Doctor Whodunnit? The detective story about actress Alex Kingston’s time travel

SINGAPORE — Melody Malone is a private detective in 1930s New York City. She’s also the fictional creation of River Song, a time-traveling archaeologist who kills time in the universe’s most secure prison by writing a mystery novel hard.

River, in turn, is a character in the cult sci-fi show Doctor Who, played by British actress Alex Kingston – who wrote her first novel, The Ruby’s Curse, about River writing a novel about Melody.

Confused again? “It’s all a bit shaky,” Kingston, 58, laughs, citing Doctor Who, which she starred on from 2008 to 2015.

Kingston shot to fame in the 1990s on the American medical drama ER, playing surgeon Elizabeth Corday in 160 episodes between 1997 and 2009.

Today, she is known for her Doctor Who role as River, a rebellious adventurer who marries the Doctor, a time-traveling alien, even though their timelines are often out of sync.

Her catchphrase, whenever asked about the future where she came from, is: “Spoilers”.

Although River’s last appearance on the show was in 2015, she’s had an active afterlife in audio dramas and now the novel, which Kingston co-wrote with Jacqueline Rayner during the Covid-19 outbreak. in 2020.

“It was scary because I had never written a book before,” Kingston said on Zoom. “But we were all confined. I had nothing else to do.”

She’s not the first Doctor Who actor to write a novel featuring the character they played.

Tom Baker, who played the fourth incarnation of the Doctor, co-wrote the 2019 horror novel Scratchman with James Goss.

Kingston says she has always been fascinated by the mystery of the tomb of Egyptian queen Cleopatra.

“No one knows exactly what happened to her in the end and where she is buried. And Caesarion, who was her son with (Roman general) Julius Caesar, kind of disappeared from the narrative.

“River Song is a time-traveling archaeologist and Melody Malone is a private investigator who unravels mysteries. The opportunity to have them work together on this subject in an impossible way was too delightful.”

The metafictional novel mixes various genres, crossing film noir with Indiana Jones-esque archaeological action and shenanigans in space.

River has returned to her prison cell in space so she can have peace and quiet to write her novel, in which Melody is tasked with finding a cursed ruby ​​that may hold the key to Cleopatra’s tomb.

But the disturbance soon arrives in the form of a fellow inmate, who knows where to find the Eye of Horus, a reality-altering device that could destroy the universe.

Forced to help her escape, River ends up traveling to 1939 New York, ancient Egypt, and ultimately her own novel, where she must work with Melody to solve the mystery.

River – who is as skilled with her doctorate as she is with a gun and can hold her own against the Doctor, whom she flirts with and fights with – was popular with fans, especially women.

“River’s moral compass is a bit frayed around the edges. She’s strong, but she also has a vulnerability, deep down,” says Kingston, who is married to TV producer Jonathan Stamp.

Her previous husbands were English actor Ralph Fiennes and German journalist Florian Haertel, with whom she has a daughter, Salome Violetta Haertel.

“The number of stories I’ve heard from young people who were in the hospital, and the only thing that got them through it was watching episodes of River Song on repeat from their hospital beds. – it’s really humiliating, especially when I had no idea that was what I was doing when I starred in the episodes.”

When asked if she might ever return to the show, like previous beloved characters have over the past few seasons, she just laughs. “Spoilers.”

• Curse of the Ruby ($40.67) is available here

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