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?"
Page 1 of 3 << [1] [2] [3] >>

Date: 2011-10-02 04:58 pm (UTC)
develish1: (Default)
From: [personal profile] develish1
That has to be pne of the best written summations of river's character, or lack there of, that I've ever read. Thank you so much for putting my thoughts into such a well worded post.

I tend to go more with the much shorter statement that River is not a character, she's a plot device that Moff uses to force his stories forward when he gets stuck, lol, but you put it so much better.

Date: 2011-10-02 06:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] phoenikxs.livejournal.com
Nothing to add to what dev said.
This may very well be the most perfect post ever. Thank you so much!!!

Date: 2011-10-02 06:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] azure15.livejournal.com
Brilliant. I couldn't have put it nearly as well as you have, while I agree about every single point you've made.

Date: 2011-10-02 06:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] othellia.livejournal.com
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."

THANK YOU. I not sure why the Doctor/River shippers are taking the "marriage" as total proof of their ship. It was manipulative, complete goal-oriented on the Doctor's side, and not very romantic because of that.

Date: 2011-10-02 06:50 pm (UTC)
ext_395177: (Default)
From: [identity profile] tenthrose.livejournal.com
This is brilliant. Thank You.

Date: 2011-10-02 07:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] anime-babble.livejournal.com
Agree with all this. I liked the promise of Eleven/River, but then they basically made River's life revolve around the doctor. The cool thing about her was that she seemed like she had her own life and her own adventures. But alas, it was not to be.

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.

Date: 2011-10-02 07:10 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] farsh-nuke.livejournal.com
River is the Doctor's opposite, his mirror and duality. He would die for the universe, she would sacrifice the universe for him. Yes she does it out of selfishness but love is always selfish, what is marriage if not the ultimate declaration of selfishness 'I want you to be with me forever and nobody else' you might not see the depth because you think River should be a companion/pawn or live a life entirely independent of the Doctor that occasionally entwines with his but River is him in reverse. He had a life then accidentally became a hero out of necessity. She was created to be a killer, to stalk one man, and consciously decided to become a hero instead without changing her main motivation in life, to stalk that man.

And 'River Who'? isn't that just the perfect reason why River is the Doctor's perfect partner, she can steal the show from him

Date: 2011-10-02 07:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sunnytyler001.livejournal.com
THANK YOU. I agree with all you said.

Date: 2011-10-02 07:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jeymien.livejournal.com
My only issue is that yes. This is pretty early in River's timeline. At this point, it's infatuation for her. She's the girl he cared about enough to die for (LKH). So you're right in that we're still seeing a very selfish River at this point. She's in a way still learning about herself and probably not grownup enough to a proper partner for the Doctor - as a companion, sure, but a life partner, she needs more and that's what the problem is I believe. Rose was still a bit immature in a way for the Doctor, or atleast, would be for the old man that Eleven is. She was a perfect partner for Ten, as he was as angsty as any early 20s trying to find out her own identity and way in the world is. They both found themselves in each other. Martha knew who she was and what she wanted. She was a doctor, a healer, and that made her a much more mature person. Mature enough to recognize that it wasn't going to work. Donna was also a mature woman. She never saw the Doctor as a romantic interest either. She'd been through a fair amount in her life and while she was aimless and drifting, Donna never ever had a problem with knowing who she was and where her values are. However, I'm not sure it's right to compare Donna and River and there was not a romantic relationship between Donna and the Doctor.
Now though... River is at the point in her timeline that she's just become her own person. She's figuring out who she is - gotten her doctorate in archaeology - and while she started it because of influence on her by the Doctor, who says that it stayed that way. She got a doctorate! That's years of study and dedication, to learning about the past. Time to reflect on herself. But also, she's still breaking that hold on her from the manipulation of who she is by the Silence. She's also still learning about love - the Doctor is the first person she's ever felt something like that for. I'm sure everyone remembers their first love. It's overpowering and amazing and you can't ever let go of it. That's the point that River's at right now. But also look at who she turns into at the end of her life. A person who sacrifices herself, to save him and other people. It's about growing up, and during the finale, River is still growing up. I think what the Doctor sees in her when he marries her is the person she turns into, after all, he has a unique perspective of seeing what she does with her life later.

Date: 2011-10-02 07:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] katherine b (from livejournal.com)
Very well said. I did like River quite a lot in S5, but the way she was written in S6... Sigh. She totally got the shitty end of the stick.

