Mark Watches ‘Doctor Who’: S04E09 – Forest of the Dead

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. 🙁

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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312 Responses to Mark Watches ‘Doctor Who’: S04E09 – Forest of the Dead

  1. Spugsy says:

    Oh god River Song! So tragic! Bravo Mr Moffat, bravo!

  2. PeterRabid says:

    What I like about Moffat’s episodes are the tiny little things that you notice the second time around. Without a doubt, a shining example is the children on the playground. They’re the same kids. If you look out for it, it’s obvious. I’m not always a terribly observant person, so most of those things just fly over my head on the first watch.

    Moffat, are you trying to make me scared of books? Nice try, but no goal. That’s not happening anytime soon. ^_^

    “Is alright special Time Lord code for really not alright at all.”

    Donna, I love you. To anyone who says Moffat can’t write emotional scenes: I cried so hard about everything with Donna’s children and husband. Catherine Tate is brilliant as always.

    Yes, we have seen River Song's gun before. Jack had it in The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances. 🙂

    • TimeCat says:

      Whaaaaat. Totally never noticed that. Since I had no time to actually rewatch the episode for this and don't remember what it looked like – was it the sonic blaster from the weapon factories of Villengard?

    • whatsername says:

      OMG how did I not notice the gun??? That's awesome.

  3. Albion19 says:

    <img src="; border="0" alt="Image and video hosting by TinyPic">

  4. Openattheclose says:

    As good as he is at nightmare fuel, the intricacies of time travel are what Steven Moffat truly excels at IMO. I freaking LOVE the idea of the Doctor meeting people non-linearly and it should happen ALL the time.

    I really like SitL/FotD, BUT there has always been something that keeps me from loving this two-parter, and I think on my most recent rewatch I have finally figured out what it is. It’s not that divisive walking spoiler-warning River Song, and it’s not the somewhat controversial-in-fandom ending for her. It’s definitely not my BAMF Donna (ILU 4eva Donna Noble). It’s the Doctor! Really, 900 years in Time and Space, and in SitL the Doctor acts like no stranger has ever come up to him before and known who he was! Let me remind you of your own words, Doctor: “Things sometimes don’t happen to me in the right order. Especially weddings. I’m rubbish at weddings. Especially my own.” If he knows this, and it has happened to him before (twice in recent memory in fact: Martha in Smith and Jones, and Sally Sparrow in Blink), then why does he act so freaking clueless when he meets River Song and she knows him? I understand being uncomfortable with her familiarity, but he acts like he doesn’t even understand the concept of “spoilers.” HE SHOULD. He has probably written the book about them, and not just the future him. I hate to say it, but I think the writing was limiting the Doctor’s intellect here for the sake of keeping River mysterious. IMO, that should never happen. River is awesome all on her own, and there’s no need to make the Doctor LESS just to make her MORE.

    But my frustration with the Doctor stops when we find out that River KNOWS HIS NAME! Why? What? How? I need to know. I don’t care what his name is and I know we will never know it. I just want to know why it’s hidden and why “there’s only one time I could.” WHY!? I don’t mind if it’s revealed that there’s something romantic between the Doctor and River, but please don’t let it be something like the Doctor can only say his name at his wedding. I want it to be something bigger than that. There has to be a reason it’s such a secret.

    Donna at the end knows the Doctor so well, and this is why they are best friends and my favorite pair ever. “I’m alright too.” And the Doctor and Donna are now in the spoiler-warning club too, Mark!

    I don’t care if it is Moffat blatantly calling back to “The Doctor Dances,” I love River’s ending monologue. “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.”

    I have a feeling that if we ever know River Song’s full story, we will look back on this episode and sob. “Not those times, not one line. Don’t you dare.”

    “One last run.”

    • echinodermata says:

      Agreed on the Doctor; that's the one thing I would change about SitL – why does he take so long to figure out River knows him in the future? However, I don't necessarily think it's that Moffat is trying to make River more mysterious but rather that he's forgetting his audience is clever and listening.

      • Openattheclose says:

        Yeah, it just seems off coming from Moffat especially. He’s the one that wrote GitF and Blink and he didnt write them as if the audience couldn’t understand the time travel aspect.

        • echinodermata says:

          It really doesn't even feel like Moffat to me. It's just…weird.

          • nyssaoftraken74 says:

            But it's not just that she knows him him in his future, he gets that easily enough. It's *how* she knows him, how *intimately* she knows him. She comes on so strong and it worries him. In fact, it scares him. She has a book that contains his future. His future has been written. The things he's going to do are there in her diary, that's HUGE! For a free spirit like the Doctor that's like a physical blow.

            His reaction to her is absolutely what I would expect.

            • echinodermata says:

              Hm, interesting. It still feels to me in SitL that Ten's slow on the uptake, though. But it's only SitL for me and mostly that conversation where River's trying to figure out the timeline that I'm talking about.

            • Openattheclose says:

              Yes, but I am talking about right at the start of SitL, before it becomes clear that she knows him rather well. He is so confused and it seemed obvious to me that she had net him in gis future Yeah, she calls him sweetie, but that’s not enough to throw him off that much IMO. Once she hints that she knows him more than the Doctor is used to or comfortable being known, it is understandable that he is awckward.

              • nyssaoftraken74 says:

                Oh well, i guess we just have a very different reading of those early scenes, because to my mind he doesn't really care about who she is – beyond being another unwelcome visitor The Library – until she calls him `pretty boy` and starts doing diaries. And that's when her attitude starts to makes him uncomfortable, as I would be in his place.

                • Openattheclose says:

                  Well I think we are saying the same thing then? I am not talking about his being uncomfortable later. I am talking about his early scenes and his cluelessness about her knowledge of him.

                  • nyssaoftraken74 says:

                    Not quite. You're saying he didn't realise she was from his future. I'm saying he *did* realise but had no reason to react to that until later.

              • electric ashera says:

                I would imagine being addressed as "sweetie" would be enough to freak the Doctor out. Not because it's presumptuous, but because it's probably as difficult for him to imagine having the kind of relationship where that would be appropriate as it is for a large segment of the audience.

    • Hypatia_ says:

      I kind of assumed that the Doctor was confused because she didn't just know who he was, she obviously knew him really, really well. I figured her familiarity threw him off, because even if he was used to meeting people "out of order", most people don't know him well enough to walk up and greet him with "Hello, sweetie!"

      • swimmingtrunks says:

        Or to seal their distress calls with kisses. 😉

      • electric ashera says:

        That's my take too. How often is the Doctor anyone's "sweetie"? (Which is, I think, a different question from who has the Doctor loved/been loved by.)

      • Openattheclose says:

        I don't know, I think the Doctor (Ten especially) is used to being flirted with. It just feels off to me.

    • plummy says:

      Ok, maybe I just missed something at the end of the episode, but I had assumed that since River was 'saved,' she could come out into the real world, just like when Donna was saved. I assumed that it just wasn't yet time for her to leave the 'saved' world (the writers were holding on to that for a later episode). Is there a reason why we think she is 'dead' and stuck there? Even though she is shown with Ms. Evangalista at the end, the other people in the world were able to leave. Am I completely off?

  5. Lucy says:

    This episode was the first time I ever cried watching Doctor Who, and as I watched SitL and FotD back to back I hadn't even known the woman for 90 minutes!! I know she got 'saved', but bloody hell that was sad. :'-( Knowing you're about to die for someone who doesn't know who you are is MASSIVELY DEPRESSING.

    And I got all wibbley for Donna, too – Catherine Tate acted the ever-living hell out of this episode. Switching between UTTER TRAGEDY and comedy can't be easy ("This isn't my real body? BUT I'VE BEEN DIETING." Yes, this would piss me right off. :-P) Using the TV cut timeline as a narrative point was a brilliant detail, and the way Doctor Moon fed memories to fill the gaps was really clever. Steven Moffat makes me 😀


    But one thing: "And who IS the Doctor?" made me think of Harry Potter – "Honestly – don't you two READ?" *tut*

    • __Jen__ says:

      I'm rewatching right now and I am tearing up. I very rarely actually tear up at TV, but man, both River's and Donna's stories are so endlessly sad. ;_;

    • MowerOfLorn says:

      "Am I the only one who's read 'The Doctor; A History?"
      "Probably, yeah." XD

      Maybe the Doctor only tells her his name to keep the time-loop stable?

      • Lucy says:

        Yeah, that would make sense – although the "There's only one reason I could" line implies something further, less under his control. I hadn't realised that Moffat knew he would be taking over at this point, so now I feel I should rewatch with more attention! Hmmmmm, ice cream, eh…? 🙂

  6. kaybee42 says:

    “I’ve been DIETING!”
    “I think a decimal point may have shifted in my iq”
    The girl, in a moment of anger, wished her dad to go away, to shut up. And because it’s her world, he does. Then of course she immediately regrets it. That was the best/ worst moment.
    “Mummy promises to never close her eyes again” then she goes to kiss them and they are gone. Argh! SOB!
    Donna: Spoilers, right?
    Doctor: *smiles* right
    “Next chapter’s this way!” I want that to be said more often! Like a nerdier version of ‘allons y’
    “Everybody knows that everybody dies. But not every day. But not *today*.” Nice line! I don’t like the Doctor doing that to River… surely he could have done something else for her once she was in there and saved?
    The girl who played Cal was brilliant. Very impressed.
    *click* *tardis opens* how freaking epic was that!
    “Everybody lives”? Wait, what about miss evangelista? She got messed up in the transfer so she couldn’t have gone back to the real world… surely the fake world doesn’t count!

    • nanceoir says:

      Well, everyone from the expedition but Mr. Lux died, physically, but their minds were saved to the Library's hard drive and are able to exist in that way forever. Miss Evangelista, whether it was through the Doctor's tinkering or maybe just the computer having more records of her in its system (hello, personal favorite theory), was fixed in the machine so she didn't have the wonky face.

      I know it's not a traditional "everybody lives," but if a person believes there's no more to existence than this life (ie, no afterlife, no souls, etc), then living in a computer with all the books in the universe is way more of an afterlife than most people get and is so akin to living that it doesn't make a difference.

    • Michelle says:

      I laughed so much at "I've been DIETING!"

    • Pea Pie says:

      “Mummy promises to never close her eyes again” then she goes to kiss them and they are gone. Argh! SOB!

      Don't look for "Donna hates flowery sheets" on youtube otherwise that scene will be ruined forever! 😉

  7. Karen says:

    This episode is kind of a let down, and I’m not even all the impressed with the first part. But like, the Vashta Narada are supposed to be so super scary, but then the Doctor is like “just give us a day to leave” and they shrug and are alike “ok.” THAT’S IT? That’s the thrilling conclusion to this supposedly terrifying creature. Way to follow through on the suspense.

    Now we can get to my issues with River. I might find her a bit grating with her Spoilers and Sweetie schtick, but that's not why I don't love her character. The reason I don't love her character has more to do with how it was constructed. So, I get that Moffat was trying to be all ~revolutionary by having the first time that the Doctor meets River also be the last time she sees him, but no. It just doesn’t work on an emotional level. Sure, it’s a neat thing to think about and works in an abstract poetic sense, but because the Doctor doesn’t really know River from a hole in the wall and because the audience barely knows her, her death is sad, sure. But it’s only about as sad as, say, Jabe’s death in “The End of the World” or Lynda’s death in “The Parting of the Ways”. There just isn’t any emotional resonance.

    <img src=""&gt;
    Speaking of River’s death, what about River indicates that her idea of an awesome afterlife would be being a mother to children and walking around in a floaty dress? OH THAT’S RIGHT. SHE’S A WOMAN. DUH. THAT’S ALL I NEEDED TO KNOW ABOUT HER TO KNOW THAT SHE’D WANT TO BE A MOTHER. OBVS. Seriously though. IDGI. A more fitting ending for her would have been a final shot of River being all Indiana Jones, running from boulders, dodging booby traps and discovering new things. That would have been awesome. Instead we got… this. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a mother. It’s awesome! Moms are great! But there was just nothing in River’s previous characterization that would indicate that this would be her ideal afterlife, so it just makes NO SENSE. UGH MOFFAT. I think I would have felt better about the ending if Moffat had bothered to develop the secondary characters and their relationship to River. Because in that case, I could have been like “yay! She is with friends!”, but as the script stands, they’re just some people she had a job with once. So yay? You get to spend your afterlife with some random ass coworkers? Have fun being a mum and hanging out with possible near strangers, River! At least you have a pretty dress.
    <img src=""&gt;

    One bit that really annoys me is when River tells the Doctor that he isn’t ~REALLLY~ the Doctor yet. STFU. YES HE IS. If she had said “not my Doctor”, I would have been down with that. It’s understandable, but saying that Ten isn’t really the Doctor is ridiculous. Ten is the Doctor. Four is the Doctor. One is the Doctor. Seven is the Doctor. SORRY IF I DIDN’T RUN THAT BY YOU FIRST, RIVER, TO SEE IF YOU ~APPROVED OF ALL PAST INCARNATIONS OF THE DOCTOR.

    • Karen says:

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      But the thing I hate most about this episode is the way that the Doctor/River relationship is framed and the way in which it takes away choice. Because now it just feels like the Doctor was following a script with her for fear of creating a paradox. I 100% believe that he cared for her (I mean he gets attached to people within the span of an episode so…), but could he let himself reeeeally love her knowing what he knew? Was he just going through the motions of telling her his name and giving her the screwdriver because he knew that he had to? It just cheapens everything so much. Is he just going to be following a script like he was doing in “Blink”? River deserves better. He is going to tell River his name because he has to because it was the fact that River knew his name that caused him to trust her in the library. Now it actually means nothing when River thought it was something special. And then in the future if the Doctor encourages River to have feelings for him, it’s going to be so that she can die for him in his past/her future. IT’S JUST SO GROSS AND MESSED UP. UGH. Also what sucks even more is that when River realizes that the sonic screwdriver should have been a clue, it seems like maybe in her final moments she realizes that their entire relationship wasn’t necessarily a lie… but it was manipulated and predestined to get her to this point. I might not be River’s number 1 fan, but she SO deserves better than this.

      (Speaking of the way that River’s story is constructed, I get that some people really like the ~mysterious thing that she has going on, but really it just frustrates and annoys me. It’s like Kate on Lost. By the time they finally revealed What Kate Did, I just could not be bothered to give a fuck because they’d strung it out for too long- even though it was only a season and a half. I feel the same way about River.)

      Oh and the Miss Evangelista stuff gets some major side eye from me. Can’t be pretty and smart at the same time! Only one or the other! UGH. Also, if you are ugly, you are unloved. THANKS FOR LETTING ME KNOW, MOFFAT. And you can only be brilliant if you are clever and ugly and therefore unloved. Nice. It just really bothers and upsets me that Moffat is setting this up to say that being pretty makes you worth of love and if you’re not pretty… too bad for you, you’d better at least hope that you’re smart.

