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Doctor Who 4.09 “Forest of the Dead” Summary and Analysis “Spoilers”

Posted by Mister Random on June 8, 2008

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

One Sentence Review

Not as good as last week but a worthy episode nonetheless

Episode Summary

The Doctor and Co manage to escape from the Vashta Nerada after River Song uses her Sonic blaster aka Squareness Gun to create a hole in the wall. Back to the little girl we see what is happening on TV, and as she switches channels we find Donna. Donna thinks she is in a hospital and meets up with Doctor Moon (who is the little girls therapist), from Donna’s perspective things keep jumping rapidly yet she cant tell things are wrong, in the space of a few minutes she meets a man called Lee McAvey and end up married with 2 children, the Doctor then briefly appears and Doctor Moon tells her she forgot seeing the Doctor and she does.

Back in the library the Doctor finds that something is interfering with his screwdriver and he ends up arguing with River and in order to make the Doctor trust him she whispers something in his ear. This later turns out to be his real name which he would only tell in one situation (we dont know what).  The Doctor works out that a signal from the moon is interfering with his screwdriver (or someone nearby is using a haridryer!) and that the moon is a fake “Doctor Moon” a virus checker for the main computer. The Vashta Nerada then arrives and everyone flees.

Back in the little girls world, Donna sees a mysterious cloaked figure who leaves her a note saying “the world is wrong” and to meet her at the playground the next day. The cloaked figure turns out to be a version of “miss evangelista” who was killed in the previous episode, and Donna finds out she has been “saved” to the libraries hard drive.

The Doctor tries to reason with the Vashta Nerada and discovers that the Vashta Nerada come from this world and while they originally live in forests, they survived in the books as the paper originally came from their trees. Another of Rivers team dies and the Doctor is forced to flee. The Doctor catches up with River again and they work out that everyone in the library had been “saved” to the central computers hard-drive.

The little girl spies on Donna and when she finds out the truth she panics and the worlds self destruct system starts, Doctor Moon tries to reason with the girl but she switches him off. The Doctor and co go to the core of the planet and find out the central computer CAL is actually the stored personality of a real human Charlotte Abigail Lux, the daughter of the libraries founder who was dying and the library was built to entertain her and keep her alive.

In order to save everyone the Doctor need to hook himself up to the computer to give it enough memory to bring everyone back to life but it will probably kill him. He then makes a deal with the Vashta Nerada to give everyone a day to leave the world and they would leave the world in peace. River knocks the Doctor out, handcuffs him and takes his place and when he wakes up she tells him about the last time they met and how he must have known her fate and gave her his screwdriver, she then activates the reintegration procedure and everyone is brought back to life.

Donna looks for Lee but cannot find him, as she turns to leave Lee sees her but is teleported away before he can call her name. Just as the Doctor gets ready to leave he works out that his older self must have done something to the screwdriver to allow him to save her, and he finds a data storage unit built into it, he then manages to transfer her consciousness to CAL, and CAL had also uploaded the consciousness’s of the rest of her team aswell to keep her company. The episode ends with River telling CAL and Donnas two children about the Doctor

My Thoughts

While I didn’t enjoy this episode as much as last weeks it was still a very good episode. I was correct that everyone had been saved to the CAL system though I did not guess that the girl was the system, I was right that she was in the system. The Doctor Moon thing was well done and obvious once revealed but not so before hand, and while the CAL world parts were my least favourite part of the episodes they were well done.

Moving on the Vashta Nerada they served the part of monster of the week well and their motivation for hunting everyone appeared to be that the library world was their homeworld and they thought they had the right to, this does seem slightly at odds with the Doctors Statement that they are found everywhere in the universe last week.

Donna mainly served the role of exposition in this episode, and had very little to do, there was a confirmation that there was something off in the way River mentioned her given Donnas comment to the Doctor about it. There is the question of if she will ever meet Lee McAvey again since while she thinks he was imaginary we know that he is not, I did think this subplot detracted from the overall strength of the episode and was simply in there so Donna had more to so than exposition.

Rivers situation is ambiguous since while she was “saved” after her death we dont know whether or not there is a way to bring her fully back to life in the future, though the option is certainly left open, I would have preferred that she actually died or that she was fully saved. We also dont know any more about what exactly the relationship between them is, and while the most obvious answer appears to be that they were married as that would seem to be a time the Doctor could reveal his real name, it also assumes that the circumstances dont change in the future to allow the Doctor to reveal his name in other ways. Given that Steven Moffat is going to be the new producer of the show after the three special episodes next year I suspect we will meet River Song again, though depending on for how long the Doctor knew her for it could be a younger actress and not Alex Kingston in the role. Given the nature of the Doctor though it could easily occur offscreen. Finally I also like how some of Rivers dialog echoed some of what the Doctor has said in the past most notable “I’m so sorry” and “Everybody lives”

Given the relatively upbeat ending to this episode with everyone surviving in a way, I have a sense of foreboding for what will happen in the finale and am especially worried about Donnas fate, could she join the short list of companions who have been KIA? especially with the mid season trailer showing the return of Rose and the Daleks


  • The Doctor and Rivers interaction
  • River using dialog reminiscent of the Doctor
  • That the mystery of River is still in place
  • The Doctor realising his future self would have a plan for him to save River
  • Donna recognising the foreboding when River recognised her name
  • The CAL and Doctor Moon reveals


  • The Donna subplot



Next Week


5 Responses to “Doctor Who 4.09 “Forest of the Dead” Summary and Analysis “Spoilers””

  1. Laura Wilson said

    Who played CAL????shes a great child actress! cheers

  2. Random Remarks said

    According to wikipedia Eve Newton played the role of CAL/the little girl

    Apologies for deleting your e-mail address from your comment, but I dont feel comfortable having anyones e-mail address in public view for 2 reasons (general rules)

    1) I probably wont know the anything about the person and it could be a scam of some sort

    2) It is also for the sake of the person to minimise the risk of the address getting found by spam bots or scammers

    For similar reasons I will not contact people via e-mail directly until I get to know from comments and their own blog/web site if they have them. (Feel free to put a link to a website where people can find your e-mail address)

  3. Swapna Mitra said

    Small point, but I thought River Song used the squareness gun (not the sonic) to punch a hole in the wall?

  4. Charles said

    Thanks for that Swapna just checked it on a dodgy youtube copy and it is a sonic gun rather than a sonic screwdriver that she uses

  5. Awesome review, really enjoyed your thoughts on this one since for the first time ever , I felt like having not completely understood the ending. Apparently, I didn’t recognise the 3 kids properly but I do find it a pity to read confirmation in that prof Song is actually trapped in the virtual world. Though that does leave the possibility of full recovery, fingers crossed! :-)

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