Doctor Who is nearing the finale with an episode with many interesting ideas, and maybe not the best execution.
Overnight, the entire world is covered by billions of tree, and the Doctor must discover why.
"In The Forest of the Night" is the type of episode, unlike "Kill the Moon," to make an outlandish premise work. Of course, there are many logical issues with tree growing everywhere, as well as several other dumb moments, but it is far from a bad episode, just not a great one.
As usual, Peter Capaldi is exceptional as the Doctor with a slightly less grumpy attitude in the episode. Jenna Coleman continues her excellent performance as well, with Clara and the Doctor getting along rather brilliantly. In fact, Clara is almost more Doctor-like than the Doctor himself in the episode with her telling the Doctor to leave in the TARDIS, and to save those they can, not everyone, although that was Clara lying, which is another trait of the Doctor. At this point in the series, Clara’s progression from disagreeing with the Doctor's methods to embracing them is an excellent character transition.
Moving back to the plot, the Doctor lands in the middle of London, where a little girl, in Red Riding Hood-esque clothing, named Maebh, is running from something. Early in the episode, one would expect dark monsters in the forest type story, yet that is not the case. Aside from the zoo animals, there is not much threat in the episode. While this is not exactly a bad thing, it would have been better if even the zoo animals seemed legitimately threatening. Speaking of the animals, the scene where Danny saves the Doctor, Clara, and Maebh from the tiger starts out fine, but after saving them, everyone acts as though everything is perfectly safe. Sure, they are zoo animals, but they are still killers lurking around them! Yet everyone just acts like everything is just fine and dandy!
Conceptually, the entire planet being covered by plants is rather unique. It would be a very interesting idea for a disaster flick where the plants are actually trying to takeover the planet. In the episode, the concept is executed well enough, and even though Frank Cottrell Boyce's screenplay felt a bit childish at times (not surprisingly since he writes children's books), he managed to just pull it off.
One notable positive and several negatives are the children. Abigail Eames as Maebh is rather excellent as a child that is not so annoying that she ruins the episode. In fact, her scenes are rather strong all around, especially how the Doctor says something about her being able to see the glowing creatures due to her medical problem. The Doctor’s interaction in general with her is great; especially considering how painfully annoying Courtney was in "Kill the Moon." Early in the episode, I actually thought that Maebh directly caused the world to be covered in forest, and that she somehow controlled in a Haruhi Suzumiya-esque fashion (no one is going to get this reference), although that is not actually the case in the end, which is probably for the best. As for the rest of the children, why do they have to be so obnoxious!
Danny Pink continues to be a highlight of the series with even more excellent dialogue, and general likability of his character. However, I am still wondering if Danny is going to actually travel in the TARDIS at some point during the coming finale episodes. Thus far, he seems to have no interest in doing so after his very well written speech about his time as a soldier.
Thematically, the episode referenced many fairy tales like “Little Red Riding Hood” and “Hansel and Gretel,” which gave the episode a bit of a whimsical feel and tone, and it worked. Other thematic elements included the clichéd "save the trees," although the episode managed to not make it annoying either. Also, the series featured a callback to "Kill the Moon" with the Doctor's dialogue with Clara, which you can see below.
At the end, the Doctor's speech about how humanity will forget about the trees growing everything is odd. It had nice sentiment with a satisfying conclusion of the themes, but did the Doctor mean people would forget metaphorically or actually forget, because, unlike ancient times, there are videos and news reports about the trees; no one is going to forget this!
Lastly, the strange light bugs that protect the earth resurrect Maebh's sister. So, basically, these things can bring people back to life out of thin air.... Going back in time to save someone's life is one thing, but if Fullmetal Alchemist has taught us anything, bringing people back from the dead is never a good idea, haha.
EDIT: Apparently, Maebh's sister was only lost, not dead.
Overall: 7.5/10- Riding the fine line of disaster and success, "In The Forest of the Night" is able to just barely make the outlandish plot work thanks to strong performances and satisfying thematic elements.
Please check back tomorrow or Wednesday for my review of Godzilla.
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