Doctor Who’s eighth series has thus far been perhaps the most diverse collection of episodes since its return in 2005. We’ve had pure terror in the form of ‘Listen’ and ‘Kill The Moon’, camp romps from ‘The Caretaker’ and ‘Robot of Sherwood’ and complex tales rich in morality from ‘Into The Dalek’ and ‘Flatline’.
This week we had beauty, and ‘In The Forest Of The Night’ had it in abundance.
Series eight has also been characterised as lacking a threat; ‘Listen’ had an indistinguishable figure beneath a blanket; ‘Kill The Moon’ had several glimpses of nightmarish spiders, before the moon itself become the prominent terror; and ‘Time Heist’ had Madame Karabraxos who was likewise camp and over-the-top.
A threat is similarly missing in ‘In The Forest Of The Night’, but unlike some of the previously mentioned tales, this doesn’t affect the episode at all.
‘In The Forest Of The Night’ is a stunning fairytale-esque depiction of the world standing up for itself amid threats from the sun. It’s broad in scope, and many of the shots are rather cinematic and for that it will surely be remembered. For Frank Cottrell Boyce’s first jaunt aboard the TARDIS, this is an exceptionally realised tale.
The majority of this episode is whimsical; I suspect that this was intended. Next week’s ‘Dark Water’ (which I’ll discuss briefly) looks set to be another tale dripping in dark menace. For this reason a little give is probably needed, especially given the preceding episodes chilling enemy. Most of the child actors are peripheral and add little to the overall plot, but nor do they diminish it either, which is surprising. Child actors are usually rubbish and whilst some of them were over-the-top (I’m looking at you Ruby), most were alright.
This episode followed the notion of the Doctor embracing children (no, not in that way) and again, I suspect this was intentional. It happened with Courtney too (as a side note, I’m surprised she didn’t appear in this episode… she was just as corruptive as some of these little souls). Here we saw the children of Coal Hill School simply accepting the Doctor for what he is – this is probably an unsubtle way for Steven Moffat to tell the children viewers to embrace the new, older Doctor. The parallels are striking, but probably effective.
London blanketed in trees was surprisingly well realised on screen; director Sheree Folkson made use of the premise to show a very different side to a very familiar city. I suspect this episode, like its predecessor, was also done on the cheap – it can’t be expensive to put an underground sign or a red phone box in a forest and pass it off as London. But none of this mattered. I am sure the money will be put to better use in the finale.
Danny learned of Clara’s deception (again) and was fine with it (again) which made her hiding it (again) rather pointless. But Danny here, like the rest of the series, was reliable, and loveable. Who’s heart didn’t melt when he said he was happy to look after the children while Clara went traversing space. That was all he wanted. Clara has found a catch in Danny, and she needs to realise how brilliant he is before it’s too late. Whilst I would have preferred Danny to join the TARDIS-crew along with Clara, I would settle for Clara leaving and simply being happy with Danny. That is the ending we’re probably going to receive (sooner than later, I suspect – I think it’s pretty certain Clara will depart in either two weeks or two months time).
And the standout scene from such a beautiful episode? Clara is saying farewell to the Doctor. Yes, we’ve seen it all before, but both actors were sensational yet again. The Doctor was rendered rather speechless by Clara’s affirmations. She refused his offer of saving her because she didn’t want to become the last of her species (lumps forming in throats around this point). The Doctor countered this by using Clara’s argument from ‘Kill The Moon’ against her. He can’t leave Earth – it’s his home equally, it’s his air, his trees (no, my eyes aren’t watering…). But Clara nails her response. The Doctor has to survive the destruction of Earth so he can go on to save many more worlds. Okay, I’m crying here now.
The ending may have felt a little rushed to some (and the reveal of Maebh’s sister may have been a cheese-fest) but I have a feeling the solar flare was intentional. The technology of Earth didn’t manage to pick it up, so it must have happened pretty quick. I think that somehow Missy, of the Cybermen, or both, are behind it. Quite how, I haven’t a clue. But Missy seemed plenty interested in the surprising turn of events as the Earth defended itself, didn’t she? As a side note, she has a deep interest in voyeurism, does she not? Stop perving on the Earth, Missy!
So next week is the finale, and boy does it look fucking incredible. I have a feeling a lot of money and time has been saved for this event. The catacombs of the Cybermen look incredible; Clara perhaps isn’t Clara at all (but this will be a red herring, surely – the mystery of Clara is no longer a mystery at all – she is Clara; the Doctor’s Clara). The Doctor knows who Missy is; UNIT return; and there are lots of explosions. The finale has A LOT to live up to, but if it manages to exceed expectations, series eight will go down as the best series since 2010’s sensational Smith debut. Here’s hoping.
As a side point, it’s scheduled for a 9:15PM showing, the latest showing of Doctor Who ever. It must be dark. Colour me intrigued.