In the Doctor Who episode Forest of the Dead, River Song "dies" and is "saved" by CAL in The Library. From this point on, this is treated as the last we'll see of River but my question is: why?

In that very same episode we saw 4,022 dead and "saved" people returned to their bodies (obviously reconstituted from memory, given that they'd been in there a century). The "data echo" the Doctor loaded onto CAL was similarly sentient, capable of making decisions, linking itself to Clara in The Name of the Doctor, and operating technology.

Given the completeness of the projection's nature, would they not repeat the uploading process for River Song?

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    i always wondered that too, because shes effectively immortal now. couldnt just download her onto the tardis?
    – Himarm
    Commented Nov 13, 2015 at 17:47
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    One does not simply download River Song. Commented Nov 13, 2015 at 17:54
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    For someone who isn't familiar with Doctor Who, the title of the question looks awesome.
    – user931
    Commented Nov 14, 2015 at 20:45
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    I disagree with the answers below. We've seen perfect clones before (Martha) and we've seen a person who can "jump" from body to body with her mind (Cassandra). The only reason River can't be restored in a new body is because Moffat said so (which seems to be the reason for a whole lot these days). Plus, none of these answers provide any canonical evidence, and this question deserves better. Commented Nov 15, 2015 at 3:21
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    DRM makes it difficult to download a Song.
    – CJ Dennis
    Commented Dec 27, 2015 at 7:11

5 Answers 5


Since River's Physical Body is Dead, Let's Examine Cloning Technology in the Doctor Who universe:

  • Sontarans: In "The Sontaran Stratagem", the Sontarans are seen to create human clones by growing them in tubs of green fluid.

    They created a perfect physical copy of Martha, which was kept alive by its connection to her and its access to her memories. The clone eventually died because of the loss of connection, but had Martha remained strapped to the device, most evidence points to the fact the clone would have been able to live. The clone was "born" as a blank human, with no memories, thoughts, or feelings of its own, and could have taken any form had the sontarans chosen a different human.

  • Cassandra, Chip, and the game of musical body swaps: In the episode "New Earth" we see both a human clone and a mind that is preserved besides the body.

    ROSE: Yeah, but what about Gollum?

    CASSANDRA: Oh that's just Chip. He's my pet. . . He's not even a proper life form. He's a force grown clone. I modelled him on my favourite pattern. But he's so faithful. Chip sees to my physical needs.

    ROSE: I hope that means food. How comes you're still alive?

    CASSANDRA: After you murdered me.

    ROSE: That was your own fault.

    CHIP: The brain of my mistress survived. And her pretty blue eyes were salvaged from the bin.

    ROSE: What about the skin? I saw it. You, you got ripped apart.

    CASSANDRA: That piece of skin was taken from the front of my body. This piece is the back.

    ROSE: Right! So you're talking out of your a-

    CASSANDRA: Ask not.

    . . .

    (Energy grabs Rose's hands, holding her still.)

    CASSANDRA: Chip, activate the psychograft.

    ROSE: I can't move. Cassandra, let me go! What're you doing?

    (Light streams down from a contraption overhead.)

    CASSANDRA: The lady's moving on. It's goodbye trampoline, and hello blondie. (There is a whoosh of energy from Cassandra to Rose then everything switches off. Rose collapses.)

    CHIP: Mistress?

    CASS-ROSE: Moisturise me. How bizarre. Arms, fingers, hair! Let me see! Let me see! Oh my God. I'm a chav!

    . . .

    (The equipment that had been keeping flat Cassandra alive is fried.)

    CHIP: Oh, the brain lead expired. My old mistress is gone.

    CASS-ROSE: But safe and sound in here.

    CHIP: But what of the Rose child's mind?

    CASS-ROSE: Oh, tucked away. I can just about access the surface memory.

    Essentially, what should be taken away from these exchanges is that A. clones can be created (it is later stated the clone only has a half life, which is still pretty long) B. the mind can exist with no ties to the body C. there's a machine called a psycographt which can transfer consciousness from one body to the other, even if the other has a consciousness of its own. At the end of the episode Cassandra transfers herself into Chip's body (which I will bring up again later):

    CHIP: Mistress!

