Sunday, August 24, 2014

Doctor Who--"Silence in the Library"

The big Whovian news this week has been the announcement Steven Moffat, the most popular Doctor Who writer outside of Russell T. Davies, will be taking over the series when it returns for a full season in 2010. This week and next, we get yet another preview of why fans are so excited at the prospect of Moffat as head writer. He has a fantastic way of scaring the bejbus out of you by making your nightmares real. “Silence in the Library” is no exception.

The Doctor and Donna land on a planet that is actually the largest library in the universe. Every book ever written is there. But the place has been abandoned for a century now. The only thing left are kiosks with faces of the patrons who were sealed in the library after whatever disaster occurred. The faces repeat cryptic messages about staying in the light and dire warnings to count the shadows. Somehow, the library is connected to a little girl on Earth who is under a psychiatrist’s care for her fantasies about travelling there.

Enter a team of archeologists lead by Dr. River Song, a woman who appears to have been very intimate with the Doctor at some point in the future even though from the Doctor’s perspective, he has not met her yet. Song is played by Alex Kingston, better know as Dr. Elizabeth Corday on ER. Song has a sonic screwdriver she claims the Doctor will give her at some future point. She is also very uncomfortable around Donna. There is an implication something tragic happens to her between now and when the Doctor and Song eventually meet.

The Doctor discovers creatures called Vashta Nerada are living in the shadows. There aare aswarm of microscopic creatures that literally have feeding frenzies like piranha. Two members of the archeology team are reduced to skeletons before the rest have a chance to escape. The little girl on Earth somehow manages to “save” Donna, but weare unsure whether the result is a good thing. Apparently the other patrons had been “saved” in the same manner a century ago. The Vashta Nerada take over one of the spacesuit a deadarcheoligst was wearing and gives chase. Watching a space suited skeleton fumble about like a zombie serves as quite a cliffhanger.

Like most first parts of a two part episode, “Silence in the Library” has more set up than pay off. I thought the set up here was a lot more interesting than the Sontaran two parter earlier this season, though. There was much more here to make me want to see the conclusion. I also got the hint, which may be proven horribly wrong next week, that Song might serve as the Doctor’s companion in 2010. Granted, their relationship may remain an untold story or as one of the 2009 holiday specials, but I am hoping otherwise. Song is an older wman and an intellectual. She would be a stronger companion than either the doe eyed schoolgirls Rose and Martha have been or the comedic foil like Donna. It would be an interesting change of pace.

My only complaint thus far is how Moffat reuses themes. Five out of his six episodes have revolved around a child as the central piece of the puzzle. They have all involved some form of relentless creatures that prey on humans. Half have taken place in the 51st century and Capt. Jack Harkness, who first appeared in Moffat’s first script, was from the time period. Quite a few of the Doctor’s adventures have taken place then outside of Moffat. Is there a significance? Probably a question for another time. For now, I liked this episode. I am hoping for a big payoff next week.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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