Published on October 27th, 2014 | by Brad


Doctor Who – In the Forest of the Night review

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A little girl in a red coat runs through a forest which has overrun the city of London. How very fairy-tale. In the Forest of the Night sees the Doctor, Clara and Danny having to protect a group of year 8 children from whatever has caused a forest to spring up overnight, all over the world. Which seems very twee, but it’s better than it sounds.


The young girl in question is Maebh Arden (pronounced Mave. Irish, apparently), who has been hearing voices since her elder sister went missing. Naturally, the responsible adults medicate her heavily to stop this, earning them sharp rebuke from the Doctor. Why drown out the voices? What if they’re trying to tell you something?

After last week’s superlative new monster, this week goes in entirely the opposite direction by having no monster at all. Indeed, the Doctor’s presence is basically irrelevant, as Earth would have been saved either way. What this opens things up for instead, then, is further development of where things stand in the quasi-love-triangle between the Doctor, Clara and Danny. Danny discovers that Clara has been lying to him again, and that she’s still travelling with the Doctor. That he’s willing to accept an apology on this places him either as the world’s most understanding boyfriend or a ridiculous milquetoast. I think it’s the former, although that may be down to the strength of Samuel Anderson’s performance. I’ve praised Jenna Coleman a lot this series, but Samuel Anderson’s work is much underrated. My hope is that this bunch stick together and Danny joins the Doctor and Clara on the TARDIS in series nine.


The Doctor and Clara have a couple of scenes which look into Clara’s changing role this series. As the situation becomes increasingly hopeless, we see the pragmatic, almost fatalistic worldview that travelling with this Doctor has instilled into her, imploring him to “just save the ones he can” as she accepts that the world may be doomed. She couldn’t have said that last year. She probably couldn’t have said that five or six episodes ago. But that’s where she is now, and the Doctor looks very guilty over that. Later on, she dupes the Doctor by putting on the mask of the self-sacrificing heroine to hide her real fears; she won’t let him save her from the doom of the Earth because she doesn’t want to be like him. It’s a brutal moment, and one that Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman sell beautifully.

In the Forest of the Night is reasonable fare, a large step-down from the very high quality of the last six weeks but still enjoyable enough. There’s some strong character stuff, but plot-wise it’s almost completely inconsequential. The calm before the storm, then, as the two-part finale begins next week.


Stray observations:

  • “Furious, fearful, tongue-tied; all superpowers if you know how to use them properly.” Maybe the Doctor’s not a completely bad influence.
  • Missy watching again on her cosmic iPad. Cannot wait to find out what her deal is next week.
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