    CASS-ROSE: Oh, you're alive.

    CHIP: I kept myself safe for you, mistress.

    CASS-ROSE: A body. And not just that, a volunteer.

    DOCTOR: Don't you dare. He's got a life of his own.

    CHIP: But I worship the mistress. I welcome her.

    DOCTOR: You can't, Cassandra, you- (The energy transfer takes place and Rose collapses into the Doctor's arms.)

    Cassandra's mind is able to exist in Chip's body. He later dies, but simply because he had already lived out his half life. If Cassandra had transferred herself into a new, "out of the package" clone, she could have lived.

  • In "The Doctor's Daughter", we see another form of "cloning". A tissue sample is taken from the Doctor's hand to create his "daughter":

    DOCTOR: Progenation. Reproduction from a single organism. Means one parent is biological mother and father. You take a sample of diploid cells, split them into haploids, then recombine them in a different arrangement and grow. Very quickly, apparently.

    The "daughter" is clearly not a clone of the Doctor, but is a product of him. She would have been a human baby in a grown woman's body, not know anything or having any memories, except:

    DONNA: Well, if you don't know that, what do you know?

    JENNY: How to fight.

    DONNA: Nothing else?

    DOCTOR: The machine must embed military history and tactics, but no name. She's a generated anomaly.

    What this means is that the machine used to create Jenny and others like her can place memories and skills in the progenations, which are what makes up a person's personality.

    Can a physical copy be created? Is it moral?

    As we discuss the cloning of River's body, it is important to remember it doesn't have to look like her (Alex Kingston). River has had different bodies before, so there shouldn't be any psychological complexes to her being in a different body. The main issue here is morality.

  • The "daughter" cloning method is clearly immoral, although possible. A tissue sample could be taken from River's dead body and put into the machine, which could be programmed to give the child River's saved memories and personality instead of army skills, etc. Why is it immoral? Because even though the new being would be a result of River's genetic makeup, she doesn't have ownership of it and cannot deprive it of a chance to live its own life. Since Jenny was very different from the Doctor or the other soldiers, it seems this type of "cloning" allows for the product to develop its own personality, thus to place River's consciousness in it would mean stealing the body from its rightful owner. Remember what the Doctor said about Chip having "his own life to live"?

  • The Sontaran method/ Cassandra method is moral (assuming the clone can live) and completely possible. Instead of connecting River's brain to the Sontaran device/psycographt, her memories and personality could be plugged. There are no seeming issues with this idea, and it would also render River immortal, since a new clone could be created every time an old one dies, although River would probably need to "recharge" her new memories with every "death". Since the clone's are born blank, there is no moral dilemma.

    "Yeah, yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn't stop to think if they should."

Can it be done? Most likely. Should it be done? Probably not. We know the Doctor wouldn't attempt doing this, especially after his reaction to Ashildr and Jack Harkness. The Doctor would probably despise the efforts, since he doesn't believe anyone should be immortal.

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    Sorry this is so long, I couldn't make it shorter without missing pieces of information. Commented Nov 16, 2015 at 17:42
  • Good answer. Another option is a 'Ganger (liquid flesh).
    – Adeptus
    Commented Apr 19, 2016 at 4:47
  • Also from New Earth the doctor mentions a 'skin tank' that could also be an ethical option - "DOCTOR: You can't stay in there. I'm sorry, Cassandra, but that's not fair. I can take you to the city. They can build you a skin tank and you can stand trial for what you've done."
    – Matt
    Commented Feb 13, 2019 at 14:03

The library saved those other subjects while they were still alive. It had a complete memory of their living bodies to reconstruct; this is made clear by Donna's outright disappearance and her face's appearance in the library's help system. River, however, was clinically dead first, her "soul" preserved in the memory device The Doctor had hidden in her sonic screwdriver. The library had the information needed to house her persona, but not to reconstruct her body.

