Doctor Who episode 826: In the Forest of the Night (25/10/2014)

‘The tree won’t hurt you.’ As we head towards the end of Capaldi’s first series, we get a slight return of the Matt Smith fairytale, and particularly The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardobe, with a magic forest full of living lights, and a young girl pointing the way to the solution. I’ve seen this story heavily criticised for embracing fantasy rather than science fiction, but this doesn’t overly bother me. Seeing the 12th Doctor surrounded by children is great (‘Has he even been CRB checked?’), and the little scream he gives when Ruby declares Maebh is going to die is perfect. I’ve also seen this criticised for its attitude to medicating children with health conditions, which is harder to defend.

But for me, the big problem is – there is no danger. The Doctor, Clara, Danny and the kids essentially just need to hang around waiting on the forest to neutralise the solar flares (where was it when they had to build the Ark in Space?). Fair enough, Cottrell-Boyce introduces some jeopardy with a falling Nelson’s Column, escaped zoo animals and the risk that the defoliant chemicals might work where fire failed, but it’s all pretty thin. This leaves Capaldi just having to react to events, while Clara and Danny work through their relationship issues. None of it is disastrous – not every episode needs to be the end of the world – but it’s not exactly gripping, and the implicit message that humankind should passively let nature find a way to solve their problems is weak.

It does create space for Clara and Danny to come into clearer focus as a couple. There are two telling scenes – one, where Danny is trying to work out how to reunite the kids with their parents while Clara is pondering the mystery of the trees, pointing to her increasing Doctorishness (a development heavily played on in the Next Time trailer). The second is Danny’s angry quizzing of Clara when he discovers she’s been on the phone to the Doctor and has been lying to him. For all that Clara seems ready to abandon the Doctor to die with Danny and the kids (a huge WTF?! moment, as she unilaterally decides to condemn the children and the human race to death – maybe she took the wrong lessons from Kill the Moon), it’s hard to see much future in a relationship built around death wishes, deception and control freakery.

Next Time: Dark Water


One comment

  1. Pingback: Doctor Who episode 825: Flatline (18/10/2014) | Next Time...

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