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20 February 2015

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...

Day 781: Silence in the Library

Dear diary,

It’s strange coming back to this two-parter now that we’ve seen the rest of the River Song story play out. The speculation that abounded at the time - was she his wife? His mum? Romana? The Rani? Susan? I think people settled pretty quickly on to the idea that she was most likely his wife, but I didn’t pay it all that much attention because I couldn’t bare River. Really, really disliked her. The colleague I mentioned yesterday, who didn’t consider The Unicorn and the Wasp to be a proper ‘favourite’ episode, on the other hand loved her, and couldn’t wait to find out more about her. Ironically, those roles reversed once we entered the Moffat era - I absolutely fell in love with River, while he began to declare that she was the worst thing to ever happen to the show, and point out that he’d ‘always’ hated the character. Ho hum.

I can’t claim that it was anything wrong with River that made me take a dislike to her - I think it was just the fact that she was in this story, and for some reason it fell completely flat for me. I know I watched it with my then-girlfriend’s parents, and sort of cringed my way through it, because they’d happened to be watching it the week it was rubbish. I also know that I felt like it was simply a ‘Greatest Hits of Steven Moffat’, with repeated catchphrases, an everyday object being turned into something sinister, and elements of plot that were ‘timey wimey’. The sour taste these two episodes left in my mouth meant that I’ve not wanted to watch them since. It didn’t help that only a week or so before broadcast, Moffat had been announced as the successor to Russell T Davies, and everyone was proclaiming him as the ‘saviour’ of Doctor Who.

Watching tonight, though, I’m not sure what my problem was! Yes, I suppose it can be seen as a bit of a ‘Greatest Hits’ collection, but everything is being used for a reason, and I’m actually getting quite into it. As I’ve said above, knowing the rest of River’s story lends an extra weight to her appearance here (and I know it’s a subject that’s been batted back and forth over the years but the way she’s scripted here leads me to think that she definitely had at least one other meeting with the Tenth Doctor). The moment when River pleads with the Doctor to say he knows who she is actually tugs at my heartstrings a bit after watching all the merry dances she had with the Eleventh Doctor, and it makes me all the more excited to watch her story unfold over the next month or so. I think perhaps it bothered me at the time that it felt like Moffat was setting things up for his own tenure several years before we’d get any kind of pay-off, whereas now that we’ve been through it all, I can view all of this in a different way.

River’s not the only thing that’s faring better this time; the whole idea of keeping out of the shadows isn’t just taking something everyday and twisting it into something scary, it’s playing on children’s playground games, and giving them a Doctor Who connection. The repeated phrases… are still a bit rubbish, actually. Sorry. You can’t win them all. I get that the ending is supposed to feel like a bit of an onslaught with no escape for anyone but it doesn’t half go on a bit. Donna Noble has left The Library. Hey, who turned out the lights? Donna Noble has been saved.

It’s still not perfect - and certainly feels like Moffat’s weakest script for the show yet - but it’s a lot better than I’ve ever given it credit for!

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