#4 “Silence in the Library”/”Forest of the Dead” — Series 4, 2008
Doctor Who occasionally has the affinity for double (sometimes triple) episodes. “The End of Time” was an example of this, and “Silence in the Library”/”Forest of the Dead” is another example. Though they have two different titles, they’re basically one long mega-episode, and a brilliant one at that.
In this episode, they’re not fighting water, but they’re fighting something just as omnipresent — shadows. Penned by Steven Moffat, this episode is set in the largest library in the universe, which has fallen into absolute abandonment. When the Doctor and his companion Donna Noble set foot into the library (which is the size of a planet), they’re looking forward to seeing it bustling with people — but there’s no one there. While the library’s computer tells them that off the planet’s occupants, 4022 were saved, but there were no survivors. It then warns them to count the shadows.
When a group of explores stumble upon the Doctor and Donna, the duo meet River Song, who seems to have known the Doctor and possessed his sonic screwdriver. In fact, she not only seems to have known him, she seems to have loved him, and he loved her back — to the point where she knows his true name.
But meanwhile, one member of the expedition seems to have an extra shadow, causing the Doctor to realize that the Vasha Nerada have infected the library, thriving in the paper environment. The Vashta Nerada are microscopic beings that serve the function of a piranha — they eat things. And when they travel in packs, they resemble shadows, making them difficult to spot until it’s too late.
What follows is a wonderful cat and mouse chase that has a bittersweet ending. And it actually leaves one mystery — the origin of the future Doctor’s relationship with River Song — unsolved. But that doesn’t mean that we won’t see her again; she’s slated to return in the upcoming fifth series alongside Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor, with whom she’ll presumably enter a relationship.
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