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We've been told that River Song and the Doctor are living their lives in opposite directions (the first time the Doctor meets River is the last time River sees the Doctor, for instance).

While this is generally true, there are at least some exceptions:

In A Good Man Goes To War, Rory fetches River immediately after she returns from ice skating with the Doctor. Since it's unlikely that the Doctor's next appearance with River will be skating, it's a safe assumption that the two timelines are out of sync.

That said, what order do events in Doctor Who happen, from River's perspective?

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The latest DW/Confidential had a canonical list of the stories made so far in her order. –  billpg Oct 2 '11 at 17:17
    
@billpg: Cool Is there a link to that on-line? –  Sean McMillan Oct 6 '11 at 14:31
    
@SeanMcMillan - I watched it off the telly. BBC iPlayer might have it available online. –  billpg Oct 6 '11 at 15:26
    
I'm trying to chase down a copy of that episode. –  Allen Gould Oct 12 '11 at 22:09
    
I've summarised the DWC list in an answer. –  billpg Nov 4 '11 at 20:27
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4 Answers 4

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The Doctor Who Confidential episode When Time Froze (broadcast with The Wedding of River Song), included a segment River Song: Her Story with Alex Kingston as River Song narrating her appearances that had been broadcast up to that point.

The sequence did not include events that had only been mentioned in passing (Jim the Fish, etc) and subsequent episodes.

The following list is a summary of that segment in the order presented with subsequent episodes added in their applicable position.

  • A good man goes to war (Birth) 6x07
  • The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon (As the little girl) 6x01-02
  • Let's Kill Hitler 6x08
  • Closing Time 6x12
  • Wedding of River Song (Bulk of episode) 6x13
    • The Impossible Astronaut also shows the scene with River in the spacesuit 6x01
  • A good man goes to war (As adult River) 6x07
  • The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon (As adult River) 6x01-02
  • Pandorica opens/Big Bang 5x12-13
  • The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone 5x04-05
  • Wedding of River Song (Garden scene) 6x13
  • The Angels Take Manhattan* 7x05
  • Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead 4x08-09
  • The Name of the Doctor**

*In The Angels Take Manhattan, River reveals she had been released from prison and had become a professor.

**In The Name of the Doctor, River states that she had died and was saved in the library.

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Bill, do you have an update for this? –  Pureferret Nov 2 '12 at 22:28
    
I added TATM shortly after broadcast. She's not explicit about it in her dialog with the Doctor but I think that just before SitL is the only place this episode can go given what she says. –  billpg Nov 5 '12 at 11:01
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I don't think that every time we have seen River she is younger. She got the Vortex Manipulator during the Pandorica (then gives it to the doctor and gets it back at the very end of Big Bang), and she has it during the episodes with the Silence. She also is wearing the same outfit at the end of Demon's Run as she was at the end of the Season opener with the Silence - complete with Vortex Manipulator.

Also, note that she never says that from her perspective Pandorica and Byzantium were adjacent - just that she "Remembers" the Pandorica and she knows that from the Doctor's perspective, it is next (that's Amy's fault because she said so during Pandorica.)

So I'm figuring that from River's perspective we have at least the following:

  • Pandorica Opens and Big Bang
  • Silence and the end of "A Good Man Goes to War"
  • Crash of Byzantium
  • The Singing Towers (off screen - she said it's the last time she saw Dr.)
  • The Library

But where I'm still puzzling is - the beginning to "A Good Man Goes to War" - she seems to remember Demon's Run, and her relationship with the Doctor seems close. She also seems to be surprised to see Rory (maybe she has been with a future version of the doctor who doesn't have Rory around?)

But to puzzle it out.... let's say Silence happened when Amy was about 2 - 3 months pregnant. Doctor drops off River. River heads to Demon's Run the same day. Then she is tasked with seeing Amy and Rory home - something we won't know much about till Fall. During that time, something happens to Rory. She then heads back to the same day that she had left prison (b/c otherwise the guards would be after her.). Meanwhile, Dr. and Rory and Amy have adventures that we have seen. Amy goes into labor. One month later, Dr shows up at Demons Run (mentioned in the show - "it's been a month and he hasn't done anything!"). Rory goes to pick up River - it's been around 7 to 8 months "straight time" since River was at Demon's run - that's why she can't go back - she knows she's already there.

My sense, given that in Crash of Byzantium she is trying to earn her pardon and she seems very aware that she does not have a close relationship with the doctor, that it is much later in her timestream - closer to the Library. And therefore, I would adjust the timeline so:

  • Pandorica Opens and Big Bang
  • Jim the Fish (off screen - I'm guessing here, because she asked about this, not Pandorica during the Silence episode)
  • Silence and the end of "A Good Man Goes to War"
  • (off screen stuff)
  • Beginning of "A Good Man Goes to War"
  • Crash of Byzantium
  • The Singing Towers
  • The Library

Now, if we assume, as we have been led to, that the young girl is River, we have this:

  • Young River in the Silence
  • Pandorica Opens and Big Bang
  • Jim the Fish
  • Silence and the end of "A Good Man Goes to War"
  • (off screen stuff)
  • Beginning of "A Good Man Goes to War"
  • Crash of Byzantium
  • The Singing Towers
  • The Library

Of course, we don't know if she shoots the doctor or not (good arguments either way - I'm going with she DOES because it makes the "he knew all about me" that much more potent.) - but if we assume she does, we also don't know WHEN. I'm going to wager a guess that it occurs BEFORE she escapes the suit:

  • Young River kills the Doctor
  • Young River in the Silence
  • Pandorica Opens and Big Bang
  • Jim the Fish
  • Silence and the end of "A Good Man Goes to War"
  • (off screen stuff)
  • Beginning of "A Good Man Goes to War"
  • Crash of Byzantium
  • The Singing Towers
  • The Library

And just making conjecture - I think the Dr. won't be able to find her until after the events that he is already wrapped up in. So...

