The scene in Angels Take Manhattan where River and the Doctor get in that fight is such a powerful scene that I feel is under appreciated. Oh, that slap had been brewing for a long time.
The thing with River and the Doctor’s relationship is that, while it may not be quite obvious all the time, they struggle to communicate with each other in a healthy and productive way. One might say that is the major flaw of their particular relationship, and in all honesty I don’t blame them at all. Both of them struggle with their own unique emotional traumas and terrible pasts.
And on top of that, The Doctor has always struggled with the knowledge of River’s fate. I bet you every single time he sees River, he sees her dying in the Library and he hates the fact he loves her so much and can’t stop her death. And he can’t tell her anything, because, well you know, spoilers. And even more on top of that is the guilt of what happened to her as a baby, because, yeah it’s totally his fault. River is River because of him. She was kidnapped as a baby because of him and dies in the Library because of him.
And I think River has always been able to tell that there is something going on with the Doctor that he isn’t telling her. I bet she can see it in his eyes that he knows something, when he thinks she isn’t looking. She knows he is hiding so much pain and guilt, and because she loves him, she doesn’t want to add to it by telling him the deep dark ugly truths of her own feelings.
The way the Doctor behaved towards River when he reads “Amelia’s Final Farewell” is terrible to put it bluntly. He gets so upset at what he read in the book, and yet again won’t talk to her. She knows she is the one who will write it, and she practically begs the Doctor to just talk it out with her so they can work together, as a team, to see what they can do about it. Like reasonable, smart, married, adult Time Lords and Ladies. But noooooo, he yells “NO” and stomps his foot like a 12 year old and instead of helping her get her wrist out, leaves her there on her own and demands she do the impossible (Not break her wrist). Now I don’t know about you, but if my wrist has to be broken, I’d much rather my husband do it than me having to break it myself. It’s just better and easier that way, you know? And yeah, maybe he can fix it with regeneration energy afterwords because he cares so much and hated having to do that. But no.
Yeah, I’d be pretty pissed.
So what’s a Time Lady to do? Well, what she always does.
She hides the damage. And it’s rather easy to do, isn’t it? She’s hid her emotional trauma her whole life. Practically her whole life has been living up to the expectations of other people, especially the Doctor.
He wants her to get out without breaking her wrist? Fine!
I think she probably did try quite hard to do it, and that’s why her hand was so bloodied. Simply breaking your wrist alone isn’t likely to scrape up the skin- she tore up her wrist and hand trying to wriggle it out of the stone Angel’s grasp as hard as she could. She was probably in tears from pain and frustration, and had to compose herself before meeting up with Amy and The Doctor again.
Once the cat’s out of the bag about her wrist, the Doctor asks why she lied. Well, she gives him her answer: 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. She hints at her emotional pain, and her hurt at the Doctor’s negligence and immaturity. She doesn’t want sympathy, she wants an apology. She wants acknowledgement of her feelings and admittance of mistakes. It’s not about her broken wrist itself, it’s about why and how it is broken in the first place. But what does the Doctor do instead? He says nothing, and simply heals her broken wrist as if that is the only problem.
So yeah. He was a sentimental idiot and that was quite the stupid waste of regeneration energy, and he deserved that slap.
So in The Angels Take Manhattan, River says it would be impossible to land a Tardis in New York during the 1930s. “This city’s full of time distortions. It’d be impossible to land the Tardis here. Like trying to land a plane in a blizzard. Even I couldn’t do it.” Then, later, after the Ponds create a paradox that destroys (most of) the Weeping Angels, the Doctor says, “I can’t ever take the Tardis back there. The timelines are too scrambled.”
I mean, yes, there’s legitimate criticism of this on strictly logical grounds. Why don’t they just take a bus to New Jersey? But, you know, timey wimey. The time distortions are entangled with the Ponds’ timelines. Their biodata can’t be extricated from it. You can always gobbledegook your way out of time travel stories. The point is emotional: it’s a callback to Amy’s Choice, and Amy made her choice once and for all.
In The Return of Doctor Mysterio, River has just gone to meet her destiny in the Library. The Doctor, lost and grieving after living with her for 24 Earth years, does what we should have expected him to do: he scours the universe for a magic wishing stone that, when mounted in whatever jury-rigged timey-wimey monstrosity he’s cobbled together, will hopefully undo the time distortions created in The Angels Take Manhattan.
“It’s a time distortion equalizer thingy. There’s been a lot of disruption in New York—my fault actually—hopefully this will make it all calm down.”
Hello, old friend, and here we are. You and me, on the last page. By the time you read these words, Rory and I will be long gone. So know that we lived well, and were very happy. And above all else, know that we will love you, always. Sometimes I do worry about you, though. I think once we’re gone, ‘you won’t be coming back here for a while, and you might be alone, which you should never be. Don’t be alone, Doctor. And do one more thing for me. There’s a little girl waiting in a garden. She’s going to wait a long while, so she’s going to need a lot of hope. Go to her. Tell her a story. Tell her that if she’s patient, the days are coming that she’ll never forget. Tell her she’ll go to sea and fight pirates. She’ll fall in love with a man who’ll wait two-thousand years to keep her safe. Tell her she’ll give hope to the greatest painter who ever lived and save a whale in outer space. Tell her this is the story of Amelia Pond. And this is how it ends.
At first I was unhappy that Moffat wrote over First Night/Last Night to say that Eleven didn’t really take River to Darillium…
But then I realized, this fits perfectly with Eleven’s character!
This is the man who used his own regeneration energy to heal his wife’s hand when she broke it escaping from a weeping angel (TATM). OF COURSE he wouldn’t be able to take her to Darillium, knowing that it’s the last place he saw her before the Library. River’s assertion that the Doctor is not sentimental enough to care about her could not be more wrong. Eleven is sentimental enough that he cancelled every time he tried to take River to the towers because he just couldn’t face the fact that his wife was about to go to her death.