By Rachel Stewart / notprolificnotprofound
What a difference a month makes. [Spoilers ahead.]
While The Day of the Doctor brought tears of joy to the eyes of many Whovians, The Time of the Doctor left many feeling angry or overwhelmingly confused, like they’d experienced a whole series in a one-hour episode. Whereas Steven Moffat had plenty of time to refine and revise plot points for the 50th anniversary special, Matt Smith’s sudden exit this summer left him in a predicament: how to wrap up three series worth of plot points precisely in a Christmas special? Some touches were inspired — the Silence are priests!?! – while others felt plucked straight from previous episodes — Eleven sending Clara away made me instantly think of Nine and Rose in Bad Wolf/Parting of the Ways. There were moments of perfection: Eleven’s finale monologue, and Amy Pond appearing, a hallucination in his pre-regeneration haze, to say goodbye one last time, not in tears, but with grace and peace.
And then there’s the problem of Tasha Lem.
Introduced as another one of Moffat’s strong female characters, once the cloud of feels surrounding Eleven’s departure has dissipated, it seemed many on the Internet agreed on one thing: Tasha Lem has to be a future version of River Song.
Here are the clues:
- She’s the Mother Superior of the Papal Mainframe, the same computer system that River Song’s consciousness is stored in. In essence, this means she has come to lead the church that kidnapped, tortured, and programmed her into being a psychopath in the first place — the same psychopath the Doctor “totally married” and credited for saving his life.
- She doesn’t like aging. In Let’s Kill Hitler, when Mels regenerated to Melody Pond, she mentioned she’d start aging backwards just to freak people out. In The Angels Take Manhattan, River Song tells the Doctor “When one is in love with an ageless god who insists on a face of a 12-year old, one does one’s best to hide the damage.” It makes sense that years after the Doctor has spent on Trenzalore aging that Tasha remains as beautiful as the first time Clara and the viewers encounter her.
- Her verbal sparing, complete with face slapping, dramatic kissing, and melancholy when the Doctor plans to run off with Clara in his TARDIS are right out of the River/Doctor playbook. When the Doctor clutched her face and told her she’d been fighting the psychopath her whole life, I didn’t think of the dalek hiding inside her, I thought of River Song, standing on that beach in Utah, in the space suit. Also the fair bit of lying that goes on between the two of them. “The Doctor lies,” River told Amy. And so does she, a finger to her lips, shh-hing people about spoilers.
- She can fly the TARDIS. In a sparkly black sequined covered gown, no less. During a behind-the-scenes interview, Orla Brady states that the Doctor offered to give Tasha Lem lessons, but honestly, who would the Doctor give lessons to, other than River Song? [Not that she needs them, but River teases the Doctor about learning from the best, only to reveal it was actually the TARDIS.] Occasionally, other companions are at the helm, but her presence on the TARDIS instantly made me think of River. And that line: “Flying the TARDIS has always been easy. It’s flying the Doctor that’s hard.” That’s River Song, through and through.
- The last name. Lem backwards is Mel. However, for those paying attention, Tasha is short for Natasha, which means “born on Christmas” while Lem means “devoted to God” which plays into this particular episode’s plot points. Was it picked because Alex Kingston wasn’t available to play River Song?
As hard as Moffat tried to tie up Eleven’s era, there are still loose threads. The connection hinted at between River Song and Clara in The Name of the Doctor has not been explained. I feel like Moffat was going to wrap that up with Eleven in the following series and will either let it be or have to bring it in to play with Capaldi’s incarnation of the Doctor.
So, is this an amazing plot twist or lazy writing? I strongly feel that Moffat will never be done with River Song — she’s a character he has a fondness for — and this would be an easy way to bring her back from the dead yet again.
Rachel Stewart has been obsessed about all things pop culture from an early age, but counts Doctor Who and Jem and the Holograms among her main obsessions. She blogs about her cosplay adventures at conventions, weekly geek-inspired outfits and whatever else takes her fancy at her blog notprolificnotprofound. Like her cosplay profile at AllBackToFront.