Okay, so we know that River Song escapes from her prison cell on a routine basis, and goes gallivanting around the universe. As I've heard it put, she basically just uses the prison cell as her apartment in time-space.

How is it though that she keeps getting out of her cell? We've seen her use at least one trick (the hallucinogenic lipstick). I would think though that any given trick would only work once or twice, MAAAAYBE thrice if she got lucky.

So how does she keep getting out?

  • I would like to point out that she has a Timelord for a boyfriend. What prison's going to hold her that considered? Mind you, I stopped watching after Tenant left, so maybe things have changed.
    – John O
    Jul 19, 2012 at 21:30
  • 3
    As a comment because it doesn't really answer the question ... River Song is a child of time, conceived in the TARDIS - several episodes have made it clear that she understands all that timey-wimey wibbly-wobbly stuff quite well. Good luck using a prison to restrain someone who routinely travels in n-dimensions. Think of a toddler's playpen that keeps the child in place, but adults step easily over the top, but in extra dimensions.
    – Bevan
    Jul 20, 2012 at 10:07

5 Answers 5


Her routine escapes from prison aren't ever explained; note, however, that from the viewer's (and The Doctor's) perspectives, she just committed the act that got her arrested in the first place. So perhaps this upcoming season we'll see more of it.

However, based on the hints that are dropped throughout the seasons, I think it's a combination of two things:

  • She's very good at being a thief.
    • She's good at "social engineering"; she manages to escape with her hallucinogenic lipstick even when the guard was prepared for it in advance.
    • She's shown breaking into very secure facilities (museums, etc) on a routine basis.
    • She's got access to some pretty advanced technology.
    • I'm just speculating, but I suspect she's got a lot of "inside" contacts; some may even know parts of the truth and be sympathetic to her situation.
  • She's got The Doctor.
    • Most of her off-screen escapes from prison are to spend time with The Doctor, who knows that she's unquestionably innocent. It would be totally in character for him to aid her escapes.
    • Somehow she gets back into her cells almost as soon as she escapes. Note that during opening scene to The Pandorica Opens, she's strolling back into her cell while the alarm warning of her escape is still sounding. That smacks of a time travel device being very close by.
  • 2
    This answer reminded me that my answer couldn't possibly be true (that every time was the first time) so I removed it. Good show!
    – Ashterothi
    Jul 19, 2012 at 20:24
  • And as evidence for your second bullet point, see the answer I've added below.
    – eidylon
    Sep 13, 2012 at 4:03
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    true. also, at the end of Day of the Moon we can see the TARDIS sitting right outside of her cell where he's dropping her off, and he doesn't even know what she's in prison for yet.
    – KutuluMike
    Sep 13, 2012 at 14:16

I think the apartment answer is closer to truth than a joke. I always assumed after watching that River was in prison by her own choice, as self punishment for her crime.

As to the actual mechanics- she is a cunning agent, with access to temporal technology, trained from an early age for her mission. I expect she makes arrangements for her next few escapes before allowing herself to be captured each time.


A few of the later shorts actually show some of the events of his visiting her at night,

as he's found by Amy in the middle of the night prepping to visit River, showing he does quite literally visit her at night while his companions sleep, meaning the Doctor has twice as many adventures than we normally see. (I guess he doesn't sleep much.) The shorts cover an interlude between between the first date, a middle, and the last that she describes in Forest of the Dead.


  • Oh, man; well that kinda stinks that they didn't stick that in the version on Netflix. :/
    – eidylon
    Dec 16, 2013 at 19:34
  • All are available on youtube. Just be sure to watch them in the right order. youtube.com/watch?v=yLrMG2Lipy4
    – Ordeiberon
    Jan 2, 2014 at 19:06

Rewatching "The Wedding of River Song", and at the end, The Doctor is talking with the blue guy's head, who asks The Doctor:

"And Doctor Song, in prison all of her days?"

To which The Doctor replies:

"Her days, yes. Her nights... well that's between her and me, eh?"

So yes, apparently he was taking her out and about on a routine basis! :)


First of all: Wibbly wobbly

The Doctor said at the very end of the season to Dorium Maldovar, that River Song is in prison by day only...

So maybe on the one side she is in prison for killing him - but also gets her freedom every now and then, by the one she killed.

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