The world-girdling city (or ecumenopolis) is a familiar trope of science-fiction, most famously realized on Isaac Asimov's Trantor and the Star Wars films which borrow his conception of a crumbling intergalactic empire. The Universal Library, container of all human knowledge, is also a resident institution of much speculative fiction. The fourth season of the revived Doctor Who combines these ideas in a two-part story set on a planet called 'The Library.'
Unfortunately, the Library's library features some of the less-attractive features of sci-fi too - a badly-dressed man more comfortable with technology than people, a ridiculous story, an objectification of women, a zany cast of paper-thin characters with odd names (Strackman Lux), planetary-sized plot-holes, childishness, knowingness. And a last-minute rabbit-from-hat technological solution to an imminent planetary catastrophe. These easy catechisms are, I understand, part of the programme's ironic charm.
I wish people cared more about their real libraries than their imagined ones. For fifty years, many of Britain's great Victorian libraries have been closing down - nowadays cafe- and community-centre-style public libraries are in vogue, as well-meaning local politicians and managerialist public librarians seek to answer falling library visits with democratized (i.e. commercialized) spaces. So it was with Swansea's beautiful central library, in which the episodes were filmed, opened by the great reformist statesman W.E. Gladstone in 1887, closed in November 2007. The library was reopened in the 'New Civic Centre' by the Rt. Worshipful the Lord Mayor Cllr. Susan Waller in March 2008. Thankfully, the old building was taken over by a university, so didn't get turned into a Jamie Oliver restaurant. Doctor Who shares with contemporary Britain, and its contemporary public libraries, a certain metropolitan blandness, a preference for style over substance, and a rapid-fire postmodernity over reading-room thoughtfulness.
Director: Euros Lyn
Written by Steven Moffat
Cast includes David Tennant, Catherine Tate, Alex Kingston, Colin Salmon