I am writing this not just because I love Doctor Who. It is also because I love women.
I love to watch what women are capable of, to watch them rise out of themselves and become more. Different types of women facing different circumstances, changing. Good stories have these changes at their heart.
Doctor Who is a show about space, about time travel, but mostly about relationships. If you travel with the Doctor, you are changed. You are challenged, and if you answer the challenge, if you run with the Doctor, you will answer something in your potential.
When I first met River Song, I watched her die. Because she meets the Doctor out of order, backwards and sideways, we meet her on the last day of her life. It goes without saying, maybe, that science fiction is a genre of extremes – extreme situations, extreme solutions, extreme leaps of faith to mind the cognitive gaps. And River Song sacrifices her life as the only option – the extreme solution – to save the Doctor and to save the day.
“Let me do this!” the Doctor pleads; she has tricked and handcuffed him for a his own safety, a few feet away from her, where she makes her final preparations.
River: If you die here it’ll mean I’ve never met you.
The Doctor: Time can be rewritten!
River: Not those times, not one line. Don’t you dare! It’s okay. It’s okay. It’s not over for you. You’ll see me again. You’ve got all of that to come. You and me. Time and space. You watch us run!
In those moments, where I watched her lose herself to something larger, to love and to life, I was struck. Her story is told in tiny moments, not every episode, but when it makes the most sense, when it serves the larger story, and I find myself wanting more of this woman, this bright, vivacious, authentic, bold woman.
She is smart, whip smart. She is a doctor, an archaeologist, a professor; but also competent, situationally smart. People smart. She can keep up with the Doctor, challenge him, question him. She calls him, “Sweetie.” In fact, she carves “sweetie” in mountain sides and small, priceless, museum artifacts when she needs the Doctor’s attention.
She is fearless. She trusts the plans she lays out and she flies, faithfully, out of the back, of spaceships. She is funny – sarcastic, sassy, quick.
She is sexual, but it is not her whole self. She is not just a pretty face; she is a partner.
She is sexy and smart, she is capable and fun. She is intelligent and funny. She doesn’t have to choose; she simply is. She doesn’t have to try to be less of one thing to be seen as more of something else; she is a confident, whole person. She inspires me to be full, to be brave, to be complete in every moment, to be changed, to be strong.
And I don’t know all of River yet – I have at least 15 episodes left to watch before I know more of who she is to the Doctor; why she has been marked as a criminal, why she has the knowledge of space and time that she does, why she knows the Doctor’s name.
She is a mystery, but a beautiful one, and I love her for her layers, her complexities. I love her for what I don’t know. I love her for her strengths and her sacrifices, that she lives and dies in the shadows and secrets of space and time.