Melody Pond, later River Song, was a human with some Time Lord DNA, due to being conceived on the Doctor's TARDIS, and therefore being exposed to the Time Vortex. She was later an archaeologist and a convicted murderer.
The daughter of Amy Pond and Rory Williams, Melody shared a close and somewhat romantic relationship with the Doctor, becoming one of the few people to learn his true name. She was a doctor of archaeology, and later a professor in the 51st century. Like Melanie Bush and Charley Pollard before her, she was an example of the rare companion whose timeline was not synchronous with that of the Doctor.
Melody Pond was born on the asteroid of Demon's Run to Amy Pond and Rory Williams, after her mother had been kidnapped. Shortly after birth, Melody was replaced with a Ganger, and taken from Amy by Madame Kovarian to be used as a weapon against the Doctor. She was chosen for this purpose because she had traces of Time Lord DNA as a result of having been conceived onboard the TARDIS while inside the Time Vortex. This was similar to how exposure to the Untempered Schism on Gallifrey had caused the Time Lords to evolve from normal humanoids over many generations. Kovarian's scientists experimented on Melody to bring these traits to the fore. The extent of her Time Lord-like abilities and characteristics even allowed her to regenerate. (DW: A Good Man Goes to War, Let's Kill Hitler)
At an unknown moment in her timestream while still a little girl, Melody ended up in an orphanage in America in 1969 (where photographs of Amy and her were left) and later at a warehouse base in Florida. She was put into an Apollo astronaut suit upgraded with alien life support systems. She used the suit to make calls directly to President Nixon in the Oval Office, begging for help. This led to her first physical meeting with the Doctor (in their meeting as a baby she had been a Ganger)—a brief one, as her mother shot the suit's visor, scaring her away. She returned to the orphanage and tried to ask Amy for help. However, the Silence arrived. After an unknown incident, she escaped the spacesuit and fled. (DW: The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon)
Her whereabouts between 1970 and the 1990s are unknown, but by the late 1990s, she was living in Leadworth, where she found her parents, Amelia Pond and Rory Williams, as children. Nicknamed "Mels", she became close friends with them and helped them realise their love for each other. Mels later stated that she had last regenerated into a toddler in New York.
Mels continually found herself in trouble, with outbursts of unthinkingly destructive criminal behaviour. She was obsessed with Amelia's "Raggedy Doctor"l, dreaming about marrying him and claiming in school that historical disasters were his fault because he did not intervene. Through all of this, she was fully aware that Amy and Rory were her parents, and that she intended to kill the Doctor. (DW: Let's Kill Hitler)
Adventures with the Doctor
When the Doctor arrived in a Leadworth cornfield in 2011, Mels forced her way onto the TARDIS at gunpoint to escape the police. She shot up the TARDIS, leading them to meet Adolf Hitler in 1938. Mels was accidentally shot by Hitler and to everyone's surprise, regenerated into her next incarnation, recognizable as River Song. Acting on her conditioning, she almost immediately tried to kill the Doctor — first with guns, then with poisoned lipstick. She cheerfully called herself a "psychopath" and ran amok in 1938 Berlin. However, she showed empathy for the Doctor's devotion to his friends and to the "River Song" he kept mentioning, and his struggle to save her from the Teselecta. When she demanded to know who River was, Amy ordered the Teselecta to show her and it morphed into River's double. She asked her parents if the Doctor was worth saving and they said yes. She sacrificed all her remaining regenerations to keep him alive.
The Doctor took her to a hospital in the 52nd century and gave her a TARDIS-shaped diary. She later applied to study archaeology at Luna University, so that she would be able to find him again. (DW: Let's Kill Hitler)
Some time after this, River was imprisoned in the Stormcage Containment Facility for murdering someone. When the Doctor asked about this earlier in his timestream, she only said that he was "A very good man. Best man I've ever known". (DW: The Time of Angels / Flesh and Stone).
River met the Doctor, Amy, and Rory at the end of the battle of Demon's Run in the 52nd century. She revealed her identity, first to the Doctor, and then to her parents. After the Doctor left, River assured Rory and Amy that their daughter would be safe, that the Doctor would find her and that she was in fact Melody.
