TV REVIEW: Doctor Who 4.9 "Forest of the Dead"

Original UK airdate: 7/6/08

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Written by: Steven Moffat

Directed by: Euros Lyn


With Donna “saved” in the Library’s hard drive, the Doctor, River and the archaeologists try to avoid becoming the main course on the Vashta Nerada’s dinner menu.

Less the second half of a two-parter than a sequel to the previous episode, “Forest of the Dead” is a beautiful contradiction: both a direct continuation and something brand new. While the threat of the Vashta Nerada remains, this shifts away from last week’s monster plot to expand on the story’s “other” world – a Matrix-style computer construct where virus software Dr Moon protects CAL (AKA Charlotte Abigail Lux), the little girl whose essence is at the heart of the machine.
That everyone should survive at the end (albeit some in virtual form) is a break from the norm for Who, but that doesn’t mean this has a happy ending. River’s self-sacrifice to save the Doctor (the man she clearly loves) is a beautifully played tearjerker of a scene, made all the more tragic by the fact he doesn’t really know her, even though it's clear she’s going to be a major part of his life. At least it’s certain he’ll meet her again - hopefully we will too.

So, spores in book pages brought the forest-dwelling shadow creatures to the Library. Now kids'll be petrified of paper as well as the dark…

The Doctor says there’s only one reason he’d have told River his name, but what is it? Could she be a future wife - there's certainly an awkward moment when someone says they're like an old married couple. If only River wasn’t so damned spoiler-phobic!

When the Ood told the Doctor his "Song will end soon", were they referring to River?

Donna gets a family in the Library’s hard drive, and looks completely at home in her alternative life. Seeing it taken away from her - particularly when it’s revealed at the end that her “husband” isn’t just a computer fabrication - is heartbreaking.

Moffat used a similar “everybody lives” happy ending for “The Empty Child”/”The Doctor Dances”.

The Doctor: “I’m the Doctor and you’re in the biggest library in the universe. Look me up.”

Richard Edwards

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