Hush now. Spoilers!
All this is being watched on TV by the girl. She switches channels and eventually finds a channel showing Donna being taken out of the ambulance on a stretcher. Donna wakes up in an ambulance with no memories of her past life, and is treated in a facility by Doctor Moon. The way time progresses in her virtual world seems to be led by her thoughts; Doctor Moon suggests she walks by the river and she suddenly appears at the river. She occasionally finds this odd, but is reassured by Doctor Moon. Before she knows it, she is married to her ideal man Lee, who has a stammer, and has two children of her own. She is then approached by a hooded figure in a playground, who turns out to be Miss Evangelista. She warns Donna that the world is not real. Donna is stubborn and skeptical of Miss Evangelista's words, although soon, much to her horror, she observes that all the children in the playground are copies of one another.
Meanwhile, the Doctor squabbles with River Song, but is soon stunned when she whispers something in his ear to prove that he comes to trust her completely. However, Anita now has two shadows. They are then forced to flee as the Vashta Nerada suit creature has caught them up again. The Time Lord tries to reason with the Vashta Nerada as it takes over more of the team, and finds out they came as microspores in millions and millions of books and then hatched. Other Dave stays behind, but is then killed by the Vashta Nerada, leaving the Doctor inbetween the two Daves. He escapes and sets off after the other three.
Further ahead, River Song is telling Anita about the Doctor she knows and tells her that in the future the Doctor can open the TARDIS by snapping his fingers. The Doctor overhears this, but then switches his attention back to the present. He then figures out that the library's computer hard drive - CAL - is the key to bringing Donna back, for it has literally 'saved' her and all of the 4022 people in the Library 100 years ago to its hard drive. The team travels to the core of the planet to locate the computer. It transpires that the little girl is in fact the hard drive, and was Strackman Lux's grandfather's youngest daughter. She was dying so he made an imaginary world and a Doctor Moon to watch over her and any book ever written.
River Song knocks the Doctor out to prevent him stopping her sacrificing herself to bring back Donna and the others. The Doctor tries to persuade River to let him do this, and reveals that she had whispered his real name into his ear, which apparently he could only tell someone this one time. In order to restore those who have been saved, she has to provide memory to CAL, which burns out her mind. She dies, as the Doctor looks on, handcuffed to a wall.
Donna and the other saved people return, but she cannot find Lee and thinks that perhaps he didn't exist after all. Lee sees her but his stammer prevents him from calling out to her before he is teleported away.
The Doctor realizes in the nick of time that, knowing River's fate and having years to think of a way to save her, his future self must have given her the sonic screwdriver for a reason. He finds that, like the Data Ghosts, her consciousness has been saved in the screwdriver. The Doctor manages to upload River's data ghost into the Library's computer-- where she is reunited with the rest of her team, in the alternate reality with Dr. Moon and the girl.
- The Doctor - David Tennant
- Donna Noble - Catherine Tate
- River Song - Alex Kingston
- Doctor Moon - Colin Salmon
- Strackman Lux - Steve Pemberton
- Proper Dave - Harry Peacock
- Other Dave - O-T Fagbenle
- Charlotte Lux - Eve Newton
- Anita - Jessika Williams
- Miss Evangelista - Talulah Riley
- Lee McAvoy - Jason Pitt
- Jelivia Lux - Mark Dexter
- Ella McAvoy - Eloise Rakic-Platt
- Joshua McAvoy - Alex Midwood
- The Vashta Nerada give the Doctor a day to sort everything.
- The teleports can only teleport three people at a time.
- The Doctor uses his future sonic screwdriver to save River Song's neural pattern within CAL.
- When the Doctor says that history can be rewritten, River's response is "Not one line!" These are the same words the Doctor says to Barbara Wright, when she attempted to change history. (DW: The Aztecs)
- The frantic music from Midnight is heard during a scene where Donna Noble freaks out, having seen her "children", whom she had tucked in bed, disappear without a trace, while she was in the Data Core.
- River also associates running with her time with the Doctor, echoing sentiments expressed by Donna Noble and Jenny.
- River refers to the Doctor as an "impossible man", echoing similar sentiments by Agatha Christie.
- River's ultimate fate a simulated reality in a vast computer, echoes that of the Doctor's own people, who store the memories and personalities of dead Time Lords in the Matrix. (DW: The Deadly Assassin)
- River's final monologue that once in a very long while "everybody lives", echoes the line spoken by the ninth Doctor in The Doctor Dances. Here too, the Doctor manages to miraculously save everyone, even those who'd already been lost, and ends with the Doctor having a cathartic moment of triumph.
- The Doctor says "Who are you?" to River Song, ironic because he is always the one being asked that.
- The Doctor learns the fate of River Song, and retains this memory through to their "first" meeting in the future. The future Doctor will adjust his sonic screwdriver in order to preserve Song's consciousness so his younger self will be able to preserve her within Cal.
- Song appears to have knowledge of Time Lord anatomy, including knowledge of regeneration. She also indicates that destruction of both of the Doctor's hearts is a circumstance after which regeneration is not possible.
- The working title for this story was: River's Run. When BBC Video announced the North American release of the Series 4 DVD box set, this title was used in the episode list and not Forest of the Dead.
