Another poor filler from Nu Who this week, with In The Forest Of The Night and whilst it wasn’t Kill The Moon bad. It was pretty bad. Luckliy, there was no Iggle-Piggle or Tongli-boos popping up in the Night Forest.
Following a school-sleepover in the Natural History museum. Danny Plank and his band of 12 year-olds, stumble into a forest which has mysteriously just grown up in Trafalgar Square – overnight.
Meanwhile, the Doctor and Clara arrive in the Tardis and are approached by one of the school’s missing group; 12 year-old Maebh, who hears voices and knows what is going on with the forest.
In The Forest Of The Night has an interesting concept at heart and an idea which is not utilised to its full capacity. The twist being that the trees haven’t grown up everywhere to harm us but to protect humans from a massive incoming solar flare.
As far as concepts go, this plugs back into the old Who concept of an antagonist or monster which actually turns out to have benevolent aims at heart. So is buying into a staple Old Who plot-twist, which the new series has used aswell. I.E. Spacewhale, etc.
The problem is, whilst the concept of a flea inside the moon in Kill The Moon was just too OTT and fantastical to believe in. Then the playing out of trees protecting humans against a huge solar flare, is just not fantastical enough to be interesting.
Who walks a fineline in this regard, especially where the stories relate to the Earth – a point of reference we are all familiar with. Another Earth-threatened story so soon after the lunar-flea was a big ask and frankly not needed.
Also, in Kill The Moon I got so angry watching the one-dimensional and poorly written teenage Courtney character. Which considering the fanbase, was odd to say the least as to why they couldn’t write a decent young character part.
This weeks group of kids where thankfully less annoying and had a couple of good angles (Samson the bully and Maebh) but were no really given enough to develop anything approaching useful characters.
Most of the screentime available belonged to Maebh. They didn’t really make anything of her “gift” and I felt no emotional inpact when her oft-mentioned missing older sister reappeared at the end. They spent more screentime featuring scenes of Maebh’s mother trying to find Maehb, when perhaps a flashback to Maebh and her older sister might have helped.
The fairy tale nod of Little Red-Riding Hood, was cleverly played when Maebh ran into the only thing presenting a tangible monster in this; a bunch of London Zoo escaped wolves. They should have made a bit more of this threat; instead of the CGI Tiger, which chased all of the Wolves away and looked really fake. The invisible tree sprites – were less effective.
I feel for Capaldi at the moment – with 3 episodes of dirge filller (from 4) under his belt. He really deserves better stories than this and he needs to come back into the limelight and take the spotlight back from Clara.
It has been painfully obvious this season that anchoring the show around Clara, has not worked as hoped. No doubt, it was intended to give the Doctor his illusive mystery back and present Clara as his conscience and moral compass (as Capaldi’s Doctor has not displayed any of these attributes yet!).
However, Clara has been precociously annoying and the Danny Plank “3 is a crowd” subtext, is threatening to derail any good work this season. By undermining the very thing that is supposed to make the show tick; the Doctor and companion relationship.
Finally, watching season 8 unfurl – it generally niggles that most of the episodes feel like a mish-mash of recycled ideas from previous Nu-Who repackaged together. Are the writers running out of steam?
In The Forest Of The Night could aswell have taken direct inspiration from 2012’s Xmas special The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe for a living intelligent forest (just as Mummy On The Orient Express played like 2007’s Voyage Of The Damned and Deep Breath borrowed the Robots from 2006’s Girl In The Fireplace.)
The only real good thing about last night’s episode was the end and the preview of next week’s season finale 2-parter. However, a word of caution. As where Moffat’s concerned, Who might just be about to turn all of season 8 on it’s head with a huge dose of timey-whimey undoing everything nonsense.
BBC1 – 8:35pm- Saturdays