Silence in The Library

Region 1
box set

Region 2
box set
Region 2
3-episode volume
(Doctor Who Story No. 200, starring David Tennant)
  • written by Steven Moffat
  • directed by Euros Lyn
  • produced by Phil Collinson
  • music by Murray Gold
  • 2 episodes @ 45 minutes each:
    1. Silence in The Library
    2. Forest of the Dead
Story: The Doctor and Donna arrive on The Library planet, its skyscrapers and halls of books and records strangely empty and silent. Teaming up with an expedition sent to find out what happened to all the people, the Doctor meets for the first time Professor River Song, who has encountered the time-traveler's future self countless times. What deadly force is hiding in the multiple moving shadows of The Library's halls? What is the connection to a little girl who knows The Library to be all in her mind? And what secrets does Song know about her future relationship with the Doctor?

DVD Extras (box sets only) include:

  • Episode One audio commentary by surprise-preserving writer Steven Moffat vs. spoiler-queen executive producer Julie Gardner,
    with referee actor David Tennant (The Doctor).
  • Episode Two audio commentary by director Euros Lyn, script editor Helen Raynor, and costume designer Louise Page.
  • Doctor Who Confidential featurette: Shadow Play (14 min.) with Moffat, Tennant, Lyn, Catherine Tate (Donna Noble),
    O-T Fagbenle (Other Dave), Harry Peacock (Proper Dave), director of photography Rory Taylor, choreographer Ailsa Berk,
    executive producer Russell T. Davies, and producer Phil Collinson.
  • Doctor Who Confidential featurette: River Runs Deep (12 min.) with Tennant, Tate, Moffat, Lyn, Davies, Collinson,
    Alex Kingston (Professor River Song), and Colin Salmon (Dr. Moon).
  • Deleted Scene (1 min.) - introduced by Davies
  • Trailers & Promos

Buyers' Guide Review

by Martin Izsak

(A more in-depth analysis, containing "SPOILERS" and intended for those who have already seen the program, can be accessed here.)

At last the new Doctor Who team crafts a story good enough to rival Season 28's "The Impossible Planet" (story no. 178) and "Rise of the Cybermen" (story no. 176), and as those stories did previously, earn the mantle of epic classic. Excellent. Steven Moffat turns in his best writing yet on the series, making brilliant use of the coveted late-central two-part slot for the season that always seems to rank well critically.

The setting is superb, the season's third new planet so far, and what looks to be its most interesting one yet. While this isn't the first massive alien Library setting in sci-fi, it is surprising that it is so rare on popular sci-fi shows. I seem to remember a particularly impressive one in an issue of Doctor Who Comics from Marvel, causing me to think that this was exactly the kind of highly civilized alien planet settings we should be getting on the show. The original Star Trek series also took a good stab at an alien library in the episode "All Our Yesterdays" (production #78) albeit on their limited budget. Now finally free to do something with CGI, official TV Doctor Who produces a beautiful and grand spectacle here. Nice one.

Of course, when it comes to the year, Steven Moffat chooses his favourite futuristic time period, the 51st century. Not sure what that fixation is all about, but I think the 51st century makes its best showing yet on the series, and is better than the round 100 000's and billions that Russell T. Davies seems to favour, although the "-slash-apple" on the end of some of those dates added a nice bit of strangeness.

I have only two serious complaints about this story, and regular readers of my reviews can probably guess the first one. For no good reason that I can see, Moffat and director Euros Lyn leave out any exterior shots of the TARDIS coming or going, when a good materialization to start the story off right seems like obvious easy extra points. It is really, really sad to see how often this staple effect is being skipped all throughout David Tennant's otherwise superb era, especially in the stories immediately surrounding this one. I hope they're not all saying, "well, the next & previous story probably did this, so we don't have to", because meanwhile, all stories seem to be collectively dropping the ball. Felgercarp!

A bigger problem concerns the internal logic of the shadow forces. While Moffat and co. get great mileage and entertainment value out of each scene that tackles shadow problems and their associated villains, nicely interspersed amongst scenes that tackle other equally interesting subjects, I continually come away from individual scenes and the story as a whole not really understanding the mechanics of the danger or the remedies used to combat it. The director and his lighting technicians weren't able to control everything as ideally as they might, suggesting that asking for this on a television schedule was perhaps asking too much. It's all a little unclear and unsatisfying when all is said and done.

