Thursday, 22 January 2015

Review: Doctor Who 8.10: In The Forest Of The Night

http://img3.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20141026003845/tardis/images/8/8d/In_the_Forest_of_the_Night_(TV_story).jpg
Forested London looks awfully like Wales when you
look up close ;) From Wikia
It seems odd to me that an episode of Doctor Who can do something as audacious as cover the whole planet in an invulnerable forest which grows in one night, and still feel somewhat understated. That came from a mix of things in what a mixed up episode, albeit one with a consistently charming tone. That tone comes to our screen from the pen of writer Frank Cottrell Boyce, most famous for his twee religion-and-kids book/film Millions, which I loved as a kid, but find somewhat more difficult to accept when integrated into the current mishmash that is this show.
     The Doctor arrives in London, and lets a little girl into his TARDIS called Maebh. She's a member of a field-trip being led by Clara and Danny, who discover upon waking in The Natural History Museum discover not only The Doctor, but the fact that the entire planet's surface has been covered with a layer of trees grown all in one night. (They have no rings.) After some squabbling between Twelve, Clara and Danny, they slowly uncover the reason these trees exist - Maebh, whose psychic powers were previously dismissed as the ramblings of a mentally ill child, reveals that she can communicate with a race of ancient tree beings who rise to protect the Earth whenever life is about to wiped out by a solar eclipse. One happens, it passes over safely and Danny and Clara are left to sort out their trust issues.
     While the episode's contribution was of course the tree plot, the main developing theme was Clara and Danny's relationship - it was established last week after Clara "rejoined" The Doctor that she simply didn't tell Danny she was doing it in the first place. I highlight this relationship beat not out of genuine interest in these characters and their struggles (well, a little bit, time wears you down), but to point out the relationship's general scuzziness from both sides. Clara, following her development into The Doctor's darker character traits, has become a compulsive yet fumbling liar, trying to deceive Danny and The Doctor about her double life when there's really no reason to. Danny, while understandably frustrated by this, is also pissy about The Doctor whenever he can be, and makes demands of Clara in often patronising ways. The script tries to paint Danny as the put-upon hero by ignoring his faults whenever possible and giving him triumphant rescue scenes - whether there's a double standard at work here is up to you, but I think there is.
http://www.undertheradarmag.com/uploads/review_images/forest1.jpg
Unintended lesson of the week: Don't take your meds, kids,
you could save the world by doing what the voices tell you!
From undertheradarmag
     The old TV maxim "never work with children or animals" doesn't quite come into affect here - Cottrell-Boyce is used to working with child actors from back in the Millions days, and so there's a general touch of naturalism in the kids' speech patterns. That doesn't entirely make up for the inexperience and overjubilance of most child actors, but here it manages to avoid cringey, awkward dialogue in all scenes except two. (The first in which a child worryingly dismisses Danny and Clara shouting at one another as "what people do when they're in love", and the last in the strangely edited ending where Maebh's missing sister appears out of nowhere for no reason.)#
     In The Forest Of The Night tries to be a fun little tale for the kids - and my only real justification for saying that is that it follows a naturalistic logic in which, most of the time, its the children themselves working out all the answers. That in itself is not a bad thing, and there's enough actual plot in this fairy tale to justify its existence - but that content itself fell into all of the traps that this season falls into, and the main plot itself was a little too holey for my liking. An okay attempt, but at this stage in the series we should really be faced with good drama. Not with teatime misadventure.

Thanks.

NEXT WEEK: An episode named after a weird unnecessary plot device... Moffat's back at the helm in Dark Water.

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