Doctor Who – Silence in the Library / Forest of the Dead

Ooooooooh, boy. I mentioned the first part of this story the day it was shown, expecting to do my usual quick plot summary and general mutterings about it. But the second part made me think again. You see, there was so much going on, with three separate, yet beautifully linked together, threads, that any attempt to summarise the plot would:

  1. Take too long for anyone to actually want to read
  2. Make my head explode

So instead, I’ll just touch on some of the details and ideas in the story.

This being a Steven Moffat story, a wee bit of scariness was only to be expected. But his creation of the Vashta Nerada – “piranhas of the air”, creatures of the shadows that will strip you to your skeleton before you get a chance to scream – was particularly nasty. But the mere presence of the nasty shadows wasn’t enough, oh no. When people in space suits were killed by the monsters, we had some even nastier stuff, as the Vashta Nerada proceeded to walk around in the suits in a suitably menacing way. What? Not nasty enough? How about walking around in the suits while endlessly repeating the last words of the former occupant of the suit? Oh, and if you find you have an extra shadow, it’s all over…

The story hinges around the presence of huge numbers of them in the biggest library in the universe, how they got there and what happened to all the people who were in the library when contact was lost a century earlier. Or does it? It’s really the story of how the Doctor meets Professor River Song for the first time. Well, the first time for him, and what might turn out to be the last time for her.

She clearly knows him very well – so well in fact that she knows his real name, a fact that he’s not known for revealing to anyone. And he gave her his sonic screwdriver. err, will give her his sonic screwdriver.[1] Is River Song a future companion, or perhaps more? Will we ever find out, or will it be left as tantalising mystery? Either way, it’s an excellent example of Steven Moffat’s wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff. Meeting people in the wrong order is the sort of thing that should happen to a time traveller all the, err, time, but hardly ever does. I’m guessing that we can expect to see a lot more temporal fun, games and confusion when Steven’s first series as Head Writer/Executive Producer/Whomeister is shown in a couple of years.

And while all that’s going on, Donna finds herself living a new life. She meets a perfect man (“gorgeous and hardly says a word”), has two kids and is only mildly disturbed by the way her life seems to jump from scene to scene. Just who is Dr Moon, and why does he keep making Donna forget about the Doctor? And who is that little girl who’s watching what’s going on in the library, at first in her dreams (which Dr Moon tells her are real) and then on TV? And what kind of fancy multi-function remote control has she got that makes her father disappear?

See? It’s complicated. You wouldn’t believe how much I left out. This was seriously good stuff – about as dark as Doctor Who can get, given that its brief requires it to be “family viewing”. I have to say that I tend to think that’s a Good Thing – it certainly contributes to the unique character of the show. One of the best stories yet, and Steven will probably need to make room for some more awards on his shelf.

Next week, it looks like a bit of fun, then after that things will get very serious for the last three episodes of the series. :bouncy:

[1] Douglas Adams once wrote about the biggest problem with time travel was getting the grammar right…

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