Tuesday, July 07, 2009

My Review of Doctor Who's 4x08: "Silence In The Library"

Written by Steven Moffat
Directed by Euros Lyn

The Doctor: “We're near the equator, so this must be biographies. I love biographies.”
Donna: “Yeah, very you. Always a death at the end.”

Of all the places to go in time and space, picking a library might not be high on my list. I do like them but I think I would’ve just gone for something more adventurous than the haven of books.

However on Doctor Who, a library is as sinister as anything else and when it’s library created by Steven Moffat, they don’t get any creepier. Also it’s not just The Doctor and Donna who get a first glimpse.

Nope, the episode beings with the viewpoint of a seemingly ordinary girl who’s telling her father and shrink Doctor Moon about a library in space that she happens to own. This library also happens to go on forever and soon as she hears a strange knocking on the door, she begins to freak out.

The knocking is courtesy of The Doctor and Donna who are barricading themselves for their own protection. The girl in the real world however is being calmed down by Moon. Clearly this is one girl with more than an active imagination and this is definitely one of the best words to describe this whole episode.

Things are then told from The Doctor and Donna’s perspective after the opening credits are finished. He’s taken her to the biggest library in the universe and while it’s a time honoured tradition to actually be quiet in a library, it’s a tad suspicious to discover than no-one else is around.

A quick scan from The Doctor indicates that he and Donna are the only humanoids presents but when he furthers the scan, it’s then revealed that they aren’t alone. Needless to say there are monsters about but it takes a while to meet them as such. Still, there’s plenty to be getting on with as the shadows are acting peculiar.

One of the funniest things about the library is reading biographies. What sets this one apart is that there are millions of people who Donna could read about but The Doctor warns her off with a lecture on spoilers. For a show in which spoilers are craved for, actively sought or made up in cases of boredom, there’s something delightfully ironic in that comment from The Doctor.

Worse still is that when they try to get some basis information on their environment, they are met with one of the gruesome looking creatures. The Nodes are glorified statues with the faces of dead people who only go on to tell The Doctor and Donna to run and count the shadows.

With Steven Moffat, we’ve had abandoned kids, monsters under the bed and killer statues so while a part of me wants to be jaded by what the man can conjure up, I have to admit that the idea of shadows actually being able to kill anything or pose that serious a threat is a really inspired idea.

What’s also inspired is giving us something of an ensemble cast too when a space expedition also shows up to the library. Unlike The Doctor and Donna, they’ve had a harder time getting onto the planet and in particular, Strackman Lux takes an instant dislike to The Doctor. Well guaranteed that with this amount of characters in a two-parter one or two of the humans would.

Still while Strackman Lux is something of a pain in the arse, The Doctor and Donna aren’t exactly victims either. The first thing they do is rip up a bunch of contracts that he tells Miss Evangelista to give them. The least The Doctor could’ve done was read it properly and then torn it up.

It’s also rather apparent that throughout the episode, Lux is not only resentful of The Doctor and Donna gate crashing his expedition but he’s also less than thrilled with The Doctor assuming authority at every pace. Given that Lux isn’t exactly a help in any of dangers that happen in this episode, I don’t really feel that much for him, even though I like Steve Pemberton as an actor.

It’s also interesting to note that Lux seemingly knows more about this library than he wants to tell. At one point The Doctor does get rather animated in trying to get him to reveal anything of use but Lux remains pretty tight lipped about what’s really up with this place.

Another noteworthy member of this expedition is Miss Evangelista. I know Tallulah Riley from Nearly Famous and I actually thought she was a nice piece of casting for this part. Miss Evangelista is one of those people eager to help but is rather inexperienced and given that she’s travelling with a bunch of people who don’t take to her, I can’t help but feel for the girl.

Donna also felt for her too as she didn’t seem to approve of some of the other members teasing Miss Evangelista. It’s nice to see Donna in that sympathetic, almost big sisterly role even though she’s more or less done the same things with Evelina, Jenny and Agatha Christie.

It also rather sucks that as soon as Miss Evangelista spots something of utter importance, she’s casually ignored. This almost wouldn’t be so bad if the unfair dismissal of the girl hadn’t resulted in her own death and while this show always shies away from showing blood, there’s still another way to really show a dead person.

When the gang do find Miss Evangelista, she’s nothing more than a skeleton in a ripped up spacesuit. Worse still her outcome has her defined as a Data Ghost which means that while she might be dead, her brainwaves also simulate a conversation as she dies.

This does manage to get her to note Donna’s compassion but while Donna might be nudged by The Doctor to talk to her, Miss Evangelista does kind of go into a creepy loop. Well someone had to die from the expedition and it’s not too much of a shock that Miss Evangelista isn’t the only person to meet their maker here.

The next poor unfortunate victim then is Proper Dave. He was the first Dave on the series and excluding Other Dave and some lady, he’s also not really that vocalised as a character. He’s pretty open to The Doctor and Donna but when two shadows are at his feet, he’s basically a dead man.

Even though his team don’t want to leave him, there’s no choice in the end when he becomes a Data Ghost and starts terrorising the gang. At one point he even tries to kill The Doctor but thanks to a quick thinking River, he’s not so lucky to snuff our favourite Time Lord.

