‘In The Forest Of The Night’
Concerning tonight’s episode, the phrase ‘the calm before the storm’ comes to mind. Or perhaps, more accurately, the dull before the (hopefully) exciting. If one word could sum up ‘In The Forest Of The Night’, it would be dull. The main trio do the best with what they’re given, and the visuals were very smart for a show on DW’s budget – but nothing was particularly, or at least consistently interesting.
It’s a pity, as the opening shots were actually quite promising – the premise being that, seemingly overnight, suddenly London is a forest, and stuck right in the middle are Clara, Danny and their pupils on a school trip. From here, the possibilities for an engaging and exciting story seem limitless – given the show’s creativity when it comes to explaining a plot device; it could’ve turned out to be anything from spontaneous time travel into the far future, where London is a forest, to a trick by some alien race, to some sort of DW spin on ‘Day of The Triffids’.
Instead, the solution was rather anti-climatic – no villainous presence at all, and in fact the trees all popped up over the world to protect the Earth from an imminent and catastrophic solar flare. Upon the Doctor’s realisation of this, cue a whole heap of environmentalist connotation. I feel as passionately about the cause as it would seem the writers do, but the imagery was so in-your-face and blunt that it not only kills the message, but it also ends up killing the drama and tension, which is what people watch ‘drama’ for.
The problems of the plotting were exemplified by the school trip; something that inevitably included the bane of all fiction – schoolchildren – a trope that seems only to exist in order to try to annoy the viewer as much as possible. Here they were toned down slightly from other instances – not least the character Courtney from ‘Kill The Moon’ – but they were still horribly clichéd, asking endless questions and, in line with what seems to be a growing trend this series in DW, barely being scared by the situation. It’s only at the very end of the episode where they all break down a bit and become more human as a chorus of variations on ‘I want my mum’ is heard.
It’s not the actors’ fault – they were simply doing as instructed – but the writing was hopelessly uninspired. And, as a sour cherry on the cake, we had a sickly-sweet and completely inexplicable family reunion at the end, as a child and her mother were reunited with her missing older sister, who was apparently hiding in the shrub outside their house. Right.
We also got another glimpse of Missy in this episode, in what surely must be the final teaser before her identity is revealed next week, as we saw her lamenting, it would seem, the success of the trees in saving humanity and the Earth. Does she or her plan not only greet, but need the dead perhaps? All will be revealed next week.
‘In the Forest of the Night’ was certainly the weakest instalment this year, a blip in an otherwise strong run this series. Next week: the first of the final two-parter, with Cybermen, and has Clara gone rogue…?