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).
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.
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.
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.