Doctor Who: In The Forest of the Night

Picture shows: (l-r) Peter Capaldi as The Doctor, Abigail Eames as Maebh
Photo: BBC America

Doctor Who‘s night in the forest spends most of its time camping out for the start of next week’s two-part finale.

After the high point of the season last week with “Flatline”, Doctor Who maybe had nowhere to go but down this week in terms of episode quality.  That said, they really went down with “In The Forest of the Night”.  There were a lot of great ingredients in the show this week, but the final product just wasn’t that great.

First: the writer.  After scripting the 2012 Opening Ceremony for the London Olympics and creating a great mash-up of urban and idyll, tapping Frank Cotrell Boyce to write an episode doesn’t seem like a bad idea.  Stephen Moffat’s been going for a “dark fairy tale” approach with Doctor Who since he took over as show runner, and Boyce’s background makes him a perfect fit to bring the sort of magical qualities that define stories like that.  Unfortunately, after a season that’s gone hard on the “dark” side of things, this was a little too “fairy tale” to be a smooth fit.

Then: the premise – a forest has sprung up all over the world seemingly overnight, creating a world that’s suddenly far more dangerous (especially with tigers and wolves loose from the zoo) and a bit more magical than it was before.  However, the episode ended up feeling a little dull – there were times where we came back from commercial where I legitimately couldn’t tell you what had happened before the break.  We hit a lot of the same notes that had previously been covered this season – the Doctor with the schoolchildren, Clara and Danny not being honest with one another – but rather than giving us new thoughts on these plot points, it felt like everything was spinning its wheels until the finale next week.  There was a vague environmental notion to the whole plot that seemed nice on the outset, but any real thought and it fell apart scientifically1

I think this is an episode I’d likely skip over if I was re-watching it on DVD – we get a little shot of Missy at the end, leading into next week’s two-parter, but this week felt inconsequential to the overarching themes this season.  Still, next week looks exciting: something’s up with Clara.  Also – Cybermen are back!

Stray Thoughts:

  • “Even my life is too short for Les Miserables”.  I love a good Les Miz dig, you guys.
  • This episode was supposed to be all about Maeve, but I was more focused on Ruby stealing the show with every line she was given
  • The Doctor seemed oddly powerless for most of the episode, which may have contributed to why I didn’t like it as much.
  • The visuals this episode were gorgeous on the whole.  Shame the episode wasn’t better.
  1. not that I come to a sci-fi program for completely factual science, but if you’re doing an eco-centric message, it’s good to not undo your own premise  

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About Ben Smith 228 Articles
Ben has been writing about TV, music, and pop culture in some form or another since 2009, including stints at Mental Floss and Temporary Obsession. When not solving puzzles of some sort or consuming pop culture at a frightening pace, he can be found collecting shiny pieces of the internet at GoodAtInter.net. E-mail: ben@whatelseison.tv