[Doctor Who – Forest of the Dead]

I admit I was a bit concerned about ‘Forest of the Dead’. The preceding half of the two-parter, ‘Silence in the Library’, set a high standard I wasn’t sure the back half could meet.

But seriously, what was I ever worried about? This was another rollicking episode which confirmed, once again, that the series will be in capable hands when Steven Moffat takes over in 2010. Sometimes Doctor Who is kiddie fluff, sometimes it’s sci-fi brilliance, and there’s no prizes for guessing which category I’d put these two instalments in.

The intricate, complicated plotting reminded me a little of the season two episode ‘The Girl in the Fireplace’ (also penned by Moffat), which had a wonderful concept – clockwork robots from the future use windows in time to stalk a woman from 18th century Versailles – but an execution cramped by the constraints of a single episode. But with a full two-episodes to work with this season, Moffat crafted a bittersweet story that was not only immensely satisfying but which even made sense… at least by the often confusing standards of the show.

Sure, you could argue that major elements of the plot were lifted from other sci-fi tales (most obviously The Matrix, minus that franchise’s sinister bleakness): the episode’s climax revealed that the mysterious girl (excellently played by Eve Newton) was a sort of computer-human hybrid overseeing the library, whose memory was corrupted when she saved too many victims of the Vashta Nerada to her hard drive. But you know what? I don’t care; Moffat bundled up the storylines in a fresh, unexpected way.

Last week I wasn’t sure whether the Doctor and Professor River Song made a convincing match; now I am. I believed she’s someone he’ll eventually trust enough to reveal his true name to… though I’m pretty sure they’re lovers, not father and daughter – but with David Tennant you can never tell, I guess. Anyway, I’m genuinely looking forward to Alex Kingston’s inevitable return, most likely in the 2009 specials.

I was also right in predicting River would die… sort of. (Thank good she didn’t quite come back to life, which would’ve lent the otherwise touching finale an unnecessary serving of treacle.) Any future interactions she has with the Doctor will be tainted with his sadness; another sad bit of the ending was Donna missing out on reuniting with her Matrix-husband, Lee. Their relationship never developed enough for me to care too much about him, though Catherine Tennant’s anguished performance sold Donna’s heartbreak – thank god she had more to do this week than stand around like a useless lump.

Ironically, one of the two-parter’s meta-themes was to warn against spoiling the future… and yet now I want to know what happens to the Doctor more than ever. River dropped some tantalising hints about what’s in store for him and Donna, and I kind of can’t wait to find out exactly what that is.

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2 Responses to “[Doctor Who – Forest of the Dead]”

  1. Heh – again with the ‘Catherine Tennant’ slip-up. Freudian much? 🙂

    I think I’m still plumping for the River-as-daughter theory. I know the ‘sweetie’ reference is dodgy if so but there were just one or two too many twee references to ‘running’ (actual doctor’s daughter’s thing) for me to think there isn’t a connection.

    Would be so much more pleasantly unexpected if she were looking the Doctor in love, but as an adult child would love seeing their much-younger parent in the flesh.

    Meh. It’s Moffat writing though, so she is probably his future wife. Bored now.

  2. True, “running” could go either way. Maybe the writers themselves haven’t yet figured out what works best, so they’re keeping it ambiguous?

    And yes, I do keep on writing Catherine Tennant, don’t I? I guess I just want them to be together so much…

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