Doctor Who: In the Forest of the Night Review
You can’t expect a run of great episodes to continue forever. You would hope that it wouldn’t end right before the season finale of one of the best seasons of Doctor Who since the show’s revival in 2005. However, asking for 12-for-12 great episodes would be asking too much so maybe a flat episode was better this week than in the next two.
I don’t know where to start with this week’s episode because I’m not sure that it knew where to start. The Earth is overrun with a giant forest. There’s a little girl looking for The Doctor. And that’s all we have for the first half of the episode.
Eventually we find out that there’s a giant solar flare heading for the Earth and the little girl, Maebh, had drawn this in her school book thanks to the voices in her head that seems to have warned her about it. Those voices turned out to be invisible fireflies that created the forest or maybe were the forest since the end of the episode, all the tree disappeared in a cloud of fireflies that aren’t really fireflies.
One thing that I am certain of is that this episode had a not too subtle environmental message. Trees giving us oxygen and cleaning the air was mentioned a few times in the episode. There were some not so subtle hints that the trees protecting us from a solar flare was a metaphor for the trees saving us from ourselves. I don’t mind an old-fashioned after-school special episode of a show but the message of this episode just felt a little odd.
On the plus side, we got a little bit of development on the Clara/Doctor/Danny not-really-a-love triangle. Danny gets suspicious about how quickly Clara is willing to pal around with The Doctor after telling him that they had broken up. There was an opportunity to make something out of it but it only seemed to be a passing line and nothing more came of it. For that matter, we didn’t see The Doctor and Danny have any interaction which would have been logical at that point. The Doctor didn’t even mention Danny apart from the usual PE teacher crack. So the only development we got there was Danny piecing together what Clara is up to which should have created some development but it felt like it was cut for time.
We also had The Doctor talk about saving the Earth using the same “I’ve walked your Earth and breathed your air” line that Clara used on him when deciding the fate of the Moon in Kill the Moon. It was a great callback to that episode and was a very subtle way of The Doctor to apologize for alienating her in that episode by abandoning her on the Moon. It might have been the brightest of the few bright spots in this episode.
Overall, this episode was just flat. Apart from The Doctor turning Clara’s words back on her in a callback to Kill The Moon, I couldn’t spot any character development. I couldn’t spot any plot anyway so maybe I shouldn’t be surprise that their wasn’t any character development. What might have disappointed me the most is that when they showed the solar flare on-screen after we found out the trees were flame-proof, I instantly knew the ending. When you telegraph the ending that much and kill the tension, the episode had no chance of hooking me. Granted, it squandered the first half of the episode not grabbing me either.
Other random points of note:
- A small complaint as a reviewer: When picking the name of a new character, make sure that we can spell it. This is the first time that I ever heard the name “Maebh.” Is this a British thing or a non-North American thing?
- Was it just me or were the fireflies nearly unintelligible? I guess you can’t just give them a normal voice but I had to turn on the subtitles
- I had to watch this week’s episode online and tried to watch it through Space Channel’s (the Canadian broadcaster) website. It’s amazing how much worse the quality was on a domestic website than iPlayer run through Hola. At times, Space was, as Reddit would put it, potato quality.
Next week, the two-part season finale begins. While constant two-part episodes have been a detriment to Haven, I have high hopes for a two-part finale event of Doctor Who. It looks like we get the mysteries of Clara and Missy solved along with appearances by the Cybermen and UNIT. Okay, the inclusion of the latter two are a bit random since we haven’t seen either for a while but maybe it’ll work. Moffat’s writing this one himself so I’m hopeful that it’ll be better than this week.