Doctor Who - Series 8, Episode 10: In The Forest of the Night

Doctor Who

We look back at Series 8 ahead of series 9 premiere with our Who guru, Steve Hendry. Here WG delivers the last word on In The Forest of the Night AND the first word on the Dark Water trailer...

Doctor Who has used foliage as an occasional enemy pretty well over the years. The Seeds of Doom is pretty much unbeatable, but the Vervoids were impressive during their four episodes in Trial of a Time Lord, along with the Forest of Cheem’s delegates in The End of the World. So it was with much enthusiasm that I sat down to this week’s episode, this being heightened by the impressive shot of Nelson’s view from atop his column just before the opening titles. The rest of the story was a lot like Delta and the Bannermen, in that it’s thoroughly enjoyable as a sum of its parts but shouldn’t be deconstructed and examined, for its own good.

It really is a curious case, this one. The extended dialogues that have been a feature of this season, helped by the streamlining of supporting casts have worked extremely well for the 45-minute format. Yet this week that’s abandoned in favour of pointless plot elements like Annabelle and Danny Pink. The kids could have been a lot worse, yet what was the point of them, really? It looks as though Jenna Coleman won’t be around for season 35, which on one hand is a shame. On the other it offers Steven Moffat the chance to slam shut the door on companions’ goings-on outside of their travels in the TARDIS. There simply isn’t the time to accommodate their dating, jobs and the like. I’ve been trying to put my finger on why I’ve become increasingly disenchanted and disengaged with this element of the show, and I’ve concluded that it’s those type of workaday factors I use Doctor Who to escape from. The tragedy is that Coleman and Peter Capaldi’s double act has been phenomenal, and could have been even better had it been allowed to flourish, unimpeded by extraneous elements. If you haven’t watched season 13 for a while, go and treat yourself. Then think how much better it could have been if Sarah-Jane nipped off for a meal out with some chap during Terror of the Zygons.

The Great Fire of London, Pompeii and Agatha Christie’s disappearance among others have all been explained over the years by Doctor Who, with brilliant pseudoscientific details and plot development. The Tunguska Blast was an actual, real world event that still has experts scratching their heads, and its mention in the script was a neat piece of work. There are some really cool touches like this and great visual stuff like the perfectly 1:1 scale replica of a Trafalgar Square lion that counterbalance the pointless bits. The Doctor not being entirely in the know the second he opens the TARDIS door has been a refreshing feature this season, and that continued here. It’s not quite like having the Randomiser plugged in to the TARDIS console, but that feeling of sharing the unravelling of a mystery along with The Doctor can’t be beaten.

Typically for a penultimate story in a season of Doctor Who, the post-episode online chatter has been more about the ‘next time’ trailer, rather than the episode itself. My kids were jumping around the front room with glee at the flying Cybermen. I honestly don’t know where they get it from. Actually I do, and I had better level with you ahead of next week and tell you I love all this kind of thing. The nods to Tomb of the Cybermen and The Invasion, Lethbridge-Stewart and Osgood, Missy, the angry Doctor and FLYING CYBERMEN all get my juices flowing. As great as Moffat’s season finales have been, in their own way, I have missed the spectacular nature of RTD’s. Day of the Doctor seems to have awakened Moffat’s inner Russell though, and hopefully the next step is to have the old master back to write an episode or two next year. So, yes, this week gets my seal of approval. If it didn’t get yours, I strongly suggest you pause and rewind Capaldi saying “Trees!” over and over until you see sense.

Image - BBC.