"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."

Also, I was really sad to see that the above exchange went down this way. I had been hoping that I had misheard it, but no dice. River will suffer more than EVERY BEING IN THE UNIVERSE because she has to kill the Doctor? Not impressed. Why couldn't she have said something along the lines of "The universe needs you! Everything gets effed up when you're not around." [Sidenote: I did like how the ep pointed out that many people love the Doctor, instead of the whole "he's a monster who must be contained" trope.]

Finally, the bit about being raised to hate and kill this one specific person, and then OF COURSE falling in love with him... yeah, no. That's not how it works. Obsession =/= love.

Date: 2011-10-02 07:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lovexwentxred.livejournal.com
This post is great. I don't have much to add because you sum it up perfectly. Thank you for sharing!

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: 2011-10-02 08:37 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sensiblecat.livejournal.com
River is a cartoon character based on the male fantasy of the woman who worships her man but makes no demands that he commit to her. Rory is the Marty Stu who will always be patronised and taken for granted by the woman he would suffer anything for, and will never be quite sure that she loves him most of all. And all these love-saves-the-day resolutions are Moffatt's way of working through his guilt at never getting to see his kids.

None of this stops the show being very entertaining at times. But you're absolutely right, it's hollow and empty. It's interesting watching people trying to come up with reasons why Moffatt has just offered them everything they loathed about Rose Tyler, turned up to 11.

Date: 2011-10-02 08:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] billa1.livejournal.com
While I don't completely agree with all you've written, your analyst of River v. Rose is right on target. I would add only that Melody Pond is a Time Lord (without any regenerations left) who doesn't know how to be like the Doctor yet (the mad man with a box). Hence his constantly giving her rules in "Let's Kill Hitler." In short, because the Doctor tutors her starting with this episode, she become the "badass" we've already seen, the one that's in his past.

If it's any consolation, River tells Amy that she just returned from the episodes: Time of Angels & Flesh & Stone. That means the next time we the audience will see her will be at the Library where she meets her end.

Again, a good essay. Thank you!

Date: 2011-10-02 10:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] yadwhiga.livejournal.com
My thoughts exactly.

Date: 2011-10-03 01:02 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] redknightalex.livejournal.com
Brilliant job with this. I've always had a love-hate relationship with River, the mystery of her in Series 4 -- including the two episodes she was in -- are at the top of my highlights for the show. She came with a whole lot of mystique and power, with a bit of emotional depth, but she was a blank slate for the viewer. Then, as Series 5 and 6 progressed, you started to realize that she was little more than a coat of paint on a doll. I rarely felt for her, or sympathized with her (minus the Series 6 finale when I realized how much she was being used because of her love for the Doctor and all for a plot purpose; much like Martha Jones in a way). A cardboard cut-out for all the boys (the writers/Moffat) to play with.

I also very much agree with you on the changing of the show's view on romance from the McGann-era on. It definitely is a telling of our times more than anything else (although Classic Who Doctors could be seen as having a sexual leaning in some way, depending on who you're looking at) and how else would Davies bring the viewer in without a hint of sexual tension? It's what sells.

Date: 2011-10-03 02:22 am (UTC)
ext_29986: (Rose/Nine BAD WOLF)
From: [identity profile] fannishliss.livejournal.com
I can't buy the River/Doctor love story. To me Girl in the Fireplace is a precis of the whole thing. The Girl looks through the time window and sees the lonely Angel, spends her whole life idolizing him from afar -- and meanwhile he only sees her in fits and starts, spending a handful of hours with her while going on with his whole life. For Reinette or River, the Doctor is a romantic fantasy (not a real life), whereas for the Doctor, they are just one little facet of a whole and complex experience.

I'd like to believe that River's Doctorate or her career in archaeology flesh her out -- but we don't get to see any of that. We only get to hear her innuendoes without ever getting to feel any real tension between them. Whereas there was more tension and longing between the Doctor and Rose in any given episode than they ever managed to build between the Doctor and River.

I actually am not sure they were even married. I recognize the handfasting ritual where they tied their hands together -- but then he didn't actually tell her his name. And there weren't any vows. And also, she's living backwards now--- it's all very sad really. :(

Date: 2011-10-03 03:02 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tala-hiding.livejournal.com
Thanks. :) I was trying very hard not to keyboard!smash my way through, simply because I still wanted to retain some respect for her, especially since I thought Alex Kingston brought something new and good to the show.

