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Monday, 27 October 2014

Doctor Who S34E10: In The Forest of the Night.

Doctor Who S34E10: In The Forest of the Night.

Not going to bother with the bingo this week, since there were no changes.

I'm glancing at this episode's title with some bewilderment. It's a William Blake reference, to the poem 'The Tyger', and the only connection I can see is that this episode has a tiger in, very briefly, and a forest. But the poem itself is about the contrast between aesthetic beauty and a ferocious nature, and when paired with 'The Lamb', its sister poem, about understanding God by seeing his creations from different perspectives. 

It's a good poem, read it. I'm just not at all certain how it relates to this episode of Doctor Who, apart from the fact that there happens to be a tiger, and happens to be a forest (a forest of the day, even). 

There are also wolves in this episode. The explanation given is 'they escaped from London Zoo', but London Zoo doesn't have any wolves. It hasn't since the early 20th century, according to the UK Wolf Conservation Trust. That's a minor nitpick, but, you know. 

The Doctor seems alarmed.

Written by Frank Cottrell Boyce, previously of a bunch of miniseries I've never heard of, in this episode, the Doctor arrives in London to find it covered in a massive forest. Accidentally discovering a young girl who hears voices, called Maebh, he quickly also discovers Clara, Danny and a class of special needs pupils who were having a sleepover at a museum (because ... schools having sleepovers at museums is a thing? Apparently? First I've heard of it). Together, they set out to find the cause of the gigantic forest.

(Unfortunately, it's not Helheim from Kamen Rider Gaim. That'd have been a twist and a half.)

This episode has some things that I hate and some things that I absolutely love. I hated the 'oh, you humans always want to just ~suppress~ the ~specialness~ of people hearing voices!' Be quiet, Boyce. Mental illness is a serious problem that has a serious impact on people's lives, and people who suffer from auditory hallucinations often also suffer from paranoid delusions and a lack of self-insight: Having a primetime TV show tell them that they just don't need their medication, because there's nothing wrong with them and the world is just out to get them: I can think of no worse lesson.

Stop sending out bad messages, Doctor.

One thing I loved: The Doctor can't tell children apart by their physical appearance, regardless of their gender or ethnicity. Reecey of Nine Over Five liked it but thought it didn't make much sense, since he has perfectly working vision, I think it kind of does, since he comes from a species that identifies each other using telepathy, not sight - and from a subset of that species that frequently changes their appearance. 

Overall, though, the episode is - ehhh. It's nowhere near the worst of the series, I'll say that. It probably comes in fourth, beneath Flatline, Mummy on the Orient Express, and Time Heist. Good, but not good enough to beat out those three episodes.

Danny, with students.

The premise is an interesting one that we haven't really seen in Doctor Who before, it was a great example of an episode that didn't require a villain, and it left you with some interesting questions at the end: Is Maebh causing all of this? Why did her sister materialise out of a bush? Did Maebh conjure her there? Because she takes responsibility for the forest, and she implies she may have had a hand in bringing back her sister. It'd also close up the plot holes in this episode: Why does the solar flare 'burn through the excess oxygen' instead of just igniting the whole thing, like it should? Maebh believes it will, that's why. Why does the government stop deforesting the planet just because a little girl asked them to? Because Maebh sees no reason why they wouldn't.

Danny is at his least irritating here, which is a welcome change after - well, every episode since The Caretaker, really. Clara is pretty all right, too, but she's dragged down by the looming spectre of The Subplot. Everything is going fine, except when it rears its head, bellowing 'MEANING', and making Clara do stupid things like demand the Doctor leave a class full of students behind instead of getting his massive time machine, picking them up, picking up their parents, and getting a selection of other humans to store in his impossibly gigantic Noah's Ark-oid timeship that could easily survive a solar flare. 

It wouldn't be pretty, but it'd be a lot better than Clara's 'I could save these children, but I think they should all die' plan. If those kids' parents found out that she did that, they would be furious. 

The episode's ending was also a bit anticlimactic. The Doctor is about to leave, but then he realises it was all fine, and they were in no danger, and the episode just ... keeps going for ten minutes. It didn't ruin the episode, but it does mean it ends on a kind of flat note, rather than ever having a narrative climax. 

So, not the best episode, not the worst, but definitely in the top half. If I had to rank the episodes in order of worst to last right now, it'd go: The Caretaker, Deep Breath, Kill the Moon, Listen, Into the Dalek, Robot of Sherwood, In The Forest Of The Night, Mummy on the Orient Express, Time Heist, Flatline. Maybe the finale episodes will carve out new slots at the top of that list, but probably not, they are written by Moffat, after all.

Coming up next week, we have Clara announcing that time can be rewritten and she never existed, and seemingly going full villain, as well as the return of the Moffat-era Cybermen, which means I can cross another square off that bingo and leave myself with just one and the thus-far unused free slot. Neat. 

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