      A small thing that bothers me is that the Doctor is written as being stupid. It took him way too long to figure out the connection between forests and books. YEESH. He should have gotten the connection right away. I did. But instead it takes him a solid thirty seconds to piece together why how a forest and a library could possibly be related. It’s a small thing, but it grates.

      Also the saved/safe thing is SO DUMB. It really makes no sense. If I were on a rescue mission, I would say that there were X people saved. I wouldn’t say there were X people safe. So… why is the saved/safe thing a revelation? Like if you were writing about a catastrophe like the Titanic, you would say “1245 people were saved”. Who would say “1245 people were safe”? IDGI. PLZ EXPLAIN.

      <img src=""&gt;
      But um, just to prove that I don’t hate everything, I like the Donna bits! The way that time works in the computer world is pretty neat, and Catherine Tate knocks the emotional scenes out of the park. And it is genuinely sad at the end when her computer world husband tries to call out to her, but can’t because of his stammer. Although I would have liked it better if Donna could have actually DONE something, instead of just being shunted to the side so that Moffat could focus on the Doctor/River dynamic. WHY NO DONNA/RIVER DYNAMIC, MOFFAT? THAT COULD HAVE BEEN AWESOME. Anyway, she doesn’t really DO anything other than come to the realization that her world is fake… but it doesn’t really matter anyway, so…. Idk.

      P.S. PLZ DON’T POST SPOILERS. If you’re tempted to post a gif from a future episode or refer to an episode that hasn’t been watched on the blog yet, pause and ask yourself “is this necessary?”. The answer will be “no”. There were just so many spoilers last night that I was being a bit more of a hard ass than I normally am about it because I was getting so annoyed, but GAH. STOOPPP.

      • redheadedgirl says:

        I see your point about how the relationship is framed. It's a little like how Twilight's Alice finds Jasper and is like "I have already seen that I will love you, and so I love you now" and how she's like "I forsaw that you and I will be BFFs, Bella, so lets skip the getting to know you crap because I already do know you because I have forseen it." Cleolinda touched on this in a Made of Fail podcast, and yeah. It's true.

        But the nature of time travel involves stable time loops and paradoxes, so… here we are. I do like how it's both the beginning and the end of their relationship- very Open at the Close or something. And I feel like here it's treated in a less treacle-y manner than in Twilight, so there's that. Like there's still a choice and all- she asks that he not rewrite one line, but can she really prevent it? I mean, really? If he wants to, he can. He does have that choice. And he can choose to let things happen as they already did.

        "You watch us run." I love that line.

      • thisyearsgirl says:

        "Speaking of River’s death, what about River indicates that her idea of an awesome afterlife would be being a mother to children and walking around in a floaty dress? OH THAT’S RIGHT. SHE’S A WOMAN. DUH. THAT’S ALL I NEEDED TO KNOW ABOUT HER TO KNOW THAT SHE’D WANT TO BE A MOTHER. OBVS."

        Ugh, THIS X 1000. Such a cringeworthy end to an otherwise enjoyable episode.

      • TimeCat says:

        So after a speed read of the last few weeks of reviews and comments, I totally was looking forward to your comments on the possible sexism of ideal-afterlife-virtual-world-place. And I think I agree, to an extent. I used to be a Moffat-can-do-no-wrong fan, but even when I thought this story was the height of awesome (and… okay, I still kind of do), River's ending really bothered me. Based on her characterisation in this story, I cannot possibly imagine that settling down to a quiet life with a family would be remotely enjoyable for her.

        The timey-wimey possibly romantic history doesn't seem so bad a concept in itself… but River seems a bit two-dimensional, when I think about it. I do believe she would be completely interchangeable with the adventurous female archaeologist Vash from Star Trek TNG, for example. She's very much an Indiana Jones-style archetype, and while there's nothing wrong with that in itself, it's not great characterisation for this mysterious person who seems to be so important in the Doctor's future.

        • mkjcaylor says:

          YES. She is so incredibly 2D, and very much like Vash! Which is why I was always sad that the Picard/Crusher thing didn't ever really GO because I liked Crusher a hellofa lot more than Vash.

          I agree with your whole second paragraph totally. There are many female characters in Doctor Who that I love to bits and River doesn't make the cut.

      • swimmingtrunks says:

        I didn't get the feeling the Doctor was "following a script." After all, he's the one to suggest to River that "time can be rewritten." If he was willing to create a paradox there, there's no reason to think he would be unwilling to do so later if River turns out to be someone he doesn't like or trust. It would be an interesting discussion, choice versus destiny in the instance of this relationship. I honestly think there's still a lot of choice in there. I don't see the Doctor telling River his name in order to fulfill his duty to the timeline of their relationship. She's going to have to earn that, even though in her timeline she already has. He's not going to cry when he visits her for the last time before she goes to the library because she said he would, if he does he's going to because he cares about her.

        I think the emotional connection to River comes not from looking at their relationship through the Doctor's eyes in this episode, but her own. She's known him for a long time and come to care about him deeply, trust him "to the end of the universe," and then all of a sudden the person she's met isn't there anymore. She does get a little petty about it in this episode, when she implies that only her Doctor is the Doctor, but with the frustration of dealing with him (Much like wanting to say things to Mark, around Mark, to have a connection with him over a certain bit of a story but HE DOESN'T KNOW IT YET ARG SPOILERS), and the stress of the situation in genera, I'm inclined to forgive her for that. This is her last adventure after presumably being a fairly long-time companion on and off with the Doctor, her last experience with anyone ever, and instead of sharing it with her best friend, with the man she cares about so much, she has to share it with a stranger that only resembles him. That, I think, is where the heartbreak comes in.

      • Minish says:

        Yeah, bits of this are the reason I'm not quite as impressed with this episode as other Moffat episodes (though… not to the same degree…).

        "Speaking of River’s death, what about River indicates that her idea of an awesome afterlife would be being a mother to children and walking around in a floaty dress? OH THAT’S RIGHT. SHE’S A WOMAN. DUH. THAT’S ALL I NEEDED TO KNOW ABOUT HER TO KNOW THAT SHE’D WANT TO BE A MOTHER. OBVS."

        It's the nature of the computer. If he could have uploaded her to Modern Warfare or Final Fantasy, he probably would've done, but I think he was just more interested in giving her AN afterlife. If this were a story purely about the Doctor meeting someone he knows only from the future, I would have taken more umbridge with that, but it was a story about the Doctor investigating a mystery with a companion with a B-Plot about a person he hasn't met yet which he welded together excellently. A plot all about how he hasn't met River yet would be a dreadfully boring plot and wouldn't do the character justice. Of course he would meet her in the middle of an adventure. And it's about a computer SOMEONE ELSE invented for a different character who would want a different afterlife and the Doctor would seize the opportunity.

        "Can’t be pretty and smart at the same time! Only one or the other!"

        Now…The fact that you're saying this after the fact that the vast majority of Moffat's female characters are simultaneously both beautiful and clever leads me to beleive you watch Moffat stories with the sole intent of picking them apart. This is ONE character. Furthermore, he's emphasizing the importance of knowledge over beauty. It's actually a character who ISN'T concerned AT ALL about having a man, not a character who's all miserable and things about being unloved because she had a crude upload that disfigured her looks.

      • vermillioncity says:

        Yeah, much as I enjoy this two-parter, THIS is usually the one I'm talking about when discussing Moffat's sexism. This is a really great article on a few of the points you mentioned:!5014821/doctor-who-and-the-dumb-

        First we have Donna, who's been turned into a total pile of mush by two utterly generic children — children who are so generic, they literally are copies of every other child in the world. And yet Donna's so attached to them that even after the truth is proved to her in the universe's most incontrovertible, she still won't believe it. What is going on with that? I was waiting, through the whole episode, for Donna to have a moment of awesomeness where she not only accepted her situation, she also discovered a way out. Or at least found a way to make a difference. Instead, she just gets rescued. Bah.

        Not to mention that her ideal man? Somebody who can barely talk. Because isn't that a great reflection upon Donna (who, hello, she hangs out with the Doctor, she likes a good debate NEVER MIND PREVIOUS CHARACTERISATION OR ANYTHING)? Donna IS a female stereotype at the start of her time with the Doctor, but it's a stereotype that's beautifully inverted as her character grows and develops into someone really three-dimensional and sympathetic; why is Moffat pushing her right back into her 'pushy and shallow and domineering' box?

        Then the same point you make on Evangelista, then, on River:

        Instead, she can be resurrected inside the world's most boring virtual reality scenario, trapped forever with the crewmates she showed no sign of liking earlier. And she gets to look after the little girl whose brain is hooked up to the computer, plus the two generic children that Donna was mothering earlier.

        Let's just unpack that for a sec: She's stuck mothering three little kids, two of whom are basically scraps of junk code and none of whom will ever age — forever. This is what the Doctor came up with for her? He had hundreds of years to figure out a way to save her from frying her brain, and this is the best he could come up with? I think the words "fate worse than death" floated into my brain at some point. But at least she's not ugly, so it's fine. Oh, and hey — Miss Evangelista's suddenly not ugly any more either! Happy ending!

        Yeah. Yeah. Hm.

        • swimmingtrunks says:

          Idk, she's said repeatedly the Doctor is not her type- so maybe while she enjoys good debate with a friend, that's not what she'd be looking for in a partner. I thought her storyline was sweet, and not really out of character. If Doctor Moon weren't there, I have a feeling she could have found a way out herself, but he was a pretty good security program!

          I don't like River's ending either, but the Doctor doesn't have our perspective. He doesn't know what the virtual world is like, he only has what Lux told him to go on. He says it contains "all of human history to pass the time. Any era to live in, any book to read." Which hey, doesn't sound like a bad way to go to me! Sounds much like his life, and if River was his companion in his future, I think he'd suspect she'd really enjoy an afterlife like that.

          • vermillioncity says:

            I don't like River's ending either, but the Doctor doesn't have our perspective. He doesn't know what the virtual world is like, he only has what Lux told him to go on. […] if River was his companion in his future, I think he'd suspect she'd really enjoy an afterlife like that.

            This is a really good point, and I agree with you that from the Doctor's perspective, yeah that's totally viable and a brilliant solution to the problem of her death. But I think it's problematic from a writer's perspective – and ultimately, it was Moffat who came up with that resolution, not the Doctor. So Moffat DID know. I think that for him to sit down and write that and think it's the ideal afterlife is really problematic.

            • swimmingtrunks says:

              I agree, it's problematic on a writing level. I can see the practical reasons he might have written that ending for River- cohesion with previous scenes, budget issues because it can't be cheap to create a new set or a whole different cgi atmosphere just for one bookend scene- so I don't find it really problematic, just regular type.

        • Minish says:

          Not even going to bother with the Donna connection. I don't agree with it necessarily, but it is actually a well-founded argument.

          As for the River thing, that makes it sound like he was planning River's death. Really, he COULD have let her die (he's seen countless people die), but he had the opportunity to save her and he seized it. He wasn't exactly flipping through a catalog of possible afterlifes; it was the luck of the draw.

          • vermillioncity says:

            I just posted this to someone else above, but I'll copy/paste, cause it's relevant to your comment too :] :

            As for the River thing, that makes it sound like he was planning River's death. Really, he COULD have let her die (he's seen countless people die), but he had the opportunity to save her and he seized it. He wasn't exactly flipping through a catalog of possible afterlifes; it was the luck of the draw.

            This is a really good point, and I agree with you that from the Doctor's perspective, yeah that's totally viable and a brilliant solution to the problem of her death. But I think it's problematic from a writer's perspective – and ultimately, it was Moffat who came up with that resolution, not the Doctor. So Moffat DID know. I think that for him to sit down and write that and think it's the ideal afterlife is really problematic.

            • Minish says:

              As I said before, from the writer's perspective, I would have been more irked by that if this story was all about River and the Doctor trying to find River an afterlife. But this was a story River was a part of. It would actually cheapen the writing if the story focused more on River or River was given a perfect afterlife in a story that wasn't about her. Haven't we had countless discussions about giving characters ~SUPER SPESHUL~ treatment? And now you're ENFORCING it?

              I mean, if only to give River an afterlife of adventure, then the whole concept of a child being wired into the mainframe of a computer at the core of a Library planet just falls apart. But the story is about the Library and River is just along for the adventure. River's first story being all about how super special River is would be REALLY annoying. People were already pretty put off by River after first meeting her (which is kind of the point), why shoot for overkill? It's fitting that this would be just another adventure for her. Moffat welded the two stories together excellent and any slight change in order to not make him look sexist would honestly not do the story justice.

        • Karen says:

          That was a really interesting read.


        • __Jen__ says:

          Not to just throw another article back at you, but this sums up how I feel about Donna in this episode pretty well.

          I don't entirely agree with her points about Miss Evangelista, but it's interesting.

          • vermillioncity says:

            Yeah, I think the writer of that article kind of missed the point of Evangelista. But anyway.

            About Donna, I think it's a good point that she did previous express a wish for a husband/family, so perhaps her imaginary-children set-up is less troubling than River's (who didn't, ever, at all). But that was in Runaway Bride – and then we're led to believe (in the adipose episode) that she's been actively searching for the Doctor for some time because she regrets NOT travelling with him and going on adventures. The suggestion is that her character's priorities have developed (I'm not suggesting here that it's at all a bad thing for a woman to want a husband/family, just that Donna originally seemed to want it "for its own sake" and is now considering other desires, the wider world, and developing a social consciousness – the Ood, for example). So this seems a step back in the other direction, into a very closed consciousness.

            In-story, explainable by the fact that it's CAL's mind and imagination shaping this, and a child might assume that this is the ideal situation. But out-of-story, as a message coming from the a writer? In my opinion, it's still pretty disempowering for Donna.

            • Baz says:

              But in the dream world, she was made to forget the Doctor's existence, so maybe she would also have gone to that base of wanting a husband more than an adventure.

        • Lucy says:

          Haha, OK, I love that article for its poetic irritation, but I dare you to tell a mother that her children are generic!!

          But oh God, three children that never age D-: They would fight and bicker FOREVER. At least they aren't newborns!

      • Bobcat says:

        "Can't be pretty and smart at the same time."

        Er. That's not the point. The point is that in Miss Evangelista's case, she didn't GET to be pretty and smart at the same time. That's not a statement about humanity. That's torturing a character. Writers do it all the time. It's drama.

