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Doctor Who 4.08 “Silence in the Library” Summary and Analysis (Spoilers)

Posted by Mister Random on June 1, 2008

Please be aware that if you havent watched this episode there are major spoilers for the eigth episode of the fourth season of the new Doctor Who “Silence in the Library”. You have been warned

One Sentence Review

A welcome return to form for Doctor Who after several lack luster episodes and just who is River Song?

Episode Summary

The episode opens with a girl being assessed by a therapist in her living room in what appears to be the present day. The girl tells of her visits to a massive library, and as she tells of her current visit she finds that there are people in her library when there have never been before, the introduction ends with the Doctor and Donna bursting through the door and the Doctor apologise for bursting in and asking her if it was okay if they stop there for a bit.

The episode then goes back a short time to the point where the Doctor and Donna arrive at the library which is actually a whole world that has been turned into a library. The Doctor and Donna find out that they are the only humanoids on the world but there are at least a billion/trillion (million million) other types of life forms present though they can see and hear nothing. They find a courtesy node (a statue with a donated human face) who gives them two ominous messages to run and to “count the shadows”. As they explore the library the Doctor tells Donna that he got a message on the Psychic paper saying “The Library, Come as soon as you can X” The lights in the library start to go out, and the Doctor and Donna burst into the room where the little girl saw them, but it turns out the little girl was infact a security camera.

As the Doctor examines the camera with his sonic screwdriver, the girl writhes in pain and a message on the camera matches what she is saying telling the Doctor to stop and that “Others are coming”. At that point the Doctor notes a shadow that nothing is casting and the Doctor realises what the cause is, and they start to head back to the Tardis, but before they can leave a large number of people in space suits arrive who turn out to be a bunch of 51st century archealogist led by Professor River Song. After introductions the Doctor explains that the darkness and failure of lights is caused by “Vashta Nerada” who are later revealed to be microscopic carnivores that can kill and devour a human in seconds, and hunt from the shadows, but normally live on “road kill” but are for some reason much more aggressive than normal in the library. The Doctor and River Song get to know each other and it later turns out that River know the Doctor from some point in the future but wont reveal more due to fear of “spoilers” and because the Doctor told her not to tell him anything about his future. It turns out that she sent the message but he got it too early in his life.

While trying to access the data core, Song’s team set off some form of alarm that sounds like a phone, after examining the computer with his sonic screwdriver the Doctor appears on the little girls TV and have a brief chat. As the little girl messes about with the TV remote, books start flying around the library and a door opens, the Doctor also discovers a system on the computer called CAL. The Song team orginisor “Mr Lux” whose family owns the library refuses to tell the Doctor about the CAL system due to pride. It also turns out that on the day of the incident a message was sent saying “4022 saved, no survivors”. Mr Lux’s PA then wanders off through the door and gets killed, and the survivors try to comfort her “Data Ghost” a short lived copy of her personality. Back in the little girls house, the therapist then tells her that the “Real world is a lie”, the library is real and that it is up to her to save them.

The Doctor then sends Donna back to the Tardis through a teleport in the library but something goes wrong, a member of Songs team Dave then gets killed by the Vashta Nerada who takes over his suit and starts to chase the Doctor and the survivors. As the Doctor flees he finds out that Donna did not arrive in the Tardis and when he asks a courtesy node where Donna is, it turns to the Doctor with Donnas face and voice and tells the Doctor, “Donna Noble has left the library, Donna Noble has been saved”. The infected suit then approaches them and the shadows surround the survivors.

To be continued next week

My Thoughts

 After the poor “Unicorn and the Wasp” and the fun but shallow “The Doctors Daughter”, The Silence in the Library is a welcome return to form for Doctor Who, and aside from the “Data Ghost” thing I cant think of much that I dissaproved of. This episode was written by Steven Moffat who takes over from Russell T Davies as head producer following the three specials next year, and given the high quality of this and his other episodes I dont think there is much too worry about in terms of the fifth season of Doctor Who.

Moving on to what happens in the episode, the little girl and her therapist B plot was well done as until the end of the episode it is left fairly open as to what is going on there. I think that the girl is in the CAL system and that all 4022 people  (and Donna) have somehow been stored as Data within it, hence the saved but no survivors comment. While it is obvious that Donna will be resurrected, it is uncertain if the rest will be given the dark endings of some Doctor Who episodes. Speaking of Donna, ignoring the rumours of her fate going around the internet there is IMO a hint in the way River Song (played by Alex Kingston) responded to hearing who she was that hinted that something bad will happen to Donna at the end of the series, and though I doubt that the rumours are correct in the specifics, I do expect something bad to occur to her short of death that means the Doctor leaves her at the end of the season.

One of the highlights though was the character of River Song (Alex Kingston), while it is clear that she at some point will travel with the Doctor and they will become close and stay close even after they part, who she actually is is a mystery that I do not expect to be answered this season, and I expect she will survive the next episode to pester the Doctor again. As she does not recognise Donna I would be surprised and dissapointed if she turns out to be an older version of a recent companion (unless they have their memory wiped), though I would not be surprised if she is revealed to be an old companion. It was also fun to have to Doctor the one in ignorance of something for a change. I also found the spoiler comments to be amusing given the love of spoilers many people (myself included) have.

As for the monster of the week, I found it suffieciently creepy even if in essence it is a way for them to keep the costs down (why else have them invisible and essentially shown by darkness alone).  As the Doctor explains the Vashta Nerada are normally relatively harmless, one of the questions to be answered next week is why are they so aggresive on the library planet.


  • River Song
  • The Vashta Nerada
  • The Mystery of what is going on
  • “Spoilers”
  • The Ending


  • The Data Ghost Thing


 9/10 – An excellent episode, I hope part 2 is as good






19 Responses to “Doctor Who 4.08 “Silence in the Library” Summary and Analysis (Spoilers)”

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