One morning in London, and every city and town in the world, the human race wakes up to the most surprising invasion yet: the trees have moved back in. Everywhere, in every land, a forest has grown overnight and taken back the Earth…
If that doesn’t sound like a fairy tale, I don’t know what does!
It’s funny. Normally when I write these little posts on the further adventures of everyone’s favorite mad man in a blue box, I tend to stay away from what other writers and reviewers have said about the episode until I’m done with my post. But after watching “In The Forest Of The Night,” the penultimate episode before we get into the two-part series finale, I was curious about what other critics had thought. And in scanning some of the reviews, their reactions, like mine, were mixed.
On the one hand Frank Cottrell Boyce’s script is a surprisingly charming affair. Bad science to one side, and slightly obnoxious environmental issues to the other, there was a lot of charm in this tale; which was aided and abetted by Sheree Folkson’s spot-on direction and camera work. While the reliance on the kids was a necessary evil due to the story, it only tripped over into cloyingness a few times thanks to some sharp performances by all of the young actors. It also had a few powerful moments in it, such as Clara telling the Doctor that she’d rather stay on Earth than be the last Earthling alive, or Danny and Clara’s conversation after he realized that she’s been lying to him about her travels with the Doctor. (I’ll come back to these moments in just a bit.)
This leads to one thing I will give this season credit for; actually fleshing out the home front as a voice of true dissent to the Doctor. In the past, when people in the companion’s life have voiced dissent, they were obviously too stupid to see the inherent awesomeness of the Doctor (Mickey Smith and Jackie Tyler), too shrill to get their point across to be taken seriously (Sylvia Noble), or too meek to actually stand up to him (Rory and Brian Williams). Up until this point the only voice of dissent against the Doctor that worked was the imperious Francine Jones and even that was more of her general distrust in everyone, which was subsequently manipulated by Mr. Saxton and his cronies. It has been quite refreshing to have someone like Danny Pink, who has no time for the Doctor and his bullshit, but is also a capable character in his own right; looking after the children better than Clara ever could. Credit goes to the writers and to Samuel Anderson for presenting this case against the Doctor subtlely.
That said (and here’s where the complaints come in), those moments I referred to earlier were too glossed over, thus robbing them of any agency or impact. While I am fine with a side step into a true fantasy story on occasion in Doctor Who, those moments that I just mentioned came and went by so quickly that even though they run in the face of some of the tenants of Doctor Who as a show, it just felt glossed over.
My other complaint is that this episode is the last one before the season finale, and frankly, it didn’t do enough table setting in my mind to prepare us for it. Aside from one brief appearance from Missy (another “blink and you’ll miss it” cameos), this story didn’t feel strong enough to take the place as the penultimate episode before the finale.
NEXT TIME: Speaking of that finale…
…that’s it? Surely we have something a little more ballsy, no?
That’ll do! Let the wild speculations on the finale begin!
Photo & Video Credits: BBC