        And – just to hammer the point down – let's have a little look at Moffat's track record… List of characters who were unable to be pretty and smart: Miss Evangelista. List of characters who managed to synthesise the two: Nancy, Reinette, Sally Sparrow, River Song, Anita… I could go on. You can watch literally -any episode- of Doctor Who written by Steven Moffat and it'd completely undermine the interpretation of that scene. Including the very episode the interpretation was derived from in the first place.

        I don't get this "Moffat is sexist" malarkey. It takes some very selective vision. Yes, there is a woman whose happy ending is an afterlife with a family. She is also a clever action-archaeologist who is smarter than the Doctor and is more heroic than the Doctor himself in this episode, but let's disregard that aspect. And the amount of adoration he showers his wife with in interviews, while we're dismissing things for no reason. And the fact that there is a male character in this story whose ideal life is marital bliss with fictitious children. And the fact that the WRITER is married with kids, and probably wouldn't give it up for the world. But yeah, absolutely – he's more likely to be demeaning women than bigging up families.

        I'm sincerely very sorry. I'm being very snappy today, and it's not your fault at all. I'm just a bit sick of this sexism rubbish. It makes my head spin. I'm very sorry, but I don't buy a single word of it.

        • echinodermata says:

          "I'm just a bit sick of this sexism rubbish."

          Oh god please rephrase.

          • Bobcat says:

            "I'm just a bit sick of these accusations of sexism."

            • Bobcat says:

              Or, to be even more specific, "I'm a just a bit sick of the inevitable discussion after every Steven Moffat episode where the episode is intensely scrutinised for any material that could be misconstrued as sexist."

              (Although, in fairness, I -am- sick of sexism. Also sick of racism. Both awful things. That's not what I meant at all, though, and the comment is indeed badly written – you're absolutely right.)

        • Karen says:

          It's not that I think that the scene with Miss Evangelista is CONCRET EVIDENCE OF MOFFAT'S SEXISM. It' just so unnecessary and kind of offensive. I don't think that he thinks that and applies that to all of his writing. It's just a WHY WOULD YOU EVEN DO THAT? moment for me.

          I don't want to get into a huge list of reasons why I think that Moffat's issues with women and his perception of gender relations creep into his writing. I really don't have that kind of time, and I don't think that you really care all that much anyway. And Moffat can love his wife and still be a sexist douche. Sexism isn't about specific feelings about specific women. It's about larger social structures and the way in which masculinity and femininity is treated and perceived in the world. Moffat has said some EXTREMELY problematic things in the past that demonstrate to me that he just doesn't understand feminism, and because of that, yes, I do view his writing more critically. I'm not going to apologize for it.

          Here are the two quotes that I think display Moffat's ignorance the most:

          “There’s this issue you’re not allowed to discuss: that women are needy. Men can go for longer, more happily, without women. That’s the truth. We don’t, as little boys, play at being married – we try to avoid it for as long as possible. Meanwhile women are out there hunting for husbands.”

          “Well, the world is vastly counted in favour of men at every level – except if you live in a civilised country and you’re sort of educated and middle-class, because then you’re almost certainly junior in your relationship and in a state of permanent, crippled apology. Your preferences are routinely mocked. There’s a huge, unfortunate lack of respect for anything male.”

          I'm not looking at Moffat's work and going "a ha! sexist!", but rather based on his espoused views, I do tend to be more critical of his female characters and I find them to be problematic.

          • swimmingtrunks says:

            Those quotes are… not great, but I'm going to be a Bad Feminist and take a crack at explaining why I don't think they're so awful. I can't talk a lot about why I think they actually contradict what he writes to a degree because spoilers, but I can address the quotes themselves.

            The first quote is somewhat incomplete, because the quoted line prior to it in the article gives it some context. The article reads:

            "I don’t know how well women come out of Coupling," says Moffat, the son of a headmaster, who taught English in Greenock before following his original writerly instincts and scoring his first success with Press Gang. "There’s this issue you’re not allowed to discuss: that women are needy. Men can go for longer, more happily, without women. That’s the truth. We don’t, as little boys, play at being married – we try to avoid it for as long as possible. Meanwhile women are out there hunting for husbands."

            To me, this frames the quote in the discussion of his relationship sitcom (have you seen it, by the by?), and not necessarily his views in general. I know this isn't clear and I may be analyzing it into the ground trying to rationalize it, but it almost seems like he is critiquing his former work, and how women come across in it. The concept he espouses here really, really seems in direct conflict with some of the relationships he's written in Doctor Who. Sally has the Shipton slip-up, but in the context of her relationship with Larry, he's the one in pursuit, and she's the one avoiding it. I know I brought that up in the Blink review, but it's really the only example I can use right now.

            As for the second quote, at worst it seems to me to be the sort of run-of-the-mill women-keep-the-boys-in-line idea of gender rolls that's somewhat sexist but very common and pervasive in today's society, as Lucy points out. The way it's phrased sounds dismissive of other hardships, but as the article and probably the interview came around to that statement through the talk of his sitcom and his relationship with his wife, I think it just focuses on the power dynamics within an "average" couple instead of men or women's roles on a whole. He does note that the world is patriarchal at every level, and his "exception" is not at all levels, but just one. "Unfortunate" is the unfortunate word in the last sentence, because otherwise saying women don't have respect for anything masculine or patriarchal is maybe hyperbolic but not so terribly bad?

            Those statements aren't feminist, really, but they're of a kind of sexism that is really common and casual in our culture today. I wouldn't be surprised if some of the other writers on Who had the same sort of ideas, but just haven't made the mistake of saying things in interviews that would highlight it. I would be interested to see what your interpretations of other episodes would be like if you watched them with your Moffat glasses on.

            On the bright side, at least the brand of sexism that the Moff seems to subscribe to involves awesome, empowered women, because his are some female characters I can get behind.

            • arctic_hare says:

              I wouldn't be surprised if some of the other writers on Who had the same sort of ideas, but just haven't made the mistake of saying things in interviews that would highlight it.

              There was a recent interview with Toby Whithouse in which he expressed the following:

              "To be fair, female sexuality still terrifies me, as it does every other man. I can say that definitively, there was a meeting. There’s a memo. You terrify us. Women, I am here to tell you, you terrify us.”

              That pissed me off even more than Moffat's comments.

            • notemily says:

              I find it interesting that that quote was in the context of Coupling. I thought Coupling was hilarious, but I did notice that the women weren't quite as spot-on as the men. It was like he was TRYING to write well-developed female characters, but he didn't quite get there.

              And another thing he said about the show IIRC is that the six characters run the spectrum from over-confidence to under-confidence in each gender. But Patrick, the overconfident man, is presented as attractive and easily gets women, while Jane, the overconfident woman, is presented as "crazy" and nobody takes her seriously. That really irked me ever since I heard it.

              • swimmingtrunks says:

                Does this mean you've finally caught up with us? =)

                IA, the women in Coupling are less developed than the males, and don't quite break their "types" as much as the men do. That is interesting that the most confident woman, and who I would presume to be the least confident man, Jeff, are the "crazy" ones. (As for Jane- I <3 Gina Bellman, even if I didn't care for her character much. She gets all my love on Leverage!) I can see where that would be irksome, and I do wonder if there was some inherent sexism in those character choices– but then you also have six characters divided evenly along gender lines, and I doubt you want to make them copies of each other. An overconfident crazy man would probably read a bit like a sexual predator, come to think of it… Or he could read as Joey.

                • notemily says:

                  Yes I am caught up! I didn't think anyone was paying attention. 🙂

                  It's not so much that Patrick isn't "crazy" enough. The idea that a woman can't be both confident and likeable is what bothers me. Patrick's confidence is presented as natural, while Jane's makes her strange and off-putting. I think part of this is just the sexist society we live in that doesn't easily accept confident women, but part of it is definitely a writing choice.

                  And yeah, I love Gina Bellman on Leverage! I love when she, as Sophie, gets to pretend to be characters who are a lot like Jane, because then I can pretend that Jane was just a character from a long con she was running on someone and Sophie was her real identity all along. 😀

                  • swimmingtrunks says:

                    That is a fair point! My reply was a bit rambling, apologies, and I'm not sure entirely what my point was, but your right. If anything though, I think maybe that's where the first line of the quote I quoted comes in- that is definitely a problem in Coupling, but he seems to have rectified that in his writing since. He's given us a few female characters in Who that are both very confident and likeable- River herself being amongst them.

      • Katie says:

        I think regarding the children, one has to take into account that Doctor Who is above all a family show, and therefore a significant proportion of its viewers and fanbase are children. Just as the companion can be seen as a viewer-insert figure (because they know less than the Doctor, need details about the future/aliens/technology explained to them, etc.) CAL can be a viewer-insert figure, and what child wouldn't want River to have adventures with? The world we see is a construct of CAL, it is not irrevocably suburban. The same goes for the construct children, to a child it would be more horrifying that the construct children realize they aren't real and are forever wiped from the program, than the fact that River is "trapped" into acting as a mother to them. From a child's prespective it would be quite cruel to present CAL as still lonely within the program after the episode ends while everyone else has adventures.

        • Katie says:

          From an adults perpective the computer program is sophisticated enough as to replicate the infinite, River has the time and ability within that program to do whatever she wants, create whatever landscapes she wants, she can even continue archealogy with access to all the books ever written. Additionally, there are other adults in the program-perhaps they all takes turns watching the kids, and it just happens to be Rivers turn. After all, as she is the one with the diary and ostensibly the main adult she is the most effective bookend to the episode.

      • Rebecca says:

        Karen- get out of my brain! So much agreement.

    • kaybee42 says:

      "Speaking of River’s death, what about River indicates that her idea of an awesome afterlife would be being a mother to children and walking around in a floaty dress? OH THAT’S RIGHT. SHE’S A WOMAN. DUH. THAT’S ALL I NEEDED TO KNOW ABOUT HER TO KNOW THAT SHE’D WANT TO BE A MOTHER. OBVS. Seriously though. IDGI. A more fitting ending for her would have been a final shot of River being all Indiana Jones, running from boulders, dodging booby traps and discovering new things. That would have been awesome."
      I don't know why I want to quote that whole bit that you wrote back to you. I just want to say YES.

    • Starsea28 says:

      her idea of an awesome afterlife would be being a mother to children and walking around in a floaty dress? OH THAT’S RIGHT. SHE’S A WOMAN. DUH. THAT’S ALL I NEEDED TO KNOW ABOUT HER TO KNOW THAT SHE’D WANT TO BE A MOTHER. OBVS.

      Because it's not HER idea of an awesome afterlife. It's Charlotte's. Charlotte gets a mother and brothers and sisters. The life she didn't have. In return River gets an entire world of books. No, it's not ideal. But as Lux says to the Doctor "a half life is better than no life at all". Whether you believe him or not is another question.

      • __Jen__ says:

        The fact that this is Charlotte's world is a really good point. At least, as other people have pointed out, they can actually live in the world of books/history. Who is to say they can't meet any of the characters or historical figures they want? Plus, she has her diary of adventures with the Doctor. Perhaps it would have been better for her to just completely die, Idk. I guess it all depends on how people feel about the afterlife, but this sounds kind of like heaven for me. :\

    • Tauriel says:

      Oh yeah, heaven forbid if motherhood was ever portrayed in a positive light… :/

      • Karen says:

        Yeah… that's not what I said at all.

        I said it makes no sense for her character, as previously established. I think that being a mother is awesome and hugely undervalued in society (as are most things that are traditionally considered feminine). But in this case (especially given Moffat's history of previous comments to the press), it just reads as "let's make her a mother because that's what all women want!" instead of actually doing something that makes sense for the character.

        • PeterRabid says:

          As Starsea28 pointed out, it wasn't her choice. It was Charlotte's, a little girl who didn't have a mother in the dream world and probably would have wanted one. I've no doubt that if River could have chosen her own afterlife, it wouldn't have included something like that.

          Then again, maybe River has had children before and motherhood is what she would want. We don't know much of her backstory, so this is just as likely as anything else.

        • Tauriel says:

          Yeah… that's not what I said at all.

          It just reads to me that way. 😉 (I remember you complain in a similar way to a completely innocent line from Blink, "I lived a good life, I loved a good man".)

          I haven't seen or read any Moffat's interviews (other than in Confidentials), so I'm not biased. I am aware that his views apparently veer towards the sexist side a bit, but IMHO it doesn't show in his writing. And this thing definitely DOESN'T read as "let's make her a mother because that's what all women want!" to me – maybe it reads so to you because you're biased by Moffat's personal opinions presented in interviews?

          Please don't take this as a personal attack, I usually enjoy your comments, even if I don't always share your views. 😉

          • Karen says:

            Well the thing is, once I know that Moffat is a sexist douchebag, it's hard not to see it in his writing. When I know that he thinks that women are always out there hunting for husbands, it's really hard for me NOT to look at the way he writes his female characters with a more critical eye.

            If I didn't know what he thinks about women and gender relations, I have no doubt that I wouldn't see the stuff in his writing that I do. But I can't unknow what I know. So I do see it.

            • echinodermata says:

              While I'm on the other side of this argument and don't see the sexism in his writing, I totally understand where you're coming from and I don't think it's wrong at all to see things in someone's writing after finding out things they've said (which I feel is sort of implied by Tauriel's comment by calling it a bias).

              I originally had no problems with Ender's Game, and then I learned about Card and can't touch it again. So I have been there myself.

              • __Jen__ says:

                So this is entirely unrelated to the serious discussion going on here, but I had the most random conversation with a stranger about Ender's Game this weekend. I was taking the subway home at around midnight on Friday and ended up talking about how Ender's Game was basically Twilight for boys with an English professor and one of his students. I had never thought to make that comparison before, but now that he mentioned it, I can never go back. It really does hit a lot of the same fic kinks (in a non-sexual sense) as Twilight.

              • mkjcaylor says:

                Now don't you tell me this! I just bought Ender's Game and have never read it before. 😉

                • echinodermata says:

                  I really liked the book when I first read it, and then I liked the pseudo-sequel Ender's Shadow better. So have fun reading it, and don't get curious about Card until after you read it.

              • notemily says:

                Ughhh, I DID have problems with Ender's Game (racism and homophobia to start with), and then learning about Card just made me never ever want to read anything by him ever again. I'm even wary of books he puts a blurb on 😛

            • Tauriel says:

              Well, in that case, it's a pity that you're unable to separate your opinions about the writer from his writing, which, I believe, doesn't reflect his personal views as much as you think. Again, please don't take this as a personal attack. 😉 It just seems to me that you jump at every little detail in his episodes and shout "OH LOOK, EVIDENCE OF SEXISM!!!" when, taken by itself, it's not sexist at all, only in conjunction with Moffat's personal views.

              • Minish says:

                I know I'm going to get ALL THE DOWNVOTES, but I've thought the same thing, honestly, and was too scared to vocalize it.

