Forest of the Dead


Previous Next

Square 130x126Square 130x126


Forest of the Dead

Series 4

Episode 9

First Transmitted

7 June 2008

Final Ratings



Series 4 set


Series 4 Volume 3


Forest of the Dead
Forest of the Dead
Forest of the Dead
Forest Of The Dead
Forest Of The Dead
Forest of the Dead
Forest of the Dead
Forest of the Dead
Forest of the Dead
Forest of the Dead
Forest of the Dead
Forest of the Dead
Forest of the Dead
Forest Of The Dead
Forest Of The Dead
Forest of the Dead
Forest of the Dead
Forest of the Dead
Forest of the Dead
Forest of the Dead
previous arrow
next arrow


Regular Cast

David Tennant (The Doctor), Catherine Tate (Donna)

Guest Cast

Alex Kingston (Professor River Song), Colin Salmon (Dr Moon), Eve Newton (The Girl), Mark Dexter (Dad), Sarah Niles (Node 1) [1], Joshua Dallas (Node 2) [1], Steve Pemberton (Strackman Lux), Talulah Riley (Miss Evangelista), Jessika Williams (Anita), O-T Fagbenle (Other Dave), Harry Peacock (Proper Dave), Jason Pitt (Lee) [2], Eloise Rakic-Platt (Ella) [2], Alex Midwood (Josuah) [2], Jonathan Reuben (Man) [2].


Written by Steven Moffat
Directed by Euros Lyn
Produced by Julie Garner and Phil Colinson


Donna is gone, the Vashta Nerada are out for fresh meat and the Doctor is running out of options. Can he trust the mysterious Professor River Song, a woman from his future? Even if they work together, can anyone stop the shadows from claiming them all as their next meal?


River Song uses her sonic blaster to create a hole in the wall. The Tenth Doctor and the others escape the Vashta Nerada-possessed Proper Dave down a corridor.

These events are watched on television by the girl. She switches channels to one showing Donna being taken out of the ambulance on a stretcher. Donna wakes up in a facility being treated by Doctor Moon. When she tries to remember reality, Doctor Moon quietly tells her that she has been in this facility being treated by him for years. She accepts the reality he presents to her. The way time progresses in her virtual world seems to be led by her thoughts, Doctor Moon suggests she walks by the river and she suddenly appears at the river. She occasionally finds this odd but is reassured by Doctor Moon. He introduces her to another resident named Lee, who has a stammer. Before she knows it, she is married to her ideal man, and they have two children.

She is contacted by a hooded figure, who tells her the world is not real. They arrange to meet in a playground. The figure reveals herself to be Miss Evangelista, whose consciousness was copied when she was killed. In this reality, however, she has become much more intelligent. She again warns Donna that the world is not real. Donna is stubborn and sceptical, but to her horror, she sees that all the children in the playground – including hers – are identical.

This revelation drives the little girl into hysterics, making her father and Doctor Moon disappear with her TV remote. The Library starts to enter a meltdown, and is set to explode.

Meanwhile, the others in the Library have been on the run from the Vashta Nerada. The Doctor and River Song argue. He isn’t sure he can trust her, but she assures him that someday she’ll be someone he trusts completely. She says she can prove it and whispers something in his ear. He is stunned, and when she asks him if they’re OK now, he nods in response, seeming to now trust that she’s telling the truth. Unfortunately, Anita now has two shadows. She remains brave in the face of her impending death, as The Doctor darkens her visor in the hopes that it might trick the Vashta Nerada into thinking they have already infiltrated it. They then realise that “Proper Dave” has caught up with them again, and they flee. The Doctor stops to try to reason with the Vashta Nerada. River tells Other Dave to stay behind to help The Doctor, who teaches the Vashta Nerada to use the suit’s communicator to speak to him. In doing so, he learns that they came as micro-spores in millions and millions of books, and then hatched. Other Dave, in the meantime, has also been killed by the Vashta Nerada, leaving The Doctor trapped between the two Daves. He escapes through a trap door hatch and sets off after the other three.

