Hello, sweetie. Time to grab your sonic screwdriver, plan a study session for your archaeology final, and don’t forget to peruse your big blue diary because today is a very special day. No, not Melody Pond’s birthday, but that of the woman who brought her to life under another version of her true name: River Song.
Yes, it’s Alex Kingston’s birthday, and while many of us know her as Professor River Song, the enigmatic time traveler who shares the most intimate relationship with the Doctor of most companions, she’s been in your line of sight for longer than you know. From her time on ER and Law & Order to her appearances in Arrow and A Discovery Of Witches, she’s a staple of the entertainment industry with roots that run deep – and a resume of classics that will probably never stop growing.
So settle in, adjust your vortex manipulator, and let’s all gather ’round to celebrate the life and times of the woman who made the child of the TARDIS a science fiction icon.
Born March 11, 1963, Alex Kingston was raised in Epsom, Surrey in England. Though her maternal uncle is Walter Reneissen, a well known German actor, she was actually inspired to take up acting by one of her teachers at the Rosebery School For Girls. This would lead to her first connection to the world of Doctor Who, as she auditioned for and received a role in the Surrey County Youth Theatre production of Tom Jones alongside none other than Sean Pertwee, son of Third Doctor, Jon Pertwee.
After completing her education, and spending time as a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company, Kingston became a staple of British-produced television dramas, such as The Fortunes And Misfortunes Of Moll Flanders, in which she played the titular role. Her biggest break, however, came in 1997 when she joined the long running American TV drama, ER, in its fourth season. As British surgeon Elizabeth Corday, she played the role for seven seasons before being written off in season eleven, when her contract was not renewed. Though she criticized the powers that be for seeming ageism in the decision, she did return to the series briefly in 2009 for its fifteenth and final season.
After her departure from ER, Kingston continued acting in various guest roles on other shows, such as Without A Trace, and performed on the West End in a production of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. She even auditioned for a role on Desperate Housewives in 2006, she admitted to the press later, but didn’t get the part she auditioned for on account of being too curvy.
However, ABC’s loss was the scifi community’s gain: in 2008, Kingston was cast to appear in a two part Series 4 arc on the BBC’s Doctor Who, starring as Professor River Song in Silence In The Library and Forest Of The Dead. The role, which she believed would be a one off, turned into not just a recurring role, but a vital part of the legendary franchise. As the sharp witted, confident, and secretive archaeologist that shares a bond with the Doctor so special, she knows his true name, Kingston captured a special place in fans’ hearts. That love only grew as it was revealed that Song was, in fact, a human with Time Lord DNA, parented by none other than the Ponds themselves, Amy and Rory Pond — sorry, Amy Pond and Rory Williams. In a story seeded back during Tennant’s tenure as the Tenth Doctor, River Song’s adventures have spanned three regenerations of the Doctor, all subsequent seriesof the show and beyond — River has also made an appearance in the Big Finish audio dramas, and Kingston herself even published a novel, The Ruby’s Curse, featuring Professor Song, in May of 2021.
While Professor Song has since spent her final night with the Doctor at the Singing Towers of Darillium , Kingston remains a mainstay on both sides of the pond. With guest roles on numerous shows, including Law & Order: SVU, Arrow, CSI, and larger parts on shows like A Discovery Of Witches, Kingston’s ties to sci fi and fantasy are solid, and her presence in entertainment is one that will continue for many years to come. With her ability to play both dramatic roles and fantastic ones, characters somber, straight laced, smug, and sassy, she’s a versatile actress with a bright future that only grows with every passing year.
Here’s to you, Alex Kingston — laugh hard, run fast, and be, as the Doctor would have you be: amazing.
Liz Carlie (she/her/he/him) is a regular book, TV, and film reviewer for SCIFI.radio and has previously been a guest on ‘The Event Horizon’. In addition to being an active member of the traditional fandom community, she’s also an active participant in online fan culture, pro wrestling journalism, and spreading the gospel of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. She resides in Southern California with her aspiring superhero dog, Junior, enjoying life one hyperfixation at a time.