                I mean, come on guys… I hate Chris Chinchillaball, but I refuse to allow that to affect my UTTER LOVE of 42. 42 was too good for me to be bothered by Chibnall's fuckery.

                Okay then, downvote away.

      • thisyearsgirl says:

        I have no problem with motherhood being portrayed as something positive, all I want is for them to not portray it as something positive for every female character. For me It doesn't really seem to fit with River's character to want to be in that floaty dream world reading bedtime stories to children.

    • nextboy1 says:

      As much as I see where you are coming from with your River Song points, I really have to disagree regarding the way it's written. I don't think that because The Doctor knows how River dies, or that she cares for him, means that he will 'play out' these future times she talks about. Yes, so now he knows that he gave her that screwdriver at some point, but I have more faith in The Doctor as a character and the writing team of him than to make him manipulative enough to coax her into being so attached to him because he knows she was at the end of her life.

      For the record though, I am a sucker for mysteries like this in TV shows. The speculating, the theories, the waiting. All of which is not for these pages of course. The ride is what it is all about, and LOST is the obvious examples of it. Although, I'm also rarely disappointed by revelations of these. I think LOST ended brilliantly for example. Maybe I'm just easily pleased, but the symmetry of the doctor first meeting River on her last meeting also does strike a wonderful poetic chord.

      Even if River does get a very cheesy ending, it also seems the only way of saving her, the Doctor is just doing what he can. and I adore her speech about the doctor aswell.

      • Karen says:

        I'm not saying that it makes the Doctor into a horrible manipulator. But it takes away any feeling of organicness that their future relationship could have. He has to have River love him so that she will later want to die for him. Like, he doesn't really have a choice because he's already been involved in that time line.

        And lol. Omg. I was not a fan of the ending of Lost. I felt like it was completely unearned by the writers. Also, like two days before the Lost finale, I'd seen a finale of another brilliant show that had a similar concept, but on that show it felt like it made sense in terms of the overall story. Lost's big surprise ending just felt random and nonsensical.

        • nextboy1 says:

          Lost was the show I got more invested in than any other (in many ways Doctor Who filled the void last year, and has become the best rebound ever) and although some of the direction of the final series annoyed me a bit, and as much as I did kind of want some other things answered, once it sunk in (I'd say an hour or so after watching the finale) it just made sense to me, it just clicked, and I love it. And that's not to say those who didn't like it didn't 'get' it, I can see exactly where they're coming from, I guess I'm just lucky to have been so satisfied by it. Maybe if I ever get around to rewatching again it won't seem so great.

        • syntheticjesso says:

          I don't think it takes away from the organicness at all. Think of it like any other story with a prophecy- all the characters are still making choices and going about their business, and then things work out, usually pretty organically, so that when you look back you see it all laid out and see that the characters' own natural actions brought the prophecy into being. I see it like that.

          • Karen says:

            But it's not just a prophecy. The Doctor actually HAS to do those things or else a paradox will form. It's like in Blink. When Sally gives him the script, he couldn't just not follow it or else it wouldn't exist. IT's a closed time loop so the Doctor is locked into having that relationship with River and doing those things with her. There isn't choice or free will\

            • ArrogantSage says:

              He still has the choice as to how it happens and I think the writers (if they show us that moment) will show that it is something he wants to do at that time. By the time we get to him telling her his name or giving her the screwdriver, I have no doubts that we will understand it and feel warmly about the moment. It is easy to write without feeling like he's doing it just because he is forced to.

              "And then in the future if the Doctor encourages River to have feelings for him, it’s going to be so that she can die for him in his past/her future. IT’S JUST SO GROSS AND MESSED UP. UGH. "

              I don't understand, given what we know about the Doctor, that this is the conclusion you would come to. The Doctor wouldn't encourage anyone to have feelings for him so they could die later. That just isn't the way he works. Frankly, I think he would want to hold back from her just because he knew it was going to happen. But the possibility exists that he just naturally can't help developing feelings for her (if that's the case) and we all know most of the women can't resist him! There's still so much to be learned about this relationship, but you've dismissed the whole thing in speculation. It's supposed to be frustrating. It's supposed to be mysterious. It's supposed to make you wonder what in the world went on in their adventures to create what we see at the end of her life.

      • arctic_hare says:

        I loved the Lost ending too! That is apparently an unpopular opinion in the fandom, but I thought it was beautiful and emotionally resonant. The point was the journey and the characters, and I think it's better that not every single question ever was answered. Unsolved mysteries are good for works of fiction.

        • psycicflower says:

          I liked the end of Lost. It wasn't 'OMG wow, best ending ever' but I liked it and I think it was for the reasons you say. (That and Michael Giacchino's gorgeous music over the ending.) What I loved most about Lost was the journey of both the characters and mysteries across the series and also the journey we experienced watching along, speculating and trying to figure it out.

          Side note: I thought we covered this last night but can we not downvote for differences of opinions people. There's absolutely nothing in artic_hare's comment that deserved a thumb down.

          • arctic_hare says:

            Sheesh, what, I'm now getting downvoted for LIKING something? That's a bit ridiculous, to put it mildly.

            Back to Lost, agreed, especially about Giacchino. I normally don't put much stock in the Oscars, but I was really happy when he won one last year for Up's score, because he's brilliant and deserves many awards and recognition and work.

            • flamingpie says:

              I was indifferent about the ending of Lost because… I saw season one and then the ending with nothing in between so needless to say I was a bit… ~lost. ho ho that was a bad pun.

              But I voted you up anyway because who the fuck votes someone down for having an opinion?

              • arctic_hare says:

                I like bad puns! 😀 And yeah, that would definitely make it seem a bit nonsensical (in the sense that you'd get a bit wet if you stood out in a thunderstorm).

                Exactly! It's so silly.

            • psycicflower says:

              Yeah, with everything he's done he's just one of those people that you can't help but be happy to see them get the recognition they deserve

          • echinodermata says:

            lol just got to this comment and Giacchino's Star Trek theme came up on my iTunes (I keep it on shuffle).

            I love his music, and the Fringe pilot uses Lost music, I think, and I always make weird faces cause I think the Lost music is pretty distinctive.

            • psycicflower says:

              I love when shuffle does that. Before just as I sat down on a bus and it pulled away from the stop the song that was on the Dublin Bus ads at the time came on my mp3 player with such absolutely perfect timing it was kind of eerie.

              Now I'm just thinking I should really get the Star Trek soundtrack and wondering if Fringe has released one too.

              • echinodermata says:

                re the Star Trek soundtrack, there's an extended edition version of the soundtrack, and they include that Beastie Boys song when young Kirk is driving the car, and its inclusion in the ST is utterly jarring to me given where it shows up in the ST.

                So, um, just a warning, I guess. Oh, also, really obvious puns for song titles. Dunno if that's a good or bad thing for you.

                EDIT: ST is for soundtrack, not star trek.

    • Vikinhaw says:

      I'm very late to the party but I wanted to say that I've always seen the ending as a neat,quiet and nightmare fuel-ish way to end the stories of River and Charlotte. Turning off the lights? Just as the parents of the children watching the show are going to later? And then they'll be surrounded by shadows? I'm sure all the children are going to have sweet dreams…

      I assumed that River would go off and have her own adventures in the world of books later off screen. Ending the episode with her doing something awesome wouldn't really fit the tone.
      However your entirely valid and informed criticism has ruined the ending for me. (I'm not being sarcastic, your opinion is interesting)

      I agree entirely with the stuff about Miss Evangelista though. What really bugs me is that it totally ruins the death she got in the previous episode. She may have been pretty, childish and less than bright but she deserved to be treated like a human being and they episode shows that. This just wrecks it for me.

      Sigh, I wish I never knew about Moffat's sexism then I would blissfully ignore this crap and just love Doctor Who.

    • RJM says:

      Dude, I agree with River when she says Ten isn't the Doctor yet. I mean yes, on a literal level he is the Doctor, but on an emotional/metaphorical level? He isn't even a tenth as Doctory a Doctor as the Eleventh Doctor.

      Granted, I am saying this as a person whose least favorite Doctor by a longshot is Ten, but I am quite serious. There have been so many times where I have looked at my TV screen and gone "wtf happened to you, Doctor, and why have you been replaced by this jerk? is this what war does to you?" I don't blame Tennant really, I blame the writing, and I was never so very relieved as when (a few episodes into the next incarnation) I realized that I really could believe Eleven was the same guy as Hartnell, Troughton, Pertwee, the Bakers, Davison, McCoy, and even McGann. I don't really blame this on Tennant so much as the writing: I don't always think RTD always groks the Doctor as a character. The next scriptwriter, for all his faults, does.

    • michelle says:

      Oh Karen, you said it all so well! THANK YOU FOR THIS. It's exactly why I don't like these episodes, or River herself, or even kinda Moffat. Just… thank you for putting my feelings into words with laser precision.

  8. maccyAkaMatthew says:

    River's squareness gun is the same as the one Captain Jack had in The Doctor Dances. Moffat has a thing about the 51st Century, Jack is from then, the ship in The Girl in the Fireplace is from then and these episodes are set then as well. This all, probably, comes from an almost throwaway mention of there being Time Agents in the 51st Century in a classic serial.

    Because they're from the same time, it could be the same type of gun – but because River may well have been in the TARDIS in the future it could be the exact same gun, assuming that Jack left it there.


    And you are also still NOT PREPARED.

    • nyssaoftraken74 says:

      I keep making a thing about this in various places, but I do have a problem with it being Jack's gun because it creates a plot hole that isn't there otherwise.

      At the top of this episode, River blasts a square hole in the wall so they can run away from the skeleton. Having done that, why doesn't she just hit the digital rewind button to restore the wall and prevent the skeleton from following? Sure, it would have caught up eventually, but it's a pretty obvious way to slow it down and buy time.

      Whereas, if it's just another gun of the same type, then it's simply a standard model and doesn't have those special features. So no plot hole.

      • Radagast says:

        "The extra features, they really run down the batteries." Maybe she's smarter than Jack and didn't want to run out of juice. Or, the gun's been knocking around the TARDIS so long that the 'special fatures' no longer work (reliably).

        Or it's not Jack's and hers just can't do that. Hard to say.

        • nyssaoftraken74 says:

          I agree with you. However, if it's Jack's then we know it has those features and therefore it needs a line to explain why she doesn't use them. (Like the throwaway line about the sonic screwdriver dampers.)

          But if it's *not* Jack's gun, then there's no reason to believe it has those special features and so the episode works perfectly.

          As I've said elsewhere, it's not often that a little thing like this bugs me, but this one does. I think it's because it's something from outside the show that creates a wholly unnecessary problem with an otherwise flawless script.

          • Lucy says:

            Or, she just found the thing and worked out it fired square holes in things – I doubt Jack carried around the manual for her to find 🙂

  9. Anon says:

    Have to say i loved the way The Doctor defeats the the Vashta Narada "i'm The Doctor, this is the biggest library in the universe, look me up." I'm not a huge fan of arrogance, but DT does pull it off well.

  10. NB2000 says:

    I said yesterday how good I thought Eve Newton who plays Cal is and this episode makes me absolutely love her. By the time she's crying on the floor begging for help I just want to reach into the screen and give her a massive hug because I just feel so awful for her. I love how much happier she looks at the end, with her little hair clips. "Aren't I a clever girl?" YES YOU ARE SWEETHEART!

    The little girl (I forgot to check the actress' name) who plays Ella, Donna's daughter is SO VERY CREEPY! "Me and Joshua, we aren't real are we?" Nice work by that girl.

    Okay I was a little bit dishonest in yesterday's comment when I told Mr Lux to shut up. I actually like his storyline in these episodes, yes he's kind of a pompous arse but he's doing it to protect the Aunt he never got to know. The moment where her face on the node is revealed and he puts his hand on her cheek always gets to me.

    Part of me is rather disappointed about River being saved to the library at the end but then I remember Strackman Lux's line when explaining Cal's situation to the others "And all of human history to pass the time. Any era to live in, any book to read" which, to me at least, suggests that the virtual reality inside the computer can be ANYTHING that it has saved on file. So they aren't necessarily limited to the locations we see in this episode (the hospital, Donna and Cal's homes, the playground), River, Cal, the rest of the crew and Donna's twins can all go off having adventures whenever they want.

    Spekaing of Donna, she is seriously having a really crappy time of it this series. Just one heartbreaking event after another. She finally gets the life she's wanted since Runaway Bride (and I love that they reused her wedding dress from that episode) of being happily married with a family and then it gets ripped away from her. Her freaking out when the kids disappear is just brutal to listen to.

    Tiny detail that I picked up on in rewatching, Anita, Other Dave and Mr Lux using their helmets as seats when the group stop to rest in the red index. It's such a small detail but I really enjoy that.

    I'm probably the only one who cares but, the thing about the ending that bothers me is that Cal's lovely (very lovely) Daddy wasn't there. The twins got a reprieve, which is really sweet, Cal gets friends her age to play with, but not her dad?

    • calimie says:

      Maybe she had imagined her dad, or he was a character from a book. Now that she has other people around her she doesn't need a fake dad.

    • nyssaoftraken74 says:

      Sharing the Eve Newton love. What a brilliantly real performance. And her reaction to deleting her Dad was heatbreaking because we've all done it. In our heads, in a momentary flash of anger, we've all, just for a second wished someone away. Someone we love. And like all good fairytales, the wish goes wrong because wishes – like computers – do what you tell them to do, whether you mean it or not.

