Writer: Steven Moffatt
Director: Euros Lyn
Producer: Phil Collinson
Companions: Donna Noble (Catherine Tate), River Song (Alex Kingston)
Series: 4, episodes 8 and 9
Summary: The Doctor takes Donna to the largest library in the universe, which resides in a girl’s head. Despite the size of the library, they appear to be the only inhabitants. Suddenly, a group of archaeologists arrive, led by Professor River Song. The library is not empty, for the Vashta Nerada lurk within. This is the first time the Doctor has met River Song from his perspective, but she knows him. As for the girl whose head the library is in, she is seeing a psychiatrist named Dr. Moon, who tells her things are not what they seem and that she must save everyone within the library.
Review: This episode is the first seed of Moffatt’s era. By this time, Russell T. Davies had announced he was going to step down, meaning Moffatt would take over. Moffatt wrote this episode to introduce a new character that would be more important in his era. So it’s like an episode-long teaser.
Unlike some fans, I like River Song. She is an enigma. Her disorganized timeline adds to the confusion. I think this is a good way to introduce the wife of the Doctor. The Doctor himself is a mystery, so anyone he’s this intimate with would have to be equally mysterious. To some, River’s mystery seems to overshadow the Doctor, and I can see the frustration. But I don’t think she’s a Mary Sue, because she’s too interesting.
The Vashta Nerada are great monsters. We don’t see what they look like, only their shadows. And that’s really all we need. One of the things I like about this story is that it personifies “less is more”. My only gripe is that they really needed a sequel episode, and we haven’t gotten one…yet. (But Big Finish is rectifying that with their next “Classic Doctors, New Monsters” anthology with not one, but TWO stories featuring them)
The subplot with the girl is a confusing one, but I like it. I like how I wasn’t sure if she was real, or if the library was the reality. Her story has some great scary moments.
All in all, this is a great introduction to River Song, giving us questions that are revealed throughout Matt Smith’s era.
Continuity: River Song cryptically tells Donna she’s not part of the Doctor’s future. This is the second time we see the sonic screwdriver failing on wood. (The first is in “Girl in the Fireplace”) The Vashta Nerada are similar to another monster that lurks in the darkness, the Cimmerians in the audio drama “Embrace the Darkness”. River Song mentions the Crash in the Byzantium, foreshadowing “Time of the Angels/Flesh and Stone”. Mr. Lux accuses the Doctor and River Song of bickering like a married couple, our first clue to River Song’s identity. We learn that one of Clara’s echoes was here in “The Name of the Doctor”.