River is really confusing. Here is a flow chart that explains her timeline. Ten meets her first in the Library, where she dies and is uploaded to the library database. We never expected to see her again, she was a mysterious character for one episode, who had the Doctor’s screwdriver and new his real name. But no. That was just the beginning. We see River again with Eleven and Amy, with no real explanation except it is implied that they have crossed paths again since the Library. This new relationship with River is very flirtive and for the first time it is suggested: is River your wife? O.o IS she? There’s also a deeper explanation of the journal used to keep track of their timelines. They are both time travelers and therefore, their timelines sort of go…in reverse. Try not to think about it too hard. For the rest of season five River remains a bit of an enigma, and sexual, confusing enigma. Things really start getting interesting around Season Six. We learn that she is Amy and Rory’s baby from the future. Yeah. She’s also their childhood friend who they named their baby after. Again, try not to think about it too hard. I’m jumping over that primarily aside from the quick note that this changes the dynamic a lot as it does make Amy and Rory the Doctor’s in-laws.
Through the next seasons, as they become more serious and eventually get married, the relationship blossoms into something really beautiful. There’s been some debate over how much he really loves her, in which case I point you to the season finale of season 7. When the Doctor, talking to post-library River. (dead River) says “I can always see you and I can always hear you,” you know. You know that he lives along side her constantly. She is his wife. For better or for worse, and frankly I don’t think he takes that lightly. Look at the way he kisses her in this scene. Go back and re-watch it if you have to. Look at the gentleness with which he touches her. Look at the pain in his eyes as he let’s her go. He hold’s back through most of the serious because it hurts him too much, but in this final moment between them he let’s himself go and he’s honest.
There’s another great episode that displays their complex relationship in a really good way in season 7, “Angels take Manhattan.” this is an important episode for other reasons, but for now, this is about River. Important moments to note; when he gets upset she can tell, and she tries to work with him, but he gets angry and yells at her to fix the problem by herself. “It’s called Marriage, Sweetie.” So she breaks her wrist for him. And she hides it. He gets all happy and puppy-dogish and then he realizes. And you see him yelling at her. She takes it, she absorbs it. She does all this for him. Because she loves him. “Oh God yes, she loves him!, absolutely ferociously!” (Moffat) And then he realized that he’s hurt her emotionally and he tries to fix it by fixing her physically and she gets angry and storms off. And there’s this very intimate moment with her mother where we realize how hard it is for river. Married to a god with the face of a twelve year old, who would rather rip out the last page than read the ending. that’s a harsh moment because you see that she’s afraid that if her sees her aging and realizes her mortality, he’ll leave her behind.
Through all this, I’m going to go back to that first episode. Her last moment with the doctor. There’s a moment where she’s trying to comfort him, and she reaches up to his chest as if to straighten his bow tie and then realizes it’s not there and I think that’s a great display of her pain throughout this.
“He looks right through me and it shouldn’t kill me, but it does.”
Looking back on all this, her last day with the doctor and they are strangers.