- Title: Doctor Who – Silence in the Library / Forest of the Dead
- wiki: link
In honor of the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who we continue to look back at some old episodes of the series. The current series has done well in mixing in both old Doctor Who aliends and monsters while providing several interesting new ones. Of those created for the current series there are two that stand-out. Since I’ve already discussed the Weeping Angels, I’ll turn my attention here to my other favorite new Who alien: the Vashta Nerada.
Taking place during the second-half of the Fourth Series, the two-parter “Silence in the Library” and “Forrest of the Dead” takes The Doctor and his companion Donna Noble to the universe’s largest library encompassing an entire planet full of books but not a single living soul when The Doctor (David Tennant) and Donna (Catherine Tate) arrive 100 years following the planet’s quarantine after the entire populace disappeared and was never heard from again.
The Doctor and Donna aren’t the only visitors on this day as the series introduces the character of River Song (Alex Kingston) who, as she states in her final scene, The Doctor (and the audience) will get to know far better in the coming years. Time-traveling relationships are tricky, as River sent a message to meet a man she knows well only to run into a version of The Doctor who is only meeting her for the first time. The archaeological contingent organized by Professor Song includes the ancestor of The Library’s creator Stackman Lux (Steve Pemberton), his not-so-bright secretary Miss Evangelista (Talulah Riley), and the ship’s crew Proper Dave (Harry Peacock), Other Dave (O.T. Fagbenle), and Anita (Jessika Williams).
While investigating the empty world, The Doctor and his companions make several discoveries. First, The Library’s computer system takes the form of a young girl (Eve Newton) who sees the events in The Library as something from her dreams and nightmares. The second is an odd computer message of “4,022 saved, no survivors” about those missing for over 100 years. And, most troubling to the group, is the discovery that they are being hunted and picked-off one-by-one by a deadly foe that appears as nothing more as a second shadow as the swarming, carnivorous beings devour all flesh from the bone of their latest victim whose final words continue to echo due to “Data Ghosting” that causes their final words to be repeated over and over until a person’s consciousness in completely lost.
Not much scares The Doctor so his words of warning to the group about the dangers of the Vashta Nerada aren’t to be taken likely. The aliens work in a variety of ways as The Doctor points out not every shadow is a swarm of the invisible creatures but any shadow has the potential to be. The effect of the creatures latching on to a victim and giving them a second shadow is a nice piece of tension building as is the creatures slowly learning to operate the dead’s spacesuits to further pursue their victims.
Both episodes were penned by Stephen Moffat. And both episodes play with ideas and themes the writer would concentrate on once he became Doctor Who‘s showrunner following the end of the series of TV-movies that also marked Tennant’s departure from the show. River Song would go on to have quite a role in future episodes as does the idea of The Doctor’s anger and history being enough to scare off even the most powerful and terrifying of foes. The scene where an angered Doctor tells the aliens to look him up in The Library’s annuals certainly has the desired effect of giving him time to save Donna and the rest of the “saved,” and remind us the audience that despite his best efforts The Doctor isn’t always the good man he strives to be.