What the excruciatingly-constructed-insult was that? I can safely say that this is our review for Doctor Who episode ten ‘In the Forest of the Night’, but what that pertains to is anybody’s guess.
There are a good multitude of ways to stun your average human being; these can range from the actual physical act of bludgeoning someone unconscious to something far more psychological to mentally shock someone into inactivity. ‘In the Forest of the Night’ feels like it has done both and not in the way telly should shock and stun us these days. Oh dear sweet baby Jesus, no. The episode is a directionless mess that does so little with its potential you’d be well within your rights to have watched anything else on your Saturday night, and that includes re-watching BBC One’s preceding ‘Strictly Come Dancing’. It’s that bad.
All right, I want you to do me a little favour. You recall how good Jenna Coleman and Peter Capaldi are, right? Well I want you to remember that whatever else happens from this point on that those two thespatic types are still damn good in their roles as Clara and The Doctor, with The Doctor being brilliantly grumpy in the face of a squad of mewling and irritable pork children. So take hold of that little reminder of good, we’re going to need it.
So All of a sudden, planet Earth is covered in thick, lush, flame-retardant forests that somehow repel the population of London so much that they refuse to leave their homes (for fear of appreciating nature or something). Clara and Danny Pink are in the midst of running a school sleepover at the Natural History Museum when they discover the sudden greenery everywhere. One of the children on their trip, a little girl called Maebh, has somehow turned up lost and in the company of The Doctor, who begrudgingly takes her in until he can get her back to the school trip.
The Doctor rings Clara and gets the school trip to come to him whilst he tries to figure out what’s going on, but in doing so they lose the little girl they had in the first place. It’s like spinning plates isn’t it? Clara and The Doctor are in pursuit, leaving Danny and the kids in the TARDIS, and end up following a trail left by the troubled little Maebh (you know she’s troubled because everyone keeps saying so, which is apparently the best way to show any kind of character trait).
In their search they come across a government team of blokes in hazard suits trying to flamethrower some trees to zero effect (flamethrower is a verb now), a pack of wolves and a tiger (who is undone by Danny Pink with a torch. Seriously? Seriously.) before they finally find Maebh. It turns out that Maebh has been ‘tuned in’ to a torchbug-like species of critter that has grown all the trees to coincide with a massive solar flare headed for earth. The solar flare will kill everything everywhere and The Doctor can’t stop it. Clara forces him to make an escape by himself, which he does before realising the obvious thing about a planet covered in super trees: they create an oxygen shield! Or something!
The Doctor chases after Clara, Danny and the kids telling them that everything’ll be fine, which it is. And then the trees magically disappear. Yup. That’s yer lot. Okay, that’s not all yer lot, mainly because there are a lot of incredibly dumb things I have to readdress about this episode.
Peppered throughout this episode were so many plot holes you’d be convinced we were watching some kind of increasingly-broken colander of a telly show. I know Doctor Who has its fair share of plot dips, but this one was about 200 too far. Here are some, for your head-scratching pleasure. Or confusion/outrage.
Where is the bustling population of London during all these tree shenanigans? What happens to the impoverished countries that need vegetation once all the sudden trees vanish? Where did all the dramatic tension surrounding Clara’s tapestry of lies go? How can trees save the planet from a solar flare? Why is it that despite the fact the Earth would easily choose to euthanise the moon, they can’t argue with a little girl asking it to not use chemicals against trees (in the world’s least-required last-minute dramatic decision, I might add)? Why were wolves needed? And that tiger? What did either of them really add to the episode, aside from fur and teeth? Was there any reason to include Maebh’s intrepid cyclist mum? Why did The Doctor have to bring everybody into the TARDIS to tell them they won’t die outside? Whose idea was it to have so many children who, whilst not individually as annoying as Courtney Woods, by their sheer irritating number equal about one and a half Courtney Woodses? How does one child in London Town just so happen to be the only human in tune with a worldwide magical critter? Why does her sister suddenly come back from the dead too? Is she a zombie? A tochbug-powered zombie?
I think the major thing that bothers me about the episode (out of all the points above) is the complete refusal of the situation between Danny Pink, Clara and The Doctor. I know it hadn’t been built up quite so much the second time around, but it was the breach of trust between characters that could have led to really interesting places. Places in time and space! The way it was ultimately handled though? Kind of makes you question why even bother having it in the first place.
I know this episode is designed to be the ‘breather’ episode before the final super-stake-raised two-parter and, due to mild investigation, that both writer and director are new to this Doctor Who shtick. That said, none of those things are to be an excuse for the poorly-paced jumble that was ‘In the Forest of the Night’; it tried too hard to include so many tropes of a Doctor Who episode that it decided to include the most frustrating aspects of the most eye-rolling episodes of the Russel T. Davies era (that said, I do still like Russel T. Davies’ tenure. Just, you know, not all of it. Obviously).
I realise I may have said something akin to this before, but when Doctor Who drops the ball, it catapults it through the Earth until it bursts out the other side and takes out a couple of Chinese satellites on its eventual journey into deepest darkest space.