Why River Song is the Doctor’s soulmate

Spoilers, Sweetie. Proceed with caution if you haven’t watched Doctor Who through Season Six.

In the runup to the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who, there’s a lot of talk in fan circles about the history of the show and the Doctor’s companions—the best, the worst, which ones got on our nerves (Rose) and which ones we would have liked to see more of (Donna).

River Song Amy Pond Rory Williams

For those unfamiliar with Doctor Who, that’s River on the left, and on the right…her parents.
Photo courtesy BBC America

My favorite companion is River Song, and let me tell you, it took some doing to unseat my previous favorite, the first Romana. River won me over with her wonderful meta-line at the end of “Flesh and Stone”:

River: You’ll see me again quite soon, when the Pandorica opens.

The Doctor: The Pandorica. That’s a fairy tale.

River: Oh, Doctor. Aren’t we all?

But my favorite episode, by far, is “The Doctor’s Wife,” which was written by Neil Gaiman. The TARDIS’s consciousness, housed in the body of Idris, speaks one line, at the heart of the episode, that changes our view of the show’s entire history.

I always took you where you needed to go.

Mind blown. Thank you, Mr. Gaiman.


Idris, meet TARDIS… Photo courtesy BBC America

The show’s creators seem to have firmly established that the Doctor’s One True Love isn’t any of the companions…it’s the TARDIS herself.

So why is River so close to Eleven’s hearts? Or, for that matter, Rose to Ten?

In “Let’s Kill Hitler,” River was revealed to have a close telepathic bond with the TARDIS, presumably because she was conceived there.

In “The Parting of the Ways,” the final episode of the Ninth Doctor’s run, Rose had her own close encounter with the Old Girl’s core: “I looked into the TARDIS, and the TARDIS looked into me.” Nine regenerates into Ten shortly thereafter, and the Doctor’s attachment to Rose is greater than to any other companion.

Until River.

As far as we can tell from what’s been onscreen, the relationship between Eleven and River is far deeper and more complex than any prior. She’s the only person he refers to as his “wife.” Even though the first Doctor had a granddaughter, Susan, we never heard about Susan’s grandmother.

From a casting standpoint, you can totally understand why, with a male main character, the producers would cast females in the supporting roles to balance things out. Only a few times in the early days—with Jamie McCrimmon and Steven Taylor—did the producers try to make Doctor Who a buddy show.

But from a character motivation standpoint, it seems the Doctor consistently chooses female sidekicks who are, as Clara put it, “total screaming genius…and a tiny bit sexy.” Not to mention a mite crazy. Qualities that also describe the TARDIS.

So why is River the woman who won the Doctor’s hearts? The one who could even, it seems, make him get over Rose, whom he spent a season or two pining for? I think its because she’s the one who most embodies his One True Love—the TARDIS.

Doctor Who TARDIS

A man and his box. Photo courtesy BBC America

About Kristen Stieffel

Kristen Stieffel is a writer and freelance editor specializing in speculative fiction. She's a member of the Editorial Freelancers Association, Christian Editor Connection, and American Christian Fiction Writers.

13 comments on “Why River Song is the Doctor’s soulmate

  1. Love it :).

  2. You might have something there…

  3. And the saddest thing is how she “dies” in the first episode when we meet her, so we have that hanging over their relationship.

    Hello, Sweetie.

  4. Nah, I disagree. River Song isn’t any more or less the Doctor’s soulmate, not in reality. It’s just because the screenwriters made it that way. 😉 There’s so much viewer manipulation in that show (recent episodes, anyway).

    I don’t mind, but I’ve stopped trying to make the characters and plot “make sense” in a traditional fashion. They seem to be written more for the emotional ride than for the characters or any logical chain of events in the story universe. I just enjoy the ride.

    Kessie — Totally with you, there. That was brilliant writing, right there. Tell the tragic end of the love story before showing the love story itself. Talk about creating a certain urgent curiosity, and a willingness to embrace her as super special — there’s no risk in allowing her to be the closest to the Doctor EVER because we all know she leaves his life in the end.


  5. […] Why River Song is the Doctor’s soulmate (newauthors.wordpress.com) […]

  6. Great assessment of the companions and I want more! How exactly is River the embodiment of the TARDIS??

    • I know, right? The writers are very coy about this. Like in Name of the Doctor when River notes that the TARDIS can still hear her. She and the TARDIS have some kind of special bond, and I figure it’s all the TARDIS’s doing. 😉

  7. […] Why River Song is the Doctor’s soulmate […]

  8. […] Why River Song is the Doctor’s soulmate (newauthors.wordpress.com) […]

  9. […] Why River Song is the Doctor’s soulmate (newauthors.wordpress.com) […]

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