At one time, River was taken by the Doctor for her birthday to the last Winter Frost Fair on the River Thames in 1814. Stevie Wonder unknowingly performed before being taken back to his original time. Returning to Stormcage from this escapade, River encountered Rory in his Roman uniform. She refused his request when asked to come aid them at Demons Run, saying she "can't be there until the very end." (DW: A Good Man Goes to War)
On receiving an invitation containing co-ordinates from the Eleventh Doctor, River escaped from Stormcage to meet him, Amy and Rory in the middle of Utah in the United States of America in 2011. After reminiscing with her about their adventures on Easter Island and with Jim the Fish, The Doctor took them on a picnic, where he was murdered by someone wearing an astronaut's space suit. River, Amy, and Rory cremated the Doctor's body in a "Viking funeral". They went to a cafe and discovered another version of the Eleventh Doctor, claiming to be approximately two hundred years younger than the one they had seen die. (DW: The Impossible Astronaut)
River helped the Doctor defeat the Silence by using the Silence's brainwashing of humanity against them (nearly encountering her past self in the process). At her request, the Doctor returned River to Stormcage, where she kissed him. From his shocked reaction, she realised that from his perspective, it was their first kiss, and from her perspective their last. (DW: Day of the Moon)
Opening of the Pandorica
The TARDIS rerouted a phone call for the Doctor from Winston Churchill to River in Stormcage. She escaped from prison to warn the Doctor of a deadly prophecy of the TARDIS exploding. After blackmailing a Time Agent's vortex manipulator off Dorium Maldovar, she travelled to the Roman era of Earth, where she met the Eleventh Doctor and Amy.
They rode to Stonehenge to find the Pandorica. Once there, they discovered Stonehenge was transmitting a signal summoning an alliance of the Doctor's enemies to Earth. The Doctor managed to convince the assembled aliens to back away for a time and sent River to bring the TARDIS to him. Instead, the TARDIS took her to Amy's house on the 26th of June, 2010. When River told him the date, the Doctor realised the TARDIS was about to explode and urged her to escape. Instead, she found herself trapped as the TARDIS came under the control of an unknown force and exploded. (DW: The Pandorica Opens)
In the TARDIS, River was trapped in a time loop of the first moments of the explosion. The Doctor, used her vortex manipulator, to rescue her and bring her to 1996, where she learned of the Doctor's plan to use the Pandorica's restoration field to reverse the erasure of the universe. However, the Doctor was soon badly wounded by an energy blast from the Stone Dalek that was hunting them. Angered at the apparent loss of the man she loved, River told the Dalek to look into its data banks for her identity, taunted it into begging for mercy, then killed it.
After the Doctor restored the universe, erasing himself in the process, River (who was somehow in 2010) left her now blank TARDIS-shaped diary with Amy on her wedding day in 2010 so that she could remember the Doctor back into existence. The plan worked, and the Doctor returned from the Void. After a brief conversation with the Doctor about her marital status and identity, River told him that he was "...going to find out very soon now, and I'm sorry, because that's when everything changes." River left the Doctor wondering. (DW: The Big Bang)
Crash of the Byzantium
Some time after River had returned from 2010 to prison, she was put in Father Octavian's custody: this occurred in the 51st century (see Other Information). If she carried out her mission, she would earn her pardon.
River was sent to be a guest on the ship Byzantium. She infiltrated the lower levels to find its Home Box, into which she carved the message "Hello Sweetie" in Old High Gallifreyan writing to attract the Doctor's attention twelve thousand years later. Leading the Doctor to Alfava Metraxis, she helped him defeat an army of Weeping Angels who had been awakened in the planet's Maze of the Dead. (DW: The Time of Angels, Flesh and Stone)
At some point, after earning her pardon, River received a surprise visit by the Doctor, who had a new haircut. He took her on a trip to Darillium to see the Singing Towers. The Doctor knew, although River did not, that her death was impending, and gave her an upgraded version of his sonic screwdriver. (DW: Forest of the Dead)
In the 50th century, River, now a professor, was hired by Felman Lux to lead an expedition to the Library to discover what had happened there a hundred years earlier, when a cryptic final message had been sent: "4022 saved. No survivors." Anticipating trouble, River summoned the Doctor by sending him a message via psychic paper. The earlier version of the Doctor who turned up had not yet met her. Though bewildered, he agreed to help River and her team.
