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Silence in the Library was the eighth episode of series 4 of Doctor Who.

It marked the first appearance of River Song, a mysterious woman with an important role in the Doctor's personal future.

Donna's departure at the end of the series is hinted at in this episode. River reacts upon learning who Donna is, but refuses to answer why she doesn't know her in the future despite knowing the Doctor. It slightly touched upon River and the Doctor's future interactions, as River speaks of "the future you" suggesting she and the Doctor would know of each other well into his future adventures.


The Tenth Doctor takes Donna Noble to a planet-sized library in the 52nd century. They find it empty of human life, with countless other living beings. An information kiosk warns them to "count the shadows". An archaeological expedition arrives, lead by the mysterious Professor River Song, who brings the cryptic last message sent from the library: "4022 saved, No survivors".


A little girl is in a session with her psychologist, Doctor Moon. She says she has a library, a whole world, which she sees whenever she closes her eyes. It is a peaceful place, entirely empty of human life. Suddenly, the world she sees is interrupted by loud pounding on a locked door. As the door bursts open, two mysterious strangers rush in – the Tenth Doctor and Donna Noble...

In the TARDIS, the Doctor and Donna arrive in the 52nd century on a planet-sized book repository called simply "the Library". It is an entire world, holding every book ever written, and powered by the most powerful computer ever. Shortly after arriving, they realise however that the Library is completely empty. The Library's computers confirm that they are the only humanoid life at present, but it then claims there are over "a million million lifeforms" in the Library. Donna asks why they really came here, and the Doctor admits that he earlier received a message for help on his psychic paper. He doesn't know who it's from, but Donna observes that it was signed with a kiss. Nearby, a statue with a strangely realistic human face, called a Node, warns them to count the shadows... Donna is shocked to find that the faces are selected by the Nodes from those which have been "donated" by the deceased. Just then, the lights begin to go out around them. Wary of the warning regarding shadows, they race through the Library aisles until they reach a well-lit room. The doors are locked, but Donna kicks them open.

There they see a spherical security camera hovering in the air. In her living room, the little girl opens her eyes at the same moment the camera shuts itself down. The Doctor scans the camera with his sonic screwdriver. The girl screams, terrified by the sound of the sonic screwdriver inside her head. The camera sends the Doctor a message that begs him to stop the noise, which he does. The camera and the girl both warn that "others" are coming; the Library has "been breached". The door opens, and a team of explorers in spacesuits enter. The leader walks up to the Doctor and greets him, "Hello, sweetie." She tells the others they can take off their helmets, and the Doctor begs them all to leave immediately. Another member of the group complains that there shouldn't be anyone else there, he had paid for exclusive rights to the expedition. On hearing the word "expedition", the Doctor questions whether they're archaeologists and says that, as a time traveller, he points and laughs at archaeologists. The leader then introduces herself as Professor River Song, archaeologist. She explains that her team are there with Mr Strackman Lux, whose family built the Library, to learn why it has been sealed for the last hundred years.

4022 saved

4022 saved. No survivors.

The Doctor quickly organises the team to make sure the area is well lit. He says the shadows are occupied by the Vashta Nerada, microscopic, carnivorous creatures which use shadows to hunt and latch onto their prey. The team work to find a way out of the Library. River calls the Doctor over in private, where she reveals that she was the one who sent the message on the psychic paper while merrily opening a diary with a cover that looks like the Doctor's TARDIS. It seems to be about his life. She tries to find out in which part of the Doctor's life she's in but realises he is so young he does not know her. From his perspective, this is the first time they have met. She, on the other hand, seems to know him well.

One of the team activates one of the computer systems, and causes a steadily repeated sound exactly like a ringing phone. At the same moment, the girl hears the phone in her house ringing, although her father doesn't. She hesitates to answer and the phone stops ringing. The Doctor hacks into the computer. The young girl then sees the Doctor and the team on her television, replacing the cartoon she was watching. A disturbance occurs and the Doctor loses the image of the girl. As he hacks into the computer, he sees River's diary and moves to pick it up. River stops him, saying it's against the rules - his rules.