And then the Moff sledgehammered us with River, and I went from being neutral to just plain outright not liking her.

Date: 2011-10-03 03:02 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tala-hiding.livejournal.com
Thanks for reading. :)

Date: 2011-10-03 03:03 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tala-hiding.livejournal.com
Awww, thanks. :) Mind you, this is just how I feel about her. I know other fans who like River, and the River/Eleven dynamic, so it's really a "to each their own" kind of mindset.

Date: 2011-10-03 03:05 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tala-hiding.livejournal.com
I really thought that "marriage" was such a manipulative move on the Doctor's part, and unlike when the Ninth Doctor tricked Rose into going into the TARDIS and sending it back to 2005 (he was trying to save her life), here, the Doctor wasn't really thinking about River's feelings or emotions or even her life; he was thinking about the integrity of the timelines. And I think that says something about how the Doctor sees River, and her role in his life.

You know how, when you ask two people what their relationship is to each other, and one says "She's my friend" and the other says, "She's my best friend"? River and the Doctor feels like that.

Date: 2011-10-03 03:07 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tala-hiding.livejournal.com
Oh, thank you. :)

Date: 2011-10-03 03:15 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tala-hiding.livejournal.com
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.

Thanks for putting it so succinctly. In my opinion, most of the stories that I enjoyed a lot in S5 and S6 were the ones that Moffat didn't write - I loved "Vincent and the Doctor" and "The Lodger", and obviously "The Doctor's Wife", and also "The Girl Who Waited" and "The God Complex". They were lovingly written by people who actually cared about the characters, and not plot for plot's sake. I agree that RTD's writing had some duds ("Love and Monsters", anyone?) but even until now, I can look back and say, "They were great stories." :)

Date: 2011-10-03 03:26 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tala-hiding.livejournal.com
And 'River Who'? isn't that just the perfect reason why River is the Doctor's perfect partner, she can steal the show from him

However, I've been under the impression I was watching a show called Doctor Who, with a character called the Doctor, and not a show called River Who? which makes it an entirely different banana altogether.

Yes she does it out of selfishness but love is always selfish, what is marriage if not the ultimate declaration of selfishness 'I want you to be with me forever and nobody else'

I don't think love is selfish, and if that's the case, then we're all screwed. Furthermore, at least in DW, with previous companions, it's always shown that their love is for the good of other people, not for themselves. Jack died, the last man standing on Satellite 5, for love of the Doctor and to give him time to save the human race. We can argue that yes, Rose did a selfish thing in trying to get back to Satellite 5 as well because she wanted the Doctor safe - and by safe, she means blowing the entire Dalek fleet out of the water. Martha's selfish as well, yes, in that she loved a man who couldn't love her back - but that love enabled her to walk through hell on Earth for a year, a preacher-like figure that reminded the human race to believe in something. And Donna - Donna gave up her life for a man she's never met simply because she believed there was something better for everyone else, even though she wouldn't exist in that timeline.

And even when you look at Amy and Rory - Rory waited for 2,000 years for Amy in the Pandorica, even though the Doctor told him she would be safe, he still waited for her and stood guard by her. I don't think that's selfish at all. And when Older!Amy sacrificed her place on the TARDIS for Young!Amy to survive, I don't think that's selfish either.

She was created to be a killer, to stalk one man, and consciously decided to become a hero instead without changing her main motivation in life, to stalk that man.

First, I don't think she consciously decided to become a hero. In "Let's Kill Hitler", she was moved by his heroics, and his care for his companions despite his imminent death, and I think that simply resonated in her, that here is this man whom everyone up until that point in time is telling her is a killer and a murderer and will destroy the universe, and yet in front of her is simply a man who wants to do what's best for everyone, who cares too much.

(TBH, I don't think the Doctor also started to wanting to be a hero. He wanted to escape Gallifrey, and he wanted to see the universe, and he had a very good sense of what was right and what was wrong, and he couldn't stand to see children cry. I think that the last two is simply basic decency, not heroics.)

Furthermore, stalking is a rather unhealthy occupation, and I don't think anyone in their proper frame of mind would equate stalking with love.

Date: 2011-10-03 03:29 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tala-hiding.livejournal.com
:) Thank you for reading as well.
Page 1 of 3 << [1] [2] [3] >>