River still had her TARDIS-shaped diary describing her travels with the Doctor. She tried to use it to discover where the Doctor was in his timeline, but soon realized that he was a much younger version of the Doctor who did not know who she was, nor did he trust her.
As the situation with the Vashta Nerada deteriorated, River realised she must prove to the Doctor that she was someone he would come to trust completely and, with profuse apologies, whispered his true name into his ear. The Doctor was stunned by this information, and River had won his trust.
River physically died when she chose to sacrifice herself in the Doctor's place to save Donna and the other 4022 people trapped in the Library's computer. She pleaded with him to not try and change history, not to change one moment of what had/would come for them. (DW: Forest of the Dead)
After saving all the trapped people, the Doctor realized his future self would give her his sonic screwdriver for a reason. Inside he found a data chip, a "Neural Relay", which contained River's Data Ghost. The Doctor saved her by uploading her into the virtual world in The Library's data core, CAL. CAL had also saved the data ghosts of all of River's dead archaeological team, giving her company in the virtual world. River would take care of her two virtual children and Charlotte (the human girl wired into the mainframe) in the virtual world, reading out her diary of adventures with the Doctor, and how sometimes, "everybody lives" when the Doctor comes to call. Her story ended with her wishing the sleeping children sweet dreams. (DW: Silence in the Library / Forest of the Dead)
- The Doctor and River had a picnic at Asgard. (DW: Silence in the Library)
- The Doctor and River shared an adventure in "the Bone Meadows". (DW: The Time of Angels)
- The Doctor and River visited Easter Island together. (DW: The Impossible Astronaut)
- The Doctor and River met a being named "Jim the Fish". (DW: The Impossible Astronaut)
In her "little girl" incarnation, Melody Pond was shy and innocent and showed considerable fear of the "monsters" that had trapped her in the spacesuit. (DW: The Impossible Astronaut) While the little girl incarnation was timid, her "Mels" incarnation was independent and feisty, frequently getting into trouble, and even being chased by the police near the end of her life. She resented the Doctor and blamed him for many historical disasters. She was very strong-willed, and even though she'd been brainwashed in her childhood and had been raised to kill the Doctor, she was still capable of deciding that the Doctor was a good man and deciding to save his life, sacrificing all her regenerations in the process. (DW: Let's Kill Hitler)
In her final and best known incarnation, River had a feisty and cheeky personality, traits she shared with her mother, Amy. She inherited traits from her father, Rory, such as a sense of responsibility and deep compassion for loved ones. She enjoyed showing off her knowledge in front of the Doctor, particularly knowledge of him and his personality. She would use the word "spoilers" to refer to her knowledge of the Doctor's future, or his knowledge of her future. River was good at keeping secrets from the Doctor, especially anything which could change the future. This included keeping her personal diary from him. (DW: Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead)
River was devoted to the Doctor and cared very much for those around her. She could also be merciless, killing the Stone Dalek after it had shot the Doctor even though it pleaded for mercy when it realised who she was. She taunted the Dalek before killing it by ordering it to beg for mercy. River Song was very confident of her abilities, intelligence and sexuality. She was often flirtatious, but was serious when the situation called for it. (DW: The Big Bang)
River was willing to sacrifice herself from the moment she was convinced the Doctor deserved to live, when she willingly gave up her remaining regenerations to save the Doctor after she herself had poisoned him. (DW: Let's Kill Hitler) She took the Doctor's place when he attempted to release the people who were saved within the computer that controlled the Library. She pointed out that if the Doctor hooked himself up to the computer it would incinerate both his hearts and he would not regenerate. To prevent the Doctor killing himself, River knocked him out and handcuffed him before hooking herself up to the computer. Just before her death she comforted the Doctor by saying that although it was her last meeting with him it was his first meeting with her and he would see her again. (DW: Forest of the Dead) She was also willing to sacrifice herself to close the Time Field on the Byzantium to stop the Doctor from doing it, until the Doctor told her it wouldn't be enough. (DW: Flesh and Stone)
- Amy Pond – mother
- Rory Williams – father
- Tabetha Pond – maternal grandmother
- Augustus Pond – maternal grandfather
- Sharon – maternal great-aunt
- River's "present day" spanned the 52nd, 51st, and 50th centuries - in that order, likely thanks to her frequent time travel. She entered Luna University in 5123 and was in Stormcage by 5145. One of her last Stormcage appearances was in the 51st century, and she 'dies' in the 50th. How the outside world saw this, and when she was released from Stormcage, is unknown.