Silence in the Library 359

The Library is on the television.

The girl fiddles with the television's remote and books fly into the air from the shelves in the Library. Donna calms Mr Lux's assistant, Miss Evangelista. The word "CAL" appears at times on the Library screens and the Doctor asks Mr Lux about it. Mr Lux refuses to help, claiming that he is protecting his family's pride. The Doctor berates him and tells him that the team is in grave danger.

Miss Evangelista sees a secret door when the girl pushed a random button from the remote. She tries to tell the others, but they don't listen. She wanders off and is quickly killed by the Vashta Nerada. The team hear her scream and run into after her, only to find her skeleton. The communication device worn by the exploration team on their spacesuits allows for a glitch called "Data Ghosting"; a copy of a person's consciousness can be temporarily held in it for a short time after death, allowing them to communicate briefly with the living. Miss Evangelista speaks briefly to the "nice woman", Donna, just before her consciousness is lost. As the team listen on sadly, her last words, "ice cream", are repeated.

Back in the little girl's home, Dr Moon asks to speak to her alone before he leaves. He asks if she knows the difference between dreams and reality. She says that of course, she does. He tells her that her reality is an illusion; her nightmares are the true reality, and only she can save all the people trapped in the Library.

The Doctor proves the Vashta Nerada's existence by throwing a chicken leg from River Song's lunchbox into the "shadow"; the leg is stripped to the bone before it hits the floor. The Doctor explains that the Vashta Nerada exist on many planets, including Earth, but he has never seen an infestation on such a scale or this aggressive. Donna objects, pointing out that if they existed on Earth people would know, only for the Doctor to explain that Vashta Nerada usually live on roadkill; however, there have been cases where people have gone missing without a trace... not everyone comes back out of the dark. When he mentions Donna's name, River recognises it. Her reaction seems to be a mixture of shock and sadness. Donna asks where she is in this future when River knows the Doctor. River goes silent. The team's investigation is interrupted when the pilot, "Proper Dave" — in contrast with the other "Dave" — acquires an extra shadow. The Vashta Nerada have attached themselves to him. The Doctor orders everyone's helmet on, as it might slow down the Vashta Nerada a bit. He also finds that River possesses a more advanced version of his sonic screwdriver, which she claims was a gift from him.

Silence in the Library 675

"Hey, who turned out the lights?"

As Donna does not have a spacesuit for protection, the Doctor teleports her back to the TARDIS. He cannot send the others, because the TARDIS wouldn't recognise them. Over Donna's objection, he stays behind to lead the rest of the team to safety. However something goes wrong during the transport and Donna's signal is lost. Meanwhile, the Doctor attempts to save proper Dave, but Dave is quickly eaten away. As proper Dave's data ghost echoes his last thoughts ("Hey, who turned out the lights?"), the Vashta Nerada take control of his suit and approach the rest of the group. River uses a sonic blaster to make a hole in the wall, and they race away from the possessed suit. They run down a dead-end hallway as the suit approaches. The Doctor tells River that he has five hours to get back to the TARDIS before Emergency Program One activates to take Donna home, but then realises that Donna never made it as the console hasn't signalled him about the security breach. As a nearby Node turns around, the Doctor is horrified to find it has Donna's face on it. It states that Donna has left the Library and has been "saved", as the Vashta Nerada advances on the Doctor's group.



General production staff

Script department

Camera and lighting department

Art department

Costume department

Make-up and prosthetics



General post-production staff

Special and visual effects


Not every person who worked on this adventure was credited. The absence of a credit for a position doesn't necessarily mean the job wasn't required. The information above is based solely on observations of the actual end credits of the episodes as broadcast, and does not relay information from IMDB or other sources.

This episode won a prestigious Video Effects Society award for its digital matte paintings by Simon Wicker, Charlie Bennett, 2D artist Arianna Lago and the uncredited Tim Barter. It was the only visual effects award during the first RTD era of Doctor Who, despite several nominations.