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    Her consciousness was preserved, not soul.
    – user931
    Commented Nov 14, 2015 at 20:41
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    Same difference from where I sit.
    – Politank-Z
    Commented Nov 15, 2015 at 21:39

In this story, we see evidence of three different methods for entering CAL's cyberspace world.  There is CAL herself.  There are the 4,023 (including Donna) who were physically teleported.  There are the expedition crew members (including River) who had their mental states recorded. 

The ones that were teleported in could be teleported out.  All the information for restoring their bodies existed in the Library's computer systems. 

The ones that stayed behind were different.  Their bodies were never recorded -- only their minds.  It's not just River.  Miss Evangelista, Anita and both Daves were also recorded through the psychic links in their communication devices.  None of them have bodies to which they could return. 

None of these people can be restored to a physical existence in the same way as the 4,023.  For them, there is no interrupted teleportation which can simply be resumed.  We do not know that it is impossible to restore them to some sort of physical existence, but we do know that some other method would have to be used, and that someone outside of the Library's computer system would have to do the physical work.  Since the Library is now under quarantine, there isn't anyone in the physical world available to help them.  Other than the Doctor himself, there might not be anyone who is even aware of their predicament. 

For River to leave the Library's computer systems, someone will have to build or grow her a new body, and then download her mind into it.  That seems possible, but it doesn't feel like something that the writers will do anytime soon.


I know an answer is there but here is my pennies worth, CAL uploaded everyone when the vashta nerada started to eat people, meaning they where all alive, river song only made it on because a copy of her conciousness was put in CAL, now a full working body and mind being uploaded is completely different from a copy of a conciousness, especially when throughout the story its shown that when the battery level gets to the point it did when the doctor uploaded her all you get is a repeat of the last sentence.


I think this question is great and may be clue to Clara's departure from the show (which sounds whacko, I know).

The Doctor is forgetting things because he's on his second set of regenerations and his Timelord brain is made for only one set of regenerations (similar to Ashildr having a normal size human brain and not being able to retain all the memories from many lifetimes). Clara will need to help doctor save all his memories and have capcity to build new ones. Clara's brain, while big and brilliant, isn't capable of storing all of the Doctor's memories so she needs help. Enter the Library with its massive data storage. Clara is alive though and will become human/library hybrid (human/computer, whatnot). River and/or Missy will help Clara figure out the steps for the merging of data into human brain - shoot, maybe using modified sonic screwdriver that is gone. Clara doesn't need the data already loaded in the library, she needs the capacity for storage so her human size brain can hold all of the Doctor's memories (tons of data).

  1. Clara becomes living data storage. Not sure if her appearance will change or body disappears - for some reason she won't be able to travel with him.

  2. Clara's merge with the library is the reason River is connected to Clara (via web pathways linked together).

  3. Once Clara changes to Library Clara, she becomes the hybrid. This doesn't make a lot of sense because the prophecy mentioned 2 races. Clara is human so whats the other race? I'm probably way off base on this one.

  4. Either River or Missy help her become the hybrid using the missing sonic screwdriver (probably Missy because she's been manipulating Clara and the Doctor's relationship since the beginning.

  5. Maybe Missy uses all the old castaway daleks to create a web pathway large enough to hold all the Doctor's memories and Clara interfaces with them. The Library might just be the housing or where Missy got the idea. Once Clara is the pathway, she can house the Doctor's memories for him to access at will. Maybe Missy and Clara have to do this together so could be Human-Timelord hybrid built to help the doctor.

  • Think u r right. 1 makes sense. Sorrybpost was so long. Learning as i go
    – user55777
    Commented Nov 14, 2015 at 4:28
  • This is a good answer, covering a lot of points. However, it does seem a bit like you are texting your mates. I've removed shorthand and typos, but I think this answer would be improved if it was made more formal. Summary: +1 for content, but other people will be more inclined to +1 if it is cleaned up.
    – wizzwizz4
    Commented Dec 27, 2015 at 9:54
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    This doesn't appear to attempt to answer the question in any way and seems more like fan fiction / a theory about what's going to happen (that is provably incorrect given that the events and episodes in question have now aired)
    – Rob
    Commented Dec 27, 2015 at 11:53

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