Monday, January 31, 2011

"Forest of the Dead"

Again, this episode doesn't exactly inspire me either. There's just something a little unimpressive about this two-parter. Maybe it feels like it evokes too much from previous Moffat stories. Maybe there's too much time just spent running around or standing around without doing very much besides slowly killing off the crew members and having River Song be all mysterious about the Doctor's future. There's also a section with Donna in a world where the Doctor's a dream but we know that so there's no real sense of mystery and there's nothing particularly interesting about Donna embarking on the rather slow path of discovery.
The big revelation is of course that the Library is actually the forest where the Vashta Nerada used to live, having been pulped for book pages, and that the people who had disappeared have been uploaded into the computer, which is the living consciousness of Lux's grandfather's youngest daughter. The whole thing with the Vashta Nerada eating people and using their bodies becomes extremely predictable and you know that Donna is going to get teleported out at the end. It really is astoundingly difficult to think of things to say about this episode. I suppose there's the stupidity of the bit where the Doctor's going to save River so he jumps into the gravity tunnel and flies down with River's sonic screwdriver held up like he's Gandalf fighting the Balrog in the opening of the film of The Two Towers and for some reason the device neatly plugs into the computer console so that River can be uploaded with a stereotypical discharge of energy.
I find something rather disturbing about River's 'afterlife' and the thought of being in this weird computer-generated world, which was depicted as being all off and wrong when Donna was present, as some kind of paradise seems kind of conflicted. There's also the fact that CAL brings the old crew back to keep River company even though she never seems to have had any particular affection for them, and she also weirdly starts taking care of Charlotte and the two repeatedly-generated children in the system. I really don't understand the point and I don't see how being a ghost of consciousness in a computer counts as an 'everybody lives' scenario. I actually find it a bit horrible. Why couldn't the Doctor just let her go? Then again if I was the Doctor I would probably look at the diary too, although that again suggests the kind of deterministic view of reality which the show often purports to contradict. One thing I do like is that River says the Doctor opens the TARDIS by snapping his fingers, which he contradicts, and ultimately at the end he does so successfully. It's just kind of a cool image since there's no explanation other than that River said so. There's also something satisfying about River saying that the Tenth Doctor's not the 'proper Doctor' and that he's not really right because I agree with her wholeheartedly.
I suppose this episode says something about the nobility of self-sacrifice and how we should promote life wherever possible even for young sick girls who get turned into computers or time-travelling women who get uploaded into those computers, and that you should take precautions when engaging in grand projects like the Library because you might upset someone inadvertently, as happened with the Vashta Nerada, and that you need to be ugly to understand the world, that you should question your reality and so on but I just can't help feel like this, along with its first part, is a bit of a nothing story. I don't know why; it just doesn't do it for me and inspires nothing more than a sense of apathy. It's kind of a void for me and while it's substantially better than the previous two stories in most aspects I think it loses a great deal of value upon rewatch.

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