The Diary of River Song: Friend of the Family

Posted in Audio by - January 16, 2023
The Diary of River Song: Friend of the Family

Released January 2023


When a Luna University expedition discovers pages of River’s diary with a riddle scrawled upon them within an old Earth house, River decides to investigate to begin the four interlinked tales comprising Friend of the Family by Tim Foley. Inadvertently teleported back to the Mortimers’ home and restricted to limited travel between the years 1936 and 2014, she finds that she is intimately entwined with the affairs of multiple generations of this family and that there is more than one riddle to solve if she hopes to escape.

‘The Rules of the House’ is very much an exposition-laden story, introducing the very personal element of River’s latest investigation. River is a character who liberally uses wit and sarcasm, but each an every page of her diary- even the empty ones she has yet to cautiously fill- is of tantamount importance to her, providing a fascinating central mystery that becomes all the more intriguing when she discovers in 2014 that she has been involved in some capacity with this family for decades. Accompanied by a holographic representation of Hugo from the University who seems to be keeping an eye on her and the echo gun she is using to aid in her initial searches and whom she cannot fully escape despite her best efforts, what follows is a whirlwind introduction to several of the key characters from the Mortimer family’s history in their respective time periods. It’s rare that River is not implicitly in control of a situation with knowledge of events or aspects in the past and yet to come, but she is caught wildly off guard here as others hint about events that have already occurred from their perspective but that she has yet to experience. There isn’t much plot to speak of as she comes to quickly experience distinct times and briefly learn about the personalities and motivations of those within each, but the groundwork has been laid for an intriguing and very personal delve into the Mortimer family history in which cause and effect for River do not necessarily occur sequentially. Each of the supporting actors gives suitably strong performances to bring these generations to life in short order, but ‘The Rules of the House’ is very much a showcase for Alex Kingston and Mark Elstob as River and Hugo begin to try to uncover and understand the truths at the heart of the Mortimer family from which she physically cannot escape, all despite River’s desire to work alone and the mysteriously limited number of temporal jumps remaining.

Trying to understand the significance of her jumps being in strict intervals of twenty-six years after accepting a position as a servant in 1936, River soon discovers a bevy of intrigue surrounding the Mortimers, most overtly being an impenetrable door that seems perpetually locked throughout the ages in ‘The Key to the Door.’ Knowing at least a small amount about this family from 1936 due to her interactions with descendants in the future, River quickly takes to Maddie whose previous servant was let go somewhat unceremoniously and who clearly loves her two children. An undeniable coldness exists between her and her husband, Henry, who had previously been through so much in the war, and what is left unstated allows for strong characterization in a short period of time while creating a solid foundation for the dark events River knows will come surrounding this couple. Just as intriguing, however, is the relationship that River forms decades later with Mary- one of Maddie’s children- who must reconcile the life she has led as a single mother with that she may have otherwise; the elder Mary does not claim to understand the nuances of time travel, but she has learned through River how emotional its effects can be and she reveals that River is, in fact, the only person who has ever been into that locked room in a dramatic tease of events yet to come. Via a clever bootstrap paradox that allows River to obtain a governess position for a younger Mary’s son, River simultaneously closes certain narrative questions while creating many more on her journeys, the surprising presence of an older Henry who furtively insists River be granted the governess position without revealing that he knew her from so long ago adding yet another fascinating layer to these affairs. It’s difficult to understate just how strong the performances of those playing the Mortimers in all times are, perfectly layering a level of familiarity and affection with a certain protectiveness for family and a very variable willingness to open up to River. This house has seen family develop through both direct relations and prolonged familiarity, however, and River soon discovers that not everyone is who they seem to be, yet another example of this intensifying mystery that directly ties into the temporal fluidity of River’s involvement with the Mortimers. Very few answers are afforded yet as River comes to discover that Hugo is actually studying her for a possible professorial position as the University, but the layers that continue to be added are each truly fascinating and brilliantly set the scene for the second half of this set.