The story really excels with character relationships, and all the other fascinating ideas it manages to explore, and after weaving all that in between segments of the shadow plot, it creates such a rich tapestry that the remaining plot holes with the shadows are easier to miss.

Having definitively reached the second half of the season, Murray Gold explodes with a batch of wonderful new compositions, mostly with deeper and richer levels of emotional expression than what we got in the first half of the season. Some of the pieces more famous for later episodes make their debut here, making "Silence in the Library" probably the best musical experience of the year as well.

There are too many good ideas properly explored in this for me to go through them all, and in the end I think I'd only be "spoiling them" anyway by talking about them here. One curious thing is the quantity of what looks like ordinary present day Earth that we get in the second instalment "Forest of the Dead", which Moffat and co. completely get away with by embedding it within an alien planet story. Is it the present, or the 51st century, or some time in between? The viewer can decide for themselves.

One of the unique elements of this story that it really excels in is the relationship between the Doctor and Professor River Song, which has them both experiencing their visits with each other in different sequences. Brilliant. This is such an obvious logical extension of having someone travel through time as much as the Doctor does, you wonder why we haven't seen more of it before on the show, particularly in the Doctor's relationships with the Brigadier, or the Master. We get a bit of it in "The Five Doctors" (story no. 130), with Sarah Jane's reunion with the Jon Pertwee Doctor being out of sequence by necessity, and had the Brigadier attempted to really converse with the First Doctor (and it's not at all likely that he'd be so inclined with more familiar Doctors present), we might have had a similar situation to what is presented here. Mind you, there are too many characters in "The Five Doctors" to do justice to every possibility in 90 minutes, so it is better to do an idea like this where River Song and one Doctor can focus on each other.

Music by Murray Gold
"The Girl with No Name", "The Song of Song",
"Silence in the Library", "Midnight",
"A Pressing Need to Save the World",
"All in the Mind", "Turn Left",
"The Greatest Story Never Told", and
"The Doctor's Theme Series Four" are available on:
Audio CD - Doctor Who:
Original Music from "Series 4" (2008)

More info & buying options

An alternate version of "Donna's Theme"
is available on:
Audio CD - Doctor Who:
Original Music from "Series 3" (2007)

More info & buying options

Acting is of a high calibre by all participants, with lots of juicy moments for most of the major characters in the tale. Donna has a lot of great moments in this story, really defining her character and nicely setting her apart from the romantic mould of Rose, Martha, and retroactively Sarah Jane, without resorting to the "Oh, we're not a couple gag" found in so many other stories this season. All the more space to wonder what exactly is in store between the Doctor and River Song, which is excellent. As a character, Song is loads more interesting than Rose could ever hope to be, and outdoing Martha and many other companions and companion possibilities as well, and an obvious candidate for the guest-star-better-suited-for-the-Doctor-than-his-actual-companion phenomenon found so frequently this decade. It's still a bit of a stretch to go as far as love-of-his-life while only seeing her during a bizarre hair day in a gender-obscuring space suit. Let's not pass judgment though, just reserve it for later....

Another brilliant stroke was having a relatively small group of people in which two of them have the same first name, around which develops a fun way of telling them apart. A nice echo of real life, going against cinematic convention. Three cheers for Other Dave and Proper Dave!

Well, I needn't say too much more about this one. Just know that this is one to look forward to and thoroughly enjoy. Though it does receive strong competition from the upcoming finale, I am prepared to say that this story tops Season 30, and makes excellent repeat viewing again and again. Outstanding!

This story has become available on DVD.
Click on the Amazon symbol for the location nearest you for pricing and availability:

DVD NTSC Region 1
14-episode boxed set
for the North American market:
in the U.S.
in Canada
DVD PAL Region 2
14-episode boxed set
for the U.K.
DVD PAL Region 2
3-episode volume
U.K. format only

Note: The full season sets contain commentaries, behind-the-scenes featurettes, and other extras. The smaller volumes only feature the plain episodes.

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Read the Buyers' Guide Review for the next story: "Midnight"

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