tala_hiding: (snow white wtf?)
[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?"

Date: 2011-10-02 07:52 pm (UTC)
veracity: (Dr Who - Rory OMFG)
From: [personal profile] veracity
Thank you. This is why I don't like River Song.

If you want to compare her to another (non-Who) character, she strikes me as Daniel Jonas on Days of Our Lives, who was the previous headwriter's plot device with a history of bad execution rather than purpose. She is nothing more than a plot-mover, with little fleshing out. She has no serious motivation, except possibly the fear we saw at the end of "Closing Time." But if everything is a very (badly done) love story, it fails on execution. Why it might have been interesting to explore, this series, if she really loved him or not, it was just an accepted "was" without build up. It's almost like she's doing to the Doctor what Moffat did to Amy from this viewer's point.

Frankly, the heavy emphasis is why I have been only casually viewing for the second half. I get that River's important but the scope of the Who world is so wide that there are any number of plot devices to use that are outside the Pond family. And quite frankly, I think that it's a swipe at the Ponds, as a whole. He took what could have been a great story (a family on board, or having to give up the adventures in favor of raising) and made it into a big old mess.

River could have been epic in that she's essentially part TARDIS, but she was too many devices (like basically giving the Doctor the ability to regen endlessly) with little character accountability.

Date: 2011-10-03 03:50 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tala-hiding.livejournal.com
River could have been epic in that she's essentially part TARDIS, but she was too many devices (like basically giving the Doctor the ability to regen endlessly) with little character accountability.

This one! I mean, if we list down all of River's epic abilities, we have:
- a Time Lady, with regenerative capabilities, since she was essentially "of TARDIS born"
- a special bond with the TARDIS, who was taught to pilot her instinctively
- good with a gun, trained to fight
- intelligent, if we're going by her doctorate in archaeology

And yet, she feels exactly like that: a list of things that doesn't bear much weight in the world of Doctor Who. And to be quite honest, part of the reason I can't empathize with her is because I can't see myself in her place. The reason the Doctor took human companions, people who had a sense of adventure and wanted to see the whole of time and space, was because they saw things with a sense of wonder that he missed and wanted to have again. This is what makes people respond to companions like Rose, or Martha, or Donna, or Amy... or let's go back and say Ian and Barbara, Sarah Jane, Jo Grant, Liz Shaw... it's the way they saw things. Even when you had non-human companions like Romana, there was still the sense of adventure and wonder, of putting rights to great wrongs. Here... River was wrong, clear as day, and even the Doctor recognized that.

Date: 2011-10-03 07:39 am (UTC)
veracity: (Dr Who - Rose shock)
From: [personal profile] veracity
The reason the Doctor took human companions, people who had a sense of adventure and wanted to see the whole of time and space, was because they saw things with a sense of wonder that he missed and wanted to have again.

They are the light to his dark. He's a great big ball of everything, but even he can be eclipsed by previous mistakes. In some ways, he's the prototype for humans. By nature, we're not altruistic. We're quite selfish but it doesn't preclude all the helpful bits of our make up.

And River's part-human. I can forgive the selfish need because it's part of being a human, much less a human companion. But I can't forgive the sloppy writing in not explaining why. A writer can wave his hand in my face all day long...doesn't mean that I'm gonna ignore it. At some point, I'm gonna pop his hand like an errant child in the middle of the mall. She has no build up. She has points, almost fixed points for Amy - again a disservice to Amy, really, since all her growth seems to be dependent on the use of her daughter for the second half of the series.

Watching River regen in LKH, that was great. That made sense. I could watch something like that again because it's part of her TARDIS exploration. But it was sucked away for a mad love that never explored. River completely obliterated time but never said why her love was so deep. It was handwaving. IT would have been more interesting if she'd given up her regen abilities to help in the heat of battle. Not the Doctor's death, because he never will, but in a moment where it was desperate and only his brain could save another fixed point. Not a "oh, look, it's another moved timeline" but something more simple. Like when Ten was forced to kill Pompeii in order to keep all human life going. It's a small act but a large impact. Give it up then, on a less grand scale, for the same reasons. Not because pookie was dying and she couldn't stand it.

It seems like River was given all the BAMF characteristics with little work in building up how she learnt some of those skills. Madam and the Silence gave the writers the easy way out. If they wanted a two series mystery, invest the audience. Don't cop out.

Like many of the recent Doctor regens, she was born of blood and battle. The difference is we weren't given the emotional journey for the payout that explains why she matters so much.

Date: 2011-10-03 08:24 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tala-hiding.livejournal.com
The difference is we weren't given the emotional journey for the payout that explains why she matters so much.

THIS. YES. I want to send you cookies now.

But seriously, this is why I can't wrap my head around her - because I don't know how she matters to me, the viewer, or to the characters in the story. Simply because I never saw Amy and Rory caring about her in the way I'd imagine parents to care for their missing child (i.e., desperately, with nothing else more important than finding their baby); I never saw the Doctor care about her in the way that was implied by the heavy-handedness of the writers. And that's why I can't find myself to be the least bit empathetic when she insists that she's trying to save the Doctor - because I don't understand why it matters so much to her that she's willing to destroy reality for it.

Date: 2011-10-03 06:39 pm (UTC)
veracity: (Default)
From: [personal profile] veracity
Yay, cookies! I could use them. I have midterms this week but there's always time for Who.

And that's why I can't find myself to be the least bit empathetic when she insists that she's trying to save the Doctor - because I don't understand why it matters so much to her that she's willing to destroy reality for it.

River as a character was impactless because she had been rendered useless. There was no emotional heart attached. Had they shown the Doctor helping her in the finale, like flashbacks of the adventures spoken of, it would have made more sense. I don't mean all of them. Just some. A little one off to show that she flew with him and how she impacted him because now she's basically a tool with little purpose. The Ponds didn't cry or get scared or worried, not at all. Of course, there was little follow through with the gangers and Amy's replacement, too. From a friend/family angle. It was swept aside.

Watching the Doctor look for Melody-turned-River, watching him actively taking an interest versus instant disdain would have fleshed her out. But frankly she could have been any number of people, one-offs really. Without integrating her, I'm left with ambivalence. A TARDIS-human hybrid should have affected the TARDIS, too. But it didn't. TARDIS didn't even grieve, or the sentient being part.


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