  • Young River kills the Doctor
  • Young River in the Silence
  • Doctor locates a young River
  • (off screen stuff)
  • Pandorica Opens and Big Bang
  • Jim the Fish
  • Silence and the end of "A Good Man Goes to War"
  • (off screen stuff)
  • Beginning of "A Good Man Goes to War"
  • Crash of Byzantium
  • The Singing Towers
  • The Library

And one more point.... We DO know that she did not have the Vortex Manipulator during the last part of the Big Bang - the Dr. had it. What we dont' know is how on earth she ended up at Amy's wedding! There's something fishy there - and I have to wonder if it's another out of timestream event. I can't figure it out, so for now, this is the best I can do.

And yes, it is "mostly" backwards, but not totally backwards. Clearly the doctor himself broke that trend by saying goodbye to her at the Singing Towers as a much later version of himself. (We know that because it is a screwdriver we haven't seen yet). So the last time River sees the doctor is probably a very late version of her doctor, making it a very special moment for them both.

EDIT:

I also don't believe she's in prison because she killed someone. I think that's just the line. Remember, she was raised to be a weapon against the doctor. In the Time of Angels, the Bishop says "you're the only one who can control him - that's why you are here - but it only works if he doesn't know who you are."

I think the clerics have her in Stormcage so that they can pull her out to use her against the doctor whenever they feel like it. Either they or the Silence had her kill the doctor, but they know he's a time traveler and could show up again. River is in jail because they want her there. But she STAYS in jail because she promised the doctor she would.

That's my theory anyway... :)

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When did she get the Vortex Manipulator back at the end of The Big Bang? The Doctor flew the Pandorica into the Sun while wearing it. Then that's the last we see of it. –  Keen Jul 12 '11 at 14:35
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It's part two - after the wedding, when River Song and the Doctor talk. He returns the diary AND the vortex manipulator, and we see her put it on her wrist before she disappears. –  user158017 Jul 18 '11 at 18:16
    
@sql_mommy have you seen my bounty? Do you know if you could update this? –  Pureferret Oct 29 '12 at 1:43
    
@sql_mommy time is running out! This is my favourite answer so far but it's not up to date so far. –  Pureferret Nov 2 '12 at 21:03
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Excepting the ramifications of the twist at the end of A Good Man Goes To War, every time we the viewers see River, she's younger. So you, I and everyone watching the show, is seeing River get younger each time we see her, and each time she's had fewer adventures with the Doctor. That said, we know there are times when an older Doctor sees River. Examples include what you've got spoilered, and that the Doctor hasn't given River a sonic screwdriver yet (see Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead).

From River's perspective: (A Good Man Goes To War spoilers)

She was born, abducted by Madame Kovarian, and then something happened and she ended up on Earth in 1969. The Silence cared for her, built her the space suit and put her in it. She escaped, and was last seen wandering the streets of Earth, starving to death and regenerating.

Off-screen, a young River meets the Doctor who is extremely familiar with her, which blows her mind. She starts her diary, which helps her keep track of their out of order encounters. They start a relationship. It's unclear if she commits the crime that gets her sent to prison (i.e. killed a good man 'best man I've ever known') before or after this. She learns ALL about the TARDIS from the Doctor.

Then the last episode that's aired with River in it happens. (Being vague so as to make this answer apply in the future) Then the episode prior to that with River happens. And so on, until Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead. In between episodes, she meets older versions of the Doctor who know her well. From her perspective each time she sees the Doctor, she's meeting a Doctor who's young and doesn't know her, or she's meeting a Doctor familiar with her, seemingly at random.

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The screwdriver is actually one of the reasons I suspect the order isn't that cut-and-dried: if it was a strict reverse, she should have the screwdriver each time we see her (until the Doctor gives her one). We haven't seen her use one since that episode (and he hasn't given her one). That implies that we will have a later encounter that (for River) fits just before Forest of the Dead. –  Allen Gould Jun 13 '11 at 15:59
    
For now, the first two sentences hold true. We keep seeing a younger River each time we see her. –  Keen Jun 13 '11 at 16:08
    
Keen, this Q has been bountified. Have ye an update, my good man? –  Pureferret Oct 29 '12 at 1:45
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@Pureferret I'll have to do some research to bone up on specifics before I can do a proper update. This answer is a full season out of date at this point. –  Keen Oct 29 '12 at 1:46
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I've always assumed that we saw River at Amy & Rory's wedding because seeing the blue diary enabled Amy to "remember" River back into existence. I assumed that because Amy saw the diary before seeing River walk by, and also because Amy's view of River was through the glass windows. That's sometimes a cinematic hint that someone is looking 'through the eyes of memory,' as it were.
Then, soon after Amy sees River, Amy 'remembers' the Doctor back into existence. So River's re-appearance may also have helped Amy remember the Doctor, and seeing River also gives the audience a fun hint that the Doctor's appearance may be imminent, since by then we've learned to associate River and the Doctor as a couple.
Also note that Rory says the blue diary came "from some woman." But he doesn't describe the woman, so some woman other than River could have delivered it. (but River's pretty handy with that vortex manipulator, so who knows.) ;-]

p.s.: thanks to sql mommy for working on River's timeline--the many plot holes in season 6 have become a bit frustrating.

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