In an answer to another question, I wrote the following:

[During "The Husbands of River Song," River] indirectly displays knowledge of the Meta-crisis Tenth Doctor by acknowledging that Eleven ran out of regenerations (but is conveniently unaware of his receiving a new set in "The Time of the Doctor").

River Song was not present in "Journey's End," aside from a brief flashback. How did she know about the meta-crisis Doctor? Did the Doctor tell her, or did she work it out by some other means?

  • 1
    Can't believe I never thought about that. Great question. +1
    – tilley31
    Aug 23, 2018 at 21:55

2 Answers 2


There's at least a couple of different ways she could have known about this.

The Doctor told her.

Why wouldn't he tell her? They must have spent a lot of time together prior to "The Husbands of River Song", including probably decades (in both of their timelines) of marriage. She even knows his real name. It makes sense that she'd know everything about him, especially non-minor details like how many lives he's got left. Don't forget that she certainly knows about Donna and seems to know what happened to her in the end, which was only shortly after the Meta-Crisis events:

DOCTOR: Donna! Quiet, I'm working.
DONNA: Sorry.
RIVER: Donna. You're Donna. Donna Noble.
DONNA: Yeah. Why?
RIVER: I do know the Doctor, but in the future. His personal future.
DONNA: So why don't you know me? Where am I in the future?

-- S4E8, "Silence in the Library" (OK, it doesn't come out clearly in the dialogue, but just look at the expression on River's face during this exchange)

Even if he didn't tell her all the details of the Meta-Crisis Doctor - how he came to exist, what he did - he could at least have told her as much detail as he told Clara:

DOCTOR: No, not for ever. I can change twelve times. Thirteen versions of me. Thirteen silly Doctors.
CLARA: Okay, so you're number eleven, so ...
DOCTOR: Ha. Are we forgetting Captain Grumpy, eh? I didn't call myself the Doctor during the Time War, but it was still a regeneration.
CLARA: Okay, so you're number twelve.
DOCTOR: Well, number ten once regenerated and kept the same face. I had vanity issues at the time. Twelve regenerations, Clara. I can't ever do it again.

-- "The Time of the Doctor"

That's very important info for River and their relationship - if something happens to him, will he come back with a new face or not? - and he doesn't necessarily need to have told her any more than this.

She knows from his regeneration energy.

River has actually had a ridiculous amount of involvement with the Doctor's regeneration energy over the years:

  • In "Let's Kill Hitler", she uses up all of her regenerations to heal him.
  • In "The Wedding of River Song", she shoots him mid-regeneration and kills him.
  • In "The Angels Take Manhattan", he uses spare regeneration energy to heal her hand.

Any of these interactions could have given her enough information about his regeneration energy to realise that he's on his last face and doesn't have enough energy left for another full regeneration. After all, she's a regenerator herself, even if not Gallifreyan; she has good reason to know this stuff.


I believe that River knew because of the constant diary comparisons with the Doctor. I believe he let something slip, like how River mentioned the crash of the Byzantium in "Silence in the Library".

  • Is there anything that led you to hold this belief? A scene in an episode? Some dialog somewhere?
    – Edlothiad
    Aug 29, 2018 at 5:11
  • @Edlothiad This is quite plausible (+1). If you're constantly comparing diaries with someone, it makes sense that you'll mention important events in your past life. (Have you actually seen DW to know what she's talking about?) Also, please take more care when 'correcting' other people's punctuation, as all the comma and semi-colon changes you made here were wrong.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Aug 29, 2018 at 7:38
  • @Randal'Thor Whether or not it's obvious to "experts" providing a bit of evidence for what's led on to believe something can help those who have come here reading and it may not be clear to them. I don't see what negative effect sourcing claims can have. It can only make an answer stronger and more believable.
    – Edlothiad
    Aug 29, 2018 at 8:20
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    @Edlothiad: The diary is positively endemic throughout the Doctor's relationship with River. It is the first thing she reaches for in "Silence in the Library," shows up at the end of "The Big Bang" (an otherwise Amy-centric episode), appears again in "Let's Kill Hitler," etc. I'm not sure making a big list of all the times it has shown up would be helpful in answering my question.
    – Kevin
    Aug 31, 2018 at 19:10

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