Five years ago today, "Silence in the Library" aired, and in honor of that occasion, the BBC has declared today River Song Day
. (Really? Five years? Where does the time go...?)
River Song Day does not come without backlash, however, and the Guardian
looks at why she's a divisive character.
It wasn't until a few months ago that I discovered that there are corners of Who fandom where River Song is utterly despised. I knew people thought she was smug in "Silence"/"Forest," but that's just who she was and, to be fair, the Doctor was stupidly
thick in that episode. Why he couldn't fathom that there would be people who knew him in the future whom he hadn't yet met I don't know. I'd have thought it would have happened to him at least a couple of thousand times before "Silence"...
I admit, I don't find the character particularly deep as she's written because she doesn't exist independently of the other characters in Doctor Who
(which, ironically, is why I would like to see the River Song/Captain Jack spin-off that both Alex Kingston and John Barrowman have said they would do, because it would divorce River Song of her narrative attachment to the Doctor), but I enjoy Alex Kingston's performance. True, I probably read some of her other roles into River to fill in the character's gaps, so where I see a bit of shallowness or fuzziness in the character, another Kingston role reads in its place. (The Warrior Queen
, where she plays Boudicaa, is particularly good for this.)
It's probably too late to do anything about the character now -- "The Name of the Doctor" reads like the final River Song appearance, though there are some disturbing implications to her appearance in that episode that should really be addressed -- but the thing that I think would really help the character in the future? Have someone other than Steven Moffat write her, in a non-timey-wimey, routine adventure. Maybe a companion-lite episode, where Clara (or her successor) has gone to study graphology, and the Doctor and River run into each other not by choice but by chance. She didn't try to draw his attention, he's just there. It could be a bit "Captain's Holiday," come to think of it. (Oh, damn, I didn't realize until now that River Song equals Vash.) Let the audience see River in a "normal" setting so they can see how she functions when she's not a walking plot point, and I think the response to the character would be different. However, like I said, it's probably far too late for that.