Cultural references from the real world[]

Bad Wolf Rose Tyler Reference Silence in the Library

Pictured just above mid-centre: two familiar images dot the girl's home: a blond girl and a wolf.


  • River and the Doctor will share/have shared a picnic at Asgard.


  • Vashta Nerada are said to exist on a billion worlds, including Earth, but in small numbers and mainly feeding on road-kill.


  • River Song has a squareness gun.
  • The Doctor receives a message from River on his psychic paper.
  • The Doctor uses a teleport to attempt to send Donna to the TARDIS, but mentions that he could only do this for Donna as the TARDIS wouldn't recognise the others.
  • The sonic screwdriver doesn't work on wood. Some very strong signals and certain types of hairdryers can interfere with it.
  • The Doctor recommends that a quarantine beacon be placed around the Library.
  • The Doctor suggests using a Code-Wall.

Story notes[]

  • An early title for the episode was A River Song Ending which Steven Moffat conceived as a joke with Russell T Davies for having a crude acronym and then decided to create a character named "River Song" to fit the title.[1]
  • Transmission of this episode was delayed by one week due to the Eurovision Song Contest, as was the case with the Series 3 gap between The Lazarus Experiment and 42.
  • Russell T Davies felt this episode was more frightening than Steven Moffat's Blink, which rated a 5.5 out of 5 on the official Doctor Who website 'Fear Factor' feature.
  • While the Doctor is hacking into the girl's TV, she is watching the CBBC show Pedro and Frankensheep. Previous real-life kids shows whose clips have been shown on Doctor Who include Tommy Zoom in The Poison Sky, The Teletubbies in The Sound of Drums, and The Clangers in The Sea Devils.
  • Excluding the Children in Need specials, this is the 50th episode of Doctor Who since the series returned in 2005.
  • When the girl collapses due to the Doctor's tampering with the security camera, the pattern of the rug she collapses on is the same as the red pattern on the computer screens reading "Access Denied". It can also be briefly seen on the lens cap of the security camera and is repeated in the metalwork in the background of the circular room where much of the library scenes take place in.
  • Additionally, when Doctor Moon and her father rush to her side when she collapses, a plastic tag reading "CAL" can be briefly seen on Doctor Moon's briefcase.
  • The security camera appears to have angel wings carved on its sides.
  • Steven Moffat continues his theme of highlighting childhood fears: in Blink, it was statues coming to life; in The Girl in the Fireplace, it was monsters under the bed; and in The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances, it was the fear of war and bombardment.
  • There is, perhaps, unintentional irony to the Doctor's line, "No, I never land on Sundays. Sundays are boring." Given that Saturdays are "good", according to The Stolen Earth, it could also be a reference to the fact that the day after a new episode of Doctor Who is broadcast is comparatively boring. Former companion Ace also once mentioned that she found Sundays boring in Survival. In PROSE: Wetworld, the planet that he and Martha visited was called Sunday.
  • In the Doctor Who Confidential episode associated with the second part of this story, River Runs Deep, Steven Moffat says that he imagined River found the gun as left behind by Jack in the TARDIS during her future travels.
  • Steven Moffat stated that British newspaper The Sun got a hold of the script for the episode and threatened to publish it. Moffat jokingly told them to do it; he later remarked, "I'd like to see The Sun publish that many words in a day."
  • The previous episode ended with the Doctor showing a traditional paper-bound book dating from the far future, a thematic lead-in to this visit to the Library (although dialogue indicates that he and Donna were originally travelling elsewhere).
  • As shown on the BBC Doctor Who website, there are a number of books in the library that reference previous episodes. Those seen are the operating manual for the TARDIS, Origins of the Universe, (TV: Destiny of the Daleks) The French Revolution, (TV: An Unearthly Child) A Journal of Impossible Things, (TV: Human Nature/The Family of Blood) The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (written by Douglas Adams, former Doctor Who writer and script editor), Everest in Easy Stages, (TV: The Creature from the Pit) and Black Orchid. (TV: Black Orchid)
  • The story also has considerable commonality with a Fifth Doctor illustrated text story, Catalogue of Events, from the 1983 Doctor Who Magazine Special.
  • This episode and Forest of the Dead are the only TV stories featuring River Song not to have been shot in high-definition.
  • Steven Moffat didn't tell any of the actors (except Alex Kingston and only very few of the crew) just who River Song is. David Tennant had no idea how to act opposite her, to great effect. On the DVD commentary, he says that he had the Doctor assume she's a future regeneration of him, because even though that made no sense, it made more sense than anything else he could come up with.
  • Alex Kingston took the part of River Song under the assumption that the character would appear only in this two-parter. However, she was delighted to learn that Steven Moffat had longer-term plans for the character.
