Doctor Who in Review: Season Four, Episode #8 – Silence in the Library
The hit BBC series Doctor Who is now in its fourth season on the Sci-Fi Channel, and since we’re all big fans here at ComicMix, we’ve decided to kick off an episode-by-episode analysis of the reinvigorated science-fiction classic.
Every week, I’ll do my best to go through the most recent episode with a fine-tooth comb (or whatever the "sonic screwdriver" equivalent might be) and call out the highlights, low points, continuity checks and storyline hints I can find to keep in mind for future episodes. I’ll post the review each Monday, so you have ample time to check out the episode once it airs each Friday at 9 PM EST on Sci-Fi Channel before I spoil anything.
Missed a week? Check out the "Doctor Who in Review" archive or check out any of the past editions of this column via the links at the end of this article.
Keep in mind, I’m going to assume readers have already watched the episode when I put fingers to keyboard and come up with the roundup of important plot points. In other words, SPOILER ALERT!
Let’s begin now, shall we?
Season Four, Episode #8: "Silence in the Library"
IN BRIEF: The Tenth Doctor and his companion, Donna Noble, travel to the 51st century, arriving at The Library — a planet-sized archive of every book that’s ever been written. The shadows take on a very vicious life of their own and The Doctor and Donna find themselves running for their lives yet again. Professor River Song, an archeologist, arrives on the scene with a team that includes an heir to the library’s creator, and The Doctor determines that the shadows are a race of creatures that use the darkness to move and hunt. We also learn that River is intimately familiar with The Doctor, even though he has yet to meet her in his own timeline. While River attempts to keep The Doctor from learning any "spoilers" about his future (and The Doctor attempts to do the same with Donna), the Vashta Nerada claim their first victims. The Doctor tries to teleport Donna to safety, only to have something interrupt her departure, "saving" her and sending her the way of all the rest of The Library’s patrons.
Oh, and did I mention the little girl who thinks all of this — including The Library, The Doctor and the Vashta Nerada — is just a figment of her imagination? It’s a two-parter!
THE COMICS CROSSOVER: When The Doctor and Donna arrive at The Library, The Doctor tells her that people in the 51st century have "holo-vids" and "direct-to-brain downloads," but they never stop loving physical, printed books. These days, fans of comic books — and every other type of book, for that matter — should be intimately familiar with the ever-present debate over the future of human reading habits in the age of the InterWebs. The Doctor’s assessment of the situation 30 centuries from now could either prove reassuring or completely unrealistic depending on your feelings on the subject, but it’s nice to see that little nod toward present-day uncertainties in the far-flung future of Doctor Who.
THE "SPOILER" DILEMMA: Also on the wink-and-a-nudge front, The Doctor’s insistence that Donna avoid being exposed to any "spoilers" about the future (as well as River’s insistence that The Doctor avoid spoilers involving his future) was also a cute nod to the current Internet culture of the series. In an age when people seem willing to consider death sentences of Rasputin-esque flair for anyone who neglects to provide a "Spoiler Warning" in a review, it’s interesting to note that the "danger" of spoilers isn’t confined to this century — or universe, for that matter. The Doctor’s admission that he hasn’t been very successful in preventing Donna from being exposed to spoilers was also a nice bit of self-referential humor. Once again, kudos to the Who crew for their willingness to poke fun at themselves.
THE CREATURE REPORT: While we never actually see the Vashta Nerada, the threat they pose is pulled off with very effective results. While I couldn’t help but question how the group managed to avoid having their shadows "infected" by the Vashta Nerada (since their shadows fall into the surrounding darkness on many occasions throughout the episode), the effect of the walking spacesuit, with its rattling skull and repeated queries of "Hey, who turned out the lights?" was a great way to create a physical threat from the otherwise formless villain of the episode.
FUTURE CONTINUITY CHECK: From her diary that’s a spitting image of the TARDIS and modified sonic screwdriver to her knowledge of Time Lord adventures yet to come, River Song’s interaction with The Doctor was a boon for Who fans with an affinity for guessing what the future holds for the series. There’s so much to glean, digest and debate from their interactions that it makes my head hurt just thinking about dissecting this aspect of the episode. Luckily, the crew over at the Doctor Who Wiki has a great rundown of the bulk of them that should keep guess-happy fans occupied for hours.
CONTINUITY CHECK: Anyone notice the pictures on the wall of the little girl’s home? Right around the 31:00 mark, when Dr. Moon is explaining to the little girl that The Library is real and that she must "save" its inhabitants, the camera pans around the room. On one wall, there’s a picture of a blonde woman and a picture of wolf… bringing to mind former companion Rose Tyler and the "Bad Wolf" storyline. But is this a reference to the past — or a hint about the future?
JUDGING IT BY ITS COVER: While it’s no surprise that a Monty Python tome has stood the test of time, I’ll admit some surprise that the Bridget Jones franchise made it into the 51st century. Last season, The Doctor admitted to being a Harry Potter reader — so there’s probably a good chance J.K. Rowling’s work can be found somewhere in The Library, too.
HINT OF THINGS TO COME? When River explains to Donna that she’s from The Doctor’s future, there’s a lot to take from the look on River’s face when Donna asks, "So why don’t you know me? Where am I in the future?" Insert ominous sense of foreshadowing here. Hmm.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF THE NEXT EPISODE, "Forest of the Dead": What is CAL? And why is The Doctor flying? Now that I think of it, there’s probably no better way to generate interest in an upcoming episode than to have multiple characters saying the word "spoilers" in the promo. Brilliant!
Thanks to the good people at The Doctor Who Wiki for information related to several of this week’s story notes.
Want to know what you’ve been missing? Check out all of the past "Doctor Who in Review" features via the following links: