Doctor Who Review: In the Forest of the Night

doctor who review in the forest of the night frank cottrell boyce samuel anderson peter capaldi jenna coleman harley bird sheree folkson

Tyger Tyger burning bright, in the forests of the night. What immortal hand or eye could frame thy fearful symmetry?

I read somewhere once that Steven Moffat, moreso than anyone else who’d been in charge of Doctor Who, is to be credited with the introduction of celebrity writers. And you know, it does make sense really – Richard Curtis, Neil Gaiman, and to a lesser extent Simon Nye, are all pretty big names, which are just as likely to generate column inches as a celebrity guest star.

And now of course we have Frank Cottrell-Boyce.

Whilst I don’t have any massive attachment to them, Frank Cottrell-Boyce’s books are one’s which I’ve read and enjoyed quite a lot – my own favourite is Cosmic, which shares a few themes of parenthood with this episode.

Obviously then, with the announcement of Frank Cottrell-Boyce, I was quite looking forward to this episode. When the synopsis came out though, I paused a little bit. Trees? Didn’t really know what to make of it.

And, to be honest, I still don’t?

I mean I always say that thing, don’t I, about how it’s wonderful when Doctor Who is doing original things, because it’s a showcase for the series, and just how innovative it can be. And I stand by that! I honestly do mean it, and I would defend that view as best I could if ever someone tried to dispute it.

But, you know, trees. Trees. That’s… that’s pretty bizarre. I am not really sure what I meant to make of that? Like, at all.

doctor who in the forest of the night review frank cottrell boyce peter capaldi twelfth doctor trees tyger tyger sheree folkson

I think in part that’s because I am still not entirely certain of what actually happened in the episode. The trees, are, like, a planetary defense system, which are run by some strange glow-y life forms, who are sort of intrinsic to the eco-system of the planet, or something. These glow-y life forms, who I shall henceforth refer to as photoarboreals, or something, can communicate with Maebh (not Maeve?) because she has suffered a trauma and is now vulnerable and somewhat unstable.

That’s… that’s pretty bizarre. Not a slight on the the episode, not at all. But I am somewhat at a loss for words. The best critical opinion I can offer on the plot is a sort of squinty eye thing and non-committal wavey hand gesture.

There was, of course, a lot of good stuff to enjoy here. Peter Capaldi gave another great performance, and his interactions with the children were quite nice to see. I particularly liked the analogy drawn between TARDIS and Coke, which was rather a nice touch.

As a whole actually, this episode was a pretty good showcase for the regulars. Lots of nice little character moments – Danny in particular came off really well here, albeit perhaps at the expense of Clara. I’m actually quite liking Danny as a character; Samuel Anderson is a great actor, and there’s something about his portrayal that makes Danny fun to watch on screen.

I also really enjoyed the exchange between the Doctor and Clara towards the end, where she was trying to make him leave, and he offered to try and save her. There was a nice sense of foreboding there, and the dialogue between them – “I don’t want to be the last of my kind” – was just excellent.

doctor who review in the forest of the night samuel anderson danny pink harley bird ruby maebh arden trees forest wood sheree folkson

But, you know, there was an awful lot of stuff that wasn’t so great about this episode.

I’m in two minds about the kids, for example. Generally, they were on point – they were mostly believable, they had good dialogue, they were funny without being irritating, and the actors were all pretty good too, which is practically a miracle.

But… I can’t buy these kids as a group of 12 and 13 year olds. In part because of how young they all looked, but also because of their dialogue – it was really accurate, if you’re trying to show us ten year olds. This isn’t really what 12 and 13 year olds are like; or, at least, none of the 12 year olds that I know.

Something I was also sort of unsure of was Maebh, and her psychological issues. I’ve seen it be pointed out that this is meant as a parallel with William Blake – the person who wrote The Tyger – but… well, this isn’t something I would have picked up on, because I don’t know a lot about Blake, and I’d wager the same is true for a lot of the audience. As it was, I felt a little bit uncomfortable with the way the voices she heard and the fact she needed medication was presented. Frankly, I’m with Ruby on this one – they should have just given her the medication.

(Also, how ridiculous was the bit with the sister at the end? I know they were going for a grace note, and a bit of a happy ending, but somewhere along the lines that was lost, I think. Was… did the sister come home, and think “Hey, wouldn’t it be funny if I hide in the bush, and jump out yelling ’gotcha!’ after I’ve been missing for two years?” or was it meant to imply that the sister was formed from the bushes? I’m also sort of struggling with the idea of introducing that sort of tragic event for the sole purpose of setting up a happy ending, but I can’t think about it logically with the way it was presented at the end.)

So, so. In the Forest of the Night. Really not sure what to say about this one? Because ultimately, there was nothing extremely awful or offensive about it, but equally, there was nothing extremely amazing of compelling about it.

I think really, in the end, it was just a load of tree-related nonsense. But it was fun tree related nonsense, and it was enjoyable enough to watch, and I think that’s all that matters really.

6/10, bordering on a 7, I think.

Related:

Doctor Who series 8 reviews

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