Take Me To The River

DW 4x08 River

4×08 and 4×09 “Silence in the Library / Forest of the Dead”

If Doctor Who fans went to sports stadia to watch their favourite show, the following chant would have been heard for miles around on the previous two Saturday nights… “There’s only one Steven Moffat, There’s only one Stephen Moffett, One Steven Moffet, there’s only one Stephen Moffat”. Regardless of how you like to spell his name, and I am sure this very blog is guilty of inventing numerous versions, there’s no denying the impact that this writer has had with his contributions to the show. Leaving aside his pre-2005 work for the guys that prop up the bars at conventions and try out-fact their fellow Whovians, Steven Moffat (for that is how one should spell it) has delivered us The Empty Child, The Doctor Dances, The Girl in the Fireplace, Blink, Time Crash and now Silence in the Library and Forest of the Dead. And they’ve all been bloody brilliant.

DW 4x09 name

It is no coincidence in my mind that the announcement that The Moff would be taking over from RTD for series five came a few short days before the first episode of this two-parter premiered. It now gives the world and his blog a chance to speculate on what the Steven Moffat era will bring. Thankfully, Stuart Ian Burns, over at the ever entertaining Tachyon blog, has already analysed the bookshelves of Mr Moffat from his intriguing appearance on last night’s unusually watchable Doctor Who Confidential. However, based soley on the on-screen evidence everything seems to be set fair for a pretty momentous era.

The highlight and most talked about talking point of this story has to be River Song. Played expertly by Alex Kingston with both gravitas and a lightness of touch that could be argued deliberately reflected the Doctor’s own character, Professor Song was the focal point here. A character from the future who we have never met nor heard of before, was a pretty obvious quirk that fits perfectly in to a time travelling series. The fact that this has only been hinted at before in nuWho, in QE1’s appearance in The Shakespeare Code and The Moff’s own Sally Sparrow story in Blink, suggests that more wibbly wobbly timey wimey wierdness will be debated once the reviews of the 2010 series start to be blogged about. The genius of this piece is the added irony that it depicts River’s last meeting with the Doctor, which is his first meeting with her. I’d hazzard a guess that Audrey Niffenegger’s book The Time Traveller’s Wife would have been just out of shot of SM’s aforementioned bookshelf. While I’d love to see a series of mis-matched, temporal encounters between the Doc and River, I doubt that this will ever see the light of day (although BBC books should take note).

DW 4x08 donna

Donna’s story was a little strange as she lived out a life in the virtual reality world of the Library’s planet core, hard drive thing under the watchful eye of Doctor Moon. This was an element of the story that didn’t quite work as well as it might have done for me. The acting from all concerned was top notch and you can’t really go wrong with Colin Salmon, but something just didn’t feel right. May be that was the point. The heart-breaking touch at the end as Donna and her virtual husband-who-turned-out-to-be-real-after-all, just missed other was another lovely touch. Of course, as Donna, the hubby, and the other 4022 inhabitants of the hard drive were rescued from their “saved” state, it was the Doctor who managed to allow River to live on with CAL and the other astronauts in the same world.

Visually, the episodes were pretty good. The library location that they found worked really well although lighting the same place in different colours didn’t really work that well at disguising the fact. It took me a while to work out that they weren’t actually going back to the same room each time. The exterior shots of the library planet as realised by The Mill were stunning and far more deserving of a feature film that a “tea-time kids show” but only served to suggest that the interiors should be a bit more varied.

DW 4x08 torch

Both parts scored a hugely impressive AI rating of 89, the best the series has ever got, which just goes to show how successful they were. However, for Silence in the Library, when the BBC finally managed to get its flagship programme scheduled at its ideal 7pm time-slot, found itself begining 10 minutes after the behemoth that is “Britain’s Got Talent” (note to the producers of the ITV talent show: Apparently it hasn’t). Anyway, audience share and bums on seats numbers suffered hugely. It is pleasing to report that the status quo has been restored thanks to a strong lead in from the footie and despite the glorious weather.

DW 4x08 child

So, to the conclusion. The future is in strong and capable hands, after the not-quite-hiatus that will be 2009, I reckon we’re all in for a treat for series five. It still leaves us with a few questions though….

  1. Is “The Moff” now officially recognised as the nickname of the new producer?
  2. Will the four stories that air between the end of Series Four and the begining of Series Five be known as Series 4.5?
  3. Will the ever closer return of Rose and numerous other companions for the finale be as good as we’re all hoping.
  4. Does the fact that we are about to get four RTD penned episodes to round off the series mean the knives will come out for the outgoing show-runner or will fandom just sit back and enjoy the ride?

All will inevitably be revealed.

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    • Anthony Weight
    • June 9th, 2008

    I don’t think the weather was all that glorious – it wasn’t where I live, anyway. Miserable bloody Saturday.

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