A Companion To The Doctor’s Companions: River Song

River Song, played with coquettish glee by Alex Kingston

Imagine if you met the Doctor and River Song in a restaurant, on a romantic night out. You’d get to chatting with the garrulous pair, sharing stories from your lives, the one in the tweed jacket would be spinning some yarn about a viking hitting a Sontaran, or possibly the time he sat on a Dalek’s head, while his curly-haired companion would be mocking him, teasing his arrogance with a few vinegary barbs here and there.

At some point, entranced by their astonishing chemistry, you’ll find yourself asking this star-crossed couple how they met. And that’s when things start to get a little more tense. After exchanging significant glances, they spill the beans.

It turns out that she is the daughter of two humans, Amy and Rory, who conceived her inside the Doctor’s time machine, the TARDIS. They had time vortex cooties or somesuch and as a result she was born with Time Lord DNA.

She was then whisked away by someone evil called Madame Kovarian, who trained her to kill the Doctor. Long story short, somewhere down the line, possibly during her regeneration – which she can totally do, by the way –  her programming went a bit screwy, and she decided she’d rather kiss him instead.

But that’s not all. Due to the fact that these two are both time-travellers, it turns out they’re meeting each other out of sequence. So his first meeting with her is actually her last meeting with him. She sacrifices herself to live inside the filing matrix of a library planet, so that he can survive and they can get together, later in his life, but earlier in hers.

It’s at this point you’ll probably want to check how much wine you’ve drunk. But shake your head a moment, the story continues.

She has a record of their every meeting, so that she can check where he is in his timeline every time they meet. When he asks for hints about the future she just mockingly smiles and says “spoilers” in that sing-song “uh-oh” tone of voice. It’s at this point you realize what a delightful person she really is.

He, while also being hugely entertaining company, has a ragged and sharp edge around him, as if he’s seen too much and doesn’t want to be reminded of it. He starts to recount an experience he had, where he had to fake his own death, and she suddenly goes a little quiet and looks down at her hands. It’s clearly still quite a raw thing for both of them to discuss, and you realize you’ve not really been listening to some of the details. There was a robot, but she thought it was him, and she had to shoot it, even though she didn’t want to. At first she didn’t shoot it, and that gave rise to all sorts of problems: time got jumbled up, so then she did, and then it turned out he was inside the robot all along, and now he’s hiding in case the universe finds out.

It’s gone a bit quiet around the table now. You’re struggling to work out what you’ve just been told and this warm and engaging couple suddenly look a bit crestfallen and sad. Then you remember that she knows she won’t be seeing him again soon, that their most romantic goodbye will be the one before their last goodbye. For his part, he knows his life of eternal loneliness will soon be back to haunt him once more. He’s experienced almost everything in her book now, and even as they pay the bill and head out into the night, you notice both of them have a definite air about them, that of the condemned man walking away from his last hearty meal.

Then they’re gone, and you realize your coffee has gone cold.

Next: Craig Owens, the companion who doesn’t travel.

Fraser McAlpine

Fraser has been writing and broadcasting about music and popular culture for over 15 years, first at the Top of the Pops website, and most recently for the NME, Guardian and MSN. He also wrote BBC Radio 1's Chart Blog and reviews albums for BBC Radio 2.

He is Anglophenia's current resident Brit, blogging about British slang and running around the Mall taking snaps of the crowd at the Royal Wedding, as well as reigniting a childhood passion for classic Doctor Who and cramming as much music in as he can manage.

Fraser invites you to join him on Twitter: @csi_popmusic

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