Forest of the Dead

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This article is about the Doctor Who episode. For the 2007 horror film, see Forest of the Dead (film).
195b – "Forest of the Dead"
Doctor Who episode
Forest Of The Dead.JPG
Donna discovers that Miss Evangelista was corrupted when she was uploaded to the data core.
Writer Steven Moffat
Director Euros Lyn
Script editor Helen Raynor
Producer Phil Collinson
Executive producer(s) Russell T Davies
Julie Gardner
Incidental music composer Murray Gold
Production code 4.10
Series Series 4
Length 2nd of 2-part story, 45 minutes
Originally broadcast 7 June 2008
← Preceded by Followed by →
"Silence in the Library" "Midnight"

"Forest of the Dead" is the ninth episode of the fourth series of British science fiction television series Doctor Who. It was first broadcast by BBC One on 7 June 2008.[1] It is the second of a two-part story, following "Silence in the Library". The events are set in the 51st century.



The Doctor, River Song, Strackman Lux, and the remainder of their team flee the Vashta Nerada, microscopic carnivorous creatures that thrive in the shadows of the planet-sized Library. Other team members are consumed by the Vashta Nerada, their suits and skeletons animated by the creatures who then chase down the survivors. During a respite, Lux explains that the Library was constructed by his grandfather for Lux's aunt, Charlotte Abigail Lux, who was diagnosed with an incurable disease at a young age. Lux's grandfather had a giant computer (CAL, from Charlotte's initials) constructed at the core of the Library to allow Charlotte's mind to live on among the collected works of humankind. The Doctor realises CAL represents Charlotte's mind, struggling to cope after "saving" the thousands of patrons by transferring their consciousnesses to the computer core when the Vashta Nerada attacked; even the virus checker program housed in the Library's moon, nicknamed "Doctor Moon", is having difficulties helping CAL maintain control.

The Doctor attempts to talk with the Vashta Nerada. He learns that their home, forests from a different planet, were used to create the books of the Library; they now claim the Library as their own. The Doctor requests one day to free those, including his companion Donna Noble, who are trapped in the computer core, after which the Library will belong to the Vashta Nerada; the creatures agree. The Doctor and River descend to the core. The Doctor prepares to hook himself to the computer terminal, aware this will likely kill him. River knocks him out, handcuffs him to a pillar, and takes his place. The Doctor tries to stop her, but River insists that his death now would prevent her meeting him in her own past. River refuses to tell him who she is before activating the interface, much to the Doctor's anguish.

Within the simulation, an apparently normal contemporary Earth village, Donna is tended to by Dr. Moon and introduced to Lee, whom she eventually marries and raises two children with. Aware that time seems to be skipping in the simulation, Donna is alerted to its computerized nature by Miss Evangelista, one of River's team members killed by the Vashta Nerada; her corrupted consciousness makes her appear deformed, but allows her to see the reality for what it is. Donna returns home questioning her reality, which results in her children disappearing. As River initiates the connection, the simulation starts to fall apart; Donna desperately holds onto Lee as the simulation fades to white.

The patrons stored in the computer are rematerialised at the Library surface, and Lux evacuates them to transport ships. Separately, Donna and Lee attempt to find each other but fail to do so, leaving Donna heartbroken. As they prepare to leave the Library forever, the Doctor and Donna leave River's diary and sonic screwdriver, but moments later the Doctor wonders why he would give River his sonic screwdriver. Racing back to it, he finds a data recorder inside the mechanism which has preserved River's data ghost; he races down to the core and uploads her pattern before it dissipates. River wakes up in the Earth simulation; Charlotte and River's team members who had fallen victim to the Vashta Nerada (including Miss Evangelista, who is no longer deformed) are there to greet her and Charlotte assures her that the Earth simulation is now a "good place" where she will be safe as the Doctor fixed the data core. The Doctor then goes back to the TARDIS and snaps his fingers to see if what River said would really work. The TARDIS opens with Donna waiting inside. He snaps his fingers to close it as we see River in the Earth simulation reading her diary to her children.


According to Steven Moffat, the squareness gun used by Professor River Song to help the party escape from the impending Vashta Nerada at the beginning of the episode is intended to be the same sonic blaster that was used by Jack Harkness in the episode "The Doctor Dances". Moffat suggests that it was left in the TARDIS after "The Parting of the Ways", and taken by River Song in the Doctor's future. The name "squareness gun" was coined by Rose Tyler in the earlier episode.[2]

The echo of River Song from the library computer later interacts directly with the Eleventh Doctor on the planet Trenzalore in the Series 7 finale, "The Name of the Doctor".

