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The Secret Behind the Naming of River Song

Remember the firing of Nicholas Pegg over his infamous secret offensive message in Doctor Who Magazine? It turns out he isn’t the only person from the former Doctor Who crew sneaking secret naughty messages into things.

Former show runners Steven Moffat and Russel T Davies also had some fun with sneaking naughty words past the censors at BBC in the form of acronyms. Now that neither of the writers are involved with the popular program anymore, all sorts of tidbits are coming out about what was going on behind the scenes. Moffat admitted to trying to slip things into the titles in a recent interview on The Doctor Who Fan Show.

“Russell and I went through a phase of trying to work out Doctor Who titles with rude acronyms, to wind up people on internet message boards.” — Stephen Moffat

 So what does all of this have to do with the scandalous River Song? Moffat explains, “I thought up, ‘A River Song Ending‘” in order to try slipping the acronym A.R.S.E. into the title. Of course there was no River Song at this time as this was before her premiere episode… She had not yet existed within the Whoniverse. Davies, upon hearing it asked “What’s a River Song?”.  Moffat continued the thought laughing, “Oh, I’ll just call somebody River Song… and she’d better die. That way we’ve got the acronym.” Of course they didn’t end up using the title in the end, but without the notion of it, we may not have ever had River Song at all.  Or at least she might have ended up with a different name.

It really makes you want to look back through some of the old Doctor Who titles and search for rude acronyms. At least the ones written by Davies and Moffat. It is certainly a good thing they didn’t get caught.

More information about the origins of River Song and other great information about Moffat’s time working for the show is in the interview video above. Doctor Who series 11 with the new show runner Chris Chibnall airs this Autumn.