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Silence In The Library
Series: Doctor Who - TV stories
Series Number: Series 4
Story Number: 195a
Doctor: Tenth Doctor
Companions: Donna Noble
Enemy: Vashta Nerada
Setting: The Library 51st century
Writer: Steven Moffat
Director: Euros Lyn
Producer: Phil Collinson
Broadcast: 31st May 2008
Format: 1x45 minute episode
Prod. Code: 199 a
Previous Story: The Unicorn and the Wasp
Following Story: Forest of the Dead
"4022 saved, no survivors"
Strackman Lux



One hundred years ago, the universe's greatest library was sealed off, leaving only an enigmatic warning: "Count the shadows". But now, the shadows are moving again. The Doctor and Donna must uncover the terrible truth behind the Nodes and the Data Ghosts, to find The Library's secret, and on the way they try to avoid the Vashta Nerada, piranhas of the air, shadows that melt the flesh.


A little girl seems to be going through a therapeutic session with psychologist named Doctor Moon. She reveals that she has a Library, a whole world, which she sees whenever she closes her eyes. The Library is a world, home to every book ever written, powered by the most powerful computer ever. It is a peaceful place; entirely empty of human life... but suddenly the girl's imaginary world is interrupted by the arrival of two mysterious strangers.

The Doctor and Donna arrive, in the 51st century, on a planet-sized book repository simply called "The Library". Though the Doctor has received a message for help on his psychic paper, and though the Library's computers claim over "a million million lifeforms" are present, they find the Library deserted. A Node, a statue with a strangely realistic human face, warns them to beware the shadows... just as the lights begin to go out around them. The travellers race through the Library stacks, eventually finding a central room that is well lit. As they try to figure out more about the Node's enigmatic warning, they encounter a team of explorers led by archeologist River Song. Professor Song explains that she and her team are there with Mr. Strackman Lux (whose family had built the Library) to learn why the Library has been sealed for the last one hundred years.

4022 saved. No survivors

The Doctor quickly organises the team to make sure the area is well lit as he explains that the shadows are occupied by the Vashta Nerada, microscopic carnivorous creatures that use shadows to hunt and latch onto their prey. The team works to find a way out of the library. However, Mr. Lux's assistant, Ms. Evangelista, wanders off and falls prey to the Vashta Nerada, her body eaten away in seconds. The Doctor and Donna learn that the exploration team each wears a communication device which has a glitch called "Data Ghosting" where a copy of a person's consciousness is temporarily held within it for a short time after death, allowing them to communicate briefly with the living.

Professor Song's behaviour throughout is markedly curious. First, she appears to know the Doctor quite well, though from some point in his own personal future. She carries a diary that seems to be about the Doctor's life with a cover that looks like his TARDIS, and she possesses a more rugged version of the Doctor's sonic screwdriver, which she claims was a gift from the Doctor himself. Also, when the Doctor mentions Donna's name, she knows her surname and seems shocked that its her, when Donna asks her if she travelled with the Doctor then why doesn't he know her, River goes silent.

The young girl who dreams of the Library, meanwhile, sees the team through the eyes of a security camera when they first break into central room; later, they appear on her television as the Doctor attempts to hack the Library computers... and when she fiddles with the television's remote, she causes events to occur in the Library. The girl is under observation from Dr. Moon, a child psychologist, at the request of her dad, but Dr. Moon appears to have significant knowledge of the situation of the Doctor, Donna, and the exploration team. He reveals that her reality is an illusion, that her nightmares are reality, and that only she can save all the people trapped in the Library. The final mystery appears to be the word "CAL" that appears at times on the Library screens, the Doctor wondering who or what that means.

The team's investigation is interrupted when the pilot Dave acquires an extra shadow. The Vashta Nerada have attached themselves to him, and though the Doctor attempts to save him, he is quickly eaten away, the organisms taking control of his suit. Dave's Data Ghost echoes his last thoughts as the suit approaches the rest of the team. The Doctor attempts to teleport Donna back to the TARDIS while he leads the rest of the team to safety, but something goes wrong in the teleport and Donna fails to materialize properly. As the team races away from the possessed suit, the Doctor is horrified to find a Node with Donna's face on it... which claims that Donna has left the Library and has been "saved".