- In River Song's voice over, she mentions the "skies of all the world might just turn dark", a possible reference to The Darkness, a story arc element that plays out in the series 4 finale.
- CAL was also the name of the computer graphics company that created the title sequence used between 1987 and 1989 for the Seventh Doctor's TV adventures. A result of this work was the creation of the first photo-realistic CGI TARDIS, featured in DW: Bad Wolf.
- In the girl's house, on a drawing on the wall, there is a picture of a blonde haired girl and a wolf. This may be a reference to Rose and Bad Wolf as they are one and the same.
- This is the second episode in this series to have a character share the name of a character from the Joss Whedon show Firefly, with River. the first was Cobb in The Doctor's Daughter.
- Moffat's recurring theme "everybody lives" returns again in this episode. In the BBC podcast associated with this episode, Moffat and Davies point out that so far in the four major storylines that he has contributed to the series, the only "final" deaths that have occurred have been due to old age (such as Billy Shipton and Kathy Nightingale) or illness (Madame de Pompadour). Moffat consequently promises (in the podcast) that he will kill people off in more dramatic fashion in future stories.
- The concept of downloading human consciousness as data - even after physical death - and the philosophical issues surrounding this is an issue being addressed by futurists in real-life, with scientists such as Ray Kurzweil speculating that technology will allow the uploading of consciousness to computers within a generation in his book, The Age of Spiritual Machines.
- A recurring theme in this and the preceding episode is "spoilers"; this is a term that was coined in the 1990s by science fiction fandom to address the circulation of information revealing the plots and endings of TV shows and movies. Interestingly, the fourth series of Doctor Who contains several examples of plot twists and cameos that were successfully protected from "spoilers". Other examples of successful spoiler protection include the appearance of Catherine Tate at the end of Doomsday. Examples of plot twists that were not successfully protected from "spoilers" included the return of Rose in Series 4 - spoiled in part by people witnessing the filming - and the regeneration of Christopher Eccleston at the end of Series 1 - spoiled by the BBC publicity office itself.
to be added
- Following the broadcast of Silence in the Library there was much discussion in the Doctor Who fan community over the identity of River Song, with speculation that she might be a future incarnation of Romana or an alias of Bernice Summerfield being two of the ideas put forth. The episode, ultimately, leaves her origin ambiguous although it does establish several times that this was the first time the Doctor met River, meaning she cannot be a past character.
- In Planet of the Ood, the Doctor is told his "song may end soon", leading to speculation the "death" of River Song is what is being referred to.
- Another idea put forth is that River Song is actually the Doctor's mother. This is based on a joke that Steven Moffat said in the pod cast. Although it would explain how she knows his name it does not explain why she constantly states he hasn't met her yet or her forwardness towards him. That said, it was Moffat who invented the phrase "wibbly wobbly, timey wimey"... This theory does not explain why she was so forward towards him (for example the playfully flirtatious tone of her retort "spoilers" when the Doctor asked her why she had handcuffs).
- It has been rumoured that River Song is the Doctor's future wife. A hint at this may be when Mr. Lux said, "squabbling like an old married couple", which was followed by River and the Doctor looking into each other's eyes, and then River revealing that she knows the Doctor's name, which he said he could only tell someone under one specific circumstance.
- It was rumoured that before the official title was revealed to be 'Forest of the Dead' it was rumoured that the episode's title was 'Saved from the Books'
- The Library halls were filmed in Swansea Library.
- The Area where everybody was returned was filmed in the Brangwyn Hall, Swansea
- The control room where River sacrificed herself was filmed in ALCOA industries, in Fforestfach, Swansea.
Discontinuity, Plot Holes, Errors
- It is never explained how the Doctor got out of the handcuffs as it was shown that he couldn't reach the sonic screwdriver and there is no evidence that anyone freed him. Presumably Donna would have freed him.
- If the Vashta Nerada are now living on the planet, does that not mean that CAL and its hardrive will be destroyed? Vashta Nerada only eat meat. The hardrive is not edible and therefore not threatened.
- During the scene when everything goes white, when Lee bursts through the door - he shouts Donna! But Lee could not say her name properly because he had a stammer.Stammers are often caused by stress - there were several scenes in which he spoke without the stammer.
- The future Doctor apparently places one of the communicator links in the sonic screwdriver to save River's mind, yet the suit she is wearing when she dies also has one of the links. We don't know if the communicator on her suit was intact after her death. If the transfer fried her brain, it may also have fried the communicator (which mirrors her brain activity).
- When the shadows are stretching from Anita to the Doctor, the shadows of the equipment move away. (These shadows have Vashta Nerada in them, and they are moving as well)
- How come the Data Ghosts in the system didn't get transferred out? CAL brought the crew of Mr. Lux's expedition back through the computer not their Data Ghosts. It is possible that the Vashta Nerada Data Ghosts did not get uploaded but the Miss Evangelista disfigured Data Ghost should still have been brought back out (downloaded). The 4022 people in the system were alive when teleported into the system. The crew's Data Ghosts were indeed captured by the system and downloaded into the system. But as they have no physical body outside the computer they can only exist inside.
