In The Name of the Doctor, we are technically seeing a saved version of River Song from the Library, meaning she's definitely dead. If this is so, where in the timeline does the Doctor tell her his name?

This obviously must have been before the events of Silence in the Library (from River's timeline point of view). However, she seems to be making no appearance in the 50th anniversary special, so where (when) does the occasion occur when the Doctor tells River his name, or is this something which hasn't been disclosed yet?

  • But he did tell her his name when they got married. Hey, would you want to get married to someone you didn't know the name of?
    – Mr Lister
    Sep 23, 2013 at 12:32
  • I always assumed he told her at the same time he gave her his sonic screwdriver, but I could be wrong
    – childcat15
    Oct 15, 2013 at 14:06
  • Hasn't happened yet, but I'm guessing we'll see something in The Day of the Doctor, since his name was written in the book about the Time War that Clara read, and I suspect John Hurt's Doctor is the one in the Time War.
    – Tim S.
    Oct 15, 2013 at 15:29
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    @MrLister: “would you want to get married to someone you didn't know the name of?” How rich is she. Dec 1, 2013 at 11:58

10 Answers 10


In "The Name of the Doctor", River stated that she "made" the Doctor tell her his name and that it "took a while" in order to get him to do so. This is as far as has been revealed about the circumstances under which he tells her his name.


I've also entertained the theory that the Doctor whispers his name into Melody's ear in "Let's kill Hitler". Of course at that point in time she might assume that someone as important to the Doctor as this River Song (still unknown to her) already knows his name. My theory is that River has to know the Doctors true name to perform that regeneration on him (using up her own regeneration power) or that the Doctor can only actually utter his true name in the event of his death (technically he dies in that episode before she brings him back). I got those ideas because in "The Forest of the Dead" the Doctors says there is only one certain time or event when he could say his name. I have no idea if that is possible according to any existing canon established in the old series.


It has not yet been disclosed. River's timeline is a timey wimey ball, so even though she happens to be dead at the time of The Name of The Doctor, we may still encounter points in the future that is earlier for her, such that she is not yet dead. It might even be earlier (for her) than the appearances we've yet seen, and this would set up for The Doctor to tell her his name.


I've always thought that he told her in Let's Kill Hitler... when he is about to die, he tells Melody to tell River something, and then he whispers it on her ear. Then, Melody says: "I'm sure she knows that", what if he told her his name then? Perhaps, he didn't want to affect the rest of moments they got together before in his timeline, and he knew that the River from his past knew his name...

  • 2
    If he had told Melody his name, Melody's response wouldn't match.
    – bitmask
    Nov 24, 2013 at 9:16
  • He told Melody to tell River that he loves her. I thought they even showed that on the episode...
    – Jeff
    May 27, 2014 at 19:55

People saying he said his name when they got married: remember that he was in the teselecta robot, and most certainly wasn't alone in there (remember, in let's kill hitler, the number of people there that were needed to operate it). If he said his name then, the teselecta people would know. Yeah, he could wipe their memories, as it happens in the inforarium, but why take the chance? His name is too much of a secret he needs to keep for that risk.

More likely he told her in Let's kill hitler, when he's dying and says "Find her. Find River Song and tell her something for me...". Then he whispers something in her hear, and it's either his name or that he loves River, or something like it. For what else could Mels answer be "Well, I'm sure she knows" ? Saying his name there only has one reason though: he really thought he was dying, and knew she would have to know his name for him to trust her when he first met her. (wibbly wobbly, timey wimmey...).

But, at that point, Mels was not to be trusted yet. Entrusting her with that knowledge was dangerous. She could simply babble it to the ponds, or something... She most likely didn't know yet what a secret that was, how hard it must be kept, the power of a name itself... and would not find his last words so moving as she did. Remember that after he whispers, she's quite taken aback, she finds out she's River Song and asks Amy if he is worth it, before wasting all her remaining regenerations on him. Hardly the kind of thing you would do for a person that only said their name to you... A person you were born to kill. Unless his name has indeed so much power that simply knowing it has told her everything she should know for her to change, or something like that, but that's exploring a whole different subject.

