Years ago when Star Trek: The Next Generation did a two part episode, it seemed to be almost a given that part two would be a bit of a letdown, that the exciting cliff-hanger built up in part one wouldn’t go anywhere much in part two. Steven Moffat on the other hand seems to produce second parts that whilst they aren’t more of the same, are still equal to the first part.
Take his episode of Doctor Who shown yesterday, Forest of the Dead, the conclusion of Silence in the Library. Whilst it continued from the end of the previous episode, the focus was rather different. The major focus last week had been on the Vashta Nerada, who this week were there as a threat, but with little further exposition, indeed by the end of the story they had not been defeated, but instead the Doctor had negotiated a truce with them in order to give him the time to rescue the four thousand people who had been saved by the central computer when the library had originally been taken over.
This time the main focus of the story was on Donna, who had been saved by the computer, and was starting to live within the virtual reality within the computer itself. We also discover that the girl seen previously is in actual fact the preserved consciousness of a dying child, who had saved the occupants of the library, but was now struggling to keep the four thousand personalities in check. The mysterious Doctor Moon is in actual fact a representation of the moon of the planet, an artificial satellite placed in orbit to maintain the computer core.
Whilst Donna is trapped in this virtual world, in the real world the temporal paradox around the Doctor and River Song is deepened when in order to persuade the Doctor that he should trust her, River reveals that she knows his real name – one of the longest running mysteries in the series (the title of the show is actually a question – Doctor who?) – needless to say it doesn’t get revealed to us the viewer. However the revelation is enough for the Doctor to trust her, to the point that he is caught out when she knocks him out in order that she might sacrifice herself to save the saved people of the library, rather than the Doctor. All is not lost however as thanks to the temporal paradox, the future Doctor knows when River is going to die, and has rigged the sonic screwdriver he gives to her to save her consciousness, allowing his past self to transfer her into the data banks of the computer.
Despite River spending most of the episode carrying around a book of spoilers – stories of the Doctor’s future, he doesn’t look. The most he gets is a description of the last time River met the Doctor, and the knowledge that the TARDIS doors will open if the Doctor snaps his fingers, something he tries out at the end of the episode. The Doctor deliberately leaves the book behind as he leaves, although we the viewer, if you are quick with the pause button get a little glimpse at the very end of the episode as we look over River’s shoulder as she reads from the book…
So after a tour-de-force from the new lead writer of the series, for the last four episodes we are back with the current lead writer, Russell T, with firstly a pair of lead character light episodes, Midnight being mainly the Doctor, and Turn Left being companion focused featuring Donna and the much anticipated return of Rose.
Incidentally, if you weren’t up and watching TV this morning, you would have missed David Tennant talking about (amongst other things), his upcoming turn as Hamlet, plus a bit about Doctor Who, including the standard “when are you leaving” question, to which he gives the usual answer! However, you can catch up with the interview thanks to the BBC News website.