Mon, 16 June 2008
"Silence in the Library" is the eighth episode of the fourth series of British science fiction television series Doctor Who, first broadcast on 31 May 2008. It is the first of a two-part story by Steven Moffat, followed by "Forest of the Dead
The Doctor and Donna arrive in the 51st century at a planet-sized book repository simply called "The Library", summoned by an anonymous request for help on the Doctor's psychic paper. However, they find it completely devoid of humanoid life, and the Library's computers even claim as such, though when the Doctor widens the search for non-humanoid life, the Library's computers claim over "a million million lifeforms" exist. A Node, an information drone which presents a donated human face to the user to facilitate communication, warns them to count the shadows, which appear despite the lack of objects to cast them. As they try to search for answers, they meet a team of explorers, led by archaeologist Professor River Song, who have come to ascertain the meaning of the Library's final communication, which states "4022 saved, no survivors". River Song seems to know the Doctor, has a diary with a cover matching the Doctor's TARDIS, and even possesses a sonic screwdriver. She also later displays knowledge of the TARDIS' "emergency program one". She only admits that she will know the Doctor in his relative future, refusing to disclose more for fear of "spoilers". Professor Song also recognises Donna's name, but avoids explaining why Donna was not present when she knew the Doctor.
The Doctor organizes the team to make sure the area is well lit as he explains that they are surrounded by Vashta Nerada, microscopic carnivorous creatures that disguise themselves as shadows to hunt and latch onto their prey. He notes that they are usually nowhere near as aggressive or numerous as the ones here seem to be. Before he can fully explain, however, one of the explorers wanders off and is stripped to the bone in moments. The Doctor and Donna learn that the exploration team wears communication devices which link to their nervous systems for thought-based communication. As a side-effect, these devices tend to pick up an imprint of the user at the moment of death, creating a short-lived "Data Ghost" of that person's consciousness.
Curiously, the Library's operations seem to be tied to the imagination of a young girl; she sees the Doctor and Donna through the eyes of a security camera when they first break into central room, the exploration team appears on her television when the Doctor attempts to hack the Library computers, and books fly from the shelves when she fiddles with the television's remote control. The girl is under the observation of Dr Moon, a child psychologist, at the request of her dad, but Dr Moon insists to the girl that what she imagines in her nightmares is in fact real, while the "real" world is a lie. He also states that there are people in her library who need to be saved.
The team's investigation is interrupted when a shadow of Vashta Nerada latches onto the pilot, Dave. Although the Doctor attempts to save him by sealing him inside his suit, the creatures manage to get inside, eat him alive, and then animate his suit in order to chase the other explorers. The Doctor attempts to teleport Donna back to the TARDIS while he leads the rest of the team to safety, but something goes wrong with the teleport and Donna fails to materialize properly. As the team races away from the possessed suit, the Doctor is horrified to find a Node with Donna's face on it, which claims that Donna has left the Library and has been "saved". The show ends in a cliffhanger as the Doctor is forced to leave the Node behind, but is trapped by the approaching suit on one side and the Vashta Nerada shadows on the other.
As shown on the BBC Doctor Who website, there are a number of books in the library either written by former Doctor Who writers or featured in previous episodes. Among those seen are the operating manual for the TARDIS, Origins of the Universe (Destiny of the Daleks), The French Revolution (An Unearthly Child), the Journal of Impossible Things ("Human Nature"/"The Family of Blood"), The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy (written by Douglas Adams, former Doctor Who writer and script editor), Everest in Easy Stages (The Creature from the Pit) and Black Orchid (a book first seen in the Fifth Doctor serial of the same name).
The Doctor mentions that "emergency program one" will send Donna home should she be left alone in the TARDIS for five hours. In "The Parting of the Ways", this program was activated by the Ninth Doctor to send Rose Tyler home.