So... so much babble to say: the Doctor said his name to River Song in:

1) Their wedding : not very likely... not impossible;

2) Let's kill hitler : likely ;

3) The Last Night (or any of their nights out actually) : could be... ;

4) Some unseen situation (with the 11th) that will not be showed: likely ;

5) Some unseen situation yet to come: not impossible ;


In Let's Kill Hitler, When River first meets the doctor, his last request before he dies is for Mels to deliver a whispered message to River. On The Wedding of River Song he whispers, "Look into my eye." and then lies and says that he just told her his name. That's when River realized that what he whispered to her when they first met was his name.


Revealing ones true name, like the doctors real name, is a central part of the marriage (of timelords) ceremony, kind of what "completes" the ceremony, instead of rings. So either he did tell her his name, which is unlikely since then every one inside the robot doctor would know his name too, or the marriage was only a show off to make her look into his eyes and then they actually marry for real later on, which is not shown on the show, during which the Doctor actually reveals his real name. The wedding shown in that episode has been the focus of a lot of debate because it was so unromantic and done is such a way that it was kind of stripped away of any importance, and maybe that is because it wasnt a proper time lord wedding? But really, Im just guessing.


"Look into my eye" is obviously not his name and there is nothing in the story that suggests that it is.

Saying "Look into my eye" served a direct purpose. He needed her to look into his eye so she would see that the "Doctor" that was standing in front of her was an artificial construct and the real Doctor was safe within it. He needed her to know this so she would pull the trigger at lake silencio. He was lying about what he said because amy and rory were present and he needed everyone to think he was dead.

As to when he really did/will tell her his name I have a head canon to share. I think it is entirely possible that he hasn't yet. Seeing that river and 11's wedding happened in a timeline that no longer exists and was not conducted by any kind of official their wedding was not "real" (I.e. clergy, judge, etc.) The doctor knew this so he did not tell her his name at that time. It could be that 11 was the doctor that she first fell in love with but it was a later incarnation that she actually married.


WARNING: PURE SPECULATION. When they get married in 'The Wedding of River Song', The Doctor says, "In the middle of a combat zone so we'll have to do the quick version.". Also, Alex Kingston said, on confidential, that she thinks River would have wanted something a bit more 'spectacular', and that she's not sue it really is a 'proper' wedding. Although Alex isn't the authority,, she obviously has some insights to River's character. Therefore, I believe that the writers held this avenue open so that they could further explore it if they wished. So I think The Doctor 'properly' marries River and tells her again.

My other theory is pretty simple, Doctor Who is a family show and The Doctor told her in a more mature environment. Just a thought, though, but I really do think The Doctor tells her when they're on their honeymoon or celebrating their anniversary etc.

  • Welcome to SFF.SE. Please save speculation for comments. Once you have earned 50 reputation you will be able to comment everywhere.
    – Null
    Dec 16, 2014 at 0:20

spoilers for later seasons involving Doctor #11

The Doctor tells River his name in 'The Wedding of River song'. To keep it short and simple because if I went into detail, I could go on talking all night. Basically, the Doctor tells River his name when they get married because that is what Time Lords are required to do in a marriage ceremony.

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    Sorry but what you said is COMPLETELY wrong. The Doctor doesn't tell River his name, he tells her to look into his eye so she can see that the real him is in a tesselecta body suit- that way she would agree to shooting him on Lake Silencio because she then knew that she wouldn't actually be shooting the doctor.
    – 83457
    Oct 17, 2013 at 12:52
  • No no no, he didn't tell her to look into his eye, he told her, "Look into my eye". Or at least, that what it sounded like. It's probably spelled differently in Gallifreyian. Can't you accept the proof if it hits you in the face?
    – Mr Lister
    Oct 24, 2013 at 16:57
  • 1
    @MrLister: "he didn't tell her to look into his eye, he told her, 'Look into my eye'" Eh? What's the difference? Jul 14, 2014 at 21:06
  • @LightnessRacesinOrbit You should have read the rest of my comment too. I meant that his name sounded exactly like that.
    – Mr Lister
    Jul 15, 2014 at 6:22
  • @MrLister: Hah! Interesting theory. That wasn't at all clear from your comment (which I read in entirety several times, I can assure you!). Anyway, presumably you're just trolling? I think it's entirely clear that that was not his name. Jul 15, 2014 at 9:57

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