- River Song seemed to take shorter trips with the Doctor, living a more or less normal life between trips, rather than having one extended trip with the Doctor and never seeing him again after parting ways.
- After her final regeneration, River decided to deliberately and slowly reverse her age through life to "freak people out". (DW: Let's Kill Hitler) This is a tongue-in-cheek reason for why River looks the same age as Alex Kingston despite her appearances being in reverse-order.
- River Song was a skilled TARDIS pilot, whose techniques were very different from the Doctor's. She mentioned that she "learned from the best", and joked that the Doctor wasn't available that day. (DW: The Time of Angels) It turned out she learnt from the TARDIS itself, which recognised her as its "child". (DW: Let's Kill Hitler) One time when the Doctor said she was flying it wrong, however, she seemed to claim that he had taught her. However, she was actually speaking to the TARDIS. (DW: The Pandorica Opens)
- River had knowledge of Time Lord anatomy, and knew about regeneration. She knew that destruction of both of the Doctor's hearts would make regeneration impossible. (DW: Forest of the Dead). She also understood that if the Doctor died before his regeneration cycle was complete, he was dead for good. (DW: The Impossible Astronaut)
- River Song wrote in Old High Gallifreyan. It is not known where she learned this. (DW: The Time of Angels)
- River had pictures of all the Doctor's incarnations (DW: The Time of Angels), though she did not know what order they came in.
- River told Rory that she and the Doctor were meeting in reverse order and that every time she met him, he knew her less. She feared the day when she met a Doctor who did not know her. (DW: The Impossible Astronaut) Generally, River met the Doctor in reverse order respective to their timelines. This was not always the case, as River once met a version of the Doctor who had shared an adventure to Easter Island and a meeting with Jim the Fish. Additionally, the Doctor met her first and second incarnations in roughly chronological order.
- Both the name "Melody" and "River Song" are ontological paradoxes. Amy named her daughter after her friend, who unbeknownst to Amy was in fact her daughter Melody. Melody later began using the name "River Song" after learning about her own future as River Song.
Behind the scenes
- Except for a flashback in DW: Journey's End, River Song has only appeared in stories written by Steven Moffat.
- In a recent interview for a short video about the Eleventh Doctor's companions, Alex Kingston stated that River Song has encountered many incarnations of the Doctor and that the Doctor "sends her into his past, where he knows he needs her expertise". Arthur Darvill stated that Kingston had been told more than anyone else about who River really is.
- Humorously, the conversation at the end of The Doctor's Wife implies River was conceived on a bunk bed. When asked about this, both Steven Moffat and Neil Gaiman independently and simultaneously acknowledged this, joking about the possibility of the ladder. They later suggested they had accidentally canonised this by agreeing on it at the same time.
- To date, River has been played by six different actors.
- River Song is the only Time Lord to change skin colour via regeneration on-screen, as the actresses who played her in both her 'Melody Pond' and 'River Song' incarnations were white, while both of Mels' actresses were black. Earlier in SJA: Death of the Doctor, the Doctor noted that his racial characteristics were not limited to white; he "can be anything." Rassilon has been portrayed by white actors Richard Mathews and Timothy Dalton on-screen while black actor Don Warrington was Rassilon's voice actor and cover-art model in Big Finish Doctor Who audio stories.
- In Let's Kill Hitler, River says that she will gradually bring down the age of her body a little "just to freak people out", referring to the fact that Alex Kingston will play earlier versions of River at later points of the actress' own life.