[Review] - Doctor Who, Series 8 Episode 10, "In The Forest Of The Night"

Courtesy of the BBC

I sympathize entirely with Mr. Pink on this one. Having overseen my share of field trips, in extreme circumstances the children are absolutely the priority. If even one of those students had gotten eaten by a tiger, the amount of paperwork he would have had to fill out would have been demoralizing.

This was an episode that would not have felt out-of-home back in the fairy story heavy series 5. Back then, when there was a air of mysticism hanging over the Doctor's adventures; when there were morals and archetypes and feel good endings were felt like they were earned. This episode doesn't feel entirely out of place in this series, except for two rather glaring differences: first, it wasn't very good. And second, there wasn't much of a point to it. So far this year, every episode has had to do with defining either the Doctor or Clara as a person, under the examination of the situation they found themselves in. This episode didn't introduce anything new. It just confirmed what has been established already. It felt, for the first time this year, and right on the cusp of the finale, like wheel spin.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that aren't really gifted and talented; we just tell them that to make them feel better.


For all the space and aliens and technology, Doctor Who is at it's heart a fantasy series. And fantasy works best when it establishes it's own rules, and lives by them, and doesn't try to give explanation to things already understood. Fantasy requires the greatest suspension of disbelief, and so long as it plays by it's own rules, it's usually able to maintain that. However, like that moon business a few weeks back, occasionally Doctor Who over extends itself, and tries to give fantastic cause to mundane deed. And it gets in the way of me being able to enjoy the programme when they are being willfully wrong. Give me emotion eating space pumpkins and bugs made out of bubble wrap, and I'll happily come along for the ride. But try to tell me that the Tunguska blast was anything other than a mid-atmosphere explosion of a meteor, and we're going to have some trust issues.

The episode started off strong, and perfectly Doctor Who: London, and the world is seems, has been overgrown in the night. Where did they come from, who put them there, and what do they want. Did someone go back to the 1600s and plant a lot of acorns? Are the trees an intersecting alternate dimension bleeding into our own? And why is a little girl over come with grief, hearing voices? Lots of possible avenues to explore there, and Clara and Danny trapped in the middle. Except, it never really evolves past the point of setting up a really interesting story, and then taking the various easy ways out. And the easiest way, to start with, is that essentially fairies did it.

Which sticks to the overwhelming fairy tale motif, but poor execution lets it fall flat as a storytelling thesis. That trees are the Earth's protector, shielding us from the grave and unbearable, is ultimately a flat reveal. That they mystically spring up over night, then die to protect us, only to recede is a lazy proposition. It requires no elegance of deeper explanation. To say that it just simply happens, for good or ill, is the surest sign of having written oneself into a corner. And again, with the laughable notion that humanity would simply forget that it all took place, that we'd collectively forget the day of the trees, and go about our business is insultingly trite. That sort of nonsense might have flown when pigs were crashing into Big Ben, but as an audience we expect more of our writers expecting more form the audience now. In a season that has aggressively not catered to the younger audience members, that was a awful step back.

The episode is so full of holes you'd think that a woodpecker had been at the script. It tries to cover itself, with the random news reports (that both singe of the Davis era, and disappear entirely fifteen minutes of so in) and the government announcements on twitter. But it falls short with nagging questions like, where are the 5 and some odd million people who live in London, not to mention the 7 billion world wide? Where is UNIT in all of this? How, if buildings and people were replaced by tress (and that final dissolve shot made it appear to be the case), how was twitter still workings? If the trees caused the London zoo to cut loose, and Nelson to fall off the column, were those damages mystically repaired when the trees when bye-bye? If not, don't you think it'd get in the way of the mass amnesia if everyone crowded back into Trafalgar square and Nelson was on his nose? These are issues that are immediately apparent, but the script isn't interested for a moment in answering.

But the largest gap in the episode's logic is the fact that, upon examination, you realize that everything that happened would have happened exactly as it happened whether the Doctor was there or not. The Doctor's presence in this turn of events effects the conclusion in no way. He does nothing the entire episode, save talk to the fairy things that grew the trees. But he doesn't negotiate with them, he doesn't threaten them, and he doesn't save anybody. He arrives, pokes about for a bit, has a few good lines and leaves, without altering the conclusion in any way. So what then is the point of this? The episode doesn't seem interested in drawing a larger conclusion, that the Doctor's help isn't always needed or requested. If fact, the episode seems quite content with itself at the end, which means it was all done in blissful ignorance. Which, if you'll excuse me, is unforgivable. Next week's episode had better be spectacular to explain such a blatant lack of editorial oversight.

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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.

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