Production crew

to be added



Cultural references

  • When he and Donna arrive at the Library, the Doctor makes reference to author Jeffrey Archer, the Bridget Jones franchise, and Monty Python's Big Red Book.
  • A model of Robby the Robot is visible in the young girl's home.
  • The relationship between the Doctor and River Song is similar to the novel The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. That story is about a man who travels in time, so that the first time he meets his partner she has already met him before. That meeting also occurs in a library, and, like River Song, she gives him a diary of their time together.
  • The girl watches Pedro and Frankensheep on her television. When she changes channels (causing the books to fly around in the library) a brief snippet of dialogue from an episode of Ren and Stimpy can be heard.
  • On the little Girl's wall are 2 Drawings: A blond and a Wolf.


  • River and the Doctor will/have shared a picnic at Asgard.

Races and species


  • The Doctor notices (and says so) that River Song has a squareness gun.
  • The Doctor received a message from River Song on his psychic paper.
  • The Doctor uses a teleport to send Donna to the TARDIS but mentions that he could only do this for Donna as the TARDIS wouldn't recognise the others.
  • The sonic screwdriver doesn't work on wood and hairdryers can interfere with it.

Story notes

  • Transmission of this episode was delayed by one week due to the Eurovision Song Contest, as was the case with the Series 3 gap between The Lazarus Experiment and 42.
  • According to Russell T Davies this episode is more frightening than Steven Moffat's series 3 episode Blink, which rated a 5.5 out of 5 on the official Doctor Who website 'Fear Factor' feature.
  • While the Doctor is hacking into Girl's TV she is watching the CBBC show Pedro and Frankesheep which makes it the second time in this series someone has been watching a real-life kids show after The Doctor watching Tommy Zoom in The Poison Sky and the third since the series revival.
  • Professor River Song mentions having "been to the End of the Universe" with the Doctor.
  • Excluding the Children in Need specials, this is the 50th episode of Doctor Who since the series returned in 2005.
  • Steve Pemberton is the second of the League of Gentlemen to appear in Doctor Who, the other being Mark Gatiss who appeared in The Lazarus Experiment as Richard Lazarus.
  • When The Girl collapses due to the Doctor's tampering with the security camera, the pattern of the rug she collapses on is the same as the red pattern on the computer screens reading "Access Denied". It also can be briefly seen on the lens cap of the security camera, and repeated in the metalwork in the background of the circular room much of the library scenes take place in.
  • Additionally, when Doctor Moon and her father rush to her side when she collapses, a plastic tag reading "CAL" can be briefly seen on Doctor Moon's briefcase.
  • The security camera appears to have angel wings carved on its sides.
  • Steven Moffat continues his theme of highlighting childhood fears. In Blink it was statues coming to life, in The Girl in the Fireplace it was monsters under the bed, and in The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances, the fear of war and bombardment.
  • Talulah Riley is the second major cast member of the 2005 film Pride & Prejudice to be featured in a Steven Moffat story, the first being Carey Mulligan in Blink.
  • The spoilers theme may be an in-joke about DW spoilers (especially online).
  • Professor Song says to the Doctor, with astonishment, "you're so young!", which implies that the Doctor will live long enough to make his present age of 900+ years seem young in comparison.
    • She also says, "going by your face, I'd say it's early days for you, yeah?" which may imply that their relationship begins when he still has the same face, i.e. is still in his tenth incarnation. If this is true, then his tenth incarnation may be exceptionally long-lived.
  • There is, perhaps, unintentional irony to the Doctor's line, "No, I never land on Sundays. Sundays are boring." David Tennant was himself born on a Sunday. Given that Saturdays are "good", according to The Stolen Earth, it could also be a reference to the fact that, to kids, the day after a new episode of Doctor Who is broadcast is comparatively boring. It is important to note that companion Ace mentioned that she found Sundays boring in Survival. Ironically, the Doctor did, quite literally, land on a Sunday in NSA: Wetworld; the planet that he and Martha visited was called Sunday.
  • The Library's front desk looks like a redecorated version of a control consle from The Sontaran Stratagem/The Poison Sky or the teleport control unit from Voyage of the Damned.
  • In the associated Doctor Who Confidential episode, Steven Moffat says that he imagined River found the gun (as left behind by Jack) in the TARDIS during her future travels.


  • Official BARB - 6.27 million viewers

Myths and rumours

  • The mystery of River Song led to much online fan speculation over her identity. Possibilities cited ranged from River being an iteration of Bernice Summerfield (as the two share similar personalities and are both space archeologists) to a disguised Time Lord like Romana.
  • Evangelista's last words have occasionally been misinterpreted as "I scream." On the official BBC subtitling, her final words are, "I... Ice cream. Ice cream." Which is in keeping with her (initially) childlike demeanour.