The Doctor is able to open the TARDIS by snapping his fingers from the end of this episode, after his future use of this technique is mentioned by River Song. He is next seen to do so in "The Eleventh Hour" and "Day of the Moon", and makes a thwarted attempt to do so in "The Doctor's Wife." Clara Oswald is shown to have the same ability in "The Day of the Doctor."



"Forest of the Dead" was initially announced under the title "River's Run",[3] before its name was changed relatively late in production.[4] Josh and Ella, Donna's two children in the computer-generated world, were named after Steven Moffat's son and his son's friend.[5]


For the role of River Song, whom producer Russell T Davies describes as "sort of the Doctor's wife", the production sought to cast Kate Winslet.[6] One of Winslet's first acting roles was in the BBC teen drama Dark Season, written by Davies. The role of River Song eventually went to Alex Kingston, about whom Davies said, "I bloody love her!"[6]

The role of Strackman Lux went to Steve Pemberton, who is best known for his work as a member of The League of Gentlemen. Pemberton's fellow League member Mark Gatiss wrote the Doctor Who episodes "The Unquiet Dead", "The Idiot's Lantern" and "Victory of the Daleks", and appeared in the episodes "The Lazarus Experiment" and "The Wedding of River Song". He also appeared in Blackpool with David Tennant.


Several scenes from this episode and "Silence in the Library" were filmed at Swansea's Brangwyn Hall. These include the library reception area where the TARDIS arrives, and the staircase where the Doctor and Donna look out over the empty library. The climactic scenes of the episode (in the library core) were filmed in an electrical substation of a disused Alcoa factory in Waunarlwydd, Swansea.[7] Other scenes were filmed at the Old Swansea Central Library[8]

Scenes set in CAL's databanks were filmed at Dyffryn Gardens, St Nicholas.[9]

The wedding dress Catherine Tate wears in this episode is the same dress she wore in "The Runaway Bride".[7]


Forest of the Dead was watched by 7.84 million viewers,[10] giving it a 40% audience share; the highest in Series Four and the highest in its timeslot.[11] The episode received an Appreciation Index score of 89 (considered "Excellent"), one of the highest figures the new series had received to date, alongside "The Parting of the Ways", "Doomsday" and the preceding episode "Silence in the Library".[12]

This episode, along with "Silence in the Library", was nominated for a Hugo Award in the Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form category.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Steven Moffat Takes Charge". BBC. Retrieved 2008-04-04. 
  2. ^ River Runs Deep. Doctor Who Confidential. 2008-06-07–2008-06-07. BBC. BBC3. 
  3. ^ "The Stars are Coming Out". Radio Times (BBC) (5–11 April 2008): pp 14–24. April 2008. 
  4. ^ "Dr Who takes on Forest Of The Dead". CBBC Newsround. 4 April 2008. Retrieved 2008-04-04. 
  5. ^ "River Runs Deep". Doctor Who Confidential. Series 4. Episode 9. 2008-06-07. BBC. BBC Three. 
  6. ^ a b Davies, Russell T; Benjamin Cook (17 September 2008). "The Next Doctor". The Times (London). Retrieved 2008-09-17. 
  7. ^ a b "Podcast commentary for Forest of the Dead". BBC. Retrieved 2008-06-07. 
  8. ^ "Walesarts, Old Swansea Central Library". BBC. Retrieved 2010-05-30. 
  9. ^ "Walesarts, Dyffryn Gardens, St Nicholas". BBC. Retrieved 2010-05-30. 
  10. ^ "Weekly Viewing Summary w/e 08/06/2008". BARB. 18 June 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-18. 
  11. ^ "Forest of the Dead - Overnight Ratings". Outpost Gallifrey. 8 June 2008. 
  12. ^ Marcus (9 June 2008). "Forest of the Dead - AI and Digital Ratings". Outpost Gallifrey. Archived from the original on 6 June 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-09. 
  13. ^ Kelly, Mark. "2009 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form". The Locus Index to Science Fiction Awards. Locus. Retrieved 2009-03-20. 

External links[edit]