Doctor Who: In the Forest of the Night
October 25, 2014 1:22 PM - Season 8, Episode 10 - Subscribe

The Doctor, Clara, Danny and a classful of children find themselves in a mysterious forest that has grown up in central London - and all over the world - overnight.

This is the episode by this season's guest star writer - Frank Cottrell Boyce, writer of Millions, many of Michael Winterbottom's films and the 2012 London Olympics opening ceremony. In the same vein of dreamlike fantastical as Kill the Moon.

(A stunning bit of continuity mess-up involving two mobile phones, too.)
posted by Grangousier (66 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
I just barely made it through that one. I have a low tolerance for dreadful stage school children, but amazingly the woman playing Maebh's mother made them look pretty good in comparison. Maybe the worst acting of the series? None of them were helped, of course, by some terribly clunky dialogue and very poor direction. Amateur hour all round.

The story itself didn't really work as a "dark fairy tale", which I guess is where it was attempting to sit. Clara talks about the primal terror of the dark forest, but you never at any point felt it. Or any other sense of jeopardy come to that. And then, just like in Kill the Moon, everything sorted itself out without our characters doing anything.

Two questions: 1) Are we supposed to be finding Danny so passive-aggressive and creepy, or is he just badly-written? 2) Was Maebh's sister actually dead and the trees built her a new one?
posted by sobarel at 2:05 PM on October 25, 2014 [8 favorites]


Was Maebh's sister actually dead and the trees built her a new one?

She ran away from home for whatever reason - perhaps related to a nasty divorce/split as conveyed by the mother's phone conversation. She was then living on the streets (conveyed by the state of her clothes as she stands up). She heard her sister and that helped her realise she should go home.

Basically it was a rather nicely done subplot I thought - not every (sub) story needs to be brute-forced. Sometimes its nice just to let the viewer fill in the blanks.
posted by garius at 2:43 PM on October 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


I thought it showed the worst parts of New Who: gorgeous setting with a plot that doesn't make sense, sciency babble, and underneath it a problematic message. I was willing at the beginning to forgive it because gorgeous but I just couldn't.

Apparently, you should stop taking the meds that stop you hearing voices because trees actually are talking to you?

And the whole "I just tell them they're the gifted and talented class to make them feel better" seemed really, really odd to me.
posted by BungaDunga at 3:13 PM on October 25, 2014 [7 favorites]


I just watched the end again. You can briefly see when Annabel stands up that she's got torn leggings, but I didn't get "living on the streets" from that. And if she just came home by herself, why is she peering out from inside a hydrangea that magically dematerialises around her while her tree-talking sister says "the thought of you came to me"?

I'm probably just being dense though.
posted by sobarel at 3:15 PM on October 25, 2014


I just watched the end again. You can briefly see when Annabel stands up that she's got torn leggings, but I didn't get "living on the streets" from that. And if she just came home by herself, why is she peering out from inside a hydrangea that magically dematerialises around her while her tree-talking sister says "the thought of you came to me"?

At first I thought Annabel had been hiding/living inside that bush the entire time she was missing as if it were a game of Hide & Seek that went into mega super overtime.
posted by Servo5678 at 4:24 PM on October 25, 2014 [3 favorites]


Loved it! Not one for the ages, but a great episode that reminded me that Doctor Who is at its heart a kids' show, and despite the occasional plunge into navel-gazing Grimdark can also just be a goofy romp.

High points:
Capaldi + kids is gold. The bit of camerawork where Capaldi is reduced to a wizened Scottish finger jabbing at Maebh and demanding whether she has a name was great, as was the Doctor's decision that the best way to figure out which kid was Maebh was to shout "Maebh!" at each of them individually until one of them reacted.

I'm generally not a child-actor fan, but I liked this bunch. "I'm getting stressed! And when I get stressed I forget my anger management!" cracked me up. I wish there'd been a payoff.