According to Steven Moffat, the squareness gun used by Professor River Song to help the party escape from the impending Vashta Nerada is intended to be the same sonic blaster that was used by Jack Harkness in the episode "The Doctor Dances". Moffat suggests that it was left in the TARDIS after "The Parting of the Ways", and taken by River Song in the Doctor's future. The name "squareness gun" was coined by Rose in the earlier episode.
Broadcast and reception
"Silence in the Library" was scheduled against the final of ITV's talent contest Britain's Got Talent and suffered in the ratings as a result. Overnight viewing figures suggested that the episode was watched by 5.4 million viewers, although this increased to 6.27 million when adjusted for time shifting. Britain's Got Talent was viewed by 11.52 million in comparison. This was the first time since the series' revival in 2005 that Doctor Who did not have the largest audience share in its timeslot.
However, the episode did receive an Appreciation Index score of 89 (considered "Excellent")[, the joint highest figure the new series has received alongside "The Parting of the Ways", "Doomsday" and the following episode "Forest of the Dead". BBC Three's repeat of the episode was watched by 1.35 million viewers, almost double the figures for the equivalent repeat of the previous episode, "The Unicorn and the Wasp".
"Forest of the Dead" is the ninth episode of the fourth series of British science fiction television series Doctor Who. It was first broadcast by BBC One on 7 June 2008. It is the second of a two-part story, following "Silence in the Library".
Immediately following the events of the previous episode, "Silence in the Library", the Doctor and the exploration team manage to escape the Vashta Nerada and take refuge in a well-lit room. As they work out a plan, the Doctor is concerned about how he can trust River Song, so she whispers a single word in his ear which convinces him: his real name. Donna Noble finds herself at a care home named "CAL", apparently two years later, with Dr Moon treating her. He introduces her to another man, Lee, and is later seen visiting the married Donna and her family. However, Donna keeps noticing that something is wrong; she seems to skip from one place to another at a whim, only to be reminded of the journey by Dr Moon, who does this frequently by ending his sentences with "...and then you remembered/forgot"). Meanwhile, the little girl watches both the Doctor and Donna by switching channels on her television.
In the library, the Doctor discovers that the moon is sending out electromagnetic signals that are interfering with his sonic screwdriver. Strackman Lux explains that the moon is a virus scanner for the planet-side computer core. The Doctor briefly interrupts this signal, and suddenly appears in Dr Moon's place next to Donna; Dr Moon is quite literally the "doctor moon". The Doctor then understands that the message "4022 saved" did not mean they were rescued, but that their teleport patterns were saved to the library's hard drive. They are found once more by the Vashta Nerada suit and forced to flee, but the Doctor stays behind to reason with it. Through the communicator on the suit, the Vashta Nerada explain that the library is their "forest"; the paper of the countless books in the library was made from trees filled with Vashta Nerada spores, from which they hatched after being shipped to the library. They manage to kill Other Dave and resume the chase. River still laments the non-appearance of the Doctor she knew, recalling him making whole armies run away and opening the TARDIS with a snap of his fingers. Anita notices she has two shadows, and the Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver to tint her visor to attempt to trick the Vashta Nerada into thinking they are already in there.
In the computer core, the truth of the situation is revealed to Donna by none other than Miss Evangelista. She reveals that her Data Ghost was captured by the library's wireless internet, but was corrupted and caused her face to become severely disfigured while increasing her intelligence, leaving her "brilliant but unloved" and able to see the false reality for what it really is. She points out that all the children are merely identical copies, and gets Donna to remember the library. However, the young girl, watching from her television, does not want Donna to know and uses her television remote control to injure one of Donna's children as a diversion. Donna leaves Miss Evangelista behind, but her acceptance of the simulated reality is nevertheless shaken, and her invented children disappear when confronted with the fact that they do not exist. The little girl, increasingly frustrated by events, "switches off" her father and throws the remote control to the floor, activating the computer's self-destruct mechanism. Dr Moon attempts to protect the girl as he is programmed to do, but he is also switched off.
