“Silence in the Library” – Review: Redux

Proper Dave “Who turned out the lights?”

The Silence In The Library

It was back in 2008, during the revived Doctor Who’s fourth series, when we found out that Russell T Davies would be leaving the show and a new Executive Producer was being lined up. It came as a surprise to precisely no-one at all that the replacement was to be Steven Moffat. He had previously delivered unto us “The Empty Child”, “The Doctor Dances”, “The Girl in the Fireplace”, “Blink” and “Time Crash” and they had all been bloody brilliant. Completists may even look to “The Curse of Fatal Death” and proclaim that to be not too shabby either. My recollection is that The Moff was universally adored at about this time. Of course, I am sure that there are those who would look back on these stories and explain in meticulous detail why they are not big fans of Moffat’s early dalliances with writing Who, but in various corners of the internet in which I am known to inhabit there is now as much Moffat-bashing taking place as there was RTD-bashing back in 2008. It was ever thus. 

However, there’s no denying the impact that this writer has had with his contributions to the show up to this point and it is no coincidence in my mind that the announcement that he would be taking over from RTD for Series Five came a few short days before the first episode of this two-parter premiered. It gave the world and his blog a chance to speculate on what the Steven Moffat era will bring. The chance itself would last an awful long time given that the other part of the announcement was that after this series there would be only four stories covering Chrstmas 2008 to Christmas 2009, all starring David Tennant, but signalling the end of the brilliant RTD era.

The highlight and most talked about talking point of this story has to be River Song, a much-loved character who would go on to permeate pretty much all of Matt Smith’s tenure. 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 of “Silence in the Library”. 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. In fact, this wibbly-wobbly possibility had been hinted at before in twenty-first century Doctor Who following Queen Elizabeth I′s appearance in “The Shakespeare Code” and Mr Moffat’s own Sally Sparrow, in “Blink”. This is the biggest, single clue on offer as to what the future of Who would hold with Moffat at the helm, and it’s hard to watch this episode with anything other that the realisation that this is indeed the first story of his era as Executive Producer a good two years before he is credited on screen as such.

Visually, this episode (and tomorrow’s counterpart, as it happens) were pretty good although not quite up to the high-water mark set by his previous episodes. The library location that they found worked really well although attempts to light the same place in different colours to try and con the viewer into thinking that they were moving from room to room didn’t really work that well and 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.

SITL and TFOTD both scored a hugely impressive AI rating of 89, the best the series had ever got to this point, which just goes to show how well received that 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 beginning ten minutes after the behemoth that is “Britain’s Got Talent” and is arguably the first time since Who returned that the BBC had some serious competition from ITV. Anyway, audience share and bums on seats numbers suffered hugely for this this first part. A fact which only served to fuel the fires of those worrying about cancellation after the year of the specials was announced. It is pleasing to report that the status quo would be restored for “The Forest of the Dead” in part thanks to a strong lead in from the football and despite the glorious weather.

Highlight: The mystery of River Song

Lowlight: All these library rooms look the same

Talking Point: What does the Moffat era hold in store?

Demon’s Run Rating: 16 out of 20

Original BBC1 Broadcast: 31st May 2008

Marathon Status: The half century… 50 reviews in 50 days.

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