In Doctor Who, River Song has done it all. Travelling through space and time with various Doctors, battling aliens, investigating crimes in the 1930s and even blowing up a very fetching fez, Alex Kingston’s time-travelling heroine is always a fan favourite – but now, Kingston has new plans for her.
For now, she has more Big Finish adventures and a brand new River Song novel (written by Kingston herself) to work towards – but in the future, she’s setting her sights on a Doctor/River reunion co-starring Jodie Whittaker’s Thirteenth Doctor.
“It would be a great shame if it were not to happen. Let’s put it that way,” Kingston told RadioTimes.com.
“I’m open to anything. I don’t have an idea about how we should meet or anything like that. But I would like River to meet her, and plant a big, fat kiss on her!”
Of course, though her last on-screen appearance (2015’s The Husbands of River Song) was a few years ago Kingston has never really left Who behind. Over the years she’s continued to play River in various Big Finish audio adventures, and now she’s taking her involvement a step further by actually writing a story for her character in new novel The Ruby’s Curse, a sci-fi noir thriller that riffs on the “Melody Malone” alter-ego used by her character in 2012 episode The Angels Take Manhattan.
“It’s because of the fantastic fan community that I decided to release this new book, because, in the past, there had been a book that was written that was supposedly written by River,” Kingston explained.
“She has an alter ego, which is Melody Malone, but she also has this diary. And the diary can have entries forever about not just her adventures with the Doctor, but her adventures with Captain Jack, or what she does when she’s not with the Doctor, because she’s not with him all the time.
“Fans would ask me whether I would do anything else – I do the audiotapes with Big Finish, and that’s proving massively successful, we just keep on churning them out – but I thought it would be great, also, to have something else on paper.
“Why miss this opportunity? So it was the fans who got me thinking that we need to publish another book.”
And though the challenges of writing River were quite different to playing her, Kingston rose to the occasion.
“The most important thing is that it’s her voice, and keeping her naughtiness, her sort of desire to just get out and have an adventure, her irreverence – but also her connection,” Kingston said.
“I don’t want to give away too many spoilers, but she also thinks a lot about her parents. So about Amy and Rory. There’s also a side of her which is a little bit more reflective.
“When one plays her in the television show, or even on audio, she’s very much in the moment. And so you don’t really get a chance to see her upon reflection as it were. And so in the book, there’s that ability to show a little bit more of a reflective side.”
In fact, in classic Doctor Who fashion the real challenge was in squaring this new story with River’s previous timelines, adventures and general Who canon, which Kingston (who came from the eternally twisty era of showrunner Steven Moffat) says was a particularly tough nut to crack.
“Because of all of the adventures that River Song’s been on so far, you know, they’re really kind of complex and what we always say is ‘wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey’,” Kingston said.
“Having to also find that, and fill the book with those sort of complexities and Easter eggs that fans can sort of find, and red herrings… it’s actually quite tough!”
Despite this, though, Kingston got it all done – and when the book is released in May, it seems likely fans will flock to it. If they do, Kingston’s open to continuing this burgeoning literary career.
“I’d love to do more,” she said. “Let’s see what the reaction is to this one first. I might get burned. Who knows?
“Certainly in terms of Big Finish, I think we’ve still got lots more River adventures in the bag there.”
Even if the grand River/Doctor reunion isn’t on the cards, then, fans are far from seeing the back of the former Melody Pond any time soon. Somehow, we don’t think they’ll mind.
The Ruby’s Curse is published in hardback by BBC Books on the 20th May 2021. You can pre-order the novel on Amazon now.