machinations, and then realizing that no matter how much she loved the Doctor, he was never going to love her back in exactly the same way. And she chose, good strong woman that she was, she chose to leave the TARDIS because she knew that it was already becoming unhealthy for her to spend so much time in close quarters with a man she was having a one-sided love affair with. And here's River Song, knowing full well what the Doctor's presence meant in a world where timelines are collapsing and history is bleeding into each other like wet ink on fragile pages, and what does she say? 

The Doctor: River, you and I, we know what this means. We are ground zero of an explosion that will engulf all reality. Billions and billions will suffer and die.
River: I'll suffer if I have to kill you.
The Doctor: More than everything living thing in the universe?!
River: Yes.

She was thinking about herself, about how the Doctor's death would affect her. Rose Tyler came back to the room in Torchwood, knowing full well she could die but was still able to push that all away just to help the Doctor. Martha Jones walked through hell on Earth, knowing how Jack and the Doctor and her family were being tortured by the Master on the Valiant but she soldiered on because she knew it was the right thing to do. Donna Noble gave up her life so that the timelines in "Turn Left" would return back to a world where the Doctor survived his encounter with the Racnoss.

One can argue that these pre-Moffatt companions were different - they gave up themselves for the Doctor. But isn't that what makes a companion a companion? That willingness to sacrifice what they hold dear because it's the right thing to do? I mean, Rose said it herself: the Doctor teaches us how to make better choices for the good of other people, not for our own selfish wants. 

I'm not saying that one should commit murder in order to restore to integrity of a time line - on the beach, I think River made the right choice at trying to stop herself (or rather, the astronaut suit) from killing the Doctor. I think that even in the most dire of circumstances, our choices are what defines us. And yet, she also chose not to let go of the Doctor - her refusal to touch him in the pyramids of Area 52 - says that she didn't save him because it was the right thing to do. She saved him, or rather, she chose not to kill him, because she wanted him for herself, because she needed him to know that "[She] can't let [him] without knowing [he is] loved. By so many and so much. And by no one more than [her]." 

And I think this is my main problem with how River Song is written - we're meant to empathize with her without actually knowing what we're empathizing with. When we first meet her, in "The Silence in the Library", we're allowed to catch glimpses of what she is to the Doctor, and I think that what the audience filled in was greater and more epic than what she was made out to be. She was given no agency whatsoever in how she grows up and how she becomes a character in her own right - kidnapped as a child, raised to be a psychopath, goes back in time to stalk her mother and father in an effort to find the Doctor and kill him... I mean, what happened to Melody's choice? Even her "love" for the Doctor feels forced, as though it's only there to fulfill the requirements of Time. It does not feel as though the Doctor deserves her love; it does not feel as though he loves her. Certainly, he's cheeky about it, and he cares about her, but I mean - in the Moffat-era, the epic love story is reserved for Amy and Rory, not the Doctor and River. In fact, in most of the River-centric stories post "A Good Man Goes to War" simply glosses over her emotions and choices and, most importantly, her motivations as a character in this overarching narrative of the Doctor in the TARDIS, traveling through time and space. 

True, I agree, she's a badass in the proper sense of the term. She fights, she carries a gun, she's the muscle to the Time Lord's might. But these are all superficial things, in my opinion. She's imprisoned for a crime she was programmed to commit, and yet she swings in and out of Stormcage like it's her own personal dance hall. This, to me, does not seem like a woman bereft of choice, but she does seem like a woman who has been pretending for far too long to be all sorts of things that she no longer seems true and real. She is an amalgamation of what the writer wants her to be, a puppet controlled by invisible strings, and I don't feel what she is as strongly as I feel for other companions, including Amy and Rory. 

And I think this is my main problem with River Song: she's all surface and very little depth. And if this is how Moffat is going to treat her in the subsequent episodes, and if/when River becomes the main companion of the Doctor, I don't think I'll be too interested in watching Doctor Who anymore. Because it's not going to be Doctor Who anymore - it's going to be "River who?"
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Date: 2011-10-04 11:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] silent-bunny.livejournal.com
I mean, he said it himself: "I don't want to marry you." He manipulated River's feelings for him - feelings that, in my opinion, aren't even grounded in a particularly strong motivation for the character - just so that he could save all of history, so that he could fulfill that fixed point in time.

This :( You nailed it.

I'm a huge River Song fan and a River/11 shipper, and I hated how their "marriage" came about. That was definitely not love. It was manipulation on the doctor's part, just like River was trying to manipulate, well, manipulate is probably the wrong word, but force the doctor do what she wanted which was not die. That was not the way I wanted their mutual relationship time to start out. I found it horribly icky, just like I find it icky that River was pretty much programmed to have her life revolve around the doctor and was never given a chance to be her own ass-kicking, independent woman, which is what I thought she was in the beginning.

