The Only Water in the Forest: A River Song Day Personal Retrospective

River Song, holding up her alpha meson blaster

Picture it: NY, Christmas, 2010. Divorce finalised a year or two ago, and out of the cosplay scene for about a decade due to a husband who wouldn’t have stopped me, but just wasn’t into fandom life and it wouldn’t have been fun. I always felt like a bad nerd growing up because I never got into Doctor Who…I knew about the guy with the scarf, but that was about it. My daughter was tiny and we got snowed in, and BBCA just happened to be doing a marathon of Season 5. I caught “A Christmas Carol,” which was my very first Who episode. I hit record on the DVR to get the rest of the season, then once I ran out of 11, I went back to 9 and 10.

Fast forward a bit, they started doing the promos for “The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon.” My kid kept pointing to River Song on the screen and saying “Mama! She has hair just like you!” I dug some vaguely matching denim out of my closet, ordered a vintage Colt replica off some website, and got an old buddy from the renfair to make me a holster for it. There was a special screening of the premiere in NYC that Matt, Karen, Arthur, and Moffat attended. We called it LineCon…some intrepid friends camped out all night and saved me a spot. That was my first Who event, and where I met SO many people who are friends to this day (a couple of my besties are OG River-sisters whom I talk to all the time—we’re family at this point).

River Song cosplayer, holding up alpha meson blaster

River Song was my gateway drug back into cosplay etc. (or, as I often say, she was my Taye Diggs—how I got my groove back). She wasn’t 20, she wasn’t a size 0, and it helped that Alex and Matt set the screen on fire. My partner abandoned his 10 cosplay aspirations and switched to 11 (he’s much better suited to 11 anyway), and we have been together since 2011 and are happier than ever. I’ve been in the Who con world in one way or another since the first LI Who—I’ve been a guest at a bunch of them, performing, doing panels, interviewing a bunch of cast members from both classic and New Who (including the divine Ms. Kingston herself, who is a delight). My kid, who has been coming with me to these things since she was 6, is about to turn 19, and now has her own Who crew, and Who has done even more magical things for her life than it has mine, and we’re both grateful.

Today, 31 May, is known among us who know that sort of thing as River Song Day…the anniversary of the first time Our Lady of AllSaints appeared on the show, making us all sob as her timeline started in the Library, and went backwards from there.

The new season has been promising so far. If putting my origin story out there does anything toward manifesting a re-appearance of River (the combination of Alex Kingston and Ncuti Gatwa would be a lot of fabulous on one screen, but we could handle it)…well, it’s not like I NEED to make any more costumes, but I’m sure my closet could fit one more.

Happy River Song Day.

Montage of 9 different River Song cosplay photos

Written by Cat Smith

Cat Smith is the reigning Miss Nerdstiles, having inherited the crown from absolutely no one, because she made it up. She is an actor, a musician, a cosplayer since before they had a word for it, and a general nuisance (General Nuisance *salute*). She and her ukulele have charmed the collective socks off of LI Who and LI Geek, ReGeneration Who, WHOlanta, Potterverse, Coal Hill Con, Time Eddy, MISTI-Con, Hudson Valley Comic Con, Wicked Faire, SqueeCon, The Way Station, and The Pandorica Restaurant . She has written for "Outside In" and "Why I Geek" (among others), and you can find her music on bandcamp at Consider supporting her continuing adventures by becoming a patron at

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