When River Song first appears in "Name of the Doctor" she appears to be alive and well, joining the "conference call" to talk about the threat to The Doctor's life. She mentions that The Doctor hasn't contacted her in a long time, and that she and The Doctor were close "a long time ago". I take this to mean that he has not contacted River in person since he lost Amy and Rory.

Later, she begins appearing to Clara, claiming that she has kept a mental link open from the "conference call". However, this version of River talks about the exact circumstances of her death in "Silence in the Library". (When asked how Clara could be seeing a River if she has already died, River's answer almost implies that we are seeing the saved version of River from the Library's database.)

Isn't the River that appears in the episode a living version of River from after "Angels Take Manhatten"? If so, how would that River know anything about her own death?

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    Isn't the River that appears in the episode a living version of River from after "Angels Take Manhatten"? -- no, she's the copy left behind in the Library database after the events of Silence in the Library. This is stated (IIRC) twice in the dialogue of Name of the Doctor (once by River, once by the Doctor calling her an 'echo' or something similar), but I'm not going to risk losing any IQ points by re-watching the episode. Hopefully some braver soul can confirm & expand this into a proper answer with quotes.
    – evilsoup
    Jun 30, 2013 at 9:38
  • @evilsoup that kinda makes sense except the real River's not dead yet, right? what happened to her after she left Manhatten? In particular, when did she learn the Doctor's name? This episode makes my brain hurt.
    – KutuluMike
    Jun 30, 2013 at 15:28
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    She's a time traveller. At any point from our (the viewers') perspective, they can bring in River from any point in her timeline. For whatever reason (perhaps because she's easy to find at that point, or Vastra didn't feel right contacting her during her imprisonment), Vastra contacted her after she had been saved into the library database.
    – PeterL
    Jul 16, 2013 at 15:05

4 Answers 4


No, the River seen in "The Name of the Doctor" is from after the events of "Silence in the Library." You are correct when you say that we're seeing her "saved" mind that is stored on the Library's database, and this is possible because she was part a psychic conference call that transcended time between herself, Vastra, Jenny, Strax, and Clara. No physical body was required.

Her dialogue is fully indicative of this, as she talks about the Doctor "leaving her like a book on a shelf" and already knows his name, which she had learned by the time that she died in the Library. The Doctor likewise states that she is an "echo" like Clara and that she "should have faded by now." Vastra also appears to be familiar with this fact, as she asks River if the Doctor ever contacted her after leaving her, and we know from "A Good Man Goes to War" that the Doctor has told Vastra a lot about his adventures. She is also using the white dress that she was wearing in the final shots of "Forest of the Dead".

Just to further the point, an issue of Doctor Who Magazine stated that she was "River Song - back from the Library."

Remember that River's appearances are not always sequential. That's how we could see a River who was just about to earn her pardon all the way back in Series 5 ("The Time of Angels"), and then see one who has just been pardoned in Series 7 ("The Angels Take Manhattan"), or how we could see a River who had "just climbed out of the Byzantium" ("Flesh and Stone") at the end of "The Wedding of River Song". Accordingly, the River in "The Name of the Doctor" needn't have just come from the events of "The Angels Take Manhattan" and can instead be from other points in her timeline (this one just happened to be post-mortem, because the mind that partook in the conference call had been saved in the Library's database and was the one that got contacted for the call).

  • this does make more sense; I keep trying to figure out exactly when the last time The Doctor will see River alive in his timeline is. I assumed it was the "first/last time we kiss" scene while she's still in prison but he sees her alive after she's been pardoned, plus she didn't know his name or take his screwdriver then, so that can't be right...
    – KutuluMike
    Jun 30, 2013 at 19:18
  • I guess my real question is, then, why did Vastra contact already-dead River and not still-alive River? Maybe we'll find out next season.
    – KutuluMike
    Jun 30, 2013 at 19:21
  • I think that the Doctor gave River the screwdriver in a webisode (and possibly told her his name). It seems like a cop-out to have such big stuff happening in supplementary material rather than the series poper, but there you go. I haven't seen the webisode in question myself, though, I just remember hearing of it.
    – evilsoup
    Jun 30, 2013 at 19:24
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    @MichaelEdenfield: The last time he sees her alive in his timeline (on-screen) is in the minisode "Last Night", which shows the two of them just before they leave to visit the Singing Towers. Actual episode-wise, her latest living appearance (from the Doctor's perspective, not counting "Silence in the Libarary) was in "The Angels Take Manhattan". Also, my guess is that Vastra wanted to contact the River who knew the most about the Doctor, which would be Library-River. River wasn't actually intended to go to Trenzalore, so Vastra was probably just looking for information.
    – Amy
    Jun 30, 2013 at 20:16
  • @evilsoup: The webisode you're thinking of is "Last Night", and it doesn't actually show that stuff. It just has a future Doctor and River pop in on their past selves by accident and the future Doctor mentions that they're headed to the Singing Towers. It's a nice little scene. But there's no appearance of the screwdriver or the Doctor's name; that's still off-screen stuff (like most of their relationship). Personally, I don't mind not being shown.
    – Amy
    Jun 30, 2013 at 20:20

Maybe Vastra contacted the dead River in the Library because it was easier to contact her disembodied consciousness than it would be for a living person.


In the episode 'Lets Kill Hitler' the Doctor tells River as she watches him dying to find River Song and tell her... at which point the whisper becomes inaudible, and River's incredulous response is 'I'm sure she knows that'. In 'The wedding of River song' the doctor again whispers something in her ear and says 'there I told you my name you must never tell anybody that' I'm pretty sure that he whispered his name in her ear when he was dying in lets kill Hitler and to ensure she didn't mention it he covered it when he married her and told her to look into his eyes and she saw in in the tessalator.


I thought the same thing there's a lot of time spent in season 6, showing how people can be replaced with flesh's ,tessalator's. If you go back and watch the forest of the dead episode, River puts Miss Evangelista's communicator from her suit into her own pocket, then in a later seen, when the doctor is standing above one of the computer monitors, as CAL starts to crash, River appears to put something inside her own sonic screwdriver. Think about it all those years to find a way to save her, and he gives her a screw driver. Another theory to the River mystery, if a living conscious can be down loaded back into a body, than wouldn't River have some fun, she could down load her self into any body she likes, all across space and time, just to be with her doctor, who needs to regenerate? I don't believe river is dead, just avatar version of her maybe!!! Who Knows

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