|In more ways than one, sweetie...|
It was just too tempting to resist.
I had, some time back, declared River Song to be one of the Five Things Killing Doctor Who. In this our free-wheeling democracy, we can have debates that question things. Someone has questioned my idea about River Song, which is shocking to me because, as we all know, I am always right...not unlike River herself, who has a sense of her own perfection and infallibility.
Sorry: run-on sentence.
To make this case, I was provided with this article by one F. John Rickert which purports to state Why River Song is Better than Any Companion. Them's fighting words in my neck of the woods. They are also rather grand statements. In this scenario, River Song is elevated to something more than a mere Companion. She is elevated to near-if-not-equal status with the Doctor (who is the main character in Doctor Who...hence the name of the show. Last time I checked, it was still called Doctor Who, although before the season is over that may change).
With that in mind, I've decided to take each argument one by one and be as brief as possible (which given my love of verbage might be difficult, but I'll do my best). OK, here we go...
1.) River can pilot the TARDIS better than the Doctor.
If we go by the idea that the NuWho is a continuation of the Doctor Who series from 1963-1989 (which episodes such as School Reunion and Human Nature Parts 1 & 2 have thus established) then River is NOT the first being outside the Doctor to be able to operate the TARDIS. That honor goes to...
Susan Foreman, the Doctor's Granddaughter, back in 1963. Being related to the Doctor and having travelled with him for an undisclosed period of time helped. The second being to pilot the TARDIS (and definitely better than the Doctor ever could) was...
Romana, a Companion who was also a Time Lord. She not only was smarter than the Doctor, she did something the Doctor never bothered to: actually read the TARDIS manual. Of course, that was always the joke: that Romana was always smarter than the Doctor. However, with Susan and Romana, it should be remembered that A.) they were fellow Time Lords, and B.) they kept the whooshing sound.
In fact, all the TARDISes from other Time Lords (The Master, The Rani) had this whooshing sound. It was very specific to the series: the idea of entering and leaving time itself, the fabric of time tearing as sound engineer and composer Brian Hodgson put it. In short, it was done for a reason.
In the case of River, it was done to show off how much smarter she was than the main character. It was done to show her off, but the whooshing is still there. It might have struck Steven Moffat as funny and/or clever to show how River could fly the TARDIS better than the Doctor (the whooshing sound, she explained, came from him leaving the parking brake on), but if so, then would the Master, the Rani, or Romana be all similarly inept? That is highly unlikely.
Also, when exactly DID River learn to operate the TARDIS?
"Having someone around who likes to shoot at things isn't unusual for the Doctor (emphasis mine), but having one who is good enough to take crack shots at the Doctor's hats and hit a Dalek's eyestalk dead-on is even more rare."
The entire premise of this statement is erroneous to say the least. If one looks at the various Companions the Doctor has had in his fifty years you'll find that the vast majority of them were non-combatant, let alone aggressive. Can you imagine schoolteachers Ian Chesterton and/or Barbara Wright packing heat? When was the last time you saw the Victorian girl...Victoria, fire a weapon? Ever recall Sarah Jane Smith firing a rifle (well, I think I can, but again this was more the exception than the rule). Melanie Bush, for all her many faults, cannot be accused of being a trigger-happy pistol-packing mama.
In fact, barring the military in UNIT (in particular the Brigadier), I could only find a mere four Companions that would fall under this idea of someone "who likes to shoot at things": Jamie McCrimmon, Leela of the Sevateem, Ace, and Captain Jack Harkness (and the first two are a stretch).
Out of those, Ace and the Captain are the only ones who actually used any form of firearm on a regular basis (Jamie and Leela usually using knives or spears as befitting their character). Ace had a particular fondness for explosives and would usually celebrate successful explosions with a very 80s, "Wicked!" However, Jack was probably the only one who was particularly aggressive (but then again, he is from NuWho, which might explain things).
Each of them would fight only for defensive purposes (in particular when they, the Doctor, a fellow Companion, or an innocent were threatened). Moreover, the Doctor was always trying to temper their impulses. Leela's whole arc was to see that being a Warrior included wisdom as well as strength, and Ace's explosives were never fired for fun. SHE might have enjoyed it, but the Doctor always tried to make that a last resort. The Doctor was mostly successful in getting Ace to see that explosions were not the answer, or at least not the first response to a situation.
In fact, the Doctor was always dead-set against the use of weapons. As much as he loved the Brigadier (who was probably the closest thing he had to a best friend) he would always be exasperated whenever the Brig would resort to a "shoot first don't ask questions" style. In Doctor Who & The Silurians (I believe) the Doctor's philosophy was best expressed. "Typical military solution," he sniffed. "Come across a problem and their first response is to shoot at it". I may be misquoting, but the jist is there.
River, on the other hand, has no moderating in her use of force. She kills, even when the victim asks for mercy. Debate whether a Dalek can ask for mercy, but if The Doctor couldn't kill Davros when he had the chance (or the whole Dalek race), why would we believe he would applaud River cold-bloodedly exterminating one?
