a real world point of view
|Forest of the Dead|
|Main enemy:||Vashta Nerada|
|Main setting:||The Library, 51st century|
|Premiere broadcast:||7 June 2008|
|Premiere network:||BBC One|
|Format:||1 x 45 minute episode|
|Confidential:||River Runs Deep|
|Doctor Who television stories|
|Silence in the Library||Midnight|
|Silence in the Library||The Stolen Earth|
Forest of the Dead was the ninth episode of the fourth series of Doctor Who. Its major impact on the mythos of Doctor Who was its depiction of the death of River Song. This narrative end point would be respected in future series that told River Song's out-of-sequence story.
Donna is gone, the Vashta Nerada are out for fresh meat and the Doctor is running out of options. Can he trust the mysterious Professor River Song, a woman from his future? Even if they work together, can anyone stop the shadows from claiming them all as their next meal?
These events are watched on TV by the girl. She switches channels to one showing Donna being taken out of the ambulance on a stretcher. Donna wakes up in an ambulance with no memories of her past life. She is treated in a facility by Doctor Moon. The way time progresses in her virtual world seems to be led by her thoughts; Doctor Moon suggests she walks by the river and she suddenly appears at the river. She occasionally finds this odd, but is reassured by Doctor Moon. Before she knows it, she is married to her ideal man Lee, who has a stammer, and has two children.
She is approached by a hooded figure in a playground, who reveals herself to be Miss Evangelista, and warns Donna that the world is not real. Donna is stubborn and sceptical, but to her horror she sees that all the children in the playground are identical.
This revelation drives the little girl into hysterics, making her father and Doctor Moon disappear with her TV remote. The Library starts to enter a meltdown, and is set to explode.
Meanwhile, the Doctor squabbles with River Song, but is stunned when she whispers something in his ear, and agrees to trust her completely. However, Anita now has two shadows. They flee from the Vashta Nerada suit creature that has caught up with them again. The Time Lord tries to reason with the Vashta Nerada as it takes over more of the team. In doing so, he learns that they came as micro-spores in millions and millions of books and then hatched. Meanwhile, Other Dave stays behind, but is killed by the Vashta Nerada, leaving the Doctor between the two Daves. He escapes and sets off after the other three.
Elswhere, River Song is telling Anita about the Doctor she knows; in the future the Doctor can open the TARDIS by snapping his fingers. The Doctor says this is impossible, and returns his attention to the present. He figures out that the Library's computer hard drive - CAL - is the key to bringing Donna back, for it has literally 'saved' her and all of the four thousand twenty-two people in the Library to its hard drive a hundred years ago.
The team travel to the core of the planet to the computer. The little girl is in fact the hard drive. She was Strackman Lux's grandfather's youngest daughter, Charlotte Abigail Lux (CAL). She was dying of an incurable disease, so he made an imaginary world and a Doctor Moon to watch over her and every book ever written for her to enjoy, but the stress of having so many minds integrated into her own is making her overload and destroy the planet.
The Doctor realises that to restore the 'saved' people, the Library needs extra memory. This can be achieved by linking himself to the core, even though River Song says it will burn through both his hearts and leave him unable to regenerate. He sends River and Lux upstairs to prepare for the restoration. As she exits, River tells Anita to watch him.
The Doctor, when asked by Anita, states that he intends to blow up the library, then leave the world to the Vashta Nerada. When asked if he thinks the Vashta Nerada will take his offer, he reveals Anita has already been consumed by them. When they, using Anita's suit, threaten to consume him and everyone else, he reminds them he is the Doctor, in the biggest library in the universe, and to look him up. They give him one day and withdraw.
River returns to find Anita dead, then knocks the Doctor out. He wakes up, finding himself handcuffed to the wall. He tries desperately to persuade River to let him do this; she whispered his real name into his ear, which he can only tell someone one time. She refuses, and sadly notes that during all the time they shared and will share together he will always know this is where and when she dies. She links in when the countdown reaches zero and dies, as the Doctor looks on.
