In the episodes "Silence in the Library"/" Forest of the Dead", River Song sacrificed herself to save all the other people in the library. But then the Doctor was able to save her in the virtual world of CAL. So, did someone manage to "download" River Song back to the real world? Is she dead from this point?

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    Given the nature of Doctor Who I doubt we can rule out anything. If the Docter cheats death every day and the major villians (Master, Daleks, Cyber Men, etc) come back from the "dead" all the time then there is really no point in counting River out of it.
    – Xantec
    Oct 10, 2011 at 11:52
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    What sense does it make to talk about a time traveller being dead? Her timeline is non-linear - she can show up any time the plot calls for it. Jan 31, 2017 at 5:21

5 Answers 5


Yes, she will have been dead and uploaded to the computer, as shown in Silence in the Library & Forest of the Dead, but every time we've seen River since those episodes, she's been younger than that. River and The Doctor's relationship is extremely twisted around thanks to time travel.

When The Doctor first met River, she'd known him for years. When River met The Doctor for the last time, he didn't even know her, that was the first time he'd met her. When River first met The Doctor, he knew all about her, but she knew nothing about him. This is because their timelines are all tied together, but aren't tied together in the usual linear way that two non-time travelers are.

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    I don't know that dead is the right word (her personality was recorded and is placed in CAL) - given the nature of Doctor Who, it's certainly possible that she could be later downloaded. Her body is dead, at least. Oct 10, 2011 at 4:43
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    @IanPugsley I've tweaked it a bit. The whole thing is hard to put into words, as time travel was developed long after we solidified all of English's verb and subject tenses.
    – user1027
    Oct 10, 2011 at 5:12
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    "but every time we've seen River since those episodes, she's been younger than that." - that's not entirely true. In The Name of the Doctor, River wears the same clothes she wore after her death Forest of the Dead. They're actually talking to dead River - the one stored in Cal's databanks.
    – Tim
    Dec 22, 2016 at 0:12

No, she isn't dead, even without all the wibbly-wobby cheating that you can expect in Who.

It's pretty clear from the episodes that everything apart from the physical (her personality, 'soul', and so forth) is safely stored, and will continue to be indefinitely. So all that's required is a body and some sort of mechanism to restore the part that was stored into that body.

We have seen that regeneration energy can be transferred between people. We've seen that regeneration energy can grow entire body parts. We have seen a Time Lord consciousness stored in a machine and later restored.

Given this (all without going back past the 10th/11th Doctor timeframe), it isn't much of a stretch at all to see that a new River Song body (most likely not Alex Kingston) could be obtained.

The most significant evidence towards the "yes, she's dead" aspect is that it marks the end of the mostly-opposite timeline interaction between her and the Doctor. However, since the nature of that interaction hasn't been explained, and we have seen instances where it isn't strictly opposite, there's no reason to think that they can't travel in the same time 'direction' at some later point in both of their timelines.

Far more significant is that River isn't simply killed. It's much less common (except if you are the Master) for someone that's actually seen to die to come back to life. I don't think this has ever been the case with a companion (which you could argue that River is) - the closest would be Peri, who the Doctor thinks is dead, and later finds out is not. If the intention of the writers was to kill River permanently (or as permanently as you get with the Doctor) then we'd have seen a different ending to this story.

Compare, for example, The Time Traveler's Wife, where we explicitly see Henry's end (but get a hint at the end that there may be more intersections that Clare has not experienced yet). This story - even the name! - has always struck me as very close to the Doctor/River one.

Given that we aren't even finished with the River Song storyline, we certainly can't be sure that we have seen how she completes her timeline. "Happily ever after" isn't typical Doctor Who, but if that was called for, the requirements for restoring her at some point in the 11th Doctor's future (e.g. at the conclusion of the River Song story) are very minimal.

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    Rory dies and comes back in various ways multiple times.
    – acolyte
    Jan 31, 2013 at 18:14
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    “all that's required is a body and some sort” — see now I say that to women all the time, but for some reason my requirement never seems to get fulfilled. Jan 31, 2017 at 8:10
  • I don't think I would want to see a River that wasn't Alex Kingston. She is just too, too perfect in the role. I miss the chemistry between her and Matt, it was glorious. I still hold out hope for a "The X Doctors" type episode featuring a 3 way flirt-fest between River, Eleven, and Captain Jack. Possibly with a side of a confused and flustered Ten looking on. I would pay good money to see this.
    – Irishpanda
    Jan 31, 2017 at 14:06

She is dead, but that doesn't mean that we won't see her again. Although the show has stated that River's and the Doctor's timelines are backwards to each other, this clearly isn't strictly true, as there have already been a few times they've met out of sequence (for example, when Rory tried to go and get River from prison when they were trying to rescue Amy, River was just coming back from a night out with the Doctor). So it's quite possible we will meet her again, later in the Doctor's timeline but at any point in hers.


