Doctor Who: Forest of the Dead

The Doctor: 'Stay with me! You can do it! Stay with me! Come on!! You and me, one last time!'

Well, perhaps we didn't get all the answers we were looking for, but there was more than enough good stuff in tonight's episode to compensate—particularly if the hanging threads are picked up in a future episode. Each season of Nu-Who (so far) has produced at least one stand-out story worthy of our praise. This was probably season four's.

Strackman Lux went up in my estimations this week. His character initially seemed a little one dimensional, and his obsession with protecting the family patent made him come across as cold and unlikeable—yet as the story developed, and his relationship with Charlotte was revealed, I found myself unexpectedly warming to him. Steve Pemberton is the second member of The League of Gentlemen to appear in Doctor Who. Mark Gatiss played Richard Lazarus in last season's 'The Lazarus Experiment'. I wonder if Reece Shearsmith will ever make an appearance? He'd make a great villain.

I was also surprised by the return of Miss Evangelista. Like Lux, she had a weak first episode. Her breaking off from the main group was one of those clich├ęd horror movie moments that had me shaking my head in disgust, and although I found her death last episode moderately moving, it was more the concept of 'ghosting' which got to me than her actually dying. Ironically, post-death she was infinitely more interesting. Her accentuated IQ, combined with black dress and veil, gave her a distinct air of creepiness—unfortunately, it vanished the moment we saw her face. She looked as though she'd been Photoshopped. Which, I suppose, was the point, what with us being in the realms of computers and hard drives, but it still looked a little amateurish.

The bizarre switch of focus from the horrors of the library, to Donna's disjointed inner world—with its fragmented time line and surreal surroundings—totally worked. The humour, too, seemed better judged. All too often Donna's comedy style has shown the unmistakable hallmarks of Catherine Tate, comedienne—all shouty and abrasive—but, tonight, the puns were more subtle and fitted the character of Donna perfectly. That's not to say there wasn't the occasional slip back into Tate-ville, but overall I preferred the softer humour.

But the big question remains: who is River Song? Two episodes in and we're still none the wiser. Song is the second Who character to share the name of a Firefly character (the first being General Cobb from 'The Doctor's Daughter'), yet they didn't really add much to what we learned last week. Apart from Song knowing the Doctor's real name. I loved the way Tennant handled that revelation—his face was absolutely inscrutable. What situation could possibly necessitate that the Doctor tell Song his name? And what are we to make of Lux's comment about them squabbling like an 'old married couple'? Was that just some throw away comment, or was it meant to have some not-so-subtle implications?

Really, this was Donna's episode. After spending much of it living in a fantasy world, she had to come to terms with her perfect husband (perfect because he could hardly speak), and her beautiful children, not being real. Except, in truth, Lee was real. He'd been saved to the Library's hard drive, like the other 4022 survivors—yet when he tried to call her name, cruelly, his stammer got in the way, and Donna walked away oblivious to his existence. How sad, and yet, utterly typical. Donna just can't seem to catch a break.

Other Thoughts:

—The Doctor can open his TARDIS with the snap of his fingers? Could he always do that and just didn't know?

—After CAL's restoration of Lady Evangelista, I wonder if her intelligence remained?

—According to Steven Moffat, the squareness gun was the same one used by Jack Harkness in 'The Doctor Dances'.

—Everybody lived! Kind of. Despite being killed in real life, they were all transferred to the Library's computer—thus freeing them up to return, no doubt.

—How did the Doctor get out of those handcuffs?

Billie says...

A very satisfying and touching conclusion. The Doctor lost his future mate; Donna lost her virtual mate. The end had a sadness and a resonance that actually got to me. The constant mention of spoilers really worked for me; you can't know your future and still get the most out of your life.

I thought in part one that River Song was being introduced as the next companion, like "The Runaway Bride" with Donna. But part two made me realize that it was just a great big tease. River is the Doctor's companion way in the future, when he's a good bit different than he is now. It's very unlikely we'll ever see those adventures. Will she be his wife? It seems to me that that would be the one time he would tell someone his real name, right?

I loved Donna's idea of the perfect husband: a gorgeous man who adores her and doesn't say very much. I guess maybe the Doctor really isn't her type, since he never stops talking.

Wouldn't be at all bad, an existence where you got your heart's desires, and the dull spots got skipped over so it wouldn't get boring. That was quite a gift her father gave Charlotte. And quite a gift the Doctor gave River, his future love. Almost like heaven.

Quotes:

River: "You think they could be fooled like that?"
Doctor: "Maybe, I don't know. It's a swarm. It's not like we chat."

River: "The Doctor in the Tardis. Next stop, everywhere."
Doctor: "Spoilers."

Donna: "So this isn't the real me. This isn't my real body. (angrily) I've been dieting!"

Doctor: "I'm the Doctor, and you're in the biggest library in the universe. Look me up."

The Doctor: "Why am I handcuffed... why would you even have handcuffs?"
River: "Spoilers."

River: "There's nothing you can do."
Doctor: "You can let me do this!"
River: "If you die here, it'll mean I've never met you."
Doctor: "Time can be rewritten!"
River: "Not those times. Not one line. Don't you dare! It's okay. It's okay, it's not over for you. You'll see me again. You've got all of that to come. You and me, time and space. You watch us run!"

The Doctor: "River, you know my name. You whispered my name in my ear. There's only one reason I would ever tell anyone my name. There's only one time I could..."
River: "Hush, now. Spoilers."
---
Four moor peaces eye rote, sea hear.

4 comments:

shawnlunn2002 said...

Hmm, good second part, very good.

Steven Moffat has said in interviews and commentaries for this episode that River's relationship is more complicated but future companion/wife does seem the best bet. She knows his name. Yoinks.

Donna's virtual adventures certainly added a tinge of mystery and overall creepiness to proceedings. I was sad when Lee didn't catch her again.

Patryk said...

Everybody Lives! Sort of... Moffat is coming close to actually killing someone i think. Season one - no deaths, season 2 - one due to old age, season 3 - two due to old age, season 4 - five and only saved via Dollhouse imprinting tech. What will he do once he's the showrunner. Can't wait.

TheDarkShape said...

Man, this two parter is even better now that we've come to know River. After Day of the Moon aired today, I went back to Forest of the Dead... it's so heart-breaking from River's POV.

Mark Greig said...

Watching this story again from a post-season six perspective is just a heartbreaking experience.