This is such a sad moment in retrospect. Here The Doctor is losing River, “River you know my name. You whispered my name in my ear. There’s only one reason I would tell anyone my name, only one time that I could.” … “Hush now, spoilers.” He likes her. “Bet I like you.” “Oh you do.” And now he’s losing this woman he’s suddenly connected to. And he knows, I believe, beyond a reasonable doubt that this woman will be his wife someday. So in this moment he is hurting for himself, both in the present and the future.
Likewise, when the future Doctor takes River to Darillum and they see the towers sing, he cries and he gives her his screwdriver he’s hurting for himself and for past him. And I truly believe this version of him relives the moment. He can place himself right back in that Library and can see her die all over again in his head.
This man is so utterly heartbroken. The tears in TNOTD make so much sense with this in mind. “So who was the girl with the funny name and the space hair?” “An old…friend of mine.” He’s not crying about Trenzalore, oh sure I’m convinced that worries him, but I don’t think he’s crying for that. He’s crying for River. Clara has seen her and talked to her, and he (his poor hearts) hasn’t. I can only imagine how that would feel. He misses his wife. Those two are connected in a way that I don’t think another connection has been made the same way, before or since (yes they’re fictional characters, hush, that’s not the point).
He ignores her. He blatantly ignores her. Because he thinks it will hurt him too much to acknowledge her. How heartbroken can he possibly be? River is his equal and could probably argue for superior. She tells him what to do, he listens. She lectures him, he listens. She argues with him, he argues back, but he listens. I don’t think he would ever intentionally do something that was opposite to something she’d say. He knows when she’s right. “River would know though. River always knew.” He never doubts her. Sure he said some stupid stuff sometimes, but I don’t think there was ever a time that he didn’t trust her.
I tell you what, my shipper heart was breaking when it got to the tomb scene. He couldn’t hear her. He couldn’t see her. Dammit Moff—oh my god he caught her hand!! I was sobbing. This moment is so powerful. The Doctor initiates that kiss! And in the words of Steven Moffat “with lustful intent.” This is a man, embittered by separation and overcome by love.
"You are always here to me, and I always listen. And I can always see you."
"I thought it would hurt me, and I was right."
He tried to stay away from the pain that their relationship causes him, but when it came right down to it, he’d rather hurt for a lifetime than ignore her for another moment. And that speaks volumes.
From a man chained to a post watching the future love of his life die before his eyes to saying goodbye to the love of his life in the best way he knows how.
And of course she wouldn’t be River without giving him a “spoilers”…and leaving him with a glimmer of hope for the future…
After all, it’s all wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff.