Doctor Who - "In The Forest Of The Night" (Season 8 Episode 10) Recap/Analysis | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
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Doctor Who - “In The Forest Of The Night” (Season 8 Episode 10) Recap/Analysis

BBC America

Oct 28, 2014 Web Exclusive
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[Spoiler Alert: If you haven't seen the latest episode of Doctor Who, then read no further.]

For the most part, this whole season of Doctor Who has been marked by high points. After several weeks of episodes that so successfully raised the bar, I was unfairly critical of last week's "Flatline," which was actually quite good. I'm afraid of falling into the same trap with "In the Forest of the Night," and that by comparing it to good chunk of excellent episodes that preceded it I might be judging it too harshly. But I don't think that's the case.

"In the Forest" might actually be the low point for this season, which is fine because it was bound to happen. There are plenty of really nice moments, especially from Capaldi, who is well into a groove with his Doctor. But the story suffered from major leaps in logic and too much reliance on magical explanations, rehashing the same brand of sci-fantasy that weighed down "Kill the Moon."

It begins with The Doctor finding a lost girl, Maebh, and discovering London is covered in a thick forest. Clara and Danny are also in London, chaperoning a field trip and left to find their way through the forest with a handful of schoolchildren. After Maebh runs off, Clara tracks down The Doctor and the go search for her. The Doctor thinks Maebh is a little more wise to their current situation than she should be, and once they find her he confirms that she psychically communicates with trees. The Doctor initially assumes the trees are invading, ready to wipe out humanity, but eventually figures out that the trees magically grew over night to protect the earth from an oncoming solar flare. Somehow, the oxygen produced by the extra foliage will burn up like an airbag when the solar flare hits (there's no point in quibbling about scientific inaccuracy in Doctor Who, but I can't resist-the earth's magnetic fields already serve as a shield from giants solar flares).

There's nothing wrong with creating a fantastical story on big, wobbly ideas if there's a good story to tell anyway. Unfortunately, I'm not sure what we're supposed to get out this episode. Clara's relationship with Danny essentially runs in a circle. Danny finds out she was lying about her involvement with The Doctor, and just doesn't seem to mind. He also reminds us, yet again, that he was a soldier, so therefore he's seen horrible things and doesn't want to do space travel. Danny is a potentially great character, but lately is used more as Clara's personality quirk. She loves traveling with The Doctor, but she's got this soldier boyfriend who is kind of ambivalent about it. So what? It's worth pointing out that this was not the case with Danny two weeks ago.  

Not to mention the overuse of magical explanations as comical deus ex machinas. The trees as a shield is ultimately forgivable, but another suggestion that humanity will just forget about it all is almost insulting. I get that Doctor Who pushes itself more into the fantasy realm than science fiction, and when it pulls of the whimsical charm it is purely delightful, but that's no excuse for just giving up.

I also can't make heads or tails out of that epilogue. Maybe it was a good idea on paper, but watching a bush turn into a missing girl who stares awkwardly into the camera was a poor execution.

Next week, the finale begins, and from the preview it looks like it might dive into the more elusive aspects of Clara's identity. Hopefully it's a fitting send off to an otherwise great season. (www.bbcamerica.com/doctor-who/)

Author rating: 6/10

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