Doctor Who – Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead

Doctor Who has always pushed the boundaries. I would go so far as to put the longevity of its original run down to the fact that it has always gone through periods of being truly cutting-edge television. No children’s show had ever had so much adulthood before 1963, no family drama had explored moral themes so deeply before Doctor Who did it in the 1970s, and Saturday night family television was declared dead between the late 90s and 2005. And Silence in the Library gives me firm reassurance that Steven Moffat will continue to keep Doctor Who one step ahead of television drama for the next few years.

There are some interesting story-telling techniques here, all adding up to a huge sense of mystery. Who is River Song? How is she related to the Doctor? Who is the little girl who seems to have the library in her head? And what is the nature of her psychiatrist, Dr. Moon? And nestled amongst all these questions is a good, old-fashioned horror-story. The terrors that lurk in the dark are made all the more terrifying for the fact that they are mundane objects that are all around us. The crew of secondary characters are picked off one-by-one and, unlike their counterparts in other body-count horrors, Moffat fleshes them out enough that we really care that these people are dying. The scene where Donna talks to a fading electronic ghost really hits home with a sense of pathos for the viewer; a brilliantly written, beautifully directed, and fantastically well-acted sequence.

This story has everything in spades. Action, horror, humour and drama weave together a winding tale without a single dull moment. There are some brilliant ideas here; some of them confusing, some of them creepy, and some of them just plain inspiring. The veiled lady and the revelation of her identity added a real scare factor to the other world Donna finds herself in. Furthermore, the way that world asks questions about the Doctor’s own reality sets up a real puzzle for the viewer to solve, and I doubt many people saw the final revelation coming.

The Mill deserves the highest praise for these episodes, too. The visual effects sequences make the Library look spectacular and bring a real sense of scale to this vast city; you can really believe the Library exists. The living faces on the information points are also very well-done; seamless pieces of visual trickery.

I don’t have a bad word to say about these episodes. As far as I’m concerned, Silence in the Library is everything that Doctor Who should be. The story is complex and challenges the viewer, there are some good old-fashioned scares, there’s a body count of horrible deaths, and morality isn’t black and white. And I’d be intrigued to see more of River Song. Whatever happens in later series, I feel confident that the right man is at the helm. I’m looking forward to continuing the journey with you, Mr. Moffat!

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~ by Scary Rob on 5 July, 2008.

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