In The Forest of the Dead, the Doctor says "River, you know my name. You whispered my name in my ear. There's only one reason I would ever tell anyone my name. There's only one time I could."

In a later episode, River says that it took a lot of convincing but he told her his name. This doesn't seem like the true reason.

What is this single reason that he would tell her his name? Is it their marriage?

  • That asks how, I'm asking why.
    – Keavon
    Commented Jan 5, 2014 at 0:27
  • 1
    The concensus (and accepted answer) is that there's no in-universe explanation for when. The answer also covered the fact that there's no explanation why, other than the conversation snippet that you've already referenced
    – Valorum
    Commented Jan 5, 2014 at 0:32
  • I suppose the reason why he tells her his name is because in the Library, River told 10 than he had told her his name. It is a causal loop. He has to tell her because it already happened.
    – joaorodr84
    Commented May 3, 2018 at 16:12

1 Answer 1


tl;dr: We don't know, because no one has definitely said in any televised episode.

Strictly speaking, we don't even know when he told River his name; it almost certainly happened off-screen, since we've seen River's entire life play out across the various episodes and that didn't happen in any of them.

We know that it did happen at some point, because River has repeated his name at least twice where we would know if she got it right or wrong. (Once in the Library and once at The Doctor's grave.)

There is a very, very strong implication that it happened when they were married. When they actually did the "short version" of the wedding, he leans in and whispers what he claims is his name into her ear. As far as we know, he's following an actual Gallifreyan wedding ceremony, meaning that would be part of it. It's entirely possible, though, that he made the whole thing up on the spot.

In addition, even before it actually happens there is a very strong married-couple vibe from the two of them; from the very beginning in The Library others make remarks that hint towards that kind of relationship. It's pretty obvious that the writers are implying that they are married, and that's how she knows his name.

However, all of that is speculation and implication, and has never been explicitly confirmed on-screen by either one of them, and at this point probably never will.

  • 3
    Regarding the "wedding," what the Doctor actually whispered into her ear, as revealed at the end of the episode, was "look into my eye," so that is yet another instance in which he could not have told her his name.
    – Amy
    Commented Jan 5, 2014 at 7:17
  • @Amy Pond: thanks that's good extra info.
    – AncientSwordRage
    Commented Jan 5, 2014 at 7:48
  • @Amy that's true. But he claimed it was his name, which implies that that's what he was "supposed" to be telling her, so if he ever re-did the wedding ceremony for realz, there's a good chance he would have told her his name then.
    – KutuluMike
    Commented Jan 5, 2014 at 13:25
  • @Michael: Ah, good point. :)
    – Amy
    Commented Jan 5, 2014 at 16:15

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.