Home On This Day On This Day… In 2008 River Song Died

On This Day… In 2008 River Song Died

River Song (Alex Kingston) - Doctor Who - Forest of the Dead (c) BBC
River Song (Alex Kingston) - Doctor Who - Forest of the Dead (c) BBC
River Song (Alex Kingston) – Doctor Who – Forest of the Dead (c) BBC

Forest of the Dead

First Broadcast June 7th, 2008 @ 7.00pm (7.84m viewers)

The character of River Song is a piece of brilliant writing and surprisingly an idea which hadn’t been thought of already. What if the Doctor was to meet a person for the first time but in their timeline they’ve already known him for a very long time. The introduction of River Song in this story begins the journey of one of the most popular characters in recent years which will take a lot of twists and turns along the way.

Miss Evangelista (Talulah Riley) and Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) – Doctor Who – The Forest of the Dead (c) BBC

This episode includes another trait of Steven Moffat’s writing, the ability to reveal a significant plot point which has been on display throughout the entirety of the story. In this case it is that the Library saved all those inside it at the time to the data core of the planet, as was the young girl who we have seen throughout, Charlotte Abigail Lux or CAL. In another nice touch of ingenuity Doctor Moon is not just a satellite orbiting the Library planet but is a form of antivirus software protecting the computer’s hard drive. Lines such as “and then you forgot” are akin to computer code, rewriting pieces of information to allow for the integration of Donna, for example. Donna’s journey inside CAL is also an interesting one, her brilliant intellect, assisted by Miss Evangelista, unravels the apparent reality. It is strange how the revelation that two children have been replicated is severely shocking and not just to Donna but the viewers at home.

The Vastra Nerada are an interesting villain, the concept of the dust seen in rays of sunlight capable of stripping your flesh from your bones is intriguing, if a little graphic, but that idea requires a physical presence to stalk the cast, hence the occupation of the spacesuits. David Tennant, being an energetic Doctor, also needs something physical to run away from.

Memorable Moment (Spoiler Warning)

River Song (Alex Kingston) and The Doctor (David Tennant) – Doctor Who – The Forest of the Dead (c) BBC

It’s difficult to describe the death of River Song because viewers have only just been introduced to the character. However such is the strength of the acting from David Tennant and Alex Kingston it is impossible not to get teary watching River argue that the Doctor cannot rewrite the times they had shared together. That would be a fate worse than death.

A fun idea, if a little bit complicated, is to watch River’s story in the order in which she lived them, making ‘Forest of the Dead’ her final bow. Lines such as “I’ve seen whole armies turn and run away” are even more meaningful when you realise what they are referencing. Fortunately, River is not truly gone and the Doctor saves her consciousness to the Library computer where she is reunited with her crew. As we have seen in ‘The Name of the Doctor’ River might not have died in the Library. Whilst her physical form may be lost her consciousness continues and as we have seen with the Great Intelligence lacking a physical form is not an obstacle for appearing in Doctor Who. Thank goodness because it’s always nice to have the possibility that River Song could return at any time.


The Doctor – David Tennant
Donna Noble – Catherine Tate
Professor River Song – Alex Kingston
Dr Moon – Colin Salmon
Proper Dave – Harry Peacock
Strackman Lux – Steve Pemberton
Charlotte Abigail Lux – Eve Newton
Dad – Mark Dexter
Anita – Jessika Williams
Miss Evangelista -Talulah Riley


Producer – Phil Collinson
Director – Euros Lyn
Writer – Steven Moffat

Also First Aired On This Day…

  • The War Games : Episode Eight
  • Doctor Who Confidential : River Runs Deep



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