New Who in Conversation: Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead S04E09/E10

David is coming to New Who for the first time, having loved Classic Who as a kid. Tehani is a recent convert, and ploughed through Seasons 1 to 6 (so far) in just a few weeks after becoming addicted thanks to Matt Smith – she’s rewatching to keep up with David! Tansy is the expert in the team, with a history in Doctor Who fandom that goes WAY back, and a passion for Doctor Who that inspires us all.

We are working our way through New Who, using season openers and closers, and Hugo shortlisted episodes, and sometimes a couple of extra episodes we love as our blogging points. Just for fun!

We would like to thank everyone who nominated our “New Who in Conversation” series for the William Atheling Jr Award again this year – it’s a great honour to be on the ballot! Voting for the annual Ditmar Awards (which the Atheling is included in) is open to all members of  Craftinomicon (2012 Natcon – Melbourne) and Conflux 9 (2013 Natcon – Canberra), and can be done online.

Spoilers “Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead” – Season four, episodes nine and ten 

The Doctor – David Tennant

Donna Noble – Catherine Tate

River Song – Alex Kingston


We skip ahead again to the first Hugo nomination for the fourth season (there were only two Doctor Who episodes shortlisted that year – well, three, but this counts as a single nomination). This is interesting to me, as the fourth season – Donna’s season – is definitely one of my favourites. More competition in that year?

The two episodes between our last post and this one were “The Doctor’s Daughter” and “The Unicorn and the Wasp”. Although “The Doctor’s Daughter” is a bit off in pacing and emotional points for me, I do think it’s a fascinating episode, particularly in hindsight! I think Moffat has well and truly riffed off this episode in recent times, but I can’t say more than that until David catches up! I like that we get a bit more Martha/Donna/Doctor, and watching this again after our recent viewing of “Genesis of the Daleks” made me laugh because it felt like there are a lot of similarities there! Just me?


I think “The Doctor’s Daughter” is a bit of a mess but can’t really pinpoint why – there are so many bits that are individually good, but somehow it never quite reaches cohesion for me. But yes seeing Martha back in the crew is pretty awesome.


I quite enjoyed “The Doctor’s Daughter”, but I agree – it did have a bit of a “Genesis of the Daleks” feel! I could watch a whole season of Martha/Doctor/Donna, I really could.

Two companions in the TARDIS is the best thing! And it happens so rarely with two women. Martha and Donna together were just plain love. (We almost didn’t need the Doctor!)


“The Unicorn and the Wasp” is a lot of fun, another historical based on a literary figure (Agatha Christie) – written by the same person as “The Shakespeare Code”! I love that the fact Agatha disappeared for 10 days with no explanation is a REAL THING and could be used by the show like that. Not sure the humour of the episode always worked for me, but it was fun.


I really like that one – especially for the Doctor and Donna comedy team, but also I enjoy Agatha Christie stuff generally and Fenella Woolgar is spectacular in the role. Plus Felicity Kendall in Doctor Who for the first time. The plot resolution is silly but I still have a fondness.


I had to jump on Wikipedia to see whether the disappearance was for real! It’s one of those incredible historical facts that authors love – so many story ideas. I enjoyed this episode a great deal, it was a nice little play on all those British shows I watch with the family. From Miss Marple to Midsomer Murders, it riffed beautifully on the genre, while still managing to add a few little twists. And, David Tennant had way too much fun playing the detective! The byplay between the Doctor and Donna in this is absolutely wonderful, and we see Catherine Tate’s vast comedic talent given room to shine. Just love her when they go to the party!

I would take Donna time travelling with me any day of the week.


And now, “Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead”. Where to start?! RIVER SONG! BIG PLANET LIBRARY! HORRIBLE SCARY SHADOWS!

Everything I say about River Song will be a spoiler for David. I don’t know how to handle this at all.


I could close my eyes? But then an angel might get me…!

I’m quite liking these little intros at the start of episodes. it’s a wonderful setup with the little girl (and what a great performance throughout, I must say). One of the things I personally enjoy when it is done well is the contrast between a mundane, domestic setting and whatever the spec fic element of a story is, and I think here it is particularly effective. It’s a great hook, and the rest of the episode certainly doesn’t disappoint.

Moving on to the episode itself, the first thing I thought was how much I would give to go to a library like that! And, I loved the concept of people not being able to give up paper copies of books, though of course it is a very human-centric view of what books look like (insert gratuitous plug for Ken Liu’s wonderful “The Book Keeping Habits of Select Species” here). It’s a beautiful slow burn of mood setting, as we realise that something is not quite right.


That library! Right up there with the Beast’s library in the Disney version… I’m a librarian, let me drool!

The lack of people in it not only makes the episodes more affordable, but makes it better in my eyes. One of the more spectacular and clever sets that they have come up with as far as alien landscapes … so far.


One of the things I admire so much about Moffat is that he does emotions so well. There are some really moving moments in this episode where he gets the balance just right, though of course that is helped by some excellent performances by the actor. The scene with Miss Evangelista was particularly powerful. He does a great job of making us feel sorry for her to start with, and then the pathos of her death scene really hits hard. You can sense the shame of the other characters, and Donna’s reaction is a masterful piece of acting and writing.


I agree that in this era the Moffat stories are generally the ones that feel most human to me. He’s also very good at creating characters that you get very quickly, though they’re never completely standard archetypes. Miss Evangelista is a great creation – the character who is pretty and dumb and no one likes because of that, and then such a horrible fate – ugh. And her redemption in cyberspace.


