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Saturday, 31 May 2008

Doctor Who: Silence In The Library

Finally, after a two-week wait, during which this episode's writer (Steven Moffat) was named as the new head honcho for Doctor Who, we finally got to see his latest masterpiece: Silence In The Library.

With so much anticipation - and now that added extra baggage of The Moff's new status in the Whoniverse - could Silence In The Library deliver the goods?

I quickly discovered that, unlike other two-parters in New Who, it was probably going to be difficult to judge this episode on its own. Being a mystery, rather than an action-led story, this episode was about setting up questions to be answered next week (we hope!)

The Doctor and Donna arrive at The Library, an entire planet dedicated to storing printed copies of every book published in the universe.

However, they also quickly discover that it was suddenly abandoned a century earlier...

Then a party of archaeologists (led by Alex Kingston's Professor River Song and Steve Pemberton' Strackman Lux) turn up to try and solve the mystery of the missing readers.

Although there were some nice quips about "spoilers" (reading books from the future to see how things end), standing on its own Silence In The Library was rather disappointing.

Steve Pemberton's character was very reminiscent of Tim McInnerny's in Planet Of The Ood; both were the latest generation of a family connected with a troubled facility keen to put their family name and honour ahead of any other considerations.

There were simply too many archaeologists in the group for us to really bond with any of them, and this resulted in Donna (Catherine Tate) being sidelined for almost the entire episode. For the most part she stood around, looking a bit lost, until she ended up being "saved" by the library computer.

Much of Silence In The Library seemed like padding; especially Miss Evangelista's (Talulah Riley) "data ghosting" sequence, which started to actually get boring as it dragged on.

This scene was rendered even more silly when, after having been told for so long how important it was to stay "out of the shadows", an aerial shot revealed the whole group to be standing in shadow to some degree.

Then, for the requisite spooky beastie, having a bloke in a spacesuit lumbering around going "who turned out the lights?" bordered on farcical and is never going to catch on as this year's "are you my mummy?"

Away from the main action, I could have done with less focus on the little girl (Eve Newton), her dad (Mark Dexter) and Dr Moon (Colin Salmon). I'm guessing this is some 'virtual' representation of the library computer's data core and will have more relevance in the next episode (Forest Of The Dead).

I'm also theorizing that the the library inhabitants who were "saved" have been saved as "digital downloads", and The Doctor is going to be able to flick some switch and restore them all to life.

Professor Song is clearly an intriguing character, claiming to know the Doctor from "the future": is she a future companion? Bernice Summerfield? Or a con-artist who happens to have stumbled across a copy of The Doctor's 500-year diary on an earlier visit to The Library?

As an alien threat, the shadow creatures (Vashta Nerada) are also quite interesting, but if they exist on so many planets (including Earth) how come they haven't stripped the universe clean already? Surely their "instant flesh dissolving" ability makes them pretty much the most dangerous creatures in the Whoinverse, short of The Beast from The Satan Pit?

Silence In The Library poses as many questions and conundrums as an episode of Lost, but we only have an episode to answer them; let's hope we like what we discover.

Taken out of context, this has been the weakest episode this year (ignoring the appallingly dreadful and derivative Christmas Special), but perhaps, after Forest Of The Dead, I will revise my opinion once I see how everything plays out.

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