Elsewhere, River Song tells Anita about The Doctor she knows. She has seen whole armies turn and run away from him in the future, and he can open the TARDIS by snapping his fingers. The Doctor arrives and says that is impossible. As he returns his attention to the present, Anita asks him what River whispered in his earearlier. She reminds him that she’s about to die, and so his secret is “safe” with her. This prompts him to finally realise the significance of the oddly-worded “4022 saved” message. He figures out that the Library’s computer hard drive – CAL – literally”saved” all of the four thousand twenty-two people in the Library to its hard drive a hundred years ago, and has done the same with Donna.

The team travel to the core of the planet to the computer. The little girl is, in fact, the hard drive. She was Strackman Lux’s grandfather’s youngest daughter, Charlotte Abigail Lux aka “CAL”. She was dying of an incurable disease, so he made an imaginary world for her to live in and every book ever written for her to enjoy. He also gave her a “Doctor Moon” to watch over her, but the stress of having so many minds integrated into her own is causing her to overload. She has initiated the self-destruct and is about to destroy the planet.

The Doctor realises that to restore the “saved” people, the Library needs extra memory. This can be achieved by linking himself to the core. River Song says that this will burn through both his hearts and kill him without a chance of even being able to regenerate. He sends River and Lux upstairs to prepare for the restoration. As she exits, River tells Anita to watch him.

Anita asks The Doctor what he intends to do about the Vashta Nerada. He states he intends to materialise the people, get them off the planet, and then leave the world to the Vashta Nerada. When asked if he thinks the Vashta Nerada will take his offer, he reveals Anita has already been consumed by them. When they, using Anita’s suit, threaten to consume him and everyone else, he reminds them he is The Doctor… They are in the biggest library in the universe, and he tells them to look him up. They pause after a moment of consideration, and then agree: they will give him one day to evacuate everyone. They then abandon the suit and withdraw.

River returns to find Anita dead, then knocks The Doctor unconscious. He wakes up, finding himself handcuffed to the wall. River has hooked her own mind up to the computer, planning to carry out the plan in his place. He tries desperately to persuade River to let him do this. He reminds her that she whispered his real name into his ear, which he could only tell someone forone reason… She refuses and sadly notes that during all the time they shared and will share together, he always knew this is where and when she dies. While he insists that the future can be changed, she tells him not to change one moment of what happens between them even though it leads to this and he will see her again. She links in when the countdown reaches zero and dies, as The Doctor looks on.

Donna and the other saved people return in the library and begin to be evacuated. Donna cannot find Lee, and she and the Doctor conclude that perhaps he never really existed at all. The real Lee sees Donna as he steps onto a teleport, but his stammer prevents him from calling out to her before he is teleported away. The Doctor and Donna briefly muse over River Song’s diary, as it contains details of her life and their future. Ultimately, they decide not to look in it and leave it behind on a shelf along with the sonic screwdriver his future self gave her.

Suddenly, The Doctor comes running back. He realises that since he knew River’s fate all along, his future self would have had years to think of a way to save her. He knows that he wouldn’t just give her a sonic screwdriver without a good reason. Opening it, he finds that it contains a hidden neural relay. As with the data ghosts, her consciousness has been saved there. However, it is fading. The Doctor takes River for “one last run”, as he sprints back to the core. He uploads River’s data ghost into the Library’s computer, as the face of Charlotte looks on and smiles. River appears in a virtual reality created by Charlotte and is reunited with all of her team members for all eternity. The Doctor also fixes the data core so that Charlotte is no longer unstable and it’s a good place for them to live. Laughing in surprise, Riveronly says, “He just can’t do it, can he? That man. That impossible man. He just can’t give up.”