Moffat is a master of taking the ordinary and everyday and mundane and turning it into something to scare the pants off us! Statues, shadows, stuff we can’t talk about yet because David isn’t caught up…


Yes, yes – I must catch up! lol

Another moment I found extremely effective was where Doctor Moon asks to speak to Charlotte alone, and tells her that her nightmares are real, and that the world is not. Just the change from his normal manner, and the complete unexpectedness, gave me chills. He was great the whole way through, though. I found it interesting how many times Moffat managed to toy with my expectations, I wasn’t sure whether Moon was bad or a good guy for a quite a while, and my initial dissatisfaction with what I thought was very a stereotypical character in the form of Strackman was turned on its head when we discover he is actually just trying to help his ancestor, a little girl. That’s the sort of thing that turns this from good writing into great writing.


Rewatching this I had to laugh at Doctor Moon, because he’s one of a few DW actors to show up in Arrow, which has just hit our screens here! They’re poaching all the people…


I am enjoying Arrow as a guilty pleasure – not only does it have Captain Jack and Doctor Moon but a certain Doctor Song is supposed to turn up before the season is out… Cast David Tennant as Green Lantern for Season 2 please! And Billie Piper would make a much better Black Canary than the one currently inhabiting the role…

Cough. There’s so much packed into this story that I often forget about some of the narrative threads and narratives, ie. any scene Alex Kingston isn’t in. But the Doctor Moon stuff is so creepy and effective, where we don’t know what’s real and what isn’t. And, more to the point, we don’t know whether “Cal” is a victim or something scarier.


The whole created world thing, especially for Donna, just made me so sad! Poor Donna lived a life in there, with a wonderful fellow, and then lost it all. I know it wasn’t REAL, but it was, to her!


Another reason for me to put Arrow on my “to watch” list! Ahem, after I have caught up on New Who, of course.

I felt so sorry for Donna, that was so sad. Tate is magnificent, too, she really makes the emotions so convincing. That moment where she promises never to close her eyes, and then the children are gone … sigh. And, the whole love story with her husband, and then losing him and the moment he is on the teleporter made get a little sniffly. I really hope that she finds him again.


It’s a tragic story, though to add a controversial note I might add – how much did that picture perfect romance/family actually feel like Donna? It’s certainly not anything like the future she is imagining for herself over the rest of the season when she tells the Doctor she plans to stay with him forever (NEVER SAY THIS, COMPANIONS).


Okay, fair call – though in light of what comes later… Hard to say!


But I want to ask David a question: what do you think about River Song? Had you been spoiled about her before you reached this point? I remember when this story first came out it started all kinds of discussions – many fans resented her smugness for knowing more about some things than the Doctor. And others (like me) were desperate to see her back and started counting down the episodes to come with alarm, trying to figure out if a return trip could be scheduled in before David Tennant left the role…


I’ve done a reasonably good job of avoiding spoilers so far, though there are some things you just can’t miss. For example, I know there are some people called the Ponds coming up and I knew that there would be angels that you should avoid blinking around, even if I didn’t know why! Your blog is a dangerous place, incidentally!


But now you know why we often say, “Spoilers, sweetie”!!


You’ve both been very good at not spoiling me!

So, I had heard the name River Song before, but I had managed to avert my eyes. I think I have made it pretty clear I am a little conservative about Doctor Who and relationships, but I have to say that I much preferred his dynamic with River Song than, for example, Rose. There was a much greater sense of them being on a reasonably equal footing in their relationship (even though the Doctor didn’t know who she was!) and the idea of her being from the Doctor’s future was quite compelling. They’ve touch on the idea of the Doctor’s future impacting his past a little before (“Battlefield” being an example that springs to mind), but not to this degree, but it does make sense. I’m looking forward to seeing more of River Song, she seems like a great character. She’s intelligent, capable and completely unawed by the Doctor, which I find much more enjoyable to watch.


OOH! Maybe we’ll get a River/Ten interaction in the anniversary episode!


Could happen.

We’ve already reviewed:

“Rose”, S01E01

“Dalek”, S01E06

“Father’s Day”, S01E08

“The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances”, S01E09/10

“Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways”, S01E12/13

Season One Report Card – DavidTansyTehani

“The Christmas Invasion”, 2005 Christmas Special

“New Earth”, S02E01

“School Reunion”, S02E03

“The Girl in the Fireplace”, S02E04

“Rise of the Cybermen/Age of Steel”, S02E05/06

“Army of Ghosts/Doomsday”, S02E12/13

Season Two Report Card – DavidTansyTehani

“The Runaway Bride”, 2006 Christmas Special

“Smith and Jones”, S03E01

“The Shakespeare Code/Gridlock”, S03E02/E03

“Human Nature/The Family of Blood”, S03E08/E09

“Blink”, SO3E10 (with special guest reviewer Joanne Anderton)

Utopia/The Sound of Drums/Last of the Timelords” S03E12/13/14

Classic Who Conversation podcast – Spearhead from Space (1970)

Season Three Report Card – DavidTansyTehani

Classic Who Conversation podcast – Genesis of the Daleks (1975)

“Partners in Crime”, S04E01 (with special guest reviewer Lynne M Thomas)

“The Sontaran Strategem/The Poison Sky”, S04E05/06



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14 responses to “New Who in Conversation: Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead S04E09/E10

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