Doctor / River: what’s the problem?
[Spoilers for new Doctor Who up to the latest episode, especially series 6.]
So I’ve heard a few people saying they find River Song’s relationship with the Doctor icky following the revelation that she’s the future version of Amy’s and Rory’s baby daughter and I’m now wondering whether I’m some kind of horrible person for not seeing the problem. Like… is it that he met her while she was a baby? That she slept in the cot he slept in when he was a baby? That she’s his friends’ daughter? I genuinely don’t understand.
Is it the age-gap? But, first of all, what’s wrong with age-gap relationships if they’re non-exploitative, consensual, mutually respectful, and the partners are on an equal footing (all of which is clearly true of the relationship between adult River and the Doctor)? And secondly, we always knew there was an age-gap: the Doctor is nearly a thousand years old and River, as far as anyone ever knew, is human and therefore probably quite a lot younger. Plus Alex Kingston is a fair bit older than Matt Smith, so just going by appearances there’s a gap the other way. Thirdly, they’re both time-travellers and their relationship is non-chronological so even applying the concept of an age-gap to them makes no sense. They’re each different ages every time they meet. Now that we know River is some kind of Time Lord, it’s quite possible that at some of their previous meetings she’s been several millennia older than the Doctor. And the fact that she was born at a certain point in absolute chronological time and he at another is completely irrelevant to everything because they move through time in a non-chronological way. I mean, unless some bit of Who canon that I don’t know about says otherwise, we don’t even know when, in absolute time, the Doctor was born. He may not be born until millennia after River is.
If the icky thing is that he’s met her when she was a baby and held her and stuff, well, okay, if the idea of that makes you feel uncomfortable then they’re your feelings and good luck with them, but objectively, what, again, is wrong with that? If you went back in time and met your lover’s baby self, and picked up and cradled the baby, would you expect people to say ‘ew’? Would you find it icky to hold the baby? That just seems weird to me. I mean, we’ve all been babies. Even the people we have sex with. If you go out with someone for a while there’s a good chance you’ll see photos of them being a baby. If you sleep with someone, go back in time and meet them when they’re a baby, and then go forward in time again and sleep with their adult self again, I don’t see how that’s any less okay than if you sleep with someone, look at baby-pictures of them, and then sleep with them again.
Some people have compared it to Breaking dawn. [Spoilers ahead for Breaking dawn.] They seem to me completely different in every important way. The icky thing is that Jacob falls in love with what’s-her-name when she is a baby. He is in love with a baby. There is, as far as I can recall, no indication whatsoever in A good man goes to war that the Doctor is in love with, fancies, or wants to have sexytimes with baby River. He relates to her like she’s his friends’ baby and that’s all. He doesn’t even know she’s going to be River until after she gets abducted so his interaction with her is in no way affected by the fact that he wants to snog her future self.
So. Help me out here. What is the problem with this relationship?