Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Spaces Between my Fingers (are right where yours fit perfectly)

While waiting for the 2012 Christmas special, I slack my Whovian thirst by finishing the First Doctor's era (only "The Tenth Planet" left to go) and watching all of River's episodes in her chronological order. As far as I can tell, that means:

  1. Snippets of GMGTW with baby Melody
  2. Little-girl Melody from Impossible Astronaut and Day of Moon
  3. Let’s Kill Hitler
  4. Closing Time cameo
  5. Wedding of River Song
  6. GMGTW as grown-up—anything after here, really
  7. Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon
  8. Pandorica Opens/Big Bang
  9. Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone
  10. Tells Amy the Doctor’s still alive (Wedding of River Song)
  11. Angels Take Manhattan
  12. Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead
But I felt it was time to further explore Angels Take Manhattan,  particularly River and the Doctor's relationship in it. She is now "Professor Song," pardoned because there's now no evidence that the Doctor ever existed. Which means she's that much closer to the Library; his face when he heard those words...he knows she's very near the end.  

But that whole scene is so beautiful---so wonderfully played, from her reaction to the mob boss's prize to her deliciously snarky "Just you wait till my husband gets home."  She can ignore the Weeping Angel that caught her wrist and focus on finding her dad through a book she has yet to write. The heartbreaking elements start when he sees chapter titles eleven and twelve: "Death at Winter Quay" and "Amelia's Last Farewell." He starts pounding his face against the book, yelling, and she replies  "Doctor. Doctor, what is it? What's wrong? Tell me. Doctor. Doctor, what is it? Tell me. Okay. I know that face. Calm down! Calm down! Talk to me! Doctor!"

He storms off in a rage. Her wrist isn't the real issue--it's a miniature of the whole story, the weight of fixed points and fate...and if she can escape a detail, they might be able to leave unscatted.  And so his exuberant joy when she walks in, his squeals of "you just changed the future!"--they make so much more sense in context. And he grabs her hand, because now this is just another adventure, they'll be fine...
And she pulls away, shaking her hand. The camera zooms in, revealing an angry red line from pinky to wrist. The small whimper is the only hint we get of the pain--and given River's stoic nature in other episodes, any response means it must hurt like hell.  The scene cuts to Rory in Battery Park, so we don't get to see the Doctor's initial reaction. I'd imagine it's several levels of very seriously not good. But his words to her are so tender and quiet, both in tone and terms:

The Doctor: Why did you lie to me?
River: When one's in love with an ageless god who insists on the face of a twelve-year-old, one does one's best to hide the damage.
The Doctor: It must hurt. Come here.

He takes her wrist in his hands, carefully holding it. 

River: Yes. The wrist is pretty bad too.  

There's just so much pain at the moment, the threat of death and farewells, fixed points threatening to take his friends. And his wife's in pain. So he does the only thing he can do,  focusing on a minor detail... his hands begin to glow with regeneration energy.

RiverNo no. No, stop that! Stop that! Stop it! 

He ignores her protest, maintaining the glow until the lines on her wrist vanish. 

The Doctor: There you go. How's that? 
River: Well. Let's see shall we? {she slaps him} That was a stupid waste of regeneration energy! Nothing is gained by you being a sentimental idiot.

The Doctor: River!
River: No! You embarrass me! {she storms off}
The Doctor: River!

Amy watches the whole scene. The Doctor turns to her, with more than a little-she's-your-daughter in his expression. In the next scene, Amy and River are outside.

Amy: Okay, why did you lie?
River: Never let him see the damage. And never ever let him see you age. He doesn't like endings.

I love River, forever and always, one of my favorite companions,  one of my top ships, etc, but she is so bloody thick to say that. Yes, it's true. Yes, the Doctor has already lost so much. Yes, don't cause him pain, but're his wife! Be strong for each, because you need someone to share those moments. Marriage is all about being vulnerable to each other. But no matter how much she's matter how much she loves him, she can't overcome that psychopathic tendency of emotions as weakness. 

She still feels she needs to be the strong one, the one who will never break down--is she still atoning for Berlin and Silencio? If you look at her behavior towards Amy-at the Byzantium, the Pandorica, Lake Silencio--she's trying to protect her, keep her safe, more like a mother than a daughter. Oh, are forgiven, don't you remember that? You are forgiven. Always and completely forgiven. 

As for a waste of regeneration energy--you're a fine one to talk. Ten regenerations spent in moments, just trying to save her mortal enemy. Or are you the only one who can make sacrifices for the people you love? He was trying to help, River. He loves you, in his own awkward, gangly, son-of-a-giraffe way,  and one way of showing that is caring when you're hurting. The bit at the end where he  kisses her hand--that's what a mother does, everyone knows mom's kisses are magic.  But there's also the chivalric element, kissing the hand of one's lady-love to honor her. And it's not the last handkiss in this episode. 

The later scene in the graveyard also burns with River feels. Rory has already vanished, without even the chance to say goodbye, and Amy stands there, staring at the Angels. I could do a whole nother post on the Angel angel of this and how Eleven will probably react next time he encounters them, but she can't look away, literally can't, and has already made up her mind because she can't live without  Rory. 

--that one word tore my heart in half, because it's never Melody, even after Demons Runs. It's River, always River. But she's saying goodbye to her daughter, the only child she'll ever had, and just this once, it's "Melody."

Amy: You look after him. And you be a good girl and you look after him.

They can't even look each other in the eye, because the Angel's still there.   So Amy reaches her hand backwards, and River holds it and kisses it because this is goodbye forever.  It's even worse with a bit of thought. The Doctor totally breaks down, sobbing and holding his head in his hands, but the Angel must still be there. So River must have been staring at it the whole time, until they got back in the TARDIS, and because she "can't let him see the damage," she can't start crying.

The Doctor: River. They were your parents. Sorry. I didn't even think.
River: Doesn't matter.
The Doctor: Course it matters.

The causal tone in which she says it--oh, River. Break my heart, why don't you?  And then I thought of it in connection with this Tumblr post...don't let go River. Hold on to him, because he needs you.

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