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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: 2011-10-03 03:36 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tala-hiding.livejournal.com
Thank you for your points. :)

I just want to point out that the Doctor didn't really marry River, and I think this is part of my problem with the entire episode, and it's not just because I'm not River's biggest fan.

First of all - it happened in an alternate timeline that never really existed, in a bubble universe that was destroyed once the Doctor's "death" happened in Utah. Aside from that, the Doctor wasn't even really the Doctor when the Gallifreyan bonding ceremony - and I honestly don't think it was a ceremony as it is, but a slapdash trick that the Doctor did to manipulate River's feelings for him - but it was the Teselecta robot with the Doctor inside. And finally, the Doctor said it himself: "I don't want to marry you."

I think that River just got the crap part of the deal, and for her to still love a man who manipulated her to restore the integrity of timelines and to put her in jail for a crime she was programmed to commit isn't really the actions of a man who is in love with her. Furthermore, I think that any other actions that he did for her (taking her to see Stevie Wonder, the singing towers of Derillium) was the act of a man trying to make up for the wrongs he did, simply because the burden of guilt was too great.

Date: 2011-10-03 01:34 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jeymien.livejournal.com
Yeah, gotta agree with you that he didn't really treat her great. I don't really know what to think right now, because they do remember the alternate timeline obviously. Back to too many questions. River does seem very taken advantage of though, due to the points I put up. And that "great kindness" in the Doctor... he doesn't seem to know what to do with her or her parents, whose lives were totally changed and screwed up because of his presence in them. Mind you, always meant to happen if we go by Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead - though was it meant to happen the way it has happened... Time can be rewritten after all, just it may not have been by him. After all, Madam Kovarian and the Silence had time travel. The Teselecta Justice people had time travel.. how many manipulations other than his and the TARDIS are out there...

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