"Even as clever as his other companions may be, none of them are quite as ready to learn or challenge the Doctor intellectually as River".
Oh again the willful ignorance of history. Yes, she is Professor River Song (though one boggles to wonder what she actually teaches), but she is not the smartest Companion the Doctor has ever had.
She is not even the first educator to serve as a Companion. Mr. Chesterton and Miss Wright were both teachers (hardly the imbeciles Rickert suggests all pre-River Companions are). Chesterton could fill in the scientific gaps, Wright the historic ones. I'd argue that they were more educated than almost all the NuWho Companions save for Dr. Martha Jones and River herself.
We also turn to astrophysicist Zoe Hariot, who was far more intelligent that the Doctor was (at least when it came to science). Again, part of the humor was that such a child could be far brighter than everyone around her. After all, as bright as Professor Song may be, can SHE calculate faster than a computer? I think not. In her stories, Zoe could out think the Doctor in technical terms, though she A.) still deferred to him because he ultimately had more experience, and B.) she never was imperious about her intellectual prowess.
The idea that River Song was/is the only Companion to challenge the Doctor intellectually could be accepted if we can accept that a professor of archaeology is far smarter than someone with degrees in medicine or science (Liz Shaw, Grace Holloway, and Martha Jones), a mathematical prodigy (Adric), an amateur scientist (Nyssa), and of course, a fellow Time Lord (Romana I & II), one who graduated from the Academy with higher scores than the Doctor.
Rose was a working-class girl, Donna a flustered temp. Yes, the Doctor has had Companions that are nowhere near as genius as he is (from Jamie to Leela to Ace), but all of them had other qualities, in particular loyalty and compassion. However, and this is important, ALL of them "are ready to learn" from the Doctor and indeed, did become more educated while travelling with him. To say otherwise is a denial of facts.
4.) She Isn't Jealous of Other Companions
I fail to see why this makes one better. With the possible exception of Sarah Jane vs. Rose Tyler there has never been any suggestion that in the few times Companions cross there is anything remotely connected to jealousy. In The Five Doctors, the various Companions got on quite well, and in The Two Doctors the Second Doctor's Jamie and the Sixth's Peri equally worked well (I'd say Jamie fancied Peri, but that's speculation).
I get the sense that this statement is meant to suggest that River is to coin a phrase, "First Among Equals", that somehow the Doctor holds her in higher regard than all those who have come before. No evidence has been presented that the Doctor believes River to be greater than anyone he has had at his side (and if anyone can make a case as to how River Song would be more valued in the Doctor's heart than Susan Foreman, his own granddaughter, I'm all ears).
Timey-wimey has become a way to cover plot holes and continuity issues in NuWho. I confess to not being exactly sure what this 'plus' about River actually means, but I think it refers to one of River's catchphrases.
"Spoilers", River will tell the Doctor whenever he asks about something she knows but he doesn't (usually about the/their future). Thus she is privy to information that he (and we) are not. The "spoilers" business is meant to show how much smarter she is than the Doctor because she has 'inside information' about what is to happen.
"Spoilers" is a way to suggest mystery, to impart that she knows about things because...well, because it just sets up future stories with her in them. However, if she knows things that are going to happen, her inability or even refusal to alter them when she can makes her quite cruel. She, for example, knows her parents are going to die in The Angels Take Manhattan, but she doesn't bother trying to alter the future. As far as she's concerned Rory and Amelia, who tore through the universe to rescue their baby, can be devoured by Weeping Angels...makes no difference to her.
She also, if her diary indicates 'spoilers' should know that the Doctor doesn't really die at Lake Silencio (which by the way, is Spanish for 'silence'. Just so you know). "Spoilers" is merely a device, a way to get River to be ahead of everyone else, but it is a constant frustration to have someone 'know' something that could be vital but won't share it with you.
6.) She is Stylish
Of all the arguments as to why River Song is Better than Any Companion, this one is purely subjective. Being 'stylish' is not a quality that elevates someone to Icon Status. There is a difference between style and class. In her various outfits River really can't compare to some truly glamorous Companions.
THIS is what I call glamorous. In fact, I think BOTH Romanas were the most refined, regal, and elegant of the Doctor's various Companions, befitting their status as highly intelligent Time Lords.
I'd hardly call THIS frumpy either.
Come to think of it, how about trying this on for size...
How dowdy our Victorian lass is. No sense of style whatsoever.
Again, this argument that River is 'stylish' is irrelevant even if it were true that her sartorial sense outweighs all others. How her clothes-sense makes her better than all other Companions I have yet to be convinced.
In fact, the 'she's stylish' line of defense strikes me as almost...sexist. Who cares what Ben Jackson or Rory What's-His-Name wear, or why that makes them less of a Companion.
Here I am at a disadvantage.
I skipped Forest of the Dead Parts 1 & 2 (Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead) because after Love & Monsters I quit watching Doctor Who until The Waters of Mars (so traumatic was that particular episode). Therefore, I cannot say how River came about to have her very own sonic screwdriver.