Filming Locations

  • The main library scenes for the episode were filmed at Swansea Library and Brangwyn Hall, Swansea.

Discontinuity, Plot Holes, Errors

  • When standing on the balcony upon entrance, the Doctor remarks on how, being near the equator, they must be in or near the Biography section, though when the screen pans down, a Traffic sign can be seen with a marking to the left with the Words Xenobiology. It also had "Art" underneath it, both with arrows pointing to the left. However, think of how many famous xenobiologists and artists there would've been by this time, certainly enough to warrant it's own directory.
  • At the beginning when we see the Doctor and Donna enter the room from the little girl's point of view we see the door is kicked multiplied times before they enter however when we see it from the Doctor and Donna's point of view we see Donna kicks it once before entering. The Doctor tries to open it without the Sonic Screwdriver before Donna kicks it open.
  • The keyboards on the computer terminals in the library are, in fact, the latest incarnation of Apple Computer's Bluetooth keyboard.
  • Despite the Doctor stressing to the entire team about not staying in the shadows, all but one are standing blatantly in the shade when talking to the already-dead Miss Evangelista. This is revealed from a downwards shot on the team, with the ray of light almost completely neglected as protection..
  • The Doctor receives a message on the psychic paper which shows up and he shows it to Donna. Donna takes it from him and shows it to him but it is now blank. This has happened a lot of times on the series, and can be interpreted as a feature of the psychic paper
  • Also in this shot when Donna holds the psychic paper the green screen can be seen behind the books.
  • After Proper Dave has been turned into the suit creature, the green lights on his comm system are no longer on, even though Dave's Data Ghost is still talking. The vashta narada are learning to use his voice, making it unclear if it is really still his data ghost at that point.
  • After the shot where in Proper Dave is seen to have two shadows, there is a short shot from a different camera angle where in the Doctor passes Dave his helmet. In this short shot, Dave is seen to have but one shadow. When the shot returns to the previous camera, Dave has two shadows, as before.
  • When the Doctor and group are talking to the little girl on her TV you can see them all standing around the console but when the shot pulls back and they all back away from the console you can see that half of them have changed positions. Mr Lux, Proper Dave, Anita and Miss Evangelista have all changed from their positions seen on the TV to when you cut to the group. Also Donna who is clearly close to the Doctor's right is not shown leaning to look into the console but jumps back like everyone else as if she had been looking into it.
  • How does River Song recognise the Tenth Doctor? The Tenth Doctor changes his appearance to the Eleventh Doctor (as confirmed in the fifth series). River does mention that the Doctor's appearance is 'young' but not different. However, River does discover that the Doctor is an earlier form of himself than the Doctor she tried to contact and that is why he does not recognise.
  • The message on the psychic paper doesn't say the time or date that the Doctor should land in the Library so how does he manage to arrive a few minutes before River Song arrived? Additionally how does he know to land in the section that she will arrive in? He doesn't he landed in the library because he got the call on the Psychic paper, but was probably just looking around when they met River .
  • Why doesn't River Song close the square with the Sonic blaster like Captain Jack did in DW: The Doctor Dances? She most likely decided to conserve the batteries power.
  • If River Song travels only with the Eleventh Doctor, why does she need to ask the Tenth Doctor what he has already done with her? Different Doctor therefore different adventures/travels. It has also not been confirmed River Song will only travel with the Eleventh Doctor. For all she knows, the Tenth Doctor may be Twelfth, Thirteenth or beyond.


  • A similar species which could take over the light but weren't hostile were the Cimmerians in the BFA: Embrace the Darkness.

DVD and other releases

Series 4 Volume 3 DVD Cover

See also

to be added

External links

  • Official BBC Website - Episode Guide for Silence in the Library
  • Doctor Who Reference Guide - Detailed Synopsis - Silence in the Library
  • Doctor Who: A Brief History of Time (Travel) - A Brief History of Time (Travel): Silence in the Library
  • The Locations Guide to Doctor Who, Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures: Story Locations - Silence in the Library
Series 4
Mini-episode: Time Crash  • Christmas Special: Voyage of the Damned

Partners in Crime  • The Fires of Pompeii  • Planet of the Ood  • The Sontaran Stratagem  • The Poison Sky  • The Doctor's Daughter  • The Unicorn and the Wasp  • Silence in the Library  • Forest of the Dead  • Midnight  • Turn Left  • The Stolen Earth  • Journey's End

Christmas Special: The Next Doctor  • Mini-episode: Music of the Spheres

This article uses material from the "Silence in the Library" article on the Dr Who wiki at Wikia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.


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