  • The episode ran short,t, largely because of the pace with which the cast was performing their material. Steven Moffat quickly provided extra dialogue, with the chief beneficiary being the discovery of Miss Evangelista's body.
  • Michael Gambon and Ian McKellen were offered the part of Doctor Moon.
  • The 51st century keyboards in The Library are early 21st century Apple keyboards inset to the kiosks, both regular and extended, UK models, with some distressing. Each kiosk has one of each.
  • When the Doctor shows Donna the psychic paper, the message is signed with an "x" Donna remarks, "with a kiss?" In actual life, when David Tennant signs his autographs he ends his name with an "X".
  • The little girl was originally a boy. It was felt that a young female character would be seen as more vulnerable.
  • Filming in Swansea was hit with some rather noisy weather, wind and rain, which despite the sound department's best efforts to create silence in the library in post production, can sometimes still be heard in the background whenever anyone speaks undubbed during a quiet scene.
  • David Tennant and Talulah Rilely went on to play opposite each other in St. Trinian's 2: The Legend of Fritton's Gold, as Sir Piers Pomfrey and Annabelle Fritton respectively.
  • River asks the Doctor, "...picnic at Asgard. Have we done Asgard yet?" Earlier in the episode, Josh Dallas appears as one of the library's info nodes; he played Fandral, an Asgardian, in Thor, while Talulah Riley appeared in Thor: The Dark World.
  • David Tennant and Steve Pemberton both appeared in Blackpool.
  • Steven Moffat had planned to write an episode set in the biggest library in the universe for seasons two or three.
  • It was while Steven Moffat was developing this episode that Russell T Davies approached him about taking over as showrunner.
  • Steven Moffat was interested in provoking viewers' curiosity about what the future held and thus wanted to reassure audiences that there was plenty of excitement ahead after Russell T Davies' departure, and that they should look forward to experiencing the Doctor's forthcoming adventures. As such, he decided to introduce a character who had already met a later incarnation of the Doctor. This became Professor River Song.
  • Steven Moffat and Russell T Davies had privately discussed the possibility that River might be the wife of a future Doctor.
  • Steven Moffat imagined that the Doctor Moon might be so-called because the Doctor himself would one day be uploaded there as a data ghost (following his eventual demise) and he and River would therefore be reunited in a kind of afterlife.
  • The girl was originally a boy. This was changed after it was observed that a young girl would be seen as more vulnerable.
  • This two-parter formed Block Eight of season four.
  • Steven Moffat wrote an opening TARDIS scene, in which the Doctor received River's mysterious summons en route to a beach holiday. However, he felt that the episode worked better if the Doctor and Donna dove right into the plot, and so he was glad when Euros Lyn determined that there was no need to record the new TARDIS sequence.
  • Discussing her role alongside David Tennant and Catherine Tate, Alex Kingston said, "We just clicked. I've done guest roles on other shows, but rarely have I felt such a warm bond."
  • About working with Alex Kingston, Catherine Tate later said that, "I'm a huge ER fan. When you hold people in awe, it's almost a disappointment when they come in and they're utterly normal. But Alex isn't disappointing at all. She's such a lovely person." David Tennant was quoted as saying that, "Alex is terrific. When she's telling you stories about hanging out with George Clooney, you know she's pretty cool."
  • The presence of the Vashta Nerada was created with lighting managed by director of photography Rory Taylor. To draw the eye toward the shadows, they were deepened in post-production by The Mill.
  • The establishing shots of the CGI cityscape of the Library was created in Cinema 4D using the Advanced Render 3 module. This effort was nominated for a VES Award in 2009.
  • River Song was originally created for the plot to make more sense. Steven Moffat knew that the team of archaeologists would have to trust the Doctor, but that the Doctor's psychic paper could not explain and convince the team why he had appeared in a sealed-off library. Therefore, Moffat intended for the Doctor to know one of the archaeologists. Later, he decided that this idea was too "dull", and instead opted to have one of them know him.
  • At the time of production, Steven Moffat privately intended Dr. Moon to be a future Doctor. In a 2008 email to Russell T Davies, Moffat explained that River Song was in fact the Doctor's widow, and had witnessed the death of the 45th Doctor on a battlefield before she began having adventures with his younger selves. Although Moffat considered it unlikely that this would ever be confirmed in a story, he thought River would ultimately learn that her dying husband had uploaded his consciousness to the Library's moon so that he could be reunited with her. In 2020, Moffat said that he thought a version of this idea could still work, and Davies revealed that he had always thought, "It's him, it's the Doctor, and no one knows!", when watching the episodes. (REF: Showrunner Showdown) This would make Dr. Moon the first mainstream incarnation of the Doctor to be played by a nonwhite actor, predating Jo Martin's role as the Fugitive Doctor in Fugitive of the Judoon.


