I recently rewatched the double Doctor Who episode “Silence in the Library” and “Forest of the Dead.” Having now seen so much of the later interaction between the Doctor and River Song, and having so many questions answered and details filled in, rewatching the episode where they first introduced River reinforces just how impressively the show has dealt with these two time travelers whose lives intersect out of sequence and sometimes in reverse order.
The episode hinted that River Song was the Doctor’s wife, and that was why she knew his name. But there were other, even clearer hints, which I missed the first time I watched it. For instance, did anyone else notice the first time they saw “Silence in the Library” that one of the characters described the quarreling between the Doctor and River in terms of them squabbling “like an old married couple”? It was all very nicely done. The viewer is like the Doctor, struggling to make sense of this person who knows the Doctor but is not yet known by him.
There are a lot of other details in the episode that seem like they will tie in with what lies in store for the Doctor, and for viewers, as the current season reaches its end. A library is the setting of these episodes, and the TARDIS library is where Clara learns the Doctor’s name in the History of the Time War. Although that detail seemed odd and somewhat unpersuasive to me – why have a major secret displayed prominently in a volume in the TARDIS in that way – presumably it will turn out to have been an important plot detail in the overarching story.
The Doctor’s name is of course itself a major theme, and the show has been trying to get viewers to ask why the Doctor goes by that designation and what his story is. Not only by making that the “oldest question in the universe” and one that the Silence are seeking to keep from being answered, but also in “The Girl in the Fireplace” when the Doctor’s name is said to be “more than just a secret.”
If they actually reveal the name, in some sort of public way, that would mean a rewriting of history, since the Doctor has been to the distant past and distant future and his identity has never and nowhere been common knowledge. But of course, Oswin managed to erase all record of the Doctor, and so perhaps having his identity become less or more secret is something we are being led to expect.
One other connection with “Forest of the Dead.” Some have suggested that there might be a connection between CAL and Clara. Whether that is correct, “Forest of the Dead” ends with the suggestion that River is not really dead, as she lived on in the library’s computer – or is “within CAL’s mind” a better way to put that? And if so, could she ever manage to leave there and return?
Have you rewatched earlier Doctor Who episodes from the recent seasons? Do you feel like they have done a good job of creating story arcs and reflecting intersecting storylines for characters like the Doctor and River?