However, the implication is clear: she has one because she and only she is so very vital to the Doctor in some way (romantic, intellectual, sexual, what have you). Her owning a sonic screwdriver therefore MUST mean she is if not highly special to the Doctor then perhaps his equal. Why would he give her a sonic screwdriver or at the very least why would she be in possession of one?
Here I will do something I'm loath to do: speculate. As we know, River states that the Doctor gave her the sonic screwdriver because she's 'not (just) anyone'. However, as River herself says, "The Doctor lies". Can't River lie as well?
Since I'm faced without all the facts, I opted to go to a source: Tardis Wikia. In the section about sonic screwdrivers (particularly with River's) we see that Romana II made a superior version of the sonic screwdriver (no surprise) in The Horns of Nimon, and in The Girl Who Waited Amy herself cobbled together a version of a sonic screwdriver.
However, the best case I can make about how having a sonic screwdriver (even one that was presented by the Doctor) does not make River Song Better than Any Companion comes from the thinking behind it. The Riveristas believe it is because to the Doctor, River Song is the Love of His Lives, one he is passionate over. Given what I know about Forest of the Dead Parts 1 & 2, I think it is because it was convenient for him in that particular story, not a sign of devotion but a sign of expediency.
That, and the fact that Steven "Pygmalion" Moffat was already planning great things for his Galatea, and what better way of starting her legend than with her own copy of a particular iconic Doctor Who device.
8.) She's From the Future, But Her Future's From the Past
A little timey-wimey action there, isn't it?
As I understand it, the first time the Doctor meets River Song is the last time River Song meets the Doctor. Therefore, the first time River Song meets the Doctor will be the last time the Doctor meets River Song.
As it stands, no one appears quite sure exactly when the first time River Song meets the Doctor actually is. It isn't when she is a little girl (Day of the Moon Parts 1 & 2: The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon) because they keep meeting. I would say that if I met someone when I was a child, I would be meeting them for the first time, but what do I know. It isn't when she 'regenerates' in River's Secret Parts 1 & 2 (A Good Man Goes to War/Let's Kill Hitler)...and I'd argue that as the child of two humans, it is flat-out impossible for a human to regenerate.
Even if we accepted the premise that one gains Time Lord DNA/regenerating abilities by being conceived by the Power of the Holy TARDIS, in order for that to work Rory and Amy would have to open up the TARDIS console, fling themselves into it completely naked and do a little bump and grind while being burned alive. The idea that River herself can regenerate was done for the following reasons:
A.) to build her up above all other Companions
B.) to add drama to the situation
C.) as a plot device to explain how Amy and Rory's childhood pal 'Mels' turned into their own daughter.
It's shocking that the people behind Doctor Who either don't appear or don't care to understand what regeneneration actually IS. Yet I digress.
Having already established that River's last meeting with the Doctor will be first and his last meeting with River will be her first, there will HAVE to come a point when River meets the Doctor for the first time (and have her character written out of the series). When that time comes we don't know and frankly it will be surprising if it EVER comes given how impassioned Moffat and Company are of River to ever finally let her go.
Perhaps in this case, you CAN forget your first time...
Still, meeting out of sync is not a sign of greatness. The Doctor has run into other Companions from his past and future before from his Companion's perspective (The Three Doctors, The Five Doctors, Arc of Infinity, The Two Doctors, School Reunion, The Eleventh Hour). Him running into River at odd times is by no means unique.
A particularly interesting case is that of Melanie Bush, a Companion whose first appearance was in The Trial of a Time Lord story Terror of the Vervoid. Here, Mel is a Companion from the Doctor's FUTURE. In other words, in a technical sense SHE had met HIM before HE had met HER.
So much for River Song being unique in that department, and again, if anyone can make a case for Mel Bush being Better Than Any Companion...
And now, at last, the Ninth Reason Given as to Why River Song is Better Than Any Companion...
9.) She's Crazier Than The Doctor
No arguments here. However, I've never known a time when degrees of insanity have been considered a positive. Matt Smith's Doctor is a foolish, even deranged being. Gone is the dashing and daring Doctor, the Doctor who sought out to fight with intellect.
Instead, we have a guy who lays backing vocals on a rap track for reasons no one can figure, who looks confused when a naked Mata Hari stands before him, who never bothers to call Rory Williams by his last name (or bother to learn it), who thinks bow ties and fezzes are 'cool' and who seems delighted to work at a toy department where his name tag reads "The Doctor" rather than say...John Smith. You can't take him seriously. He's turned into a joke. When your lead A.) becomes a figure of ridicule rather than admiration, and B.) said character cedes the stage for a secondary character who all but drowns you out, you are no longer worth the trouble.
I however, don't think River Song is crazy.
I think she is evil: quick to kill, indifferent to life, self-absorbed, willing to destroy all existence for the sake of someone who she says/thinks is in love with her but who doesn't appear to be willing to do the same for her.
Far from being Better Than Any Companion, I think River Song is perhaps the WORST character Doctor Who has ever created.
...and you guys, Grow Up,
Get a Life,
Get on Your Knees and Beg