Spoilers for "Silence in the Library," the latest bit of Steven Moffat-penned "Doctor Who" brilliance, coming up just as soon as I explore all the buttons on my remote control...
So here we have an episode in which The Doctor states his desire to protect Donna from spoilers about her future, and then in which The Doctor meets a woman who has her own book of spoilers about how and when she'll know The Doctor in his own future (as well as what horrible fate awaits our Donna), and in the real world we have me, Alan Sepinwall, trying real, real hard to obey the law and my own responsibilities as a critic(*) by not downloading and viewing a copy of part two of this story so I can know what happens with Donna's face, and the little girl/security-bot, and the million-million lifeforms, and The Doctor's apparent future romance with Professor Song, and...
...wouldn't it be easier if I could just look through the book and see what happens next?
(*) Really, it's the critic thing more than the lawful thing that's preventing me from jumping straight to "Forest of the Dead," as I don't want whatever I say here to be colored by my knowledge of what's coming. Sure, I've written about series where I've seen entire seasons in advance, but the cliffhanger nature of something like "Silence of the Library" makes me want to be responding emotionally to what happened in the same way I would if I had been in England a few weeks ago when it originally aired and there was no way to jump ahead to the next one. Anywhooo...
Slight nerd digression (as if a "Doctor Who" blog post isn't enough of one on its own): Like Grant Morrison's comic books, Steven Moffat's "Doctor Who" scripts are always overflowing with ideas, like the "ghosting" of the telepathic comm system, or the faces from beyond the grave, or the Vashta Nerada shadow creatures themselves. (As with the stone angels of "Blink" or the clockwork robots of "Girl in the Fireplace," the genius of Moffat's monsters is in their simplicity.) But unlike Morrison's trippier work (say, Invisibles instead of Animal Man), Moffat never lets his desire to stuff in every stray brainstorm get in the way of solid storytelling. "Silence in the Library" has plenty of moments where I wonder exactly how Moffat thought something up, but it's primarily one hell of an unsettling thriller, one where we're never allowed to gain our footing.
First we're set up by the teaser to wonder how exactly The Doctor and Donna landed in some little girl's imagination, and by the time we loop back around to their meeting, we find out that the girl isn't a girl at all. (Or is she? They didn't cast Colin Salmon just to play a figment of some security drone's imagination; how do we know we should trust anything he tells his young patient?) And then, before The Doctor can devote much brainpower to figuring out what's happening in the library, he gets thrown off his game by the arrival of the colorfully-named River Song, who clearly has a lot more experience with him than he does with her at this point.
Because I've read the book I name-checked in my subject line (coming soon to a theater near you!), I'm used to the concept of lovers(**) first meeting each other at very different points in their respective timelines, and so I put two and two together well before either The Doctor or Donna did. And I'm damn curious to see whether Alex Kingston will be appearing regularly once Moffat takes over the show for good with the 2010 season. (I quite liked Kingston early in her stint on "ER," before the writers made the baffling decision to place Corday in Mark Greene's gloomy orbit, which took away all her spark.)
(**)And are we supposed to infer that they're lovers? Married? What? It's clear she doesn't travel with him, or else she wouldn't keep running into him out of sequence with his own timeline, so if she's a companion, it's a very unusual arrangement. And we know The Doctor's not exactly a monk. He had a child of his own even before Jenny, and it was becoming clear by the end of Billie Piper's run on the show that The Doctor's feelings for Rose ran deeper than for just another companion.
And then there's the matter of Donna herself. Where Rose and Martha both fell in love with The Doctor himself, Donna has fallen in love with the life that he's opened for her, so much so that I've been worrying that this can only end badly for several weeks, well before River couldn't quite look Donna in the eye once she realized who she was. Something awful's coming, I think. I don't expect Donna to stay a post-dead face in the library, but I also think the only way her plan to spend the rest of her life traveling with The Doctor will succeed is if her life winds up being very short indeed. Either she'll die, or her journeys will end quite abruptly and unpleasantly, but she's obviously out of the picture before River ever meets The Doctor before her first time, and it wasn't a good exit.
You know what? I think I've figured out a way to fight the impulse to jump ahead. I'm gonna go back and watch this one again. It's worth an instant replay, and then some.
Finally, I cannot be clearer on this point: Do NOT discuss anything, however obliquely, from episodes that have yet to air in America. I don't care how badly you want to discuss part two (there are other sites where you can find that opportunity), and if you think you have some clever way to hint at things to come without spoiling things for the rest of us, I can assure you that you're wrong. Anything with even a scintilla about "Forest of the Dead" or any other episode will be deleted, immediately, by me.
And with that bit of awkward business in mind, what did everybody else think?