Doctor Who: Silence in the Library
(S04E08) Thank you very much, Steven Moffat. You can't satisfy yourself with making me terrified of statues, now you have to make me afraid of the dark as well. Besides scaring the pants off me, this episode is the highlight of this season so far (having seen the second episode already, I can assure you that one is just as good). Since all the remaining episodes after this two-parter are written by Russell T. Davies, I may be able to stand by that statement before watching the rest of the season. As I've mentioned before, Mr. Davies is an excellent writer (and recent O.B.E. recipient) and I will always be greatful for his actions in returning Doctor Who to television, but the man just can't write science fiction.
Gallery: Doctor Who: Silence in the Library
The 2010 incumbent Doctor Who showrunner continues his streak of incredible episodes. His writing seems to get better with each successive season. He masters characterization, plot and twists in better ways than M. Night Shyamalan and his "happening" could ever hope to. Having Moffat in charge of Doctor Who reminds me of the 1974 to 1977 Tom Baker seasons in which their best writer Robert Holmes was also the script editor. Those seasons produced the most memorable episodes of the show (including The Talons of Weng-Chiang which is among the favorites of current showrunner Russell T. Davies). Needless to say, my hopes are sky-high.
This episode finds the Doctor and Donna landing on a planet-sized information repository in the 51st century called "The Library." I cannot help but notice that other than 20th century Earth, the 51st century seems to be the Doctor's most common point of disembarkation in the past four seasons. However, all human life on the planet seems to have disappeared. According to the planet's computers, the lives have been "saved."
It turns out our intrepid travelers were summoned to the planet by a message appearing on the Doctor's psychic paper. As they search the planet for answers, they encounter a team of archaeologists led by Professor River Song. Professor Song apparently has met the Doctor in his future and their relationship was, shall we say, more than friends (their exact relationship was left as a mystery to the viewer and to the Doctor as well). Song is careful not to reveal any future information to the Doctor or Donna, giving the simple warning of "spoilers" (a topic which we at TV Squad are intimately familiar with). It is this relationship that is the center of the story.
What does Professor Song know about the Doctor? Is she a future companion, a future lover, or what? When Donna inquires about her future, why does Professor Song remain silent? Is it a concern about "spoilers" or something more sinister? I do wonder if River Song was intended as a surrogate to archaeologist Professor Bernice Summerfield, a companion created by writer Paul Cornell in the novelizations of Doctor Who.
It turns out that the human population of the planet were consumed by a race called the Vashta Nerada. They are microscopic, feed on human flesh and hide themselves as shadows. Moffat even adds a particularly ominous plot point: the spacesuits that the archeologists are wearing possess communications devices that link their thoughts, a side-effect of which is a "data ghost" that exists in the suit after they've been killed. It's eerie to hear a disembodied voice of a skull wondering who turned the lights out.
To add even more depth to the plot, there seems to be a young girl in therapy with a Doctor Moon who can see everything going on in the Library. Doctor Moon is trying to convince the girl that the Library is a fantasy. It's a marvelous plot device because in effect the little girl becomes the audience. She is reacting to the Doctor's adventures in the same ways Moffat believes the audience would react. The philosophies of truth and reality come into question. It's the mark of a good writer to be able to work on many levels like this.
In the end of the episode, Donna gets "saved" as well when the Doctor tries to get her to the safety of the TARDIS. This is made evident by the appearance of her face on an abstract sculpture in the Library.
So among the River Song questions, there is now also the question of the identity of the girl and her relationship to the Library. All this to be answered next week.
Other interesting bits/observations...
- The atmospheric design of the Library was superb. The CGI seemed especially well done.
- Several books in the library were by past Doctor Who writers or were books featured in previous episodes. Among those were 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).
- I liked how the book jacket of the Doctor's life was reminiscent of the design of the TARDIS.
- The "emergency program" used by the Doctor to try and get Donna to safety was the same one used in the Season 1 finale on Rose Tyler. That didn't work out so well either when Rose momentarily became a god as a result and eventually cost the Ninth Doctor his life.
|A future companion.||123 (35.2%)|
|The Doctor's wife.||160 (45.8%)|
|The Doctor's other daughter.||48 (13.8%)|
|The Doctor's call girl.||18 (5.2%)|