  • Official BARB - 6.27 million viewers[2]

Myths and rumours[]

  • The mystery of River Song led to much online fan speculation over her identity. Possibilities cited ranged from River being an iteration of Bernice Summerfield (as the two share similar personalities and are both space archaeologists) to a disguised Time Lord like Romana. Additional ideas abound. In TV: A Good Man Goes to War, it was revealed she wasn't a previously seen character, but the human (with Time Lord DNA) daughter of Amy Pond and Rory Williams.
  • Evangelista's last words have occasionally been misinterpreted as "I scream." On the official BBC subtitling, her final words are, "I... Ice cream. Ice cream," which is in keeping with her (initially) childlike demeanour.

Filming locations[]


  • Upper Boat Studios, Trefforest


  • Hensol Castle, Hensol
  • Victoria Park, Cardiff
  • Palace Road, Cardiff
  • Crwys Medical Centre, Cardiff
  • St Mary's Of Angels, Canton
  • Dyffryn Gardens, Vale Of Glamorgan
  • Brangwyn Hall, Swansea
  • Alcoa Emp Swansea, Swansea
  • Swansea Library, Swansea

Production errors[]

If you'd like to talk about narrative problems with this story — like plot holes and things that seem to contradict other stories — please go to this episode's discontinuity discussion.
  • After River Song greets the Doctor with "Hello, sweetie", in the next shot of the Doctor, Donna and River, a boom mic is just barely visible in the top left corner above River's head.
  • After the shot in which Proper Dave is seen to have two shadows, there is a short shot from a different camera angle wherein the Doctor passes Dave his helmet. In this short shot, Dave is seen to have but one shadow. When the shot returns to the previous camera, Dave has two shadows, as before.
  • When the Doctor and others are talking to the little girl on her TV you can see them all standing around the console but when the shot pulls back and they all back away from the console you can see that half of them have changed positions. Mr Lux, Proper Dave, Anita and Miss Evangelista have all changed from their positions seen on the TV to when you cut to the group. Also Donna who is clearly close to the Doctor's right is not shown leaning to look into the console but jumps back like everyone else as if she had been looking into it.
  • When Miss Evangelista dies, you can see that she has lost one green bar, but in a later shot she loses the same bar again.
  • In the house, when CAL is telling her Dad that the phone is ringing while he's talking to Doctor Moon, a boom mic can be seen at the top centre of the shot where both Doctor Moon and Cal's Dad are talking.


Home video releases[]

External links[]


  1. Steven Moffat On Writing For Doctor Who, Weeping Angels & MORE! - Doctor Who: The Fan Show
  2. Doctor Who - consolidated ratings