After spending a surprisingly grounded evening in 2014 with Harry and Vinay and their deepening relationship, River begins to finally understand some of the many complexities at the heart of this family’s history in ‘The Bird from the Nest.’ Indeed, River seeming to understand the family legacy referenced in this story’s title that seems to have no long-standing history is vital to River’s appreciation of her temporal role in affairs and to many of the reactions and intimations she has received along the way. Of course, further mysteries are introduced along the way such as an elder Henry’s seeming fear of River, but Foley determinedly begins to offer many answers that firmly bolster the series of events thus far witnessed. While it does seem as though Friend of the Family will ultimately be built upon a series of bootstrap paradoxes solidified by River or anyone else stating how events must ultimately play out, the tight nature of the script continuing to focus on the same Mortimer members and the wonderful combination of both shrouded and open motivations that have resulted from events both seen and unseen ensure that the intrigue remains high at every point throughout. Of course, Kingston deserves immense credit for effortlessly shifting her performance as River continues to piece together fragments of information and thus the proper sequence of events during her jumps, but each cast member continues to deliver phenomenally nuanced performances to allow this familial history to unfold with such dynamic energy. Naturally, as River comes to learn more about certain family members than even the family itself knows such as George’s true intentions for traveling to Switzerland, the far more consequential secret she discovers herself relates to Maddie’s apparent disappearance and how Henry’s shellshock and their previous servant influenced it so unexpectedly. This is unquestionably the most emotionally resonant scene of this set yet and perfectly complements another wholly surprising revelation that makes a character seemingly destined to be the villain of the piece anything but and so much more layered as a result. The interpersonal relationships on display through the ages and the continued layering of events and knowledge passed through the generations that culminates in 2014 as Harry and Vinay take a renewed interest in the Mortimer history continue to create a fascinating foundation for River Song’s latest adventure, and all of the pieces are unquestionably in place for a momentously emotional finale.

The massive undertaking of Friend of the Family comes to a close with ‘Isle on the Shore’ as River comes to understand the true meaning behind the remainder of the Mortimer legacy. Following a momentous cliffhanger, the truth at the heart of the relationship between Maddie and Henry and the immediate fallout are both revealed, subverting narrative expectations but perfectly bringing in social norms and expectations of their time without forgetting the effects of World War I on Henry and his thought processes. Having spent so much time around these Mortimers and their descendants, River has formed a much closer relationship with these characters than is often the case, and her ability to recall seemingly disparate events she has already witnessed or set in motion allow her to continue to find light even when events are at their darkest while also highlighting the emotional depth and resonance at River’s core. Of course, her events in the past implicitly tie into the events of 2014, and the intertwining and shift in societal perspectives from both of these times allows for a truly beautiful culmination of the many storylines via the marriage between Harry and Vinay. Being able to directly confront one’s legacy while also learning of the true immediate impact one has had brilliantly brings this saga full circle and truly allows Maddie who has always been filled with such love to truly develop and shine. Again, each of the performances throughout the decades on display are pitch perfect, and River’s actions here- whether subtle or overt- again show how invested she has become in these individuals by ensuring that no important emotion or thought is left unsaid while also protecting those around her as only she can. Whether Maddie and Henry, Mary and George, Tommy, or Harry and Vinay, the influence of River is always palpable even if the Mortimers do not fully understand how or why, and the revelations surrounding Maddie’s one-time maid as well as both Cook and Hugo and just how differently love can develop throughout time perfectly complement the Mortimer tale while again creating more emotionally impactful avenues for Friend of the Family to explore and develop. Simultaneously a love and a ghost story, this beautifully interwoven and non-sequential narrative is a brilliant experiment for The Diary of River Song that brings forth the more emotional and nuanced side of River Song with the aid of a truly spectacular group of performances and a masterclass in writing.

This post was written by

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.