Before I talk about River, the next thing I’ll discuss are the Vashta Nerada which are basically air piranhas and can leave you skinless in milliseconds. Because we can’t actually see them our imaginations have to stretch a little more and there’s something rather creepy when The Doctor points out that not only can any shadow be a Vashta Nerada but they can exist on any planet to boot.

As villains they’re successful in creating that air of menace that this episode is craving. They might even be the best original baddies this season as well and if we didn’t take them seriously before, then The Doctor showing us how quickly they can scoff a chicken leg does the trick.

Then there’s Professor River Song, who is without a doubt the most important character in this episode. Given how sexualised David Tennant’s Doctor has been in Seasons Two and Three, I have to admit I didn’t want another former lover coming out of the midst but it seems that River is a future companion.

She’s the very person who lured him to the library with a message on the psychic paper and as soon as she meets him she is overtly affectionate. Casting ER actress Alex Kingston is a nice touch as she more than holds her own with David Tennant and also proves to be a plausible leader of the expedition to boot.

Her scenes with The Doctor stirs a lot of feelings. He’s confused with how intimately she knows about him and when Donna tries to get some answers out of her, he stops her in her tracks. However while The Doctor might be against spoilers, he is stopped at one point by River from reading her book of the future.

As guest characters go, River is definitely an ambitious piece. There’s clearly so much about The Doctor and Donna that she knows/experienced but she can’t tell and given that the current situation then puts Donna in the worst of predicaments, even River winds up being stunned by the events in the library.

Donna might have been disgusted by the idea of a Node earlier on but thanks to something going wrong that’s exactly what’s happened to her. Yeah, that means Donna’s dead and either The Doctor or an outside force has managed to kill her. That being said we also know that Catherine Tate has five more episodes left, so however this little problem is resolved, either way Donna isn’t gone just yet.

As for the girl of the piece, how the hell does she fit into things? One minute she’s engaging with a TV conversation with The Doctor, the next she can’t get a signal. There’s also the rather creepy Doctor Moon, also played nicely by Colin Salmon. One minute he’s telling the girl in front of her dad that the library, the next minute he’s urging her to save everyone in it. It’s hard to figure out whether his motives are good or bad but this is such a cracking episode that the various twists and turns never feel too convoluted.

Also in “Silence In The Library”

In lieu of an episode last week, we got a brilliant mid-season trailer for the last six episodes. So basically lots of danger, Rose and Davros (presumably) is on the way.

The Doctor (to the girl): “Oh hello, sorry for bursting in like this. Is it okay if we stop here for a bit?”

When that scene is played from The Doctor’s perspective he interacts with a security camera that’s then the girl in the real world.

Donna: “Isn't travelling with you one big spoiler?”
The Doctor: “I try to keep you away from major plot developments.”

The Doctor: “Donna.”
Donna: “Yeah.”
The Doctor: “Stay out of the shadows.”
Donna: “Why? What’s in the shadows?”

This episode is the first one that Euros Lyn has directed since 2006’s “The Runaway Bride”. It’s nice to have him back.

The Doctor: “Tell me you’re not archaeologists.”
River: “Do you have a problem with archaeologists?”
The Doctor: “I’m a time traveller. I point and laugh at archaeologists.”

The Doctor: “Almost every species in the universe has an irrational fear of the dark. But they’re wrong because it’s not irrational. It’s Vashta Nerada.”
Donna: “What’s Vashta Nerada?”
The Doctor: “It’s what’s in the dark. It’s what’s always in the dark.”

River dubbed The Doctor “Sweetie” and “Pretty Boy” during the episode. She also talked about Byzantium and a picnic in Asgard.

The Doctor: “You’ve seen me before?”
River: “Doctor, please tell me you know who I am?”

The Girl: “Are you in my television?”
The Doctor: “No, I’m sort of in space.”

Was it me or did The Girl’s father and Lux look a little similar? At one point, I actually thought her father was Lux.

River: “Sorry you are not allowed to see inside the book. It’s against the rules.”
The Doctor: “What rules?”
River: “Your rules.”

The Doctor (re Miss Evangelista): “Help her.”
Donna: “She’s dead.”
The Doctor: “I know. Help her.”

Contrary to a report in DWM, this is actually the 50th episode that has aired from the new series, although the upcoming “Midnight” was the 50th one filmed.

Doctor Moon (to The Girl): “The real world is a lie and your nightmares are real. The library is real and there are people trapped in there who need to be saved.”

River (to Donna, re The Doctor): “Oh God do I know that man. We go way back that man and me. Just not this far back.”

Congratulations to writer Steven Moffat who in 2010 will be the show runner for the series’ fifth season.

Donna: “How are we safe?”
The Doctor: “We’re not. It was a clever lie to shut you up.”

Donna (as a Node): “Donna Noble has left the library. Donna Noble has been saved.”

Is there any chance that excluding the River stuff, either The Doctor or Donna will read something pertaining to the finale?

Well this was a seriously cracking episode. “Silence In The Library” is actually the best episode that Steven Moffat has penned since Season One’s “The Empty Child” and “The Doctor Dances” and continues the standards of the mid-season two-part episodes being unstoppable.

Rating: 10 out of 10.

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