Donna and the other saved people return, but she cannot find Lee and thinks that perhaps he didn't exist after all. Lee sees her, but his stammer prevents him from calling out to her before he is teleported away. The Doctor and Donna briefly muse over River Song's diary, as it contains details of her life and their future. Ultimately, they decide not to look in it, and leave it behind on a shelf.
The Doctor runs back, having realised that he knew River's fate and would have years to think of a way to save her. He knows that he wouldn't just give her a sonic screwdriver without a good reason and finds that, like the data ghosts, her consciousness has been saved in a neural relay he had hidden in the screwdriver. The Doctor uploads River's data ghost into the Library's computer, where she is placed in a virtual reality created by Charlotte, and is reunited with her team for all eternity.
With the hard drive repaired by the Doctor, Charlotte can give the team a comfortable home. River takes care of Charlotte and Donna and Lee's children, telling them the story of the Doctor. In the real world, the Doctor and Donna take off, but before they do, the Doctor tries opening the TARDIS doors with a snap of his fingers and is able to do so.
- The Doctor - David Tennant
- Donna Noble - Catherine Tate
- Professor River Song - Alex Kingston
- Dr Moon - Colin Salmon
- Strackman Lux - Steve Pemberton
- Proper Dave - Harry Peacock
- Other Dave - O-T Fagbenle
- The Girl - Eve Newton
- Anita - Jessika Williams
- Miss Evangelista - Talulah Riley
- Lee - Jason Pitt
- Dad - Mark Dexter
- Ella - Eloise Rakic-Platt
- Joshua - Alex Midwood
|Executive Producers Russell T Davies and Julie Gardner|
|Not every person who worked on this adventure was credited. The absence of a credit for a position doesn't necessarily mean the job wasn't required. The information above is based solely on observations of the actual end credits of the episodes as broadcast, and does not relay information from IMDB or other sources.|
This is one of the very few episodes after the beginning of series 2 that did not credit BBC Wales Graphics.
- The Doctor uses his future sonic screwdriver to save River Song's neural pattern within CAL.
- Hairdryers can interfere with the sonic screwdriver.
- When the Doctor says that time can be rewritten, River's response is, "Not one line!" These are the same words the First Doctor says to Barbara Wright, when she attempted to change history. The Eleventh Doctor says the exact same thing to River when she tries to change his "death." (TV: The Aztecs, The Wedding of River Song)
- The frantic music from TV: Midnight is heard during a scene where Donna Noble freaks out, having seen her "children", whom she had tucked in bed, disappear without a trace, while she was in the data core.
- River also associates running with her time with the Doctor, echoing sentiments expressed by Donna Noble and Jenny.
- River refers to the Doctor as an "impossible man", echoing similar sentiments by Agatha Christie.
- River's ultimate fate, a simulated reality in a vast computer, echoes that of the Doctor's own people, who store the memories and personalities of dead Time Lords in the Matrix. (TV: The Deadly Assassin)
- River's final monologue, that once in a very long while "everybody lives", echoes the line spoken by the Ninth Doctor in The Doctor Dances. Here too, the Doctor manages to miraculously save everyone, even those who'd already been lost, and ends with the Doctor having a cathartic moment of triumph.
- Excerpts of the TV: Turn Left theme (a remixed version of Rose's theme) concerning the echoing vocals are heard when dialogue about the Doctor's future is brought up by River, foreshadowing events to come.
The Doctor Edit
- The Doctor says, "Who are you?", to River Song, a line which is often asked of him.
- The Doctor learns the fate of River Song, and retains this memory through to their "first" meeting in the future. The future Doctor will adjust his sonic screwdriver in order to preserve Song's consciousness so his younger self will be able to preserve her within CAL.
- Song appears to have knowledge of Time Lord anatomy, including knowledge of regeneration. She also indicates that destruction of both of the Doctor's hearts in this instance is a circumstance after which he will likely not be able to regenerate.
