I watched Forests of the Dead tonight on PBS, after having watched Silence in the Library last week. I'm so glad I did.
I always liked the two stories; I was always impressed by them - some brilliant ideas, done rather well, with only a few glitches in logic, all easily disregarded. And I loved River Song, and I cried when Ms Evangelista died, and when Anita died, and when Donna lost her children, and Lee, and when River spoke of her time with the Doctor, and willingly burned out her brain so that he could go on. Altogether an excellent couple of episodes, I thought at the time.
After the episodes first aired, I watched a lot of fandom wind itself up over River. I avoided those discussions, because I thought River was an astonishing and wonderful character. The conversations to which I paid a bit more attention were the ones in which people debated whether or not River would appreciate having been saved in the manner she was; whether it was being saved, whether it was Moffat hamstringing and domesticizing his own creation, whether that betrayed his true feelings towards strong women. Most of those discussions were thoughtful, even when they were heated, and they did make me think, and wonder a bit at Moffat's thought processes.
Ultimately, though, I decided that I'd appreciate being saved as River was, thank you very much; that River still had all the universe in which to run and make discoveries, plus people with whom she could share that great heart of hers - a heart large enough to rival the Doctor's two, and a spirit strong enough to drag him into her gravity well. She had her team with her. She had seen them saved, and she had some newcomers, little ones who would become part of the team. Not bad. Not bad at all.
But now ... after having seen S5, meeting the Eleventh Doctor, and seeing the universe saved by seeping into and out of the heart of a little red-haired girl who the Doctor believed in ... after seeing a younger River meeting that older younger Doctor ... after going back and revisiting the older River with the younger Doctor, I've changed my mind. I don't like the episodes. I love them.
They are magnificent. They're filled with powerful language - how could they not be, birthed, killed and brought back to life everlasting in the largest library in the universe - and magic and a lot of love. They are another hint (if The Empty Child and The Doctor Dances hadn't been enough of a hint) that Moffat understands the strength of myth and fairy tales, but knows how to bring real characters into those tales - not the easiest thing to do.
The episodes have given me a lot to think about, all over again, and I may write more about it if I can get those thoughts in order. And they've reminded me that I think Steven Moffat, weaknesses though he does indeed have and as nervous about him as I once was, is a worthy successor to Russell Davies.