Doctor Who: Forest of the Dead

For those who didn’t know (and that included me up until this week), the fifth season of Doctor Who won’t be airing until 2010. In the meantime there should be four special episodes to tide us over.


As the Vashta Nerada chase the Doctor, River Song and the remains of her team through the depths of the library, it is clear that they need to trust each other if they are to have a hope of survival, but what can River Song do to prove to the Doctor and the others that in her past and his future, they will have the relationship she claims? Meanwhile, Donna has apparently been ‘saved’, but what is this new reality that she has been sent to, and why does the mysterious Doctor Moon want her to forget everything that happened before?

Alien, Planet and Tech Guide

  • Vashta Nerada (updated): The Vashta Nerada hatch from microspores in trees and forests; however, when their forests were pulped and turned into paper for the Library’s books, they spores ended up infesting all the books and ultimately hatching. The library Vashta Nerada are unique in that they become able to communicate via the neural relays in the suits of the people they devour.
  • The Library (updated): the computer core of the Library is CAL, aka Charlotte Lux, a relative of the Library’s creator who was suffering from a terminal illness. Her consciousness effectively is the computer, where she creates a virtual reality to house the uploaded consciousness of the 4022 people ‘saved’ from the library and later Donna Noble (they were all teleported out of the library, but instead of being re-materialised they were saved to the hard drive of the main core. The strain caused by housing these people had caused CAL to forget her purpose and true nature, despite the presence of an assistant program built on the planet’s “doctor moon”. Ultimately Professor River Song used her consciousness as hard drive space for a reboot, enabling CAL to be restored and the people to be rematerialised. Currently, the Library has been closed to humans and has become the exclusive domain of the Vashta Nerada, although the echoes of River Song and her team live within the computer core with CAL and Doctor Moon.
  • Future sonic screwdriver: modified from the original, it has ‘red settings’, dampers and a neural relay hidden within.

Episode Thoughts

Again, although this wasn’t perfect (nitpicks will of course be covered below), I have to admit this two-parter now ranks amongst my favourite Doctor Who episodes. The Doctor and River Song had some great scenes, and although Donna perhaps overdid it in the virtual reality (are we really supposed to believe in her feelings for Lee or her virtual children when all her history with them was just programmed), generally the acting was good. I love this kind of episode not only for the twists and the hide behind the sofa factor, but because they expose who the Doctor really is- a capricious, lonely genius with a love of showing off and yet a secret desire to one day meet his match.

On another note, the computer core thing probably threw ‘casual’ viewers, but I doubt that sci-fi fans had any problem spotting it a mile off.

Notes and Nitpicks

  • Based on her knowing the Doctor’s true name and so forth, it seems we are being led to believe that River Song will be his lover in the future, but is this the truth or just a red herring? And does she know the Tenth Doctor, or is the ‘real’ Doctor a future regeneration?
  • If there were transcription errors in uploading Miss Evangelista, then how was she able to reappear in her original state at the end? Or was the restored CAL able to restore her data once she remembered her purpose and didn’t have 4022 people to keep track of?
  • I knew that Lee and Donna would miss each other by a matter of moments in the real world, but I wonder if Lee will be the reason Donna leaves the TARDIS in the future. Or is a more horrible fate in store for her, as per River Song’s reaction when she realised who Donna was?
  • Despite the admonition not to let their shadows cross, none of the team seemed particularly careful about this- probably why they all ended up getting infected.
  • The Library being sealed seems a pretty big thing, so I’m surprised the Doctor seemed unaware of it from his post 51st century visits.

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