- River Song reveals to the Doctor that his future self can open the TARDIS doors with a snap of his fingers, presumably due to the affinity the ship has developed with him. While the Doctor doesn't believe this can be done, he tests it out at the end of the episode and is able to do so. The Eleventh Doctor later does the same thing when inviting Amy Pond to join him in The Eleventh Hour and also does it in Day of the Moon in front of River, which may in fact be how she learned he could do it.
Story notes Edit
- The working title for this story was River's Run. When BBC Video announced the North American release of the Series 4 DVD box set, this title was used in the episode list and not Forest of the Dead. The Radio Times also used this working title. According to REF: Doctor Who: The Writer's Tale - The Final Chapter, the title was changed not long before broadcast.
- In River Song's voiceover, she mentions the "skies of all the worlds might just turn dark", a possible reference to the Darkness, a story arc element that plays out in the series 4 finale. Another Possible reference to his "Reboot" of the universe where as before he did so the Predestination Paradox was a universe with no lights in the sky and they were all shown to be "expiring" before.
- CAL was also the name of the computer graphics company that created the title sequence used between 1987 and 1989 for the Seventh Doctor's TV adventures. A result of this work was the creation of the first photo-realistic CGI TARDIS, featured in TV: Bad Wolf.
- In the girl's house, on a drawing on the wall, there is a picture of a blonde haired girl and a wolf. This may be a reference to Rose and Bad Wolf.
- This is the second episode in this series to have a character (River) share the name of a character from the Joss Whedon show Firefly. The first was Cobb in The Doctor's Daughter.
- Moffat's recurring theme "everybody lives" returns again in this episode. (TV: The Doctor Dances) In the BBC podcast associated with this episode, Moffat and Davies point out that so far in the four major storylines that he has contributed to the series, the only "final" deaths that have occurred have been due to old age (such as Billy Shipton and Kathy Nightingale) or illness (Madame de Pompadour). Moffat consequently promises (in the podcast) that he will kill people off in more dramatic fashion in future stories, proven to be true in The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone.
- The concept of downloading human consciousness as data - even after physical death - and the philosophical issues surrounding this is an issue being addressed by futurists in real-life, with scientists such as Ray Kurzweil speculating that technology will allow the uploading of consciousness to computers within a generation in his book, The Age of Spiritual Machines.
- A recurring theme in this and the preceding episode is "spoilers". This is a term that was coined in the 1990s by science fiction fandom to address the circulation of information revealing the plots and endings of TV shows and movies. Interestingly, the fourth series of Doctor Who contains several examples of plot twists and cameos that were successfully protected from "spoilers". Other examples of successful spoiler protection include the appearance of Catherine Tate at the end of Doomsday. Examples of plot twists that were not successfully protected from "spoilers" included the return of Rose in Series 4 - spoiled in part by people witnessing the filming - and the regeneration of Christopher Eccleston at the end of Series 1 - spoiled by the BBC publicity office itself.
- As is routine for post-2005 Doctor Who, a "NEXT TIME" trailer for the next episode is shown at the end of the episode.
to be added
- Following the broadcast of Silence in the Library there was much discussion in the Doctor Who fan community of the identity of River Song, with rampant speculation on various characters who she might "really" be. The episode ultimately leaves her origin ambiguous, although it does establish several times that this was the first time the Doctor met River, meaning she cannot be a past character.
- In Planet of the Ood, the Doctor is told his "song may end soon", leading to speculation the "death" of River Song is what is being referred to. The End of Time shows that this prediction centred on the end of this incarnation of the Doctor.
- It has been rumoured that River Song is the Doctor's future wife. This turned out to be true (The Wedding of River Song)
- Before the official title was revealed to be Forest of the Dead, it was rumoured that the episode's title was Saved from the Books.