River Song is absolutely not dead. The Doctor owes River a few regenerations, but those shouldn't be needed just yet. Everybody else who was stored in The Library's computer was rescued by River's sacrifice. Once he gets past the Vashta Narada, the Doctor just needs to figure out some non-fatal way to get River back out of the hard drive. Not only is River not dead, while she's in the hard drive there's a reasonable argument that she can outlive the Face of Boe.

"Then what?" raises the more complicated question of what happens to River after her last counter-current meeting with The Doctor. We might expect more detail on the workings of the two time twisters: Big Bang II and the Dud Astronaut.

When a future Doctor checks River out of the Library, both of them can run their time lines forward from there. And nothing prevents bizarre plot developments, like the Library's willingness to check out various "editions" of River in various flesh aspects. Not even the actors can constrain what the writers can do with this plot line.


Unlike many, I firmly believe River Song is NOT dead physically. I will explain.

This is my theory on how River Song's death in the library could be avoided by an older Doctor, who has been brooding over her death since it originally occurred in the library:

In the episode Silence in The Library, River Song is seen taking the Doctor's place and saving 4,022 people, enabling them to live again. This makes the incident a fixed point in time in which lives depend on the event taking place. The Doctor cannot stop this event nor take her place, because doing so would mean he never met Amy & Rory Pond, they never spent their wedding night in the Tardis, and as such, Melody/River Song would never have been concieved in the time vortex and River would never meet the doctor, nor save him and the 4,022 lives in the library computer core.

The 10th Doctor managed to save an electronic record of River Song's consciousness in a sonic screw driver that a later version of himself (11th?) gave her prior to her trip to the library.

There is a way to save her (physically and wholly), yet still have "her" take the Dr's place in the library. The Doctor now has a Sontaran as a part time "sidekick" (See: The Snowmen). Recall the scene in The Sontaran Strategem in which Martha was cloned. She was placed in a recliner next to the Sontaran clone pool and a perfect copy of her was created from goo, that had her memories and her ability to function in the real world without the clunkiness of something on the order of the Teselecta (Series 6).

The Sontarans have perfected cloning. This technology would allow the Doctor to put River in the chair, creates the clone, then perhaps he takes it to the singing towers, gives it the screwdriver and River will still live. I can't imagine the Doctor knowingly sending a loved one to her death (with years of foreknowledge and planning available) if there was ANY way it could be avoided.

River tells the 10th, prior to dying in the library, that at her last meeting with him, he had a new haircut, a new suit, took her to the singing towers of darillium, and that he cried. Perhaps those tears were shed because he made the choice to send the clone, the perfect living replica of River, with all of her same memories, that (by his perspective from years past) was willing to die in his place. We see a glimpse of the Doctor having to make this type of tough moral choice in The Beast Below, when at one point he was faced with releasing the star whale and subjecting the humans aboard the UK spaceship to certain destruction or allowing it's torture to continue. The Doctor decides to numb the whale to the torture so that it can continue for a few years and keep the humans alive. Luckilly, Amy has the Queen abdicate, turning the torture system off and they realize the whale wanted to serve the ship all along.

When it comes to keeping his sweetie alive past the Silence in the Library, the Doctor may well have to make the tough choice of sending a clone in her place. It would keep her alive and would work perfectly with no apparent plot holes. The doctor has indeed become very acustomed to clones. There was a clone of amy through her pregnancy with the Doctor, a clone of River as a baby that Amy thought was real, and of course, the Doctor himself had a ganger and a teselecta replicated him.

The facinating aspect would be that from the Library forward, River and the Doctor would have a properly forward moving timeline.

  • I find this theory interesting but there is a question to be had at this point... Would the clone that is created from River Song only have one regeneration left? She is part Time Lord.... and at the point where she is River Song towards the Library she had already all her regenerations to The Doctor to save him when he was poisoned. Dec 30, 2013 at 22:02

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