My love for this pairing was a slow-build. Seeing their relationship develop in reverse from the Doctor’s POV was alienating. It wasn’t until we got to see River’s perspective on things in 6x01 that I was down for it. I made fanart, made jokes about their standing shoulder-to-shoulder!porn, giffed their kissing gleefully. I wrote Doctor/River/TARDIS comment!fic with theredshoes. It was great.
[SEASON 6 SPOILERS BELOW]
Then came the first blow.
It turned out that River was Amy and Rory’s daughter. The Doctor has been something of a paternal figure to Amy, and it was a little disturbing to think of him hooking up with a little girl who was a sort of thematic niece/grandchild to him. Even putting aside the incestuous vibe, the thought of a grown man cooing at his best friend’s baby and then marrying that child when she grows up is kind of icky.
But that wasn’t the thing that killed it for me. I could have gotten over that. It’s time travel sci fi about a thousand year old alien: squick happens.
How’d the PTB finally kill my love for this pairing dead? They had their villains kidnap River and brainwash her from her youngest memories into being obsessed with the Doctor. They forced him to be her earliest and most repeated thought. They woke her up with thoughts of him and put her to bed with the same. They broke her mind with him. They made him the purpose of her life.
Her choosing to love him in that context seems like… a lack of choice. Because the opposite of hate is not love, it’s *indifference*. And River was never allowed to be indifferent to the Doctor. She didn’t get to meet him as an adult, form an opinion of him, and fall in love. She turned an obsession for killing him into an obsession for loving him.
The obsession itself is not of her choosing, though. And building her life around love for him isn’t that different than building her life around killing him. They’re both the consequence of a terrible, life-long violation of her. She could choose whether to kill him or love him, but choosing not to care, or not to care so much, was never an option she was allowed. She was programmed to be all about him. Her love, then, becomes an expression of her abuse rather than a beautiful thing that grew naturally within her.
So I just can’t anymore. They took everything I thought the Doctor and River were and they smashed it. I thought it was a story about two awesome people who meet and fall in love. Two people who have a fantastic, complex, polyamorous relationship across time and space. But it’s not that. It’s a story about a little girl who was never given a chance to live without him as her god. She lives for him and we’ve seen that one day she will die for him.
To die for someone you’ve chosen to love is beautiful and sad. To die for someone you’ve been brainwashed to be all about is… horrific.
This show refuses to let women be strong. They can swing guns around and advanced degrees, but they have to *belong to* a man in the end. And their power to choose must always be restricted. Amy is the Doctor’s and then he hands her off to Rory, makes her his. And River is always the Doctor’s, love him or hate him.