  11. You Are Not Alone says:

    The Squareness Gun was previously seen wielded by Captain Jack in The Doctor Dances. Remember Jack, like River, is a 51st century person. There's actually a good chance it's actually the very same gun, which Jack must have left on the TARDIS in at the end of the first series, and River might have found in the TARDIS.
    River's ending is quite ambiguous, isn't it? Normally I like morally ambiguous endings, but the problem in this case is that, on one hand, whilst an eternity inside every book ever written does seem like the best afterlife ever for many, we had no indication this would be the case for River too as her character is so unformed/ shrouded in mystery. I mean, at the end she seems to happy to see her work colleagues again, but what's the indication beforehand that she loved them that much and would be happy to spend eternity with them and some children she's never met?
    I find this two-parter extraordinary, beautiful and maddening. Other good and bad stuff:

    The good stuff:
    -Great production values. The location where the Library was filmed looks great, with a magical atmosphere enhanced by Euros Lyn's stylish direction, Murray Gold's score and the Mill's CGI vistas.
    -Glorious pre-titles sequence: spooky, mysterious, makes the most of the already-mentioned production values, and ends with a fun and surprising cliffhanger.
    -Very imaginative. There's cool sci-fi concepts like the Nodes, Data Ghosts, and a girl who's a library computer and surreal images like Ms. Evangelista's gothic disguise, skeletons in astronaut suits, and the Doctor diving through the gravity tunnel. Then there's the contrast with the Girl's ordinary-looking world. Very eclectic feel to these episodes, they feel unbound by time and space and uniquely Doctor Who. No other show can tell the story that these episodes tell.
    -Lots of fun stuff that will resonate with kids: books chucked around by the extra buttons on the remote control, switching people off, toys coming to life.
    -The dreamlike feel to these episodes is well achieved. There's the spookiness of discovering the girl we saw at the beginning was a camera and the playground full of multiple copies of the kids, the terror and heartbreak of the kids and Lee doubting their own existence and Donna trying to hold on to them. Also: "The real world is a lie and your nightmares are real.' Is there anything scarier?
    -Saying the Vashta Nerada are 'the dust in sunbeams' was inspired. Conceptually, shadows are a fantastic Doctor Who monster, and 'stay out of the shadows' is a good playground game.
    -River Song. A character from the Doctor's future? Cool. She keeps a TARDIS-like diary to keep track of their out-of-sequence meetings? AWESOME. And she knows him so well, and how much that rattles him! Brill, about time they did that. It's great that she remains a mystery. The idea that she'd sacrifice her life for the sake of all those memories of him is definitely moving. And, indeed, she gets to keep them in her afterlife, as we see her with her diary at the end. The idea that the last time she meets him is first time the Doctor meets her is devastating, especially as it brings home that it's not very different from every relationship the Doctor ever has. He lives in a time-machine. To him, we are always alive, always dead, always haven't been born yet. And if he tries to meet a person in sequence, he has to witness their ageing. Again, doing stuff only Doctor Who can do.
    -I like stories which open lots of possibilities for fan fiction. This is definitely one of them.
    -"When you run with the Doctor, it feels like it will never end. But however hard you try, you can't run forever. Everybody knows that everybody dies, and no one knows it like the Doctor. But I do think that all the skies of all the worlds might just turn dark, if he ever, for one moment, accepts it." And then, when he runs back, opens the screwdriver to reveal the data chip, and then RUNS to save her, it's just glorious. What a turnaround! Epic and exciting.
    -I love the idea of the Doctor growing and learning as the years pass by. The Doctor opening the doors with a snap of his fingers is not just him learning a new trick, it's showing us and the Doctor himself that he is still a hero in the making, and have that process to look forward to.

    The bad stuff…

    • You Are Not Alone says:

      The bad stuff:
      -Weak characterisation of Donna. In the first part she stands back and lets the Doctor work and in the second part doesn't do much to try and get through to him and fight back the virtual reality. Usually I don't mind if the companion takes a lesser role in the plot's resolution, as long as she's still written strongly. Not the case here; at one point the Doctor tells Donna to be quiet and, instead of biting his head off, as she did in The Fires of Pompeii, she just says 'sorry'. Just like Martha did in 'Blink', incidentally, which also annoyed me.
      -The awful moment where it is revealed that the Doctor knew all along that the Vashta Nerada lived in forests, and it hadn't occurred to him in all that time that books come from trees. It's bad enough how long it took him to work that out on screen.
      -I won't go as far as to say that these episodes will make kids scared of books -they're cleverer than that- but books weren't cherished either. Donna is completely unenthused by the Library, the Doctor doesn't ever turn to books for information and all talk of books we get is a dig at trashy modern literature for the grown-ups. We aren't shown CAL's love of books to communicate well enough the fabulous idea of Biggest Library in the Universe = Best Afterlife Possible.
      -A couple of easy get-outs: the trapdoor under the Doctor's feet and making the Vashta Nerada retreat through the sheer awesome of who he is. Which I suppose can pass, as long as it's done just this once, especially as it ties with the theme of the episode of the Doctor becoming a legendary figure in the future, so he uses that reputation here.

  12. psycicflower says:

    'You watch us run.' I know some people don’t like it but I love the relationship between River and the Doctor and the wibbly wobbly timey wimey nature of it, regardless of the possibilities of what they might mean to each other are. The fact of the matter is that the first time the Doctor meets River is the last time that River meets the Doctor, the beginning and end of their journey together and that is just endlessly tragic. You can see her sadness that she's essentially a stranger to the Doctor at various points throughout the two parter. She clearly cares for him a lot and yet he doesn’t know who she is, even though she has a journal overflowing with their memories.
    <img src="; border="0" alt="Image and video hosting by TinyPic"> ‘Time can be rewritten.’ ‘Not those times. Not one line. Don’t you dare.’

    ‘I’m the Doctor and you’re in the biggest library in the universe. Look me up.'
    I love the world that was created for CAL. I like to think that River and her team end up having lots of adventures exploring all the possibilities that it presents to them.

    I love Dr. Moon's repeatition of 'And then you forgot.' 'And then you remembered.' It adds really well to the general feeling of 'not quite right' in the CAL reality.
    I hadn't looked at Donna's storyline in this episode like that before. It's a very interesting comparison to make between her life in CAL and the Doctor's when he was human. I just feel so bad for Donna as the reality she's in starts to fall apart. It feels real to her and must be horrible to lose it all while you're still in there, convinced that your children and husband are real. I'm happy Lee was real but sad that they just missed each other.
    ‘Is alright special Time Lord code for really not alright at all?’

    Pity for all us excited book lovers being given something we'd love with a whole gorgeous library planet only to basically have the books be evil. Why can't we have nice things.

  13. Kaci says:

    I love this episode so much. So, so much. I will never understand Moffat hate, no matter how many times people try to explain it to me. Then again, I suppose they don't understand my RTD hate, so it works out and we can all just roll our eyes at each other and agree to disagree, y/y?

    I love the stuff with Donna–her trying to cling to the idea that her children are real is heartbreaking. And I love how the tropes get twisted–the guy we think is being a greedy jerk turns out to just be trying to protect a relative. And I love the idea of saving a human's consciousness so that it can live forever in a virtual world even after their body dies. It's like the concept of an afterlife, only…not that hard to imagine as possible at some point in our future.

    Basically, Moffat is my Whovian god, I love Donna Noble, I love River Song, and I love everything about this episode. The end.

    • nanceoir says:

      Does that mean that those of us who love both Moffat and Davies can roll our eyes at all y'all and agree to occasionally disagree (but to have sleepovers or parties or something when we're in the 'safe' zone)? 'Cause I'm down with that. 😀

  14. Stephen_M says:

    Oh my… what do you say about that? Well the common consent seems to be "holy good god almighty I'm never sleeping again" but that's not hugely useful so let's have another go…

    As always Moffat delivers an astonishing story and is really firing on all cylinders here. Not content with terrifying everyone with living shadows he throws in a virtual world where your kids stop existing if you aren't actively concentrating on them… oh, and a nightmare-fuel bit of body horror with Miss Evangelista to boot. Good LORD Moffat, you really do feed on fear don't ya?

    Love the Doctor here, he's a bit off balance which is always wonderful to see and the double whammy of Donna being 'saved' and River knowing more than he does puts him in a rare situation and makes his ability to cope and save the day that much better. Donna is awesome as always and works out the virtual world thing largely on her own with just a bit of help from the exposition fairy. The red shirt posse do a great job too and they're all interesting characters in their own right. Which just leaves one…

    River is, by a long stretch, my favourite non-companion of the new series. Yes, she's cocky but as she's effectively an on-again, off-again companion that's fine by me. Her chemistry with the Doctor is wonderful and a little bit… off somehow, but in a good way, in a way that it would be under the circumstances. Her death is perfect too, again under those circumstances it's just the sort of thing a companion would do. I also love that we don't get a definitive answer to the nature of that relationship.

    A couple of last random thoughts. The Doctor's "Look me up" is, by a long shot, my favourite Ten moment, beautifully done and the Mill managing to get body language into a Shadow is very impressive. And then there's River's ending Monologue and yes, I do think it deserves the capital letter.

    ""When you run with the Doctor, it feels like it will never end. But, however hard you try, you can’t run forever. Everybody knows that everybody dies, and nobody knows it like the Doctor. But I do think that all the skies of all the worlds might just turn dark if he ever, for one moment, accepts it.""

    The delivery is perfect, the camera work is brilliant and that last line sums up the Doctor better than anything else I've heard since the series came back. It's made all the better by Ten's reaction (I'm VERY good!) and that last desperate run… Still can't watch it without fighting back the tears.

    • echinodermata says:

      "River is, by a long stretch, my favourite non-companion of the new series."

      I totally count her as a companion because it's implied they go on lots of adventures together, even if we don't see them.

    • TimeCat says:

      True true! The brief scene where we see alternate Evangelista's face quite possibly horrified me more than anything else in New Who, including the Weeping Angels and the Vashta Nerada. But I generally cannot deal with body horror, so yeah. That and damage to kittens.

  15. leighzzz31 says:

    The second half of the two-parter confused the hell out of me. I kept thinking I’d missed a scene, the pace of it was so quick. The cold open to the little girl watching Donna’s fast-forwarded life just proved my severe mistrust of creepy kids to be right.

    Cut to the Doctor in the Library. Vashta Nerada and shadows all around and no one seemed to know what to do. Cue River Song and her tactical genius thinking now was the best time to completely unnerve the Doctor by whispering suspiciously in his ear (WHY DID YOU TELL HER YOUR NAMEEEEE?). Though, to be fair, the Doctor was annoying me quite a bit already. “She TOLD you she’s from your future! Stop asking who she is all the time! You know you’re not supposed to know! YOU’RE THE DOCTOR!”

    Cut to Miss Evangelista weirding me and Donna out Inception-style. Dream within a dream within a botched computer program. BRRRRRRM.

    The resolution of where the Vashta Nerada came from was pretty interesting though the Doctor’s magical trapdoor exit kind of ruined the moment for me. But the explanation of “4022 saved. No survivors.”? Brilliant. Also, River punching the Doctor gave me a deep sense of satisfaction. “Stop trying to be a martyr all the goddamn time, Ten!”

    The ending had a bittersweet touch to it what with Donna missing Lee because of his stammer (sob!) and River’s speech. Not sure how I feel about River being stored in the computer, I think I would have preferred a real death.

    And, lastly, my favourite scene from the whole of season 4: the Doctor opening the TARDIS by snapping his fingers. Cheesy? Maybe. But I loved it.

  16. echinodermata says:

    So, let's talk about River's ending, cause I know it's decisive. Firstly, let's just take a moment to appreciate the fact that River sacrifices her life for Donna and those trapped in the library. I utterly adore her for that. And I love that she's not going to tolerate her times with the Doctor being rewritten, even if it means she could live. That is a true hero moment, there. I also love that the end of her story is when the Doctor first meets her. It's poetic, and it sets up a really interesting potential for any of their future encounters.

    Now, the Doctor "saves" her and gives her a virtual world. It's not my favorite ending in the world, but I don't dislike it or anything, and I do flail in happiness watching the Doctor realize what his future self has done and rushing to save her. I honestly do love the "everybody lives" trope, and I do actually think being in the library is a better alternative than death. At the very least, River didn't know that was an option so saving her gives her back more agency, and I imagine it could be possible to ask to be wiped from the system if that's what someone wanted.

    The children, well, it's not like they did anything wrong. And as people online elsewhere have pointed out, Moffat seems to write with children in mind a lot, so it makes sense to me that he would bring those children back instead of simply erasing them from history, since that's maybe a little cruel. Plus, I like the idea of her telling children bedtime stories, since you know she has the best stories ever.

    Would I have preferred River to be killed off for real? I'm not sure, actually. On the one hand, she deserves to go out like a champ. But on the other, I find it infinitely easy to believe she can be brought back from the library, back to a real physical life, and more River would always be good in my mind.

    But either way, this is her ending (unless some future Doctor does go back and save her for real). And if this is her ending, then we basically have the potential for an infinite amount of River in the future. She honestly could show up anytime in the Doctor's future and it would make sense in canon. And I am all for that. So either way, we can get MOAR RIVER out of this ending, and that means I'm cool with it.

    River, with her spoilers and her handcuffs and her past and the Doctor's future, whatever it is. River, who punches out the Doctor, and is, truly, the Head Bitch In Charge. River, who knows the Doctor's actual name. River Song is love.

  17. Wookie_Monster says:

    You know you have watched too much Star Trek when it spoils you for the mysteries in other shows. When I heard the "x people saved, no survivors" message and then something about teleportation, I immediately figured "Well, their patterns have been stored in the transporter buffer, DUH!" Plus Donna's alternate life was quite close to the TNG episode "The Inner Light".

    Eternal afterlife in an endless library? DO WANT, where do I sign up?:D

  18. Maya says:

    <img src=""/&gt;

    Sorry, couldn't resist.

    I actually like these two episodes better in hindsight. I hated River Song when she was introduced and now I don't hate her, so I feel more for her character watching now. I think I had a strong reaction to having a character who OMG KNOWS EVERYTHING ABOUT THE DOCTOR and being told she was awesome rather than shown as much. I still don't feel her awesomeness as much as I could in these two episodes.

    Lee <33333333333333 forever.

  19. arctic_hare says:

    I think it's a nice touch that when we pick up with Donna in this episode, we first see her through a TV screen and then in a reflection in a mirror. It's a subtle way of emphasizing the unreal, surreal nature of her current situation. The dreamlike way the virtual world functions makes me fangirl a bit, all right? I'm a total sucker for dreams and dreamlike things in fiction, it's one of my favorite things ever. Even moreso since I read Sandman (hooboy will I be exploding with fannish glee in every single review once you get 'round to reading that, Mark). So this delighted me, especially when Miss Evangelista directly compared it to a dream and how dreams work. Dream logic is not real world logic; in a dream, the weirdest, strangest things can happen, and you just accept them, you know certain things are true and why they're happening this or that way. Reality takes on a whole new shape when viewed through the lens of a dream, and sometimes it doesn't occur to you to wonder why, but sometimes you do, and that just makes it stranger: knowing you're in a dream, and that that's why things are a certain way or why this is happening. At least, that's been my experience – I've come to that bizarre, surreal awareness within a dream that I am inside a dream, and unsure when I'll wake up, or how I know it's a dream, or when it will come to an end. It's so weird, and even weirder when you wake up and remember it for hours afterward. I really think Moffat did a marvelous job here of capturing that strange surreality that happens when the real world and the dream world bleed into each other and you're not certain at all what the hell the deal is. Bravo. And it only gets creepier when you see all the clone children running about the playground. Miss Evangelista acts as Donna's guide through this unsettling otherworld, attempting to wake her from the dream, and I think it's a great use of her that shows off Talulah Riley's acting chops: you can hear a marked difference in her voice when she speaks as the "glitched" version of her character, versus the "real" one Donna met in part one.

