‘SILENCE IN THE LIBRARY’/’FOREST OF THE DEAD’
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“Hey, who turned out the lights?!” with the Vashta Nerada
This is the beginning of the third set of ‘Doctor Who’ stories from Series 4 starring David Tennant!
In this set, there are two stories with the Tenth Doctor and Donna Noble. They include a two-part story and a one-part adventure. This isn’t the best selection of ‘Doctor Who’ episodes that I’ve come across, but the two-part story set in the Library by Steven Moffat is worth the entertainment indeed.
‘SILENCE IN THE LIBRARY’ (Part 1)
This two-part story is set in the far future in the 51st century. It is a pretty scary story with the Doctor and Donna and this one is particular for sowing the seeds of the Matt Smith era (more on this later).
The Doctor and Donna visit the Library, a planet-sized repository for everyone to read books upon endless books. It’s a clever idea and an irony since we live in a technological age of iPads and Kindle.
But something is wrong. The Library is empty and dead silent. As the Doctor and Donna investigate, they find the Library overshadowed by a deadly force in the form of shadows called Vashta Nerada.
This story is notable for the first TV appearance of Alex Kingston as River Song. She would appear with Matt Smith’s Doctor later in the series. But here, David Tennant’s Doctor doesn’t know her yet!
River Song is a mysterious woman from the Doctor’s future. She keeps a diary in the shape of a TARDIS and has this futuristic looking sonic screwdriver, to which the Doctor is really shocked to see.
The Doctor is shocked by River Song’s presence, as he can’t accept for who she is and wants to know who she is. When River finds the Doctor hasn’t met her yet, she is determined to not tell his future.
At the time, I found the idea of the Doctor meeting a person from his future very intriguing. As a casual viewer, I’m sure most of the audience got their heads scratched and found it rather annoying.
It was frustrating to not know anything about who River Song is and what happens in the Doctor’s future. I suppose that’s Steven Moffat’s way of challenging the audience which doesn’t always help.
River is an archaeologist and she leads a team of archaeologists to investigate the library. I found it amusing when the Doctor gets annoyed and tells River that he ‘points and laughs’ at archaeologists.
As well as River, there’s Steve Pemberton as Mr. Lux; Talulah Riley as Miss Evangelista; Jessika Williams as Anita; O.T. Fagbenle as Other Dave and Harry Peacock as Proper Dave in this expedition.
All these archaeologists in space suits share this adventure with the Doctor and Donna as they investigate the Library. Some don’t survive. Some get eaten alive and killed. Some even get ‘saved’!
There’s also Colin Salmon as the mysterious Dr. Moon, who looks after Eve Newton as the little girl dreaming about the Library. The little girl has a significant connection to the Library during the story.
It was strange watching the little girl and wondering what her scenes meant and how they significant they were. It’s when Dr. Moon tells the little girl that the ‘real world’ is fiction and her Library exists.
The Vashta Nerada are pretty scary monsters. The idea of shadows lurking in the Library, waiting to latch onto the nearest food source for nourishment by touching a person’s shadow is so frightening.
The fact they are merciless when they do this is even more terrifying. The moment when Miss Evangelista gets eaten alive and all that is left is a skeleton in a space suit is horrific and very moving.
It was also creepy when Proper Dave gets two shadows and is taken over by a Vashta Nerada swarm. It was very scary when the skeleton spacesuit walks and repeats “Hey, who turned out the lights?!”
The first episode ends with Donna now an info-node and the Doctor and company running away from the Vashta Nerada. It was very disturbing and shocking when I saw this episode’s cliff-hanger.
The DVD special features on this episode are as follows. On Disc 4 of ‘The Complete Series 4’, there’s a trailer for the episode and a commentary with David Tennant, writer Steven Moffat and executive producer Julie Gardner. On Disc 6, there’s the ‘Doctor Who Confidential’ episode ‘Shadow Play’.
‘FOREST OF THE DEAD’ (Part 2)
As the second episode begins, River finds a way out by using her sonic blaster. Where or who she got that from is a mystery. The Doctor and the others escape as the Vashta Nerada chase on after them.
Fortunately, Donna Noble survived. Where she is was a mystery at first. She seemed to be in a sort of dream world at a hospital; gets looked after by Dr. Moon and she meets Jason Pitt as Lee McAvoy.
Donna and Lee both start dating together; get married and have kids. All of this happens in the space of seconds – literally. Donna doesn’t know it yet, until she meets the presumed dead Miss Evangelista.
The Doctor still doesn’t trust River Song, doubting her validity of being someone special in his future and is afraid of the notion of it. This is only until River whispers something very important in his ear.
This happens to be his name when River whispers in his ear. At that moment, the Doctor trusts River immediately and becomes determined to save her and the others from the Vashta Nerada’s threat.
The scene where the Doctor confronts the Vashta Nerada in Proper Dave’s suit is a favourite of mine. The Doctor asks the swarm why it came to the Library to hunt. The Vashta Nerada say ‘they did not’.
The Library happens to be the Vashta Nerada’s forests. The Doctor doesn’t get it first, until he realises they came hatching as spores from the pages of the books in the Library, which is a pretty frightening concept.
Another clever idea is that 4022 people in the library had been ‘saved’ by the computer system CAL. With no idea where to send them, the CAL system ‘saves’ the people in the Library, including Donna.
The reveal of CAL was very shocking and inspired. I won’t say anything to avoid revealing ‘spoilers’ (that word!) but it connects to a family secret of Mr Lux and the little girl who dreams of the Library.
The Doctor has to persuade the Vashta Nerada to let the people of the Library go and leave the planet, so they can continue hunting their ‘forests’. The swarm, now in Anita’s suit, unwillingly agree.
Soon, the Doctor tries to plug himself into the main computer in order to get the people out and to provide more memory space for CAL. But River punches the Doctor out and takes his place instead.
River is determined not to let the Doctor die before he even meets her. This allows for two minutes of a very emotional goodbye between the Doctor and River, revealing some interesting revelations.
Managing to get everyone out of the Library and sending people back, the Doctor and Donna reflect on previous events and are grieved. They’re tempted to find out what’s inside River’s TARDIS diary.
But they resist in case of…’spoilers’. They leave the diary with River’s sonic screwdriver and head off to have more adventures in the TARDIS. That is until the Doctor returns to picks up the screwdriver.
Finding a life sign of River’s in the screwdriver, he immediately runs back to CAL’s main computer and plugs her in. There, River’s consciousness is brought back to life and she’s in the main computer.
River lives a ‘heavenly’ sort of life, reunited with her friends Anita, Proper Dave, Other Dave and Miss Evangelista. They were all dead but brought back to life by CAL in order to give River some company.
Just to say, this two-part story has been wonderfully directed by Euros Lyn. Euros directed a number of ‘Doctor Who’ stories and he would later direct the Tenth Doctor’s TV swansong, ‘The End of Time’.
This story is so cleverly written and full of inspired ideas. It sets the scene for the future era by Steven Moffat and leaves you wondering what lies next with the Doctor and Donna in their travels.
The DVD special features on this episode are as follows. On Disc 4 of ‘The Complete Series 4’, there’s a trailer for the episode and a commentary with director Euros Lyn; script editor Helen Raynor and costume designer Louise Page. There’s also a deleted scene of ‘Forest of the Dead’ to be found on Disc 4, introduced by Russell T. Davies.
On Disc 6, there’s the ‘Doctor Who Confidential’ episode ‘River Runs Deep’.
‘Silence In The Library’/’Forest of the Dead’ rating – 8/10
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