Saturday, 31 May 2008

Shelf life... and death

…and that is how you do that, in case anyone, anywhere was in any doubt.

Good news, fellow travellers: the future of Doctor Who is looking absolutely dazzling… and very, very, very dark. Really, very. I think it’s fair to say, without any hint of over-exaggeration, that Silence in the Library was one of the Greatest Things Ever To Happen - not just on telly, but anywhere, ever… and the bloke who wrote it is taking over the whole show very soon.

I need a sit down, or air, or a non-sonic Screwdriver (large, please, barman)…

As the Doctor nearly said, there were so many brilliant, brilliant things in those 43 minutes (how could it be a mere 43 minutes?) that we’re gonna need bigger heads to take it all in!

Space. Library. Sounds like a Hartnell classic, a brilliant, pure concept. But then, you see, already the dark mind of writer Steven Moffat (you’re buying him two pints of whatever he’s having, next time you see him, by the way) is twisting it into new, confounding shapes, refining and expanding themes and motifs from previous work: the fierce power of a child’s mind; how ideas shape reality; disturbing fusions of personality and technology; how writing and recording a life is sometimes the only way of adding meaning to it (All those books! All those biographies! All those adventures!); and the sorry turning of the last pages (All that silence. All that death).

But even then, there’s more to unpack. What if you don’t travel the slow path, one way through time? If someone has a book of your life - even the stuff that hasn’t happened yet - do you read it? What about the spoilers?

And this isn’t even the bit that everyone in the playground/office will be talking about - that’s the Vashta-ruddy-Nerada, the scariest-ever baddies since the last scariest-ever baddies, Blink’s Quantum Angels, created by - yup - yer man Moffat.

Imagine: it’s not what’s in the dark you should be scared of - and you should - but the darkness itself.

So, Mr Moffat: there are indeed monsters under the bed; statues are, as many of us suspected, alive (don’t blink, by the way); and the darkness can tear you to shreds in seconds. Yes, I’m afraid your application for the position of supply teacher has, sadly, been unsuccessful, this time…

But know the darkest thing here? Probably the most genuinely disturbing thing on telly in a while? The sad undoing of that pretty, stupid girl who wandered off into the shadows, just like in the fairytales.

Words let the mind express, create, communicate, code your personality. How horrible, then, when suddenly they become empty, meaningless (remember ‘Are you my Mummy?’; who could forget). How hopeless they are at comforting. And how horrible the silence that follows when they stop - the sound of Moffat, a book-lover, a word man, briefly losing his faith.

He then twists it again, making Proper Dave’s sad, confused ‘Hey! Who turned out all the lights?’ into a chilling mantra - probably about existence - only one uttered by a skeleton in a spacesuit bent on death. Only, as they say, on Doctor Who.

And to think some people actually believe Doctor Who is a kids’ show! Listen: everything else is a kids’ show. Fact.

Anyway, next time…


Who turned out all the lights?