    (On a shallow note, I want her beautiful black dress. WANT. Yes, my taste in clothing runs towards gothy, LOL. I tend more towards the Perky Goth trope, though.)

    Of course, it's all very meta too: like Blink before it, this episode cleverly plays with the fourth wall. When you watch a TV show or movie and it cuts between scenes the way it does here, do you assume that the characters teleported from point A to point B and instantly engaged in the activities you see them suddenly doing? Of course not, you figure that things happened offscreen between the two scenes, skipping any boring stuff you don't need to see – the "good parts" version, as it were. Here, however, there is nothing in between: they really do get teleported from place to place, and only think they're doing stuff in between. They are experiencing the cuts exactly as we are. More stuff to mess with our minds as to what's real and what isn't in these episodes!

    I will forever think it's creepy when the Vashta Nerada start using Proper Dave's voice to speak directly to the Doctor. Something about hearing these horrible things speaking through a dead man's voice, as you look at his skull, is so macabre and disturbing to me. Props to the actor for the difference in how his voice sounds: there can be no illusion as to who's using it.

    Then that dread, that slow horror, creeps over you as it dawns on you that Other Dave is gone, that what you're hearing is him ghosting. Again, skulls. UGH, I CAN'T. I JUST CAN'T EVEN.

    Poor Anita. I liked her too. On rewatches, I listen for the change in her voice, and I always try to spot when she suddenly has only one shadow. It's a fun, if disturbing game.


    • arctic_hare says:

      "Funny thing is, this means you've always known how I was going to die. All the time we've been together, you knew I was coming here. The last time I saw you, the real you, the future you, I mean, you turned up on my doorstep, with a new haircut and a suit. You took me to Darillium to see the singing towers. Oh, what a night that was! The towers sang, and you cried. You wouldn't tell me why, but I suppose you knew it was time. My time. Time to come to the Library. You even gave me your screwdriver; that should've been a clue."

      River. Oh, River. Not gonna lie, I cried. I couldn't help it: I'd gotten so attached, and Alex Kingston's acting in this scene is top-notch. It's horrible to watch her die, to see her sacrifice herself for someone so important to her that doesn't even know or trust her. She drops into his life, utterly confuses him, and then dies saving him and everyone else, having dealt with the pain of him not knowing who the hell she is all through this ordeal. Again, Alex Kingston knocks it out of the park here. When she tells him not to rewrite time, not to change one bit of their adventures – to watch them run – that destroys me. Utterly. She is amazing. I'm so glad she was cast as River, I truly cannot imagine anyone else and don't want to, either. She rocks my world.

      "Is 'all right' special Time Lord code for 'really not all right at all?" "Why?" "Cause I'm all right too."

      Yeah. They're both "all right". The Doctor has just watched River die, and Donna had the happiness she believed was real ripped away from her, and she thinks it was all fake. She'll never know that he was really there and saw her, but he couldn't even call out to her. So sad. 🙁

      I have mixed feelings on the ending. On the one hand, I love the end of Doctor Dances, so on some level the callback makes me happy (and I do love a good "everybody lives" ending). On the other hand, it really feels like they died physical deaths, so I don't know if it counts? Weird. Miss Evangelista seems to have retained her intelligence, though, which is nice (if you listen, her "Aren't we all?" comeback there is both smart, and her voice sounds like it did earlier in this episode, rather than how she sounded in SitL). River's own ending is also not nearly as cool as she deserves. Though, it IS a family show, and I've heard it theorized that that was done to reassure the children watching that the onscreen kids were okay after they disappeared, which makes sense. I also like to think that either River went on to have badass virtual adventures, OR that "her" Doctor came back and got her out of there afterwards (assuming that can be done). I DON'T KNOW. IT'S ALL WEIRD. It's the only time I've been able to see Moffat's interview sexism bleed over into his writing, and it makes me 😐 mightily. I feel a bit like a hypocrite for loving the episodes so much in spite of it, but then again, if I stopped liking everything I read/watched/played because it had problematic writing in it, I wouldn't be left with very much to enjoy, would I? Sigh. At this point in my life, I'm just resigned to these sorts of mixed feelings on stuff I otherwise like. Which is unfortunate, but a sad fact of life, I suppose.

      • psycicflower says:

        I've come to that bizarre, surreal awareness within a dream that I am inside a dream, and unsure when I'll wake up, or how I know it's a dream, or when it will come to an end.
        <img src="; border="0" alt="Image and video hosting by TinyPic">

      • Minish says:

        I beleive Moffat said at Comic Con that Julie Gardner was against keeping the two data children but Moffat demanded they keep it in, then after the episode aired, he realized keeping the data children in was a bad idea and regretted it, but Julie decided she liked it.

        • arctic_hare says:

          Huh, I've never heard that before, that's very interesting. Gives me a different perspective on the ending. And as a writer myself, I can empathize with Moffat there: sometimes you DO write something that you think is good at the time, and then later regret it and wonder what you were thinking. It's particularly unfortunate when it's something that's already out there and you can't do anything about it, lol.

    • notemily says:

      All the thumbs up to your comments.

  20. kytten says:

    Poor Donna, missing her boy. I spent hours telling myself that it was OK and *somehow* the Dr would make it so they found each other again.

    The episodes isn't without it's flaws- and the ending for River is one of them- but I tell myself we don't see hyer having wildly exciting adventures cause she's on a break from them right now.

    • bradycardia says:

      Yes! I was sure Donna would turn back again. Or Lee would overcome his stutter. Or something!!

  21. Anon says:

    I really don't like the idea of being saved in a computer for all eternity. I know The Doctor has a thing about saving everyone but that was just wrong. River Song is a pretty bad ass character, i don't think she would have a problem with accepting her own death, which just makes putting her on a computer kind of fucked up.

  22. doesntsparkle says:

    This two parter is great, up until the last ten minutes when it starts to unravel. I really do enjoy Moffat’s writing for the most part, but it feels like he’s trying to fit too much stuff into a suitcase and sitting on it to make it all fit, and the result is broken hinges. It’s just too much; Donna’s husband recognizing her seconds before he teleports, River’s deus ex screwdriveria resolution in that creepy, creepy CAL world. Seriously, that world is as scary as the Vashta Nerada. I don’t care if the Doctor fixed the system the computer children are terrifying. What happened to the Doctor saying “You need a good death. Without death there’d only be comedies. Death gives us size.” If death gives us size, what does a half life in a computer for eternity give us? To borrow the Doctor’s analogy, it takes away their size, literally. It’s just odd.

    I don’t mean to be so negative. It was a good episode but it could have been great. As cheesy as the skeletons in space suits were; I think that the Vashta Nerada taking over the crew was well done and effective. I love that the Doctor actually got the opportunity to talk to the monsters and reach a compromise with them. The conversation between the Doctor and Donna about how “all right” is “special time-lord code for… not really all right at all” is so tragically accurate. The good parts outweigh the bad, but the bad parts are so distracting.

    • nanceoir says:

      " If death gives us size, what does a half life in a computer for eternity give us?"

      It eases the Doctor's guilt? I think, even though he didn't bring those people there, because he was there for all the bad that happened, and he's, you know, him, he feels guilty for letting them die. So, a half life in a computer can help him feel like he didn't totally fail at being The Doctor.

      • doesntsparkle says:

        Oh, you're absolutely right about it fitting the Doctor's character with his Harry Potter saving people thing. It's ironic that he says death is necessary in the first part, but can't face the reality of people dying.

  23. Starsea28 says:


    There is a massive love of reading and books running through the two episodes which every bookworm will love (so of course you loved them, Mark). CAL is a descendent of both Alice and Dorothy Gale, exchanging a real world for a fantasy one. The scene were the Node delivers the Head Librarian's message to the Doctor and Donna is an echo of the scene in Fellowship of the Ring where Gandalf reads aloud the last days of the Moria dwarfs, ending with the ominous "They are coming." And they (the shadows) are coming. Doctor Moon telling CAL "the real world is fantasy and your nightmares are real" – come on, this is what every child suspects! Books can be more real to children than life because they contain superreality and truth and you never forget the books which mark your life and mind, whether they're well written or badly written.

    These two episodes ARE like a 'Greatest Hits' set for Moffat, but since they were written about the time he knew he was going to be taking over as showrunner and David was deciding whether to stay or not, I think they are his own personal showcase. Here is what Moffat can do: scary monsters; meta writing that isn't clumsy (the whole discussion on spoilers between the Doctor and Donna, then the Doctor and River Song); strong (if irritating) female characters; strong foreshadowing; multiple layers; bittersweet endings; moments of true horror – the moment where Donna's children disappear from their beds in the blink of an eye has to be one of the most terrifying moments in New Who, I went cold and I don't have any children

    Oh but here's a thing: tthe forest of the Vashta Nerada must have covered a whole planet in order to produce that many pages, and yet there was no research into the ecosystem and lifeforms of that particular planet? Nicely done, Mr Lux.

    The Doctor is put in the position that Reinette occupied in Girl in the Fireplace: this mysterious person appears in his life, knows everything, won't share that knowledge. I think River Song was deliberately designed to be a little irritating: that's how the Doctor often comes across, jumping in and rattling off orders, telling everyone he knows best. It's a bit different when someone does that to him. And even though you get the repetition of "Everybody lives", it comes at a price. Unlike The Doctor Dances, this time, people are not revived and reborn. Their bodies remain dead. The Doctor can only give them a half life, but it's still better than no life at all… according to the Doctor, any way.

    • kaybee42 says:

      Did Lux say that they re printed all the books to fill the library? That seems a bit wasteful. Perhaps it was only books that could then only be found in digital format that they re printed, which would probably not be that many. I mean, the Doctor had a paperback of a random Agatha Christie book that was printed in that century. Maybe the same 'nostalgia trend' that made the humans want to create the second Earth brought back books in paper format?

      • NB2000 says:

        I believe the Doctor says it in the previous episode, something along the lines of "specially printed editions" for the library.

        • kaybee42 says:

          Ah I see. I has all teh smartz! That's kind of rubbish, at least for me, cause the smell of new books is rubbish. I like the old books that are old and yellowing, well thumbed and hold the memories of when they were read 🙂

          • Starsea28 says:

            Yeah, exactly! That's why libraries can be so awesome, the books have their own history.

            In this case… they were once an entire species.

  24. Minish says:

    All-in-all a terrific episode. Probably my least favorite Moffatt episode at this point, which isn't saying much. I still love it, and it's still loads better than a lot of the other episodes. But I have my quips with it as well.

  25. I'm not terribly fond about that ending because it just felt wierd and tagged on but the rest of it I loved. Even the parts that broke my heart such as Lee not finding Donna in time ;sadness; and Donna and the Doctor at the end who both look like they need all the hugs in the world.

  26. agrinningfool says:

    Oh Donna. I do love you, I really do. But… I wish you had treated your stammering husband better! AUGH. I am a stutterer/stammerer and I ROCK IT with King George the VI. OMG, you can NOT believe some of the shit I've had to endure. Sure, childhood teasing is one thing.. but for an older gentlemen, probably about 50-60 to start LAUGHING at me, a 24 year old woman, who is waiting on him? OMG so much RAGE. What we see Donna do isn't so much as bad as that.. but.. interrupting him.. finishing his sentences and thoughts. Ugh. Sooooo annoying.

    Donna, Donna, Donna. I'm shaking my head at you for this one moment.

    Also: I totally feel that missed chance at the end when Lee tries to call out to her. God, how many moments have I had like that?

  27. t09yavorski says:

    I now imagine, after seeing this episode, little kids all over Britain finding every book/thing made out of paper that they can carry and throwing them out the window. This would honestly have put me off of reading as a kid cause I would be scared that my books would eat me.

    I really hope Donna and Lee get to meet up again. I liked him. (One thing I noticed in the last episode between River and Donna: before the ideas of foreshadowing popped into my head I got the impression the River was trying not to fangirl when she found out who Donna was.)

    EDIT: Just had a thought. If the Shadow Creatures exist as dust and spores…then why doesn't the Doctor just whip out a Dustbuster?

  28. lastyearswishes says:

    "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."

    The way I've always taken this is that he's giving her a chance to live on in a sense in that digital world rather than just letting her die and move on to nothing.

    • electric ashera says:

      Presumably there's way more to the world of the computer than that—it's got every book ever written. Evangelista came back in Victorian garb speaking like a 19th century novel for a reason, I imagine.

  29. Vikinhaw says:

    Ignoring writing my thesis to de-lurk:

    Many people have pointed out that the Doctor, form his first incarnation up to now, has been regenerating into younger and younger forms (usually this is said as a complaint) but to me it seems funny in light of this his relationship with River, the first time he meet her is the last time she'll see him, cause it made me think of theory:
    That the Doctor is Merlin!

    Merlin ages backward through time so that goodbyes to his friends were his first meetings to him and first meetings for the friends were farewells.

    Fits well with Moffat's more fantasy-style who. I mean Doctor Who has never been hard sci-fi. It's as soft as whipped cream but Moffat's episodes and their monsters wouldn't be out of place in a fantasy.

    • PeterRabid says:

      😀 This is canon. …no, really. Just watch the Seventh Doctor serial "Battlefield."

      • Vikinhaw says:

        That is awesome! 😀 I love it when they write stories where the Doctor is used as an explanation for historical/mythological things. And it gives me an excuse to procrastinate further 😉

  30. swimmingtrunks says:

    I thought the statement being made there was that the only way to see the truth of things is to be brilliant and ugly- not that one excludes the other. You're smart so you can figure things out, and because you're not hot people aren't attracted to you, so they'd be less likely to pay attention to you or please you. It wasn't a false dichotomy.

    • echinodermata says:

      Ah, apologies to Karen if I did indeed misread the meaning behind that.

      I suppose I'm being defensive about people disliking River and Moffat when I'm so on the other side of the argument.

      Thanks swimmingtrunks for the clarification.

      • swimmingtrunks says:

        Ah, no, I did read it like that as well– haha, I was mostly clarifying for her sake, but thought it convenient to just add it to your reply rather than stick it in the unorganized mess of my own. Sorry for the confusion!

  31. hassibah says:

    ""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?"

    You're not alone in not being crazy about the ending.
    Actually it mostly confuses the hell out of me. Because, if River was really saved, why couldn't she have been properly restored just like Donna was, and everyone else in the library? And personally I'd rather just die than live in an artificial universe forever like that. For that reason alone this episode slips down a few notches on my favourites lists.

    River is such a badass though:
    "time can be rewritten"
    -"not those times, don't you dare!"

    Srsly I tear up a little thinking about it cause I'm a total sap like that.