To stop the self-destruct, the Doctor, River Song, and Lux make their way to the computer core. Here, Lux reveals the meaning of CAL: it is an acronym for the name Charlotte Abigail Lux, his grandfather's daughter, who was wired into the computer as a child because she was dying. In this manner, Charlotte could live forever with the sum total of human knowledge to pass the time. However, storing the patterns of 4022 unique people has filled her computer core, and is preventing normal operations. The only way to set things right is to reintegrate them in the library. As CAL cannot do this alone, the Doctor prepares to wire his own mind into the system as extra memory, though it will surely kill him. As he works, he uses his screwdriver to un-tint Anita's visor to reveal a skeleton inside - she had been dead for some time now. He insists that in exchange for getting to keep their forest, he will get to save the people in the computer core. They initially refuse, but when the Doctor tells them to search for his name in the library's archives, they immediately reconsider and give him a day to clear the planet. River, unwilling to let the Doctor die, which would rewrite history and erase their time together, knocks him out and takes his place, rescuing those trapped in the computer at the cost of her life instead of his.
As the rescued humans are teleported home, Donna meets up with the Doctor. Having been unable to find her husband from the virtual world, the pair walks to the TARDIS, unaware that he is in the next group being teleported out. As the Doctor mournfully leaves River's diary and her sonic screwdriver in the library, he realises the reason why his future self gave her the sonic screwdriver in the first place: it holds a communication device with a Data Ghost. He uses it to bring River back to life inside the computer. After returning to the TARDIS, he decides to test what River Song said about his future: he opens and closes the TARDIS doors by snapping his fingers, then continues his adventures. Meanwhile, River Song appears in the virtual world, where she is greeted by Charlotte and Dr Moon. Anita, the two Daves and Miss Evangelista (her face restored) also appear, their Data Ghosts having been saved by Charlotte and brought into the computer for eternity. Josh and Ella, the homogeneous children from CAL's world, are seen to live with Charlotte and River.
Multiple items from previous episodes are reused here. The wedding dress Catherine Tate wears in this episode is the same dress she wore in "The Runaway Bride". According to Steven Moffat, the squareness gun used by Professor River Song to help the party escape from the impending Vashta Nerada at the beginning of the episode is intended to be the same sonic blaster that was used by Jack Harkness in the episode "The Doctor Dances". Moffat suggests that it was left in the TARDIS after "The Parting of the Ways", and taken by River Song in the Doctor's future. The name "squareness gun" was coined by Rose Tyler in the earlier episode. The Bad Wolf motif (seen throughout series one and in other places) is alluded to once more: a picture of blonde girl and a wolf is visible in Charlotte's house.
There are some similarities between River Song and Bernice Summerfield, a character created by Paul Cornell as a companion of the Seventh and late Eighth Doctors in Virgin New Adventures series of novels in the 1990s. Both characters are archaeologists from the future who came to be the Doctor's most trusted companion.
Professor River Song uses the Doctor's name (not heard by the viewer) in order to gain his trust. The secret behind the Doctor's true name was also explored in "The Girl in the Fireplace" (also by Steven Moffat), "The Shakespeare Code" and "The Fires of Pompeii", and later referred to in "Midnight".
"Forest of the Dead" was initially announced under the title "River's Run", before its name was changed relatively late in production.[
Several scenes from this episode and "Silence in the Library" were filmed at Swansea's Brangwyn Hall. These include the library reception area where the TARDIS arrives, and the staircase where the Doctor and Donna look out over the empty library. The climactic scenes of the episode (in the library core) were filmed in an electrical substation of a disused Alcoa factory in Waunarlwydd, Swansea.
Josh and Ella, Donna's two children in the computer-generated world, were named after Steven Moffat's son and his son's friend.
ReceptionBased on overnight returns, it is estimated that Forest of the Dead was watched by 7.1 million viewers, giving it a 40.0% audience share; the highest in Series Four and the highest in its timeslot. The episode received an Appreciation Index score of 89 (considered "Excellent"), the joint highest score the programme has achieved alongside "The Parting of the Ways", "Doomsday" and the preceding episode "Silence in the Library".