Close En­counter

River Song re­turns to the Doc­tor’s life, just in time for Christ­mas...

SFX - - Contents - Words by Nick Setchfield /// Pho­tog­ra­phy by Si­mon Ridg­way

It’s Alex kingston, sweetie.

To­day it’s hard to tell where Alex Kingston ends and River Song be­gins. And no, it’s not just be­cause there’s a vor­tex ma­nip­u­la­tor strapped to her wrist as she meets SFX in a spare BBC board­room in Cardiff. An elec­tric tum­ble of ringlets in a black biker jacket, she smiles broadly, laughs hugely and teases se­crets mer­ci­lessly. Frankly she packs more sauce than a Lea & Per­rins fac­tory. Kingston re­turns as the timeline-hop­ping, lin­ear­ity-de­fy­ing ar­chae­ol­o­gist and uber-flirt in this year’s Doc­tor Who Christ­mas spe­cial, an ad­ven­ture that unites her with Twelfth Doc­tor Peter Ca­paldi. “I never imag­ined that this char­ac­ter had any longevity at all,” she tells us, clearly de­lighted to be back in the Time Lord’s life. “I thought she was just a beau­ti­fully writ­ten char­ac­ter within a twoepisode story arc. But Steven [Mof­fat] had other in­ten­tions. I feel ex­tremely for­tu­nate that she keeps be­ing re­vived and keeps be­ing in­serted into episodes.” Does it feel like you’re com­ing on to a dif­fer­ent show with a dif­fer­ent Doc­tor?

It doesn’t, ac­tu­ally. I had that ex­pe­ri­ence go­ing from David to Matt. Es­sen­tially my char­ac­ter is the same, so there’s con­ti­nu­ity there. The fun is in­ter­act­ing with some­one who’s es­sen­tially the same man but in a dif­fer­ent skin and with a dif­fer­ent en­ergy. It took me a few days to gauge Peter but with­out giv­ing away too much that’s also part of the story as well. So in a sense learn­ing and be­com­ing more fa­mil­iar with Peter’s en­ergy and who Peter has cre­ated as the Doc­tor is not only part of my learn­ing jour­ney but it’s also been River’s as well. So the two have kind of gone hand in hand, which is quite fun. Can you per­son­ally keep track of River’s timeline?

No, in a word [laughs]! Did you have to bone up on it all be­fore play­ing her again?

No, I didn’t have to do that… This is definitely later, but it’s also ear­lier! Rus­sell T Davies de­scribed you and Peter Ca­paldi to­gether as a “sex storm”. Is that what we’re go­ing to see on Christ­mas Day?

Well, it’s a fam­ily show – but there have been mo­ments on set where we’ve started to call it Doc­tor Blue [laughs]! Say no more! Does she flirt with the Doc­tor from the out­set?

She doesn’t know who he is! She has a hus­band! The script is fan­tas­tic and if any­thing I’d say the fast-paced com­edy and the in­ter­ac­tion be­tween the two is like the old screw­ball movies, like Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hep­burn. If you were to get a call say­ing they wanted River as a full-time com­pan­ion, would you do it?

I don’t know whether they would do that. In a sense I think the beauty of a char­ac­ter like River Song – and I think what the fans love – is that she will come in for an ad­ven­ture but then she goes off again. One can then spend one’s time imag­in­ing what she does when she’s not with the Doc­tor. River’s al­ready es­tab­lished, so why not keep her in that re­spect and then just bring in a new com­pan­ion be­cause then you’ve got more peo­ple to in­ter­act with and to play with. Do you think she’d work as a spin-off show?

Af­ter the 9 o’clock wa­ter­shed? Yeah [saucily]! With Cap­tain Jack! I love play­ing River Song and any op­por­tu­nity to play her I will al­ways say yes, but I know that even­tu­ally there’ll be a point where we’ll be fin­ished with that char­ac­ter – oth­er­wise you’ll be see­ing me with a zimmer frame say­ing “Hello sweetie!”, and I’m not sure that will go down so well… Maybe it will! Is there a Doc­tor from the show’s past you’d love to see River flirt with?

It would prob­a­bly have to be Jon Per­twee! Be­cause he was quite naughty, wasn’t he? He had quite a twin­kle. I think I’d prob­a­bly give Wil­liam Hart­nell a heart at­tack! Best to leave him alone. But as I say, they’re all the same man. Es­sen­tially the spirit is the same, so I’m get­ting my fair share! Re­cently there’s been chat about the Doc­tor chang­ing sex. Is that a role you could ever see your­self play­ing?

I don’t think I would take it on be­cause I’m al­ready River. I don’t think she could be the Doc­tor. I would imag­ine that if any­thing the Doc­tor might be of a dif­fer­ent race than gen­der. I can’t imag­ine, per­son­ally, the Doc­tor be­ing a dif­fer­ent gen­der. I just think that too many men have played that role. If one goes back, his­tor­i­cally, it’s really been a lit­tle boy’s show and girls have been brought onto it. Cer­tainly when I was a girl I loved it as well but I don’t know… I hope that women aren’t go­ing to hate me for this but I do think that the Doc­tor has to be a guy, ac­tu­ally. I do. Well, it would be very in­ter­est­ing for River if it was a woman [laughs]…

Doc­tor Who’s Christ­mas spe­cial will be shown on BBC One.

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