Red Right Hand: TV08: DOCTOR WHO: "Silence in the Library" & "Forest of the Dead"
*He is not a secret agent. Not at all.

 

TV08: DOCTOR WHO: "Silence in the Library" & "Forest of the Dead"

Continuing my review of my favorite episodes of stuff from the last calendar year.



There will be spoilers.
Fear and joy. That's what this two-parter delivers and it reinforces that the show will be in good hands when Moffat takes over the fifth series. And really, those two things are what Doctor Who really boils down to and when those two things are so brilliantly crystallized is when Doctor Who really shines.

When I read negative criticism of episodes like this, the basis for the reasoning frequently seems to emanate from this simple truism, there is no place for cynicism in watching this show. It has its darkness to be sure and that's what gives it its je-ne-sais-quoi, but this is a show wear sometimes the hero saves the day and nobody dies (though arguable in this case). It's a show that takes you on a ride, but invites you to enjoy the ride on a cerebral level, but there is a line where you can pick it apart and take away the joy of the show. Fact is, this is a family show...not a kids show (which is its origins and is still frequently thought of as such), it really is for everyone from 5 to 500 and enjoyable at every level.

This is an intriguing reach into the Doctor's life the likes of which has not been seen in the show's 45 years and one I haven't really seen on television at all. It does, though, have some element of The Time Traveller's Wife. It's first intrigues you as the Doctor meets a woman he hasn't met yet. Someone from in his future. As a Time-Lord, his chronology is usually pretty linear. He doesn't encounter things out of order within his own life. And this woman is something very special to him, and it very much remains a mystery even after the story is over, but there's room to imbue it with your own theories, which is absolutely brilliant. The common assumption is "wife," that ambiguous space lets the imagination runs wild and also serves those who grew up with and have trouble getting past the idea of an asexual Doctor.

After he intrigues, Moffat seeks to break your heart with the revelation that when she last saw her future Doctor, he knew he was seeing her for the last time, but she didn't. A bittersweet cycle of first and last meetings. And then we're brought back from the brink as the present Doctor realizes what his future self knew. She can be saved.

And that links us to the fantastically creepy bit. The idea of "ghosting." All the characters are linked by an electronic neural network and when they die, their consciousness lingers in the system briefly. When we first see this in the death of Miss Evangelista, it's profound.

Moffat is brilliant. He doesn't just scare or shock, he makes you think and when you think, then...then you feel the fear. That is of the idea if flash-eating shadows everywhere and walking skeletons in spacesuits doesn't get you behind the sofa.

I think some of the enjoyment of an episode like this comes form the shared history of characters and viewer, so I'm not inclined to try to convert others with this episode(s), but this is a story that makes me want to introduce more people to the best show currently in production.
©2016 Michael Patrick Sullivan