Doctor Who First Impressions Review & Spoilers: Season 8 – Episode 10 – “In the Forest of the Night”

Doctor Who, Season 8, Episode 10

In the Forest of the Night

Written by Frank Cottrell Boyce
Directed by Sheree Folkson

Cast
Peter Capaldi – The Doctor
Jenna Coleman – Clara Oswald
Samuel Anderson – Danny Pink
Abigail Eames – Maebh
Jayden Harris-Wallace – Samson
Ashley Foster – Bradley
Harley Bird – Ruby
Michelle Gomez – Missy
Siwan Morris – Maebh’s mum
Harry Dickman – George
Jenny Hill – Herself
Eloise Barnes – Annabel
James Weber Brown – Minister
Michelle Asante – Neighbour
Curtis Flowers – Emergency services officer
Kate Tydman – Paris reporter
Nana Amoo-Gottfried – Accra reporter
William Wright-Neblett – Little boy


Warning! This review contains quite a few spoilers!

Quick Summary: The Doctor arrives on Earth to find the planet has been overtaken by trees. Clara and Danny try to bring their students to safety, and the Doctor becomes obsessed with a girl named Maebh who seems to understand more about the situation than anyone else. On top of the trees, the Earth is being threatened with a solar flare that could wipe out the entire planet.


First Impressions:

  • Right up front I want to say that this was my least favorite episode of this season. Once it became clear that the premise of the episode was “the Earth’s trees are secretly our protectors and are conspiring to keep us safe from space dangers,” I actually cringed. It just seemed like a real shoddy promise as part of an extended series like Doctor Who…Earth is always in danger from something or another, NOW the trees decided to act? And this is the second episode this season (Kill The Moon) that seems to imply that planets and moons all have consciousness and life of their own. It’s not a bad sci fi concept in itself, but it just seems to contradict a lot of what we know about the universe in Doctor Who.
  • One of the biggest problems with this episode was that there was just really NOTHING for the characters to do. They wander through the woods, the Doctor declares the whole situation hopeless…so Clara tells him that he should save himself…which he does. And then he realizes, “HEY, WAIT A MINUTE! It is not hopeless. The trees will save us all. We just have to do nothing…except tell people to stop harming trees.” So the kids all get together and record a message telling people “HEY, LEAVE THOSE TREES ALONE!” And the day is saved. Yey! Oh, and Maebh’s lost sister is returned to her because of the power of the trees.
  • You know how you can tell this story didn’t have enough for the characters to do? They threw in a random wolf and tiger attack in the middle of the episode. Yeah, it was nice to see Danny so something useful for a change (sadly, this time he didn’t get to do a Jedi flip like he did in The Caretaker ), but it was a really unnecessary action sequence just to give the characters something to do. I also thought the effects on this scene were really shaky, which was sad because the effects with the trees growing all around London looked incredible.
  • Too much of this episode relies on the viewer not thinking much. Why aren’t these kids all calling their parents to check in? Why didn’t they have any idea this was going on until they left the museum? Most people are pretty addicted to their phones these days, and it seemed like a huge leap of faith to believe no one had been playing with theirs to get this message.
  • Also, I found it real hard to believe that everyone on Earth would be swayed from destroying the forest just because a little kid called their cell phone and told them not too.
  • And I found it real hard to believe that the Doctor’s only solution here was “I am leaving without saving anyone else because Clara told me to.” It is against the character’s entire persona to do that.
  • All that said, I actually do think that the episode was relatively enjoyable all in all. Right after the episode, I said to my friend, “This week was kind of a dumb concept pulled off mostly very well…” I know that might not sound like a ringing endorsement, but on a whole, I just found this episode lacking, and not outright an episode that I hated. Actually, the only Doctor Who episode I can think of that I ever really hated was “The Rings of Akhaten.”

  • I also thought that for the most part, the children actors who appeared in this one were pretty good. I am glad that my arch-nemesis Courtney Woods was no where to be seen. Abigail Eames who played Maebh did a good job portraying someone who is being “haunted” by some kind of otherworldly power ever since her sister vanished a year ago. I liked the Doctor’s line about “when someone claims to be hearing voices…maybe we should try listening to them!”
  • What kind of name is Maebh anyway?? Ah….apparently it’s Irish and means “the cause of great joy” or “she who intoxicates.” Well, there we go! We learned something today…I still think it’s a very odd looking name. I really thought they were calling her May or Maive through the episode.
  • This was Frank Cottrell Boyce’s first episode of Doctor Who. BUT, I am not giving him much leeway for that. The last two episodes were by a Doctor Who newcomer and he hammered them out of the park. “Forest” falls way short of that standard.
  • For the most part, I think the actors and creative team took a pretty lackluster story with not much meat to it, and managed to make an episode that was just about average. This may sound like a backhanded compliment, but I am still surprised that I didn’t hate this episode. There was definitely a point in the middle of the episode where I thought “THIS WILL END UP BEING THE WORST EPISODE OF DOCTOR WHO EVER,” but through sheer force of will, it dragged itself up to just being “Eh” not “Ick!”
  • One thing I do hope from this episode is that the quick reference to the solar flare that destroyed the Bank of Karabraxos is actually relevant. MAYBE there is a connection here that we just didn’t see yet. Missy definitely seemed interested in the fact that Earth managed to survive this. That might make me feel a little better about the episode, but I suspect that was just a cheap cop out to justify the fact that we’ve already seen this same exact threat earlier in this season
  • Next week’s episode Dark Water – Part one of the season finale! Return of the Cyberman! From the official description from BBC:

    In the first of a two-part finale, the Doctor finally comes face to face with Missy, the mysterious woman who has been popping up throughout the series, greeting various dead characters as they have entered what she and her assistant Seb have variously described as the Promised Land, Heaven, the afterlife and the Nethersphere. It turns out that plans have been drawn up and an impossible choice is looming, as the sinister organisation known only as 3W promises: `Death is not an end’. Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman star, with guest appearances from Michelle Gomez and Capaldi’s former The Thick of It co-star Chris Addison.


    Final Score: 7.0/10: Definitely my least favorite episode of the season so far, but not among the worst episodes of Doctor who. It’s probably not good when the best compliment you can give an episode is “No where near as awful as it could have been,” but that is the most fair assessment I can give on this one.


    CHEAP PLUG!

    A few weeks ago, my friend Manny posted a real cool piece of art he had commissioned. It was a chibi version of two of my favorite characters, Orphan and U-Go Girl. I reached out to the artist, Hector Barros, and he ended up doing a terrific piece for my wife’s birthday featuring Aquaman (she’s a huge Aquaman fan).

    He recently did a piece featuring the Tenth Doctor:

    Hector is a total professional and has ridiculously cheap rates for the work he does (10 pounds…or $16.50 for us Americans). Check him out and let him know Mike Maillaro sent you!

    END CHEAP PLUG!

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