Thursday, June 12, 2008

Library Pictures

My son Cameron isn't a huge fan of Steven Moffat, having been scared witless by The Empty Child and pretty freaked by Blink. It's his only failing, bless him, because The Moff is the best Doctor Who script writer since...well, ever really.

That said, I think Silence in the Library was Moffat's most Coupling like plot, to the extent that I was a little distracted by the level of contrivance involved in his manoeuvring the story to the conclusion he wanted. We get two pretty major sf concepts literally stressed to death during the story: the information stations with human faces (that's DEAD human faces, as Donna shouts just in case any viewer hadn't figured that out) and the slightly silly but very effectively done communicators which allow people to speak after they're DEAD (and which appear to provide prove of an afterlife, in passing). And nothing else is mentioned at all about the technological marvels of the 51st century during the other 44 minutes - which is handy as it's a combination of precisely those two concepts (plus a cool skull in a space suit which reminded me irresistibly of Pirates of the Caribbean) which provides all the horror of the cliffhanger. It's well done and genuinely creepy, but the fore-shadowing also felt just a tad heavy-handed and it goes on for faaaaarrrrr too bloody long. As Simon points out in his review it used to be the case that "the sight of a companion's face stuck on a sculpted android would have made for an effective cliffhanger", as opposed to Silence's over-kill combination of what felt like twenty minutes of a skeleton in a suit booming 'Who turned out the lights?' and Donna's face chuntering on interminably like a stuck single. Anyway, why would the Donna face keep repeating the phrase 'Donna Noble has been saved' over and over again? And didn't they say only dead people had their faces stuck on the wall like the new range of products from the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation? And why would a swarm of shadows want to hirple about in a spacesuit in the first place?*

Some random cool bits, though - both the name Nashta Verada and (for the first time since the series came back) the nice musical bit which followed the Doctor saying 'Nashta Verada' for the first time.

The shadows as devouring piranha was enough to freak Cameron out and have him go upstairs to play his PS3 instead and the dust motes in sunbeams actually creeped me out a bit too. Less scary was having the shadows as a reasonably chatty negotiator and general good guy 'blob in a suit'.

The 'little shop' joke was funny as was the joke about confusing the escape pod and the loo, and the design inside the Library was lovely (pity the city outside looked like every other alien city in New Who). Tennant did angry well for one of the few times thus far. Alex Kingston was good without being brilliant, which is basically what I expected from her, but River Song** is much less cool than Bernice Summerfield.

Less cool altogether - Miss Evangelista and her bonding with Donna was rushed and felt false, inserted simply to give some pathos to her death two minutes later. Donna doesn't always have to be wandering about looking for lame ducks to be pals with. As elsewhere, there's a purpose to it, since it gives her a reason to help Donna when she's initially lost in her alternative future, but equally it feels just as heavy-handed as the foreshadowing in Silence.

And some more questions which have either just popped into my head or have been inadvertently (yeah, right) nicked from other people's reviews.
  • Why does everyone of the 4022*** except Donna come out of the hard drive dressed entirely in black? [it was the fashion 100 years ago amongst bibliophiles?]
  • Are all of Dr Song's friends saved by the updated Sonic Screwdriver and then deposited into the hard drive or are they just computer constructs created for her to interact with?
  • Why are they all dressed in white?
  • Why was Donna's husband using an alias in the library, other than to provide some fake poignancy?
  • If the shadows are deadly how come the people who got killed were all in the light?
  • Why not just turn on all the lights to get rid of the shadows, since they - initially at least - do appear to be actual shadows rather than aliens who look like shadows
  • Why is the Doctor so thick at so many key points (relationship with Dr Song, natured of 'saving') other than plot convenience?
  • Why was archaelogist and time-travelling adventuress River Song re-incarnated in the Library as Laura Ashley wearing middle-class mum?
  • Finally, the Doctor sending Donna away again - there's a future point to that, surely, and it not just another clumsy contrivance, designed to get her into CAL's world?
Looking back at that list, it's hard to believe that I really, really enjoyed this two parter, but I genuinely did. I think it's the best Who episode since Cornell's Human Nature/Family of Blood from last year.

But having started this review by saying that Silence was hampered by Moffat employing Coupling's almost geometrically convenient plotting, I now find myself claiming that Forest in particular is actually almost as full of plot holes as one of Rusty's less well thought out efforts. That can't be right, can it? Steven Moffat can't have turned in something which is shiny and good on first viewing but turns out to be a bit generic and shallow on closer examination, can he? Doctor's daughter, Doctor's's all going a bit Family Affairs as the Moff gears up to take over - and that can't be his intention, can it?

I'm so confused all of a sudden...

Other reviews of one or other episode which are especially worth reading: Simon, Marie, Rob, Millenium Dome, Mondy, Lawrence and Stuart (with very funny opening paragraphs).

[included from a mailing list post I made prior to watching Forest of the Dead, and included here only to demonstrate my own very minor cleverness: Speculation - given that the Ood said that the Doctor's song was going to send soon, could this be a reference to Dr River Song? Perhaps she dies the first time she meets the Doctor?]

* You know, Simon and Rob have ruined this for me, with their oh so rational reviews picking holes in something I had chosen to believe was perfect. Pair of selfish swine.
** Was I the only one reminded of Firefly's River Tam here?
*** And shades of The 4400there.

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Blogger SAF said...

Stuart: "You know, Simon and Rob have ruined this for me, with their oh so rational reviews"

Heheh, great review and I love that I get some of the credit :)

8:06 pm  
Blogger Stuart Douglas said...

I'm not talking to you Simon :-)

9:06 pm  
Blogger MediumRob said...

To paraphase Gordon Ramsay. "Joy – sucked. Done"

Excellent... ;-)

10:39 am  
Blogger Stuart Douglas said...

I should have done the review as one where I constantly get interrupted by you two pointing out the flaws in my gushing praise :)

10:46 am  
Blogger SAF said...

Stuart: "I should have done the review as one where I constantly get interrupted by you two pointing out the flaws in my gushing praise :)"

Ha! That would have been really funny. Look, tell you what, I will do my best to gush uncontrollably about this week's Who*, and you can even things out by picking holes in it.

*now there's a challenge for me

12:20 pm  
Blogger Stuart Douglas said...

Rob: "I will do my best to gush uncontrollably about this week's Who*"

Best of luck, Rob - having seen the trailer I don't think anyone is going to be all that positive.

12:46 pm  
Blogger SAF said...

Stuart: "Best of luck, Rob - having seen the trailer I don't think anyone is going to be all that positive."

Look, Rob, just because he's not talking to me, he's ascribing stuff to you. :)

12:52 pm  
Blogger MediumRob said...

If it's witty or clever, I'll cunningly take credit for it, too... ;-)

1:01 pm  

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