I'll still watch the episodes with River Song before "A Good Man Goes to War" with glee, because she was wonderful in them and her flirting/developing a relationship with the doctor is a hoot to me, but man, everything afterwards seems to strip her of her agency and make her relationship with the doctor insincere and something they both didn't really choose/want but were forced into. It's such a bitter disappointment for me.

Anyways, GREAT post. You really hit the points well.

Date: 2011-10-05 03:46 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tala-hiding.livejournal.com
Thanks for not hitting me on the head with a rubber mallet! I'm not a River fan, but I didn't want to go and bash her either because I don't think the character deserves it. I saw her potential in S4, but I really don't like the way her story played out once all these revelations started happening.

That was definitely not love. It was manipulation on the doctor's part, just like River was trying to manipulate, well, manipulate is probably the wrong word, but force the doctor do what she wanted which was not die.

This was also the part where I didn't like what the Doctor did as well. I mean, I know he's no fluffy bunny, but I wish he did/said something else to make River see reason, instead of playing along with this sham of a wedding just to make her touch him and restore the timelines.

Date: 2011-10-05 12:05 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ghostinthemist.livejournal.com
For me, there's no emotion to Moffat's reign. I'll be the first to state that some of RTD's plots were absolutely horrible, but his characterization was incredible. Moffat seems so concerned about 'clever' plot twists, that he spends no time on actual characterization so that I CARE about the plot twist and how it affects the characters.

I mean, when Amy loses her child and seemingly DOESN'T REFERENCE IT and goes about having more adventures with the Doctor, who was indirectly the cause of this, why should I care either?

This is the first time I debating whether or not to even set the series DVD set. If it weren't for Gaiman's excellent "Doctor's Wife", I definitely wouldn't.

Exactly so. In Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead I actually liked River. Unfortunately Moff has shit-hammered her into the show, almost as if he's saying you'll like her because I say so. Bullshit. I do not care for this man's arrogance. He even pronounced that Matt is the best Doctor ever. Really? How? How is the 11th Doctor better at being the 5th Doctor or the 4th Doctor being better at being the 10th Doctor. Personally I think he said it for the ego-centric reason that Matt is the Doctor he's writing for. More shit-hammering. So far Moff's reign has been about 80% a disappointment for me. He can't even give us companions we can relate to. Given that RTD wasn't perfect either...I like his body of work a lot more. So far all I've seen from Moff is "look how clever I am and you'll like it because I say so."

Date: 2011-10-05 03:50 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tala-hiding.livejournal.com
Thanks for reading! :) I admit I'm not a big Moff fan, but I loved "The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances" and "Blink" and I thought they were well-written and entertaining episodes. I can also see your point with the clever plot twists without anything in the center. I think, like many people have said, that he's great with standalone episodes, but with story arcs, things have a way of not delivering to the audience's expectations. As far as finales go, this one did not feel so much as a finale to me but a hodgepodge of things that were simply piled on top of one another.

I've had issues with RTD's writing as well, especially during Chris Eccleston's run and David Tennant's first season, but one thing you can definitely say is that he crafts fantastic characters. :)

Date: 2011-10-05 04:32 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ghostinthemist.livejournal.com
Agree completely!

Date: 2011-10-09 08:28 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] littlesuzi.livejournal.com
I was linked to this through Twitter and I have to say, very well written :).

I think true horror is one where River is held responsible for the destiny of the universe, hahahaha. Imagine you find out you're going to die just because one #$%@ can't get over her fangirl issues.

Yeah that's what River is to me, a fangirl. And I don't mean to sound rude or anything, but come on. She practically shoves her "love" in the Doctor's face and makes all these awkward sexual innuendos the Doctor never quite responds to. A romance doesn't exist because one person says so, it's something built up, that develops through time. And as you wisely pointed out, we saw it with the Doctor and Rose but not with River. At all.

It just goes to show how shallow or society has become that a character who can carry a gun but has an obnoxious personality is loved by everyone (I think it may be the femme fatale syndrome on display).

Furthermore, it's completely incomprehensible how anyone can empathize for a character that is so selfish she cares more about her ~feelings~ than about the death and suffering of millions of living creatures.

River doesn't upset me so much as to stop watching the show as a whole, but if she stays as the next companion I might as well do that. I've loved all the companions so far (including Rory) but gahhh River is such a terribly written character.
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