June 7, 2008

Season Four Saturdays: Silence in the Library

(Another spoiler-free review, especially since spoilers are part of the plot. Will explain shortly).

God bless Steven Moffatt.

Granted, it is fitting that he will take over the reigns of modern Who in 2010 after Russell T. Davies leaves. He, as much as Davies, is kind of the architect of modern Who, taking its traditional strengths and building upon them. In fact, his scripts show an incredible imagination - from Season One's "The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances" two-parter (which contains the funniest - and most touching - scenes with the Ninth Doctor), to Season Two's "The Girl in the Fireplace" (with its duelling time lines) and Season Three's "Blink" (utilizing commonplace statues as a source for horror).

"Silence in the Library" - while it cribs from the latter two scripts (as well as some classic Who imagery), is one of the better scripts this season, picking up on some threads from - believe it or not - "The Fires of Pompeii".
Our story takes place between two different time frames - seemingly present-day Earth and, seemingly, a planet-sized library in the future. (An obvious cop to several prominent comics bloggers - well played, Mr. Moffatt, well, played). At one, a young girl's nightmares seem to be coming true; at another, people mysteriously disappeared, sealing off a facility for 100 years. There is, unusually, a relationship between the two...but what is it? How do the Doctor and Donna figure in? What will happen next?

The best thing about this story - at least, the first part - is that it builds upon traditional Who strengths. First, there's the idea that more questions are asked than answered - one criticism of new Who has been that it has sacrificed mystery for whiz-bang storytelling....here, there is a gradual build of questions, and things happen that almost require a second episode for resolution. The main idea behind the "big bad" (namely, shadows as "piranhas of the air") is a seeming retread of "Blink"...but the way Euros Lyn directs the episode makes is almost a casual mixture of horror and noir. Plus, the main setting at a futuristic library also seems rather appropriate - given that, long before Alan Moore wrote League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Who tended to borrow heavily from literary sources, so much so that it's refreshing that books, rather than a high tech version of Project Gutenberg or Librivox, are considered a key commodity in the future.

But the main thrust of the story - and which the classic series only covered once - is "foreknowledge" of the Doctor's future, as suggested by the presence of Dr. River Song, played by ER's Alex Kingston. There are various hints about Dr. Song's role in the Doctor's "later" life...and quite cleverly, Moffatt also integrates the idea of "spoilers", or foreknowledge of the future. In short, there is one scene that seems to be a blatant spoiler...either that, or it's really poor foreshadowing. It seems clumsy, especially in light of the "cliffhanger"...but I am hoping that part two of this story, "Forest of the Dead", reconciles many of the plot lines from this one.

In short, after something as disastrous as "The Doctor's Daughter", anything that comes after it would be seen much more positively. Having watched "The Unicorn and the Wasp" again, I found myself liking it even more...and a great "calm before the storm".

Now that we've passed the midpoint of the season, everything will start coming together.

So bring on "Forest of the Dead"

Stay tuned.

P.S. I will be volunteering at Wizard World Chicago on Saturday, June 28th...so please, if you see me, flag me down and say "hello."

So, what do you think of this news, Doctor and Donna?

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