In Silence in the Library and Forest of the Dead the Doctor sees River has a screwdriver.

RIVER: We can increase the mesh density. Dial it up four hundred percent. Make it a tougher meal.

(The Doctor uses his screwdriver to adjust Dave's suit.)

DOCTOR: Eight hundred percent. Pass it on.

RIVER: Gotcha.
(River holds up a sonic screwdriver of her own.)

DOCTOR: What's that?

RIVER: It's a screwdriver.

DOCTOR: It's sonic.

RIVER: Yeah, I know. Snap.

Then later they have conversations about it:

DOCTOR: Your screwdriver looks exactly like mine.

RIVER: Yeah. You gave it to me.

DOCTOR: I don't give my screwdriver to anyone.

RIVER: I'm not anyone.

DOCTOR: Who are you?
then later RIVER: What's wrong with it?

DOCTOR: There's a signal coming from somewhere, interfering with it.

RIVER: Then use the red settings.

DOCTOR: It doesn't have a red setting.

RIVER: Well, use the dampers.

DOCTOR: It doesn't have dampers.

RIVER: It will do one day. (The Doctor takes River's sonic screwdriver.)

DOCTOR: So, some time in the future, I just give you my screwdriver.

RIVER: Yeah.

DOCTOR: Why would I do that?

RIVER: I didn't pluck it from your cold dead hands, if that's what you're worried about.

DOCTOR: And I know that because?

Then later he thinks

DOCTOR: Why? Why would I give her my screwdriver? Why would I do that? Thing is, future me had years to think about it, all those years to think of a way to save her, and what he did was give her a screwdriver. Why would I do that?

Then in the 2015 Christmas special the 12th Doctor gives River a screwdriver as a present.

DOCTOR: Happy Christmas.

RIVER: Really? I don't think you've ever given me a present before. (She opens the box to reveal the sonic screwdriver she had in the Library.)

RIVER: Oh, it's a sonic screwdriver! How lovely!

DOCTOR: When I saw the sonic trowel, I thought it was just embarrassing, but, look.

I'm confused why did the Doctor give River his screwdriver?

  • 5
    Why don't you watch the rest of the episode that you apparently gave up on half-way through? It's explained in that... -1 for that reason sorry Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 23:23
  • i did see the whole episode Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 23:49
  • @LightnessRacesinOrbit You've got to admit this is a tough one to understand, involving at least one bootstrap paradox and an extremely complicated relationship and timeline.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Apr 7, 2016 at 0:55
  • It was a long night. Commented Apr 8, 2016 at 18:42

3 Answers 3


The Doctor wants to be able to upload River to the library database.

DOCTOR: Why? Why would I give her my screwdriver? Why would I do that? Thing is, future me had years to think about it, all those years to think of a way to save her, and what he did was give her a screwdriver! Why would I do that?

(He opens a part of it to reveal green lights behind, like those of the neural relay.)

DOCTOR: Oh! Oh! Oh, look at that! I'm very good!

DONNA: What have you done?

DOCTOR: Saved her!

He runs across the Library to reach the computer core before it's too late.

DOCTOR: Stay with me! You can do it, stay with me! Come on, you and me, one last run! Sorry, River, shortcut!

He uses the sonic to disable the gravity platform then jumps into the hole.

RIVER (VO): Everybody knows that everybody dies. But not every day.

The Doctor plugs the screwdriver to the computer and smiles at the Girl/Node.

RIVER (VO): Not today.

River appears in the virtual world, in front of the hospital where she meets Dr Moon and the Girl. She looks confused.

THE GIRL: It's OK. You're safe. You'll always be safe here. The Doctor fixed the data core. This is a good place now. But I was worried you might be lonely. So I brought you some friends. Aren't I a clever girl?

MISS EVANGELISTA: Aren't we all?

River turns around to see Miss Evangelista (her face normal again), Proper Dave, Other Dave and Anita walking towards her.

RIVER: Oh, for heaven's sake! He just can't do it, can he? That man, that impossible man! He just can't give in.

She goes to hug everyone.

RIVER (VO): Some days are special. Some days are so, so blessed. Some days, nobody dies at all.

As we can see here, River's mind was stored within the sonic screwdriver. The Doctor "saved" her, as we previously saw happen with Donna.

He realized that he must have given River the screwdriver (in the future) for a reason: namely, so that he could save her to the database.

  • 6
    Good answer. I would only add "because he already saw himself do it", like in Time Crash, with his fifth incarnation.
    – tilley31
    Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 4:27

It's called a Bootstrap paradox. A person travels in time, sees himself do something, so when he goes back to his proper time, knows to do said thing. See also invents a thing by reading the blueprints of his future self, Lallafa's The Songs of the Long Land, or any other number of examples.

"Who composed Beethoven's Fifth?"


To upload her into the database. This is how River can still contact him in later episodes after she has died too.

  • While correct, this doesn't seem to add anything to the highest-voted answer by Jonah.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Apr 8, 2016 at 12:23

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