Yesterday, I got the chance to watch “Silence in the Library”/”Forest of the Dead” with my friends “Sandy” and “Carl” who are viewing all of the modern Doctor Who for the first time, and it was a lot of fun watching it through their eyes. They’re actually supposed to be watching “The Sontaran Stratagem”/”The Poison Sky” right now, but I figured that these episodes, from TSS through FotD, don’t need to be watched in order (though it helps to watch “The Doctor’s Daughter” after TPS so that you know why Martha is there), so I requested that we jump ahead to one of the best episodes in series 4.
At the end of the episode, Carl was very upset with me, for, as he put it, now he has to sit through three episodes to get back to this point in time and get to see more about River. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that he’s going to be waiting quite a while to see more of her. (Not to mention, spoilers!!) He had heard the name River Song but had avoided any spoilers about her, and now he’s completely intrigued. He especially loves the way that the show sets up storylines a year or more in advance, so that there’s a certain amount of anticipation and speculation about who a character is or what something means.
Beyond River, though, they loved the episode. They figured out very early that there was some kind of Matrix-like thing going on with people in the library computer, though they didn’t pinpoint it exactly (they thought that the little girl was living in the computer, which is true, but they didn’t realize that the 4022 survivors were also there until Donna ended up there). Probably the best part for me was when the Doctor said to River, “River, you know my name. You whispered my name in my ear,” and both Sandy and Carl went, “OH!” That moment still gives me chills, and I’ve seen it probably five times now.
In itself, this episode is a fantastic re-watch, because with the hindsight that comes of watching all of the Eleventh Doctor’s run, you get to see how well River’s storyline was planned out that early in the show. For all that I don’t think that the overarching storylines during the Eleventh Doctor’s run were done all that well (especially the last season and the attempt to tie them all together in “The Time of the Doctor”), the story of River and the Doctor is fantastic and it began here, two years before the Eleventh Doctor starts his story. Brilliant!
RIVER: If you die here, it’ll mean I’ve never met you.
DOCTOR: Time can be rewritten.
RIVER: Not those times. Not one line. Don’t you dare. It’s okay. It’s okay. It’s not over for you. You’ll see me again. You’ve got all of that to come. You and me, time and space. You watch us run.