- After the people have been teleported back into the library, Strackman Lux says "4,022 people saved!". However, including Donna, there were actually 4,023 people. He didn't actually know that Donna went into the computer. (It's really just more of a statement of triumph, not meant to be a mathematically precise count.)
- Why would the Doctor need years to think of a way to save River when he already knows? (It undoubtedly took time to refine the neural chip he places in his screwdriver so that it only stores River's consciousness.)
- The library was shut down over 100 years ago. However, CAL was Lux's "Grandfather's youngest daughter." He also claimed that the library was built for CAL. It is frankly impossible that his grandfather had a child over 100 years ago, which would mean the library was invaded before it was built. (Seeing as this story takes place far in the future it is a very real possibility that Lux's grandfather lived a very long time and had a child at an advanced age.)
- If nothing can get through the TARDIS forcefield system when she appears in the TARDIS how did Donna get eaten and put on a parallel world? Nothing got through the force-field. Donna was teleported into the TARDIS, but CAL managed to change the data, teleporting her away from the TARDIS and into the central computer core.
- Lee is an individual of the far-future, and the Hardrive can yake anyone who was loaded into it in any era of their chose. When Lee and Donna get married and have children, their life is set in Donna's era, wouldn't Lee have a problem coping such a primative time. It is stated that Donna thought he may have not existed anyway. So, He may have only spent his time with a representation of Donna, living in his time, and Donna with a fictional Lee, living in hers.
- Why do the Vashta Nerada let the Humans go? With the planet sealed off and no prey available, won't they eventually starve to death? The Doctor was obviously angry and there was probably plenty of books about the things he did while angry. He is known for that. The Vashta Nerada would probably produce spores, die, grow up and repeat. ---This is still an error due to the fact that without additional bio matter the Vashta Nerada would still would die (lets not get started on how they lived a hundred years before) due to lack of food necessary for not just reproduction but simply living.
- Although the Doctor knows he can open the Tardis with the click of his fingers how come we never see this in any of the other episodes The Doctor may still find this ability unnatural because no other time lord had ths ability, so he would want to avoid doing such things
- The Doctor says that the auto destruct in The Library could 'crack the planet open like an egg' the Seventh Doctor said the same about what the Imperial Dalek mothership's weapons could do to the Earth (DW: Remembrance of the Daleks).
- River Song says the Doctor has taken her to the "end of the universe", suggesting the Doctor at some point returns to the general time period seen in Utopia which is also described as being at the end of the universe. She could also mean "end of the universe" as a location, supposing that the area of the universe is finite, however the paradoxes that the Toclafane caused may have averted the end of the universe to an even further date.
- The question of the Doctor's real name dates back to the earliest days of the series (DW: An Unearthly Child, Silver Nemesis), though in more recent episodes (DW: The Girl in the Fireplace, The Shakespeare Code, The Fires of Pompeii, etc.) the fact his name is a mystery has been amplified. An earlier Moffat-written episode The Girl in the Fireplace, directly addressed this issue when Madame de Pompadour reads the Doctor's mind and discovers that the Doctor's true name is hidden (it is not, however, indicated whether she actually learns his true name).
- At the end of this episode, River states that some days "Everybody lives!". This is very similar to what the Doctor says at the end of another of Steven Moffat's episodes, The Doctor Dances ("Everybody lives, Rose! Just this once — everybody lives! I need more days like this.").
- The Doctor says to River Song "history can be rewritten" to which Song replies "not one line" a reference to DW: The Aztecs.
- The Doctor has previously spoken his name in EDA: Vanderdeken's Children and also EDA: Interference
- The teleport system is similar to that used in DW: The Ark in Space in that it is limited to three at one time.
- The squareness gun used by River Song to blast a hole in the wall of the Library is the same gun used by Jack Harkness when he first met the Doctor. It was left behind in the TARDIS when Jack Harkness was teleported out with the Doctor & Rose into the game shows on Station Five. (DW: The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances/Bad Wolf) (Per Steven Moffat, Doctor Who Confidential: "River Runs Deep")
- Despite his explicit statement to the contrary, the Doctor has given away a sonic screwdriver or two. Liz Shaw has one in Inferno, and Sarah Jane Smith has her sonic lipstick. Although he could be referring to never giving away his screwdriver. Liz Shaw's device was only ever shown to open the door to the Doctor's workshop. It was referred to as a "door handle." He never gives them as a gift. In Sarah Jane's case he may have given it with the intention that she use it along with the other artifacts he gave her to protect the Earth.
- Just as in DW: The Girl in the Fireplace and Last of the Time Lords the Doctor maintains that he is "always all right" in the wake of a great loss.
- The Doctor says that having 4,022 minds talking inside one's mind (referring to CAL) is like being him. In the EDA: The Gallifrey Chronicles, it is revealed that the Doctor had downloaded the entire Matrix into his head, effectively meaning that he had every single Time Lord's mind inside his own.
DVD and other releases
- Released in the Series 4 DVD boxset in November 2008 along with the rest of the Series.
- Released as Series 4 Volume 3 in a vanilla edition alongside Silence in the Library and Midnight.