    • MowerOfLorn says:

      I still wonder if a later Doctor might come along and upload her back into reality. I imagine everyone else's body's (the ones which were originally 'saved') couldn't have been changed into cyberspace, and they must have decomposed in 100 years, so the computer must have made replicas for them. Why can't it make a replica for River?

      Anyway, that's my head cannon until the show says otherwise.

      • hassibah says:

        I was actually thinking that too! That they might find a bullshit loophole to resurrect her later on, in which case all will be forgiven but till then…

    • Plummy says:

      I had that SAME CONFUSION about River getting rebooted after being saved. Why couldn't she just come out of the computer world like Donna and the 2309489438754895 other people? lol, I posted a comment about this very thing this morning (before I saw this comment).

  32. potlid007 says:

    As an aspiring archaeologist, I was offended by the archaeologist comment. Probably why 10 is my least favorite doctor. Butttttt that's probably because i never forgave 9 for leaving :(((((((((((

  33. Wookie_Monster says:

    Not available in my area *sadface*

  34. Flumehead says:

    These few episodes and all the rest in the series are awesome.

  35. nyssaoftraken74 says:

    I'm sure I have much to say about this episode, except pure adoration from start to finish – that goes for the whole of this most fairytale of stories. It never gets old. I'm just swept away by the whole thing every time. I honestly can't find a single thing not to love. And when my body dies, I want to be uploaded to a computer in the biggest library in the Universe. As an atheist, if given a simple choice between oblivion and the sum total of human knowledge and experience (and presumably lots of alien stuff, too) I'll choose the latter.

    Steven Moffat said he learned after writing the Empty Child/The Doctor Dances that the best 2 parters are when the second part does something very different to the first. And we can see that concept at work here very clearly.

    Re the Doctor Moon being obvious, Steven Moffat is a master at hiding things in plain sight. Hiding things in scripts is done all the time, but to have them standing there right in front of you but you still can't see them – that takes skill.

    The title of this second episode was in a state of flux for quite some time. Suggestions included:
    *The Doctor Runs (which Russell disliked because it's rubbish)
    *Forest of the Night (which was adopted for a while as a working title)
    *Children of the Library (which Russell felt revealed too much about Donna's children)
    *Darkness in the Library
    *The Saved
    *Rise of the Forest
    *Beneath the Library
    *Heart of the Library
    *A River Song Ending (ARSE for short)


    *River's Run (which was announed as the title shortly before the series aired before being changed to Forest of the Dead.)

    >I am so close to the end.

    To misquote the Fourth Doctor….

    …It's nearly the end…but the moment has not been prepared for.

  36. Hypatia_ says:

    Maybe this is my own personal hangup, but I find that virtual reality, inside CAL's hard drive/mind, is far, far scarier than the Vashta Nerada. It's all very "The Matrix", but a Matrix without scary machines running it. It's a little girl in charge. For some reason, that's creepier. It feels like a total lack of control, and WTF is up with the creepy clone children? The moment where Donna's "kids" just vanish scares the crap out of me for some reason, and I don't even have kids.

    I LOVE the bit where the Doctor tells the Vashta Nerada to "LOOK ME UP". Reference work saves the day! That's some seriously fast search and retrieval those things have got going on. I'm impressed, I want their skills. But without the being-a-flesh-eating-shadow thing.

    My favorite River Song moment in this episode: the bit where the Doctor asks her why she's carrying handcuffs, and she tells him "Spoilers!" with this rather suggestive look in his direction. The woman is about to die, and she's making jokes suggesting that there is kinky sex with handcuffs sometime in the Doctor's future. Love her.

    It's a bit sad, but I also love this exchange between the Doctor and Donna:
    The Doctor: I'm always all right.
    Donna: Is "all right" special Time Lord code for "really not all right at all"?
    The Doctor: Why?
    Donna: Because I’m all right too.
    Donna just gets him. I love their friendship.

    The "everybody lives" bit felt kind of cheap, to be honest. It worked great the first time, but for me, it lacked the powerful emotional impact of The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances. Everybody didn't live. Proper Dave died, Other Dave died, Anita died, Miss Evangelista died, River Song died. Their consciousnesses are apparently saved in the computer, but they still died. I kind of wish Moff hadn't used that again. Also, the fact that River's "happy ending" apparently involves her being stuck in VR reading bedtime stories to clone children bugs me. Why can't her VR involve her having mad adventures with Anita and company? I dunno, it just rubs me the wrong way.

    I know I've got some critisicms, but honestly, I love these episodes. They take place in a library the size of a planet. They have River Song messing with the Doctor's head. They have a goddamn unsettling alien menace. All in all, bravo Moff, bravo once again.

    • electric ashera says:

      Ever so agreed on the "everybody lives." Well… sort of. Depends a lot on your definition of "life." Also, they still died terrible horrible deaths and get to remember that. Is this a happy ending? I don't have an answer to that.

  37. thiamalonee says:

    They're in the paper in the books! That means it's not X-Files' "Soft Light," it's the episode "Darkness Falls," where the bugs that were captured within trees escape during logging, and if the characters end up in the dark with the bugs on them, they're immediately killed.

    • Ali says:

      Hey, I totally forgot about that episode! The special effects in this were a tad better than the 90s effects of season 1 X Files though. 😀

      Is it weird that reading 'Mark Watches' is making me want to watch the X Files through again? People keep mentioning episodes!

      • Ali says:

        Actually, I just watched 'Darkness Falls' again because of this, and it's pretty much EXACTLY THE SAME THING.
        …that kind of ruined this episode a bit for me. Now it doesn't seem half as creative because it's totally been done before.

  38. Tauriel says:

    A lot of people take the meaning of Ten's line "There's only one reason I would ever tell anyone my name. There's only one time I could…" that he told River his name when they married. I believe the reason is far more simple:

    He told her his name to avoid time paradox. See, he already knew that she would need to know his name in order to whisper it to his earlier self's ear in the Library to gain his trust. So obviously, at some point after the events of SITL/FOTD (from the Doctor's POW; before them from River's POW) he would have to tell her simply so that she would know it and the causality would be preserved.

    (I dunno, is that intelligible enough? 😛 )

    • echinodermata says:

      It's the second part of that quote: "only one time I could"

      As I understand that line, there's a certain "physical" situation where he's allowed to tell her his name and somehow he's unable to at any other time. I don't think avoiding a paradox is a sufficient explanation, personally.

      • Tauriel says:

        To a Time Lord, sensing time and its various effects (including paradoxes) IS a "physical situation". Like he told Jack in Utopia, it's in his instincts. He had to tell her his name, because if he hadn't, he'd create a paradox. Hence, "the only time I could".

        • Lucy says:

          But if that were it, he wouldn't have bothered to say so, would he? That would just be the way it was, and it would make sense. It would be pretty narky of him to waste her few remaining seconds of conversation on explaining to her that the only reason he trusted her with this information was to make sure she died properly!

        • echinodermata says:

          Okay, then let me rephrase. I interpreted it as requiring a situation and circumstance beyond him – like it requires "the planets aligning" or something (but better written ) about things being just right before he's actually capable of revealing his name.

          • Hypatia_ says:

            Maybe it's because I've read "A Wizard of Earthsea" and its associated books and short stories too many times, but I like to imagine that a Time Lord's name can have power of its own. Okay, we saw Time Lords in the classic series who used their names (Romana, for a start) but the Doctor and the Master both hide their names. I like to think there's a reason other than "'The Doctor' sounds cooler."

            • Tauriel says:

              There are plenty of Time Lords who don't hide their names – Romana, Omega, Rassilon, Borusa, Drax…

            • Matt says:

              The one thing I don't like about this episode is that, whilst we don't actually hear The Doctor's name, the fact that River Song knows it and uses it removes a little of the mystery. Specifically, it means that some of my favourite theories on his name can't be true any more, namely….

              That in choosing to leave Gallifrey both The Doctor and The Master were forbidden from using their real names.

              That The Doctor's name is a complex mathematical equation that can't even be thought by a human mind, let alone understood or expressed.

              And finally my favourite…

              That it's been so long since The Doctor, or anyone, used his real name, that he's simply forgotten it.

              It's important to say that these are all fan theories and have NO basis in or reference to the show at all.

  39. Bilbo-sama says:

    And then there's a downloadable video game made involving the 11th Doctor and the Vashta Nerada…UNDERWATER.

  40. SusanBones says:

    I am so glad that you are reviewing the Dr Who shows, because everyone once in a while, I have trouble figuring out WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON. I've probably watched this 2 part episode five times now, but it still confuses me. I never figured out that Dr Moon was the virus checker. I am going to learn so much.

    • mkjcaylor says:

      They do repeatedly reference the moon as the doctor moon, which is when I figured it out.

  41. oldnewborrowedblue says:

    I have nothing to say, I just need to share this:

    River: “Funny thing is, this means you’ve always known how I was going to die. All the time we’ve been together, you knew I was coming here. The last time I saw you- the real you, the future you, I mean- you turned up on my doorstep with a new haircut and a suit. You took me to Verilian to see the singing towers. What a night that was. The towers sang and you cried. You wouldn’t tell me why, but I suppose you knew it was time. My time. Time to come to the Library. You even gave me your screwdriver. That should have been a clue. There’s nothing you can do.”

    The Doctor: “You can let me do this!”

    River: “If you die here, it’ll mean I’ve never met you!”

    The Doctor: “Time can be rewritten.”

    River: “Not those times. Not one line. Don’t you dare! It’s OK. It’s OK. It’s not over for you. You’ll see me again. You’ve got all of that to come. You and me, time and space. You watch us run.”

    The Doctor: “River, you know my name. You whispered my name in my ear. There’s only one reason I would ever tell anyone my name. There’s only one time I could…”

    River: “Hush now. Spoilers.”

    <img src=""&gt;

    – Every. Single. Time.

  42. flamingpie says:

    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.

    That right there has always been my main issue with these episodes. I think they're clever, and creepy, and wonderfully written but that ending just… I do not like it. And that colors my feelings for the rest of the two parter, to the point where on rewatch, knowing how it will end, I can't enjoy them the way I did originally.

    I hate how it comes off as an attempt at a rehash of The Empty Child/Doctor Dances with "Everybody lives!", because in this case? They really aren't living. They get to spend a virtual life inside the same computer we just watched Donna spend an episode trying to escape. Sure we get a line about how the computer is 'fixed' now, but… I don't know. I actually find the ending infinitely more horrifying than the Vashta Nerada.

    • doesntsparkle says:

      I just don't understand what they were trying to achieve with that ending. It seems like they were trying to make it heavenly, but it is just . . . weird and creepy.

      • nyssaoftraken74 says:

        &gt;How does sticking her into a saturated, bright world of swingsets and imaginary houses give her a good end?

        But the world *isn't* that. That's just the bit that CAL created for herself so she could be a normal girl having a normal life. The whole thing is infinitely more than that. It's a virtual worldscape that can be anything because it's got an entire library from which to draw inspiration.

        If it exists, or has been imagined. then it has been written. If it has been written, then it's in The Library. If it's in The Library, then it can be recreated inside CAL's World. Now that all of it's available space isn't being taken up by 4022 saved people, CAL doesn't need to economise anymore. So the five of them and CAL herself will have all sorts of amazing adventures for as long as The Library exists.

        It's a brilliant ending!

        • flamingpie says:

          They can have adventures now, sure. But that doesn't change the fact that they are VIRTUAL. None of it is real. To me, personally, it's creepy as all hell that this is implied to be a GOOD ending.

          • nyssaoftraken74 says:

            There's a genuinely fascinating (and fascinatingly genuine) theory in cosmology that the Universe is really a 3 dimensional projection of the information contained within a 2 dimensional shell at the edge of the expanding bubble. In effect making us and everything in the Universe a huge holographic simulation. Does that make it any less real?

            If River's body is now made up of photons instead of quarks and leptons, does it really matter? (Pardon the pun.)

            If the nature of your reality is a projection, then the projections are real, by definition.

            There's also cognito ergo sum.

            I respect that some ppl find this creepy and unsatisfying, but frankly, as I indicated earlier, when my time comes, it would do for me!

    • electric ashera says:

      It also totally contradicts the beginning of the episode. What ever happened to, "Oh, you need a good death. Death gives us size"? Did River die or not? Was her death a good death (well, it was if she died, but honestly I think living on in the computer takes a little something away from the immense tragedy of her sacrifice)?

      • notemily says:

        I agree with this so much. The whole point of River's sacrifice was that it was a sacrifice. To me, the idea that she will NEVER truly die, and be kept alive forever in a virtual world where the laws of reality don't exactly apply, is kind of horrifying. She'll never get to see the people she loves "on the outside" again, and she'll have to exist knowing that her world isn't real. That sounds like a nightmare, not heaven.

  43. Laura says:

    “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.”

    Mark, Mark, Mark. No matter how superficial this line is, you are NOT allowed to ruin it for me. It's a continuation of the Doctor Dances, and man do I love this line so much. Yes, I know, not everybody lives. And everything comes at a price. But River does preface this line with "you can't run forever." Meaning somehow, the adventure has to end. Which is heartbreaking. But the everybody lives, if only sometime, is the idea that we have to concentrate on the good things in this world in order to find the strength to keep going. And the Doctor knows it.

    You must finish the fourth series soon because then I will show you THE MOST AWESOME FANVID IN ALL OF CREATION WITH THIS LINE AS ITS CENTERPIECE.

  44. Vicki_Louise says:

    I love this episode, it think i might love it more than the previous one.

    The way it starts is so jarring and confusing (that's a good thing), and the jump cuts in Donna's imaginary life is such a simple but fantastic idea. I love the way Donna has a gut feeling that there's something weird about the world she's living in but she can't quite work it out. I love Donna and Lee together and their whole relationship, even though they meet, get married and have children in the space of a minute. Catherine plays that in such a natural way that you really believe in it, which makes it even more gut wrenching when the life that Donna seems so happy with is ripped away from her.

    I really want to know the Doctor's real name but at the same time i don't. What if his real name is actually Keith or Nigel? or a name that, to the Timelords, would be completely normal to call your son, like spatula. It would completely ruin the persona of the Doctor. Like Bliss (bless Bliss) said in Love and Monsters, "names are very important."
    I use to think the fact that River knows the Doctor's name was because they were married, but that would be far to simple of an answer to ever come out of the Moffs brain, so now i'm not so sure.

    I so badly want the coat that Donna's wearing in the playground, it's gorgeous!

    I find Donna losing her children far, far, far more horrifying than the Vashta Nerada. I knew a family who lost their baby, seeing his tiny white coffin at the funeral was just………. i can't even describe how absolutely devastating that image is.
    Whenever i watch a tv show that has a storyline of mothers and fathers losing their children i fall apart completely. Catherine Tate is incredible in that scene! Donna's screaming and sobbing for her children is gut wrenching, heartbreaking and devastating. I hate that scene but i love it.

