In the ninth episode of the fourth series of Doctor Who, as the Doctor and River try to do their best to escape the Vashta Nerada, we learn what has happened to Donna and why this is all taking place in some girl’s brain. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Doctor Who.
I’m still in awe of “Silence in the Library” and now I have to somehow come up with coherent statements about “Forest of the Dead”? THIS IS NOT FAIR.
I’ll start off with this: My thoughts were so consumed by the terror of the Vashta Nerada that I was completely surprised by how well Moffat shifts the focus away from those shadows of death and deals with the existence of the Library itself. Much like the first half of this story, there are so many tropes or themes that could have easily veered into junk, hubris, or poor absurdity. By giving us meaningful characters and a story just complicated enough not to insult our competence as an audience, Moffat succeeds not only in turning these tropes on their heads, but crafting a second episode that is just as satisfying as the first.
I was more interested in Donna’s situation, so I’ll skip over the Doctor running around in the Library to focus on it. I was reminded of “The Family of Blood” during Donna’s scenes, only this is the inversion of that idea, with the Doctor’s companion experiencing a life she’ll never actually live out. There’s something sad in the idea that Donna doesn’t actually fall in love and have children. I think it’s another reason why this computer plotline resonates so strongly with me. The concept of people being saved on a giant hard drive is admittedly very silly, and yet, Moffat makes it work. Hell, the entire plot hinges on a moment of extreme sadness, as CAL’s grandfather built a digital world for her to exist in after she “died.” It’s a word filled with millions of other universes and worlds, and I found something so goddamn beautiful about being able to visit the world through books.
Dr. Moon was the virus checker, and I suppose that’s really obvious in hindsight. That’s why he told CAL in the last episode that her world wasn’t real, and that people needed to be saved. The Library always existed in the real world, and the effects of the Vashta Nerada were threatening to end it all. We additionally learn why 4022 were “saved.” It’s a literal phrase used because, in a moment of panic, the CAL system “saved” the 4022 people who were in the library at the moment the Vashta Nerada began to attack the patrons. Even more ironically, the books are actually the real source of the deadly shadows. (The Doctor was right the first time!!! OOAHD A;DFHJS AS;DLF EGGS IN THE BOOKS!!!!)
But above all of this, the real shocker comes from River Song. By the end of “Forest of the Dead,” I didn’t feel as if I was much closer at all at understanding who she was to the Doctor, but I’m ok with that. I have a feeling that we’ll be seeing her a lot in the future; I mean, the only reason I knew she even on this show was because of images/GIFs from Tumblr, and I know there’s stuff I haven’t seen yet. Still, Moffat and the rest of the people who created this character have given her the most fascinating character story yet: We are introduced to River Song AT THE END OF HER LIFE. I didn’t really think about that until long after the episode ended. As I was writing this review, I wondered about what I wanted to say about her. Throughout “Forest of the Dead,” I found the way River and the Doctor interacted as kind of ironic. I mean that after-the-fact, though. They bickered and fought like a married couple who’d known each other their whole lives. However, at this point in the Doctor’s timeline, he’s just met her. He has no history with her at all.
It creates an interesting paradox of sorts. It seems inevitable at this point that the Doctor is going to run into her again, but in his timeline, she’s already died. Will he resist the temptation to tell her this? Does that mean his interactions with her will have to be carefully regarded? It’s almost a guarantee that all their scenes in the future (wherever they might be) will be guarded in sadness.
Oh, River Song.
One last thing before I get to my LIST OF LISTS. River gets “saved” at the end by the Doctor and, while I’m glad she’s with friends in the harddrive of CAL, I still felt her end was….weird? Isn’t she an archaeologist? How does sticking her into a saturated, bright world of swingsets and imaginary houses give her a good end? Just a thought.
- You know, have we seen that gun thing before? The one River uses? It looked so familiar.
- Oh no, Anita and Other Dave. 🙁 🙁 🙁
- The story is so awesome because by the end of it, I completely forget about the Vashta Nerada. I was so engrossed in the CAL plot!
- OMG Donna missed Lee. 🙁
- “I am keeping it together. I’m only crying. I’m about to die, it’s not an overreaction.”
- “Now and then, every once in a very long while, every day in a million days, when the wind stands fair and the doctor comes to call…everybody lives.” Except LOL DIDN’T A LOT OF PEOPLE DIE?
- “I made up the perfect man. Gorgeous, adores me, and hardly able to speak a word. What does that say about me?” “Everything. Sorry, did I say everything? I meant to say nothing. I was aiming for nothing, accidentally said everything.”
- Oh god THIS TWO-PARTER WAS SO AWESOME. Hell, this whole series has been one fantastic ride. I am so close to the end. 🙁