In the real world, The Doctor returns to the TARDIS. Standing before it and concentrating, he tries opening the TARDIS doors with a snap of his fingers and is able to do so. He goes inside to join Donna and turns to look back outside with her. As he snaps his fingers to close the doorof the TARDIS, River closes the blue TARDIS-shaped diary. River is sitting in the kids’ bedroom of Donna’s house in the virtual realm, and has been telling the story of the Doctor to Donna’s two children, and Charlotte, who has moved to live with them, concluding that on very special days when “The Doctor comes to call, everybody lives.” Charlotte has a real family now, human consciousnesses to keep her company in her “Dream”. Smiling, River turns out the lights, saying”Sweet dreams everyone.”


  • The working title for this story was River’s Run. When BBC Video announced the North American release of the Series 4 DVD box set, this title was used in the episode list and not Forest of the Dead. The Radio Times also used this working title. According to Doctor Who: The Writer’s Tale – The Final Chapter, the title was changed not long before broadcast.
  • In River Song’s voiceover, she mentions the “skies of all the worlds might just turn dark”, a possible reference to the Darkness, a story arc element that plays out in the series 4 finale. Another Possible reference to his “Reboot” of the universe where as before he did so the Predestination Paradox was a universe with no lights in the sky and they were all shown to be “expiring” before. CAL was also the name of the computer graphics company that created the title sequence used between 1987 and 1989 for the Seventh Doctor’s adventures. A result of this work was the creation of the first photo-realistic CGI TARDIS, featured in Bad Wolf.
  • In the girl’s house, on a drawing on the wall, there is a picture of a blonde haired girl and a wolf. This may be a reference to Rose and Bad Wolf.
  • This is the second episode in this series to have a character (River) share the name of a character from the Joss Whedon show Firefly. The first was Cobb in The Doctor’s Daughter
  • M offat’s recurring theme “everybody lives” returns again in this episode. (The Doctor Dances) In the BBC podcast associated with this episode, M offat and Davies point out that so far in the four major storylines that he has contributed to the series, the only “final” deaths that have occurred have been due to old age (such as Billy Shipton and Kathy Nightingale) or illness (Madame de Pompadour). M offat consequently promises (in the podcast) that he will kill people off in more dramatic fashion in future stories, proven to be true in The Time of Angels / Flesh and Stone.
  • The concept of downloading human consciousness as data – even after physical death – and the philosophical issues surrounding this is an issue being addressed by futurists in real-life, with scientists such as Ray Kurzweil speculating that technology will allow the uploading of consciousness to computers within a generation in his book, The Age of Spiritual Machines.
  • A recurring theme in this and the preceding episode is “spoilers”. This is a term that was coined in the 1990s by science fiction fandom to address the circulation of information revealing the plots and endings of shows and movies. Interestingly, the fourth series of Doctor Who contains several examples of plot twists and cameos that were successfully protected from “spoilers”. Other examples of successful spoiler protection include the appearance of Catherine Tate at the end of Doomsday.
  • Examples of plot twists that were not successfully protected from “spoilers” included the return of Rose in Series 4 – spoiled in part by people witnessing the filming – and the regeneration of Christopher Eccleston at the end of Series 1 – spoiled by the BBC publicity office itself.
  • As is routine for post-2005 Doctor Who, a “NEXT TIME” trailer for the next episode is shown at the end of the episode.
  • Following the broadcast of Silence in the Library there was much discussion in The Doctor Who fan community of the identity of River Song, with rampant speculation on various characters who she might “really” be. The episode ultimately leaves herorigin ambiguous, although it does establish several times that this was the first time The Doctor met River, meaning she could not be a past character. A Good Man Goes to War conclusively proves that she is a new character, a human with Time Lord DNA, and the daughterof Amy Pond and Rory Williams.
  • The concept of downloading human consciousness as data – even after physical death – and the philosophical issues surrounding this is an issue being addressed by futurists in real-life, with scientists such as Ray Kurzweil speculating that technology will allow the uploading of consciousness to computers within a generation in his book, The Age of Spiritual Machines.
  • The phrase, “Time can be rewritten”, is first uttered by The Doctor in this story and is a recurring phrase throughout Series 5 and 6.

    error: Content is protected
    Skip to content