I spent the start of 2016 rewatching old episodes of Doctor Who. I started with The Crimson Horror still the glorious fun caper I said it was in my Culture Jam review from when it first aired. The other two episodes I watched was the River Song‘s ‘introductory’ two parter, Silence in the Library and Forest of the Dead. As River would say “spoilers” so don’t click below the break if you don’t want to know anymore.
The 10th Doctor (David Tennant) and Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) land in the biggest library in the galaxy after the Doctor receives a message on his psychic paper from an unknown person. This person turns out to be Alex Kingston‘s amazing River Song, arguably the most important NuWho companion. From killer shadows to inception-esque worlds power the plot forward to a heart breaking ending.
Does It Stand Up?
Arguably it gets better with age. When the episodes first aired we didn’t know anything about River Song. Now we’ve seen her in thirteen additional episodes the central storyline becomes even more she heart breaking – on a side note this puts River only two episodes behind these episodes ‘official’ companion Donna.
Like the recent The Husbands of River Song (which is great fun by the way) most of the episode is The Doctor and River. Donna is put into the library around the 20 minute mark. For me this is a huge advantage as I can’t stand Donna not helped by Tate‘s far from great acting ability. This is shown earlier on when Tate stomps straight through a gentle emotional moment Kingston is under playing with the subtle of a foghorn.
However Donna storyline inside the library gives the character some much needed development with a storyline about her marrying and having kids with a guy before discovering none of it is real. Tate is very believable, helped by the fact her acting is turned down from eleven. You actually feel sorry for Donna as she loses her family before missing out on discovering the man she married in the library was real.
What makes Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead really interesting is when it was broadcast – only a week after the official announcement that Steven Moffat would be taking over show running duties from Russell T. Davies. Therefore Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead becomes a kind of trailer for Moffat‘s era looking back on it eight years later all the signs are clear to see.
Whether it is River talking about climbing out of the Byzantium or visiting the singing towers of Darillium. There were also more subtle references such as armies running away from him or the two of them visiting the end of Time. Finally, the speech below from the 10th Doctor feels quite similar to one his successor made at Stonehenge the following season!
As this post is already too long I’m going to leave the discussion of the ending of Forest of the Dead until another day. Let me know what you thought of Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead in the comments below!