Silence in the Library
Silence in the Library was the eighth episode of the fourth series of Doctor Who. It marked the first appearance of River Song, a mysterious person with an important role in the Doctor’s personal future. The enemy of the episode is once again created by Steven Moffat by using the childish fear of the dark — Vashta Nerada.
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.
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 51st 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 realize however that the Library is completely empty. The Library’s computers confirms that they are the only humanoid life on 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 football-shaped 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.” As the Doctor tells them all to leave immediately, the leader introduces herself as an archaeologist named Professor River Song. She acts very familiar with the Doctor, but he does not know her. Professor Song 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.
The Doctor quickly organizes 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 Song calls the Doctor over in private, where she merrily opens 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 life she’s in, but realizes 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 Song’s diary and moves to pick it up. River Song stops him, saying it’s against the rules – his rules.
The girl fiddles with the television’s remote. 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. 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 find Miss Evangelista’s skeleton. The communication device worn by the exploration team 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 listens on sadly, her last words, “ice cream”, are repeated.
Dr Moon, the child’s psychologist, 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 chicken leg is eaten to the bone instantly. When he mentions Donna’s name, River Song recognizes 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 Song possesses a more advanced version of his sonic screwdriver, which she claims was a gift from him.
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 recognize them. Over Donna’s objection, he stays behind to lead the rest of the team to safety. As Donna begins to materialize in the TARDIS control room, something unexpectedly interrupts the process, and she disappears again. 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 organisms 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 is further concerned that he has not yet received a signal from the TARDIS letting him know that Donna arrived safely. As a nearby Node turns around, he is horrified to find it with Donna’s face on it. It states that Donna has left the Library and has been “saved”…