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September 5, 2015

Doctor Who: Forest of the Dead

by Brad Trechak, posted Jun 27th 2008 10:00PM
Doctor Who(S04E09) In our last episode, the Doctor and Donna were trapped on a planetary repository of books called The Library along with a archaeological team and a microscopic, carnivorous species that hides in the shadows called the Vashta Narada. And somehow, all this is linked to a little girl who seems to be watching the events within the Library the same as the viewer.

And now, part two.

Steven Moffat delivers in his Herculean task of writing a second part of a fantastic episode that is every bit as good as the first part. We learn that the little girl is actually the planetary database called CAL (patterned after a little girl named Charlotte Abigail Lux), who managed to save the 4,022 survivors of the Vashta Nerada invasion as data in an enormous hard drive. The same fate had befallen Donna at the end of the last episode.

There were a few very interesting aspects of this episode that really struck me. The first was River Song's relationship-to-be with the Doctor. Since they "initially" meet in her past, the actress will have to appear younger to pull it off properly. Or perhaps the whole "time is always in flux" concept in Doctor Who will reign supreme and timelines will change to prevent the whole thing from happening. Or, they'll just forget about it (just like it's been forgotten that some day the Doctor will have to become Merlin).

Second, we got to see Donna live her dream. It seems that for all her wishes for travel and excitement, her true heart's desire is to settle down with a nice man and have a family (wearing the exact same wedding dress from her first appearance, apparently). It's a lifestyle choice that seems to be downplayed in the Who-niverse as a valid alternative. I hope she achieves it at the end of her character arc.

Third, why do the Vashta Narada have to eat? They survived a hundred years without anything to feast on, yet they consume like zombies on the rampage once fresh flesh shows up. My guess is that they don't consume for nutrition but rather to learn. Essentially, rather than reading or writing or listening or watching to learn, they consume and absorb the knowledge. It would certainly fit into the library theme of the episode. It would have also made it extra-important that they did not eat the Doctor.

Wasn't that a great bluff at the end? The Vashta Narada had the Doctor dead to rights, and his reputation saved him. Apparently, from eating all those people, the Vashta Narada learned to browse the Internet without even requiring a computer.

I loved how Charlotte reacted with her head in a pillow when the deformed face of Miss Evangelista was shown. It's exactly the sort of reaction that Doctor Who monsters always got out of children. In effect, we're watching a child watch an episode of the show. That's utter brilliance.

The theme of the Doctor's true name is once again revisited. I hope the current and future producers of the show don't do anything as stupid as reveal the Doctor's real name. That would be the final nail in the coffin regarding the character's mystique.

Exactly how is it saving a life (or group of lives) when you turn them into electronic impulses in a virtual reality machine? Beats the alternative, I suppose.

In CAL's home there was a picture of a blond girl with a wolf next to it. A little more foreshadowing.

River Song could still return, and not just as a prequel. She just needs a new body.

Here's what we have. A frightening enemy. A sinister mystery. A possible flame for the Doctor. An excellent episode.

After seeing this episode, are you looking forward to Steven Moffat's running the show?
Yes.296 (91.9%)
No.5 (1.6%)
Indifferent.21 (6.5%)

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Gordon Werner

I really liked this two-parter ... but "Blink" has to be the only episode that really freaked me out (of any Dr. Who episodes I have ever seen)

Love that one.

July 12 2008 at 8:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

"Exactly how is it saving a life (or group of lives) when you turn them into electronic impulses in a virtual reality machine?"

Because they were saved like you save a file. That was the Doctor's point when he realized what had been done to them--that the message wasn't that they were "safe" but that they were "saved." The computer treated them like data, in order to get them out of harm's way.

I'm also surprised by the River hate. I liked her a lot.

July 02 2008 at 10:33 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have to say I'm quite taken back by the River Song 'hate.' I thought she was a brilliant character and Kingston played her with great emotion.

I too have read some of the unusual speculation as to her identity -- she's Rose, she's Captain Jack in another body, she's his Human Mom, she's the Seventh Doctor's companion Ace. None of that really makes sense simply because she said very clearly "yes, I know him. There's only one problem. He hasn't met me yet." I think folks are overthinking her identity and like Occam's Razor (sp?) the simplest theory is the right one -- she is a future companion of the Doctor's -- and most likely a love interest. The difference here of course is that we got her 'final chapter' first rather than her origin. But as she said, such is life of traveling with a Time Lord.

I have a very strong suspicion we will NEVER see River Song again in this series. Based on the little snippets we got in the two episode-arc, there's so much 'history' between the two -- and so many layers to it -- it will be impossible to truly do it justice. Most likely River's adventures with the Doctor will be the ones that happen 'off screen' -- those stories we assume happen between the episodes we watch. Perhaps someone will do novels or audio books. But I almost hope that they leave her shrouded in mystery.

That being said, of course I'd watch, listen or read ANYTHING that comes out with more of River's story.

June 30 2008 at 1:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The Doctor and River Song were married. If you didn't figure that out, you are not smart enough to watch television.

June 29 2008 at 1:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

On The Doctor being Merlin at some point:

That has to have already happened, since it had to have been the Sylvester McCoy Doctor who did it. Otherwise why would anyone recognize him as Merlin when they saw him in the Battlefield episode.

June 29 2008 at 12:06 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Moffat + The Docter = Awesome

June 28 2008 at 9:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I thought this was rather weak writing from Moffat. I love Alex Kingston, so this is not a jab at her, but I did not feel invested in River Song at all. I also felt like the Doctor was a little slow in figuring out things before the audience. That's not supposed to happen.

So, yes, this was a letdown compared to the first part.

June 28 2008 at 4:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Pretty much they are setting up the way Donna departs from the show.

Great thought provoking episode. Strangely there is to be a new SciFi series this fall (think it's on Fax) re a spaceship crew in a Virtual Reality situation while the ship is on an extended voyage. And of course something syrange happens. Such a similar theme.... If this is the quality of writing to be expected in the future this is good news and moves DW to a new level of entertainment. I was getting fed up of too many aliens in schools type scripts.

River? If the Doctor is rather older when he meets her how long wll it be b4 she shows up again? That makes it diffuclt to pay this theme out IMHO. ALso they gave too much away so this storyline will be oh so predictable.

June 28 2008 at 2:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Ian's comment

Or we may never see this storyline play out...

June 28 2008 at 5:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I rather like River Song. Alex Kingston is always great. And what did you expect from a woman in the Doctor's future to be like? A shrinking violet? Hardly.

June 28 2008 at 1:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mj green

Why on Earth would anyone prefer a 'normal married life' to being with the Doctor? Not me. It was kind of sad to see the guy stutter her name and be transported. River, on the other hand, is a royal pain. I don't like her at all. I doubt he could be in love with her, because she is, again, a royal pain, and much too full of herself, rather like Martha Jones, another royal pain. I really believe Rose is the one he loves, with Sarah Jane high on the list, too. By the way, I just saw the trailer for the season finale, and all I can say is....(mouth dropping open), gasp!!!

June 28 2008 at 7:17 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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