    River Song's sacrifice is beautiful and i love that she makes that decision for herself. I love her final words to the Doctor. I love River a lot, she's the only Moffat character that i've actually fallen in love with.

    The little girl playing CAL is fantastic!

    Donna not seeing Lee is so sad.

    I love the ending and River's voice over, and i usually hate voice overs!

    I love the image of the Doctor and Donna in the TARDIS at the end. Though David Tennant pulls a really ugly face when he clicks his fingers to open the TARDIS doors, it's more of a gurn than a smile!

    • Vicki_Louise says:

      I want River's book so badly, it's a scandal that they haven't released it!

      I think River's afterlife is kind of beautiful, she gets that entire imaginary-computer world to live in and when she's had enough of that she can go and live in her favourite book, at least that's the way i see it, she gets the same 'life' as CAL has.
      I know what book i'd live in, 'helloooooooo there Hogwarts. Why yes i would like to be in Gryffindor, thank you very much Mr sorting hat. I hope there's pudding.'

      Though there is one big NO in this episode: Where exactly did the Doctor send the Vashta Nerada? How did he do it? It's not explained at all and that irritates me!
      And another thing that irritates me is how long it takes the Doctor to figure out that the Vashta Nerada came to the library in the books, you're sitting there shouting at the TV and it makes the character seem really dim.


      • notemily says:

        He left the VN to their planet. All the people found someplace to go (…somehow), and the VN got to keep the Library. Which is kind of sad, because now nobody can ever access that huge planet of knowledge again.

    • notemily says:


      I love the cut from "what am I going to do with you?" to them immediately getting married. Usually you'd think there was a whole history of them falling in love in between those two scenes, but we know that it probably JUST HAPPENED LIKE THAT. It reminds me of how I used to start crushing on a guy and then immediately imagine how our entire relationship would go. "I met him, married him, and divorced him before we got off the elevator." I can't remember who said that but it's one of my favorite quotes.

  45. LittleCaity says:

    What gets me the worst about this episode isn't River's death, although it is poignant.

    It's poor Donna, thinking she invented the man of her dreams and HE'S REAL and she'll never ever know. Excuse me while I bawl in a corner.

  46. Loz says:

    Unpopular opinion time…

    I hardly ever rewatch this two parter. To me it seems like Moffat has had an incredible brainwave, or a dream, and is trying to write down all the details as they are rapidly slipping away, and something that looks awesome on paper turns out to be kind of… rubbish.

    The Vashta Nerada, not really terrifying. Recycling the idea of using childhood fears as monsters gets old when you've had gread episodes like Girl in the fireplace, or Blink. Two shadows? I love my fantasy, but I just don't buy that.

    And then they end up living in the books? Nope, still not scared. Hasn't put me off books. Kind of bored with them now..

    CAL and saving the 4022 people – I don't really appreciate this. Took me a few goes to 'get' it, but a distorted reality isn't the worst thing to happen to you.


  47. pica_scribit says:

    What would a world like that offer an archaeologist? Every book ever written and all the time in the world to so all the research you ever wanted. CAL has lots of space on her hard drive now; she can probably create as many people programmes and real-world situations as necessary. River can probably even choose to grow old and die there if she wants.

  48. electric ashera says:

    On rewatch, I liked the second half a LOT better than the first half.

    River telling the Doctor to be less emotional: GOOD JOB RIVER! You've centered in pretty quickly on Ten's major issue. And Ten distrusts the HELL out of her. Well… as he should, really. I really love River in this scene: I believe that she DOES know the Doctor from her past, because she knows exactly what worries him, exactly what is going through his mind, even though he wouldn't admit those things or accuse her of them out loud. And then she whispers something (WHAT? OMG WHAT?!) in his ear and just.. oh the subtle changes on Tennant's face. It's such a beautiful moment and he looks so sad and so scared and so calm (or is it resigned?) at the same time. Her sadness because she knows him but she DOESN'T know him is, ugh, oh god, it really really kills me.

    My mind is BLOWN by the true identity of Doctor Moon. I had TOTALLY FORGOTTEN about that plot twist! "It's just a Doctor Moon, it supports the main computer at the core of the planet."

    "Just keep it together OK?" "I'm keeping it together. I'm only crying. I'm about to die, it's not an overreaction." OH GOD ALL THE TEARS.

    Donna working out that her "life" inside the computer isn't quite right, lacks transitions… She's a BAMF even when she's incorporeal!

    "This isn't the real me. This isn't my real body. I'VE BEEN DIETING!" Oh Donna ILU.

    The revelation of CAL. OMG ALL THE TEARS. "A child dreaming of a normal life, and of every book ever written…" Lux is a good deal more sympathetic as a character when we know his family's secrets.

    River's death. MOAR TEARS. I really, really loved her by the end of this episode and the promise of the future? SO TRAGIC.

    "Is 'all right' special Time Lord code for 'really not all right at all'? Because I'm all right too."

    Me three Donna. ME THREE. And then we see Lee just failing to catch her attention… because of course Real Lee hasn't gotten over the stutter. 🙁

    And then… NO SPOILERS. It really is better not to see it coming, isn't it? Whatever it is? Donna's future? The Doctor's?

    The repeat of "everyone lives." Everyone DIDN'T live. Not really, not quite. The callback to "The Doctor Dances" is the only flat note in an episode otherwise made of awesome.

    One Question:
    – WTF is a "squareness gun"? Why would you invent one? Why don't I remember Captain Jack having one? (Note to self: go rewatch S1!) Why is it inexplicably so awesome?

  49. jennywildcat says:

    Mark, comparing Donna's life in the library computer to the "Human Nature" two-parter – I LOVE YOU FOREVER! I cried for Donna when she missed seeing Lee back in the library again. COME ON, DONNA – TURN AROUND!

    (Speaking of crying – ULTIMATE HEARTBREAK at the Doctor still in handcuffs staring off at where River has just sacrificed herself to save everyone. David Tennant – how you love to crush my soul).

    Okay – here's what the comment I really wanted to post yesterday but didn't for fear of spoilers (it's not spoilery anymore) – Like I said, I'm doing my master's degree in library science and I love that the entire planet is a library. I drooled over all of the Doctor's descriptions of the place – and YES, THERE ARE STILL ACTUAL BOOKS IN THE 51ST CENTURY!! TAKE THAT, EBOOK SNOBS!!

    … then Steven Moffat works his magic and I rethink my career choices. And I buy a Nook. Flesh-eating parasites in the books – NO THANK YOU (I'm still going to be a librarian – but in a very well-lit library).

    Also – when I first saw this, I did NOT like River Song at all because I felt like Donna was getting edged out of being the Doctor's companion and I love Donna and I hated that this new character was being given so much time and demanding so much attention of the Doctor that Donna had to be sent into some alternative reality so River could take over. It's like, the Doctor already has a companion – WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING HERE, NEW PERSON?? Stop stealing Donna's thunder, dammit! (I felt the same way about Captain Jack when he was first introduced, as well as Madame de Pompadour and Joan Redfern).

    HOWEVER – over time I've learned more about her and she has grown to be one of my favorite characters – much like Captain Jack and the others I mentioned earlier – and I can't wait to see her again (there are still plenty of questions about River, but I will save that discussion for another venue). I think that River Song was deliberately written to be divisive and controversial and on that front, I have to say – WELL DONE, MOFF.

    <img src="; border="0" alt="Photobucket">

    • jennywildcat says:

      Oh, just so you know – YOU ARE NOT PREPARED. Never in a thousand million years will you EVER be prepared.

  50. I am unashamedly in love with the character of River Song, and I am a straight chick. I think what appeals to me is that she's a female who for once has as much confidence, intelligence, and humour as the Doctor.
    Some people flat out hate that, because the Doctor needs to be on some pedestal, but for me it's highly refreshing after seeing so many women trying desperately to keep up, follow his train of thought, and somehow "earn" his company. River works in similar ways, and is capable of coming to her own conclusions, fighting, and working on her own.

    • We get the feeling she did a lot of travelling on her own (Who knows what is in her past? I'm dying to read that little blue book! Is it bigger on the inside?) and her humour and delight at the Doctor's current state are contagious.
      She doesn't act like she feels threatened by Donna being his Companion (a nice change from the Sarah Jane/Rose bit), and even shows deep concern for her despite barely knowing her. I like seeing a woman like that.
      Even when she dies, there's no self-pity, no pleading for him to come save her.
      In short: River Song is an impressive female, and a bamf forever.

      "You watch us run!"

  51. dcjensen says:

    I am putting down my thoughts as I recall them when I first saw this episode.

    At the end of the episode, I still think that someday the Doctor might find a way to get River out of the computer. Especially after the day arrives (somewhere forward from the present) that he knows she's going to the Library.

    I can imagine him spending much time in the next few (years? months?) thinking of a way to reverse the process.

    As I am avoiding spoilers, I will neither confirm nor deny any possible future (or is it past?) encounters with River.

  52. cara says:

    That gun thing, I think it's a sonic blaster? Like Jack's in Empty Child. Not sure though.

  53. peacockdawson says:

    Meh. Maybe it's just cause my sibs hyped it up so much (they seemed to think it was the best thing since Blink) but this was never my fave story-arc. I mean, it was cool. But I just wasn't feeling it. Maybe it was because of the Vashta Nerada. Huuuuuge disappointment. The reason that all peoples everywhere fear the dark, and they're just sort of little dust-mote piranhas? MEH.

  54. lezah says:


    I also really love how they play with the whole "it happens when you want it to" in that virtual world.

    And for some strange reason that I cannot possibly understand, there are quite a few River-hating Whovians. But I love River. She's a BAMF and OH MY GOD WHO THE HELL IS SHE.

    Also, the thing about the Doctor "saving" River – he couldn't bear to let her die, I suppose, is what I get out of it.

    Finally, for anyone who hasn't heard this track, it is MY FAVOURITE THUS FAR off all the new Who soundtracks –
    The Greatest Story Never Told by Murray Gold:
    It's used in several S4 episodes but I associate it mostly with this episode, probably because it features a lot in this (and Silence in the Library).


    • notemily says:

      Honestly I think the "afterlife" that River and the others get is kind of nightmarish. I mean, you see it with Donna, that once she starts to realize things aren't real, it starts to fall apart for her. So would the others, KNOWING it's not real, have the same problem? DO they know it's not real? Does it still do that thing where you think about something and then it happens? Because that would CREEP ME OUT. I like my time to progress in a linear fashion, thanks. (I mean, in my own life. Not on Doctor Who. Because time travel is awesome.)

  55. notemily says:

    Yay! I'm caught up!! *does the dance of being caught up*

    Not just that, but Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead marks the end of the Who episodes I had seen before Mark started Watching. (I had also seen "Rose," the Master 3-parter, Empty Child/Doctor Dances, the one with the Adipose, and part of "The Unicorn and the Wasp." RANDOM)

    Now I can experience what is sure to be an epic end to season 4 (I'm not spoiled) IN REAL TIME WITH MARK. I AM EXCITE.

    • echinodermata says:

      Ah, and now I know why I kept getting weirdly late comment replies from you in previous reviews.

      Anyway, welcome to the parry!

      • notemily says:

        Haha, yeah, my roommate and I have been watching it together (she's seen it, I haven't), and we kept having DVD issues. First the DVDs we got from the library kept skipping and not working in our ancient DVD player. Then Netflix stopped delivering to my apartment for some reason I still don't understand–all the discs get returned to them as "undeliverable." I was like WHYYYYYY. Then I realized it was all on Netflix Instant and felt kind of stupid.

        We've been watching three episodes per night so now I've seen the end of season 4 and I WAS NEVER PREPARED AND MARK'S BRAIN IS GOING TO SHORT OUT FROM HIS UNPREPAREDNESS.

  56. @Jaxx_zombie says:

    I love you, in a non-old gregg stalker type of way, just as a you're amazing type of way.

  57. @Jaxx_zombie says:

    I'm so proud of you all, no spoilers from any of you!!!
    I would love to live in this library, but then I wouldn't want to be turned into a walking skeleton…. *sighs* you could have all the books in the universe, but you would have to give up your life… :/

  58. cdnstar says:

    So, I am trying to catch up on reviews after a few weeks of not having time to do so, and I don't have time to read the comments. I am not sure how I've gotten to the point that not being able to read these comments makes me sad, but that's where I'm at.

    Anyways – I'm not sure if this has been said, either here or in the previous review (Silence in the Library), but the thing that made me go @#%!!@#!!!!!! after this episode was that I WANT TO KNOW HOW SHE KNOWS HIS NAME. Well, and I want to know what his name is, true. But I want to know what this one thing/time is that means she can know. ARGH! Such a cliffhanger, that one.

    That said, I LOVE this two parter to pieces. The Donna sub-story and the Donna/Lee thing – so sad.

  59. Wow, I hardly ever would??? ve thought one particular could do such things with cardboard??¨?Coriginal and wonderful.

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  88. PK9 says:

    Mark! I've missed you. I loved your Hunger Games read, but I haven't been following your new stuff since I wasn't reading the same books, but I just started watching Doctor Who and I was ecstatic to find out that you blogged about watching these episodes.

    I thought the "first time we see River is at the end of her story" thing was brilliant. And the Doctor interrupting her glorious final voiceover for "one last run". But the virtual world thing seemed too much like the Nexus from Star Trek Generations. It's a place where you can be perfectly content, but it's not REAL. Too much fluff for the ending.

    I'm not a big fan of the shadow monsters, either. I think they were more scary when they were just some kind of mindless predator that can't be reasoned with. But once it turned out that they are sentient and can communicate with humans…. I guess at one level it makes them more evil because they understand that they are killing and eating sentient life, but still do it. But I don't think it ever explains why they backed down in the first place. If the Doctor said in part 1 that the only option was to run away, doesn't that suggest that they are virtually invulnerable? It's never shown that our heroes have any way of killing the Vashta Nerada, and in fact if they had a way to kill them they would be morally justified in doing so because the Vashta are sentient killers.

  89. Anonymous says:

    Since I know you've seen the more recent episodes and have seen more of River and the Doctor, maybe her death was well-placed in hindsight. It's almost like the Moff is trying to save some heartbreak until something reminds us of this episode, and we think "Oh no, River!" and cry forever. (Just to clarify, that is basically me right now 🙁 ) Maybe Moffat put it here so we wouldn't be super-heartbroken at first? Just a thought, but sincerely *my creyz forever*

  90. kateydidnt says:

    "I'm the Doctor, and you're in the biggest library in the universe. LOOK ME UP." Just about the best threat ever. Especially since it WORKS.

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