Doctor Who is off the air until September, and a number of questions remain unanswered. But just because we don’t get any new Who for three months doesn’t mean we have to stop talking about it! So here is my chance to answer all of your burning questions. Because I know everything that’s going to happen in the second half of series 6. All the reveals.
Spoiler Warning for everything, up to and including A Good Man Goes to War, and for the rest of the series too, if I’m right!
Okay, so I don’t really know all the reveals. I don’t have access to the scripts, and I certainly don’t have a retro-futuristic thought recorder pointed at Steven Moffat’s head (not that you can prove, anyway). But I do have a pretty good idea where the story is going, and I think I’ve got at least one reveal pegged.
To start, let’s review the two biggest questions that the show left unanswered after A Good Man Goes to War:
- Who kills the Doctor (i.e., Who is in the Astronaut suit on the lake in 2011)?
- How does the doctor survive being killed? Because, let’s face it, he does.
- Who did River Song kill?
I think I know the answer to the last one. Here’s your big spoiler: River Song kills her father, Rory Williams.
How do I know this? Moffat has left us a lot of evidence hinting in this direction. The evidence comes down to a theme in Moffat’s work: misdirection, specifically repeated misdirection.
Let’s start with the misdirection. By misdirection, I mean that there is a tendency in Moffat’s writing to tell us something in such a way that we assume something else. The easiest example to spot is in Amy’s monologues about Rory in series 6. The first one is in Day of the Moon, when she is captured by the Silence, and is talking to herself (but directing the words to Rory). She says:
I love you. I know you think it’s him. I know you think it ought to be him. But it’s not. It’s you. And when I see you again I’m gonna tell you properly. Just to see your stupid face. My life was so boring before you just dropped out of the sky. Just get your stupid face where I could see it, okay?
So, this is designed to make you assume she’s confessing her love for the Doctor - especially the phrase ‘just dropped out of the sky’. This is even lampshaded later, when she tells Rory it was just a figure of speech. That lampshade is, of course, Moffat gently mocking the audience for falling for his misdirection. He likes mocking us for falling for it, too: he does the same thing with FleshAmy and FleshMelody. Kovarian tells the Doctor, “Oh, Doctor, fooling you once was a joy. But fooling you twice, the same way, it’s a privilege.” These are both moments where the fourth wall is broken while still maintaining diegetic cohesion (Russel T Davies did the same thing with the 10th Doctor’s last line, “I don’t want to go”, which is clearly meant to be spoken by Davies, Tennant, and the Doctor simultaneously).
There is a second example of the Doctor-Rory misdirection; at the beginning of A Good Man Goes to War:
I wish I could tell you that you’ll be loved. That you’ll be safe and cared for and protected. But this isn’t the time for lies. What you are going to be, Melody, is very, very brave. But not as brave as they’ll have to be. Because there’s someone coming. I don’t know where he is, or what he’s doing. Trust me, he’s on his way. There’s the man who’s never going to let us down. And not even an army can get in the way. He’s the last of his kind. He looks young, but he’s lived for hundreds and hundreds of years. And wherever they take you, Melody, however scared you are, I promise you, you will never be alone.
Now, this one drops a really big hint, because both the phrases ‘there’s someone coming’ and ‘you will never be alone’ parallels what Rory said in Day of the Moon: “She can always hear me, Doctor. Always. Wherever she is and she always knows that I am coming for her, do you understand me? Always.” And, of course, we get the reveal immediately:
Because this man is your father. He has a name, but the people of our world know him better as the Last Centurion.
So, where does this tie in with River’s story? In Flesh and Stone; when the Doctor asks River about the man she killed, she says he was “A very good man. The best man I’ve ever known.” It’s easy to assume this refers to the Doctor, but we’ve seen evidence that River has no illusions about the Doctor being a good man, particularly the line “This is cold. Even by your standards, this is cold” from The Impossible Astronaut, and her rant that begins “This was exactly you. All this. All of it. You make them so afraid” in A Good Man Goes to War. No, River wouldn’t call the Doctor the best man she’s ever known; she knows him too well. But she might say that about her father, who shows, time and again, limitless dedication to his wife.
There’s more evidence, too. In Flesh and Stone, Father Octavian says that “She killed a man. A good man. A hero to many.” Again, this could refer to the Doctor, and that’s the obvious choice. But it could also refer to Rory, in light of Amy’s line that “the people of our world know him better as the Last Centurion.” (which is interesting, because as far as we know Rory is not widely known as a hero on Earth. We appear to be missing a little bit of story there)
Ultimately, the reason I think this is more than just a lot of circumstantial evidence and idle speculation is that Moffat has already done the Doctor-Rory misdirection twice, and has blatantly lampshaded how much he likes fooling us with misdirection. A third misdirection is, at this point, a logical way to finish the series.
There is at least one problem with my theory, though I think it fits in with the same misdirection again. The episode title of A Good Man Goes to War has every indication of being about the Doctor. River’s poem certainly seems to talk about him:
Demons run when a good man goes to war
Night will fall and drown the sun
When a good man goes to war
Friendship dies and true love lies
Night will fall and the dark will rise
When a good man goes to war
Demons run, but count the cost
The battle’s won, but the child is lost
On the other hand, nothing in the poem (or the episode) explicitly says that the Doctor is the good man in question. In fact, River’s “This was exactly you…” monologue happens at the end of this episode, which leads me to believe the misdirection is complete - every reference to ‘a good man’ has been a reference to Rory, without exception.
So, how and why does River kill Rory? A friend of mine suggested that Madame Kovarian is River Song. This is plausible - River was raised as a weapon against the Doctor. There are certain physical similarities (Alex Kingston and Frances Barber have similar facial structures and hair, at least), although those aren’t even necessary given that River can regenerate. The River we know has always seemed more than a little haunted by her past, and raising an army against the Doctor, killing Rory, and being generally heartless and cruel might certainly explain those demons.
So, this is what I think we’ll see in the remainder of series 6: River is not rescued (or if she is, it is not for long). She grows up to be Kovarian, her mind being twisted by the Silence to hate the Doctor. Subsequently, she kills Rory (while trying to kill the Doctor). Somehow, she has a change of heart eventually, and becomes the River we are familiar with.
The biggest mystery left, for me, is why Kovarian and the Silence seem to be at odds with one another. The Silence went out of their way to kidnap Amy (did they know she was Flesh at the time?), and to try to make Amy tell the Doctor she is pregnant. These things don’t make a lot of sense if Kovarian and the Silence are allies, but we know River was raised, at least for some of her life, in the Silence-infested Graystark Hall Orphanage. So, either the theory about Kovarian being River is wrong, or Kovarian and the Silence have a falling out, and/or she manages to keep secrets from them.