River Song has met more incarnations of the Doctor than most characters on Doctor Who, some on-screen, some in video games, and some in Big Finish Productions audio plays. Doctor Who premiered in 1963 and its original run was canceled in 1989. A Doctor Who movie followed in 1996, then the series returned in 2005 and has been running ever since. The main character of Doctor Who is the eponymous Doctor, who, when near death, can completely change their physical body and take on a new appearance in a process known as regeneration. This is a feature (mostly) unique to the Doctor’s alien species of Time Lords from Gallifrey.
River Song made her debut in Doctor Who in 2008 as a mysterious woman who has met the Doctor before, although he has not met her. She dies at the end of her two-part premiere, realizing that though this was the first time the Doctor met her, it was the last time she saw him. Younger versions of River went on to appear in Doctor Who for the next several years and her backstory was further explained. Not only is River Song the Doctor’s wife, but she is the child of companions Amy Pond and Rory Williams. She was conceived on the time-traveling TARDIS so was imbued with some Time Lord traits, including extended life and regeneration. Her given name is Melody Pond, but she goes by the name River Song in her third incarnation, portrayed by Alex Kingston.
Melody/River’s timeline can get confusing, even for her. She keeps a TARDIS-inspired journal to keep track of her life and all her encounters with the Doctor. This includes descriptions of every incarnation of the Doctor she has met. With such a long life, it’s no surprise River has met several versions of the time traveler; here’s each one.
River Song whispering in Tenth Doctor’s Ear, Doctor Who Forest of the Dead episode
River Song’s first appearance to the Doctor and the audience is in Doctor Who season 4, episode 8, “Silence in the Library.” The two-part story continues in season 4, episode 9, “Forest of the Dead,” in which River sacrifices herself to save the people trapped in the library. In these episodes, River Song interacts with the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) and his companion Donna Noble (Catherine Tate). These are River’s only on-screen interactions with Ten, but she did meet him again in a handful of Big Finish Productions audio plays. They adventure together in three stories in the anthology The Tenth Doctor and River Song. River also encounters Ten in the audio plays A Brave New World and The First Son, plus the 2022 video game Lost in Time. The latter actually takes place before “Silence in the Library,” but River erases the Doctor’s memory of her to maintain the timeline.