I'm talking about the Season 6 finale "The Wedding of River Song", about this moment:

Astronaut shoots The Doctor on Lake Silencio

I'm specifically talking about the moment

when River is inside the astronaut's suit, not about the River that watches the whole scene from where the photo is taken.

(I won't bother with spoiler boxes from now, because this won't show up in the preview)

Okay, so River and The Doctor always meet in reverse order. The Doctor's future is River's past and The Doctor's past is River's future. She has already fallen in love with him and obviously knows him well. That means, she remembers The Doctor from her past. Again, her past is The Doctor's future.

If The Doctor has a future, and what happens at Lake Silencio is a fixed event in time, The Doctor cannot die there. She is really clever and quite used to this sort of 4-dimensional thinking, so it shouldn't be hard for her to put one and one together.

So how about that? How come she doesn't realise, that "shooting" him there will not cannot hurt him?
Note: She just learns at her wedding, just before going back to the Lake, that this is not the real Doctor.

  • 5
    I would say she was playing along.
    – Xantec
    Commented May 8, 2012 at 20:33
  • You can see her crying in her helmet and only The Doctor could possibly see her. Also, she hesitated to shoot him, causing the entire time to collapse.
    – bitmask
    Commented May 8, 2012 at 20:34
  • 3
    Even knowing what will happen, shooting someone you don't want to would still be a difficult action for someone who is not a time traveling robot.
    – Xantec
    Commented May 8, 2012 at 20:36
  • HAHA! +1 on comment for time traveling robots! LOL
    – eidylon
    Commented May 8, 2012 at 20:41
  • And it's doubly good, since it references all our favorite troll while ALSO being about an ACTUAL time traveling robot! ;)
    – eidylon
    Commented May 8, 2012 at 20:47

2 Answers 2


I think this timeline helps establish what happened:

enter image description here

River Song shoots the Doctor at the fixed point in time, after being abducted by Madame Kovarian and the Silence and put into the astronaut's suit. This is post-Melody incarnation, so she has met and knows the Doctor already.

However the two of them do not meet in a perfect forward-backward sequence. The relevant example is River Song meeting the Doctor for the first time as Mel, as this obviously happens in between the Doctor meeting River Song at other times.

This exception is the timeline you're interested in:

  • Melody meets the Doctor, regenerates into River Song, kills the Doctor with the kiss, gives her remaining regenerations to save him and then enrols in Luna University (Let's Kill Hitler).
  • River graduates from university and is seized by the Silence. (end of Closing Time)
  • River appears in the astronaut suit and shoots the Doctor. (The Impossible Astronaut/The Wedding of River Song)

This timeline is independent and precedes the other River/Doctor meetings. There may have been meetings in between the first two points above but it is unlikely because as you point out and Steven Moffatt confirms (Doctor Who Confidential: The Wedding of River Song):

She has her adventures roughly, broadly speaking in reverse order to the Doctor.

As a result, River does not know that the Doctor cannot die there. After all he would not have revealed that fact to her ("Spoilers!"), so as far as she knows the version of the Doctor she killed (or is about to kill) is the final version of the Doctor.

If that does your head in like it does mine, just think "timey wimey stuff" and admire this alternate interpretation of their timeline:

enter image description here

  • Is there a larger version of the timeline you can link to?
    – Xantec
    Commented May 8, 2012 at 22:18
  • @Xantec: Just open the picture itself, it is sufficiently large enough to read.
    – bitmask
    Commented May 8, 2012 at 22:25
  • 2
    Caveat: neither are mine, but I do love the second one. Especially the David Tennant cameo.
    – dlanod
    Commented May 8, 2012 at 22:35
  • 2
    I made the first picture a link to the larger version. Hopefully that will help.
    – user1027
    Commented May 8, 2012 at 22:36
  • 1
    In "The Wedding of River Song" confidential, River herself explains her timeline.
    – Thecafremo
    Commented May 9, 2012 at 7:32

Timeline of River Song

First years (Pre-River):

  • River was born (as Melody) in 52nd century aboard the Demon's run spaceship
  • Madame Kovarian takes the baby and leaves a flesh avatar behind to Amy
  • Melody is brought in 1960s USA to be raised by the Silence as a weapon against the Doctor.
  • Regenerates as a toddler in New York (she mentions in Let's kill Hitler)
  • One more regeneration is implied after where she becomes Mels, and befriends Amy and Rory only to get closer to the Doctor
  • Regenerates again finally as River Song

Relevant timeline (as River Song):

  • Enrolls to Luna University
  • Madame Kovarian finds her and takes her to Lake Silencio in the astronaut suit to kill the Doctor

2 realities form:

1. River misses:

  • River does not kill the Doctor and a parallel reality forms where time is collapsing
  • In the collapsing universe, the Doctor finds River, and during their wedding he reveals to her that he set up a teselecta version of him to be killed at Lake Silencio, so she's free to shoot him. She touches him and time continues.

2. River shoots the Doctor

  • River is imprisoned and most of their adventures with the Doctor take place here
  • River receives the invitation from the Doctor for his presumed death

In her perspective she knows that the doctor is actually the teselecta, so she tells everyone not to interfere.

  • She watches herself kill the Doctor.
  • River realizes the real Doctor has been killed, and meets the younger Doctor at the bar (By that time, she has lived almost through their whole marriage, and the Doctor through none)
  • Helps the young Doctor defeat the Silence in 1969
  • Kisses him for her last time, and he kisses her for his first time
  • The rest of her story is continued.

So the point is:

She knew that she was going to witness her shooting the fake Teselecta version of the Doctor, as in her timeline, the fixed point had been altered so as to not kill the Doctor. When this didn't happen, and the Doctor actually got killed, she realized that something had gone wrong.

  • 2
    Hi, welcome to SF&F. This is a bit hard to follow, since you don't capitalize titles or names; perhaps you could diagram this? I'm not quite sure how this doesn't largely cover the details laid out in the question.
    – DavidW
    Commented Apr 22 at 2:36
  • 1
    @DavidW Fixed the answer so you can make more sense!
    – iliasviii
    Commented Apr 22 at 13:34
  • A great summary — but why does she think that she's killed the real Doctor?  (Also, it would help to give all the relevant episode names in the summary, for reference.)
    – gidds
    Commented Apr 22 at 19:57

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