Filming locations Edit
- Upper Boat Studios, Trefforest
- Hensol Castle, Hensol
- Victoria Park, Cardiff
- Palace Road, Cardiff
- Crwys Medical Centre, Cardiff
- St Mary's Of Angels, Canton
- Dyffryn Gardens, Vale Of Glamorgan
- Brangwyn Hall, Swansea
- Alcoa Emp Swansea, Swansea
- Swansea Library, Swansea
Production errors Edit
- The two times we see the Doctor's sonic screwdriver project the image of Donna, the Doctor's tone of voice is different.
- Several times when the Doctor handles River's sonic screwdriver, the camera changes do not match up his hand positions on the screwdriver.
- When Anita gets two shadows after she says, "Didn't do Proper Dave any good", she only has one shadow. When they get away from the swarm she has two shadows again.
- Shortly after Donna's children are taken to the playground, Ella runs by with a scraped left knee, long before she actually injures herself there.
- When Charlotte throws the TV remote away in rage, it can be seen that the shot in which the remote hits the floor is archive footage from Silence in the Library; as before Charlotte throws the remote, the bottom of it is badly scratched, but when the remote hits the floor, the bottom is intact.
- The Doctor's suit switches between his brown one and his blue one throughout the episode even during times when the Doctor wouldn't have had the time or the ability to change.
- The diode on River's screwdriver is cosmetically switched out from a blue lens to a red lens to show it's signal interference countering "red setting", but isn't shown how it can actually change colors, failing to disguise the obvious swap of color filters on the screwdriver prop between takes.
- The Doctor says that the auto destruct in the Library could "crack the planet open like an egg". The Seventh Doctor said the same about what the Imperial Dalek mothership's weapons could do to the Earth. (TV: Remembrance of the Daleks)
- River Song says the Doctor has taken her to the "end of the universe". She's been to both the end and the beginning of the Universe. (TV: The Big Bang)
- The question of the Doctor's real name dates back to the earliest days of the series, though more recent episodes have implied that his name is a terrible secret. (TV: An Unearthly Child, Silver Nemesis, The Girl in the Fireplace, The Shakespeare Code, The Fires of Pompeii, The Wedding of River Song)
- At the end of this episode, River states that some days "Everybody lives!". This is very similar to what the Doctor says at the end of another of Steven Moffat's episodes. (TV: The Doctor Dances).
- The Doctor says to River Song, "time can be rewritten", to which River replies, "not one line". (TV: The Aztecs)
- The phrase 'Time Can Be Rewritten' is first uttered by the Doctor in this story and is a recurring phrase throughout Series 5 and 6.
- The Doctor has previously spoken his name but only characters within the series have heard it. (PROSE: Vanderdeken's Children, Interference)
- The squareness gun used by River Song to blast a hole in the wall of the Library is just like the gun used by Jack Harkness when he first met the Doctor. (TV: The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances)
- Although the Doctor has never given away a sonic screwdriver exactly, Liz Shaw has a "door handle" device, and Sarah Jane Smith has her sonic lipstick. (TV: Inferno)
- The Doctor wonders why River Song has handcuffs. (TV: Flesh and Stone)
- The Doctor maintains that he is "always all right" in the wake of a great loss.(TV: The Girl in the Fireplace, Last of the Time Lords)
- The Doctor says that having 4,022 minds talking inside one's mind (referring to CAL) is like being him due to the fact that Time Lord minds are all interconnected through the Matrix. (TV: The Deadly Assassin)
- River Song mentions the crash of the Byzantium, an event that had not yet happened from the Doctor's perspective. (TV: The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone)
- River Song says, when talking about The Doctor, "I've seen whole armies turn and run away." (TV: The Pandorica Opens, A Good Man Goes to War)
Home video releases Edit
- This story was released in the Series 4 DVD box set in November 2008 along with the rest of the series.
- It was released as Series 4 Volume 3 in a vanilla edition with Silence in the Library and Midnight.