Clara and Danny are like Rory and Amy, but done... more right, somehow. It's a bit of a redux on the original "woman who is addicted to the TARDIS/adventure, more grounded and less adventuresome spouse" deal, but at least both of them seem a bit more real on this go-round.

Similarly, Danny in action was great, and the show isn't afraid to demonstrate that Clara is behaving in a less than stellar way and that her priorities are, to be blunt, kind of fucked up. In the abovementioned Amy-and-Rory dynamic, it was usually Amy the Adventurer and Rory the Wet Blanket until we had the 180' and Rory became the Undead Centurion or whatnot. Again, this feels like an improvement, and a bit of self-criticism that works for me especially leavened against high whimsy like this ep.

The Doctor is wrong! It's always nice to see the Doctor be dead wrong about something.

Less crazy about:
The notion that people with mental issues are tuned into a higher plane of reality/sages/etc. is just played out. Maebh could have been handled with a little Sonic Screwdriver action showing she was tuning into a different frequency without us being told that antipsychotics are bad.

I love a little mystery as much as anyone, but the Missy stuff is so opaque that it's stopped being engaging and is now just a bit annoying. Each appearance doesn't seem to add anything to the running plot, just repeats the same beat over and over, which isn't super helpful.

The B-plot of the missing sister was a super weird afterthought. I mean, it was fine and all, but... why? Why was that bit in there at all?

I'm wishy-washy on the premise:
I'm down with the goofy fantasy stuff -- trees can sense extraterrestrial threats and somehow draw on untapped resources to create a million zillion pounds of biomass in seconds to protect us from space threats? Sure! -- but I can see how it might be a little bit too far into A Wizard Did It for some.

This story could only be set on earth, but the marriage of something that all kind of understand (how trees work) with the basic premise could be a lot to swallow.

I mean, wrapping your head around this kind of hypothesis is as crazy as, I don't know, believing that taking a drop of something and diluting it a million times and then diluting that dilution a million times makes it a magic medicine. I can't wait for the Doctor to tackle that one.
posted by Shepherd at 5:14 PM on October 25, 2014 [5 favorites]


believing that taking a drop of something and diluting it a million times and then diluting that dilution a million times makes it a magic medicine.

It's Doctor Who not Doctor Woo.
posted by sobarel at 5:21 PM on October 25, 2014 [12 favorites]


This one was also fun in terms of it reminding us that it's still a show for all ages and some of those ages are younger than we are.

The Missy subplot is just jarring. Like, I know that this is our overarching arc towards the season finale, but it's been so weird, I can't even care. And aside from the Rani possibility (unlikely), this is the first time I am not actively wanting to speculate about what her dealie is.
posted by Kitteh at 5:45 PM on October 25, 2014 [2 favorites]


OK, maybe a stupid question, but where was the continuity mess-up with the phones? I thought I saw a mistake where Maebh's phone went from pink to white, but then I realized Clara had Maebh's pink phone in one hand and her own white one in the other.
posted by wintersweet at 7:07 PM on October 25, 2014


The Missy subplot is just jarring. Like, I know that this is our overarching arc towards the season finale, but it's been so weird, I can't even care.

It seems like they didn't want a season-long arc but felt obligated to have one. Missy in this episode especially felt totally out of place and tacked on at the end (since it's Halloween, her looking at the Earth on a monitor reminded me of a Kang and Kodos cameo on the Simpsons when they don't have anything to do but have to make their annual appearance)

They should have stuck to something like the "Vote Saxon" signs. It's enough to keep fans guessing online, but didn't detract from the episodes they were inserted.
posted by Gary at 7:57 PM on October 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm looking forward to something not set on Earth one of these days, you know?
posted by wintersweet at 8:00 PM on October 25, 2014 [4 favorites]


I don't even know what to say about the end or the premise of this episode. Was that terrible or really terrible? Perhaps I should ask: Was that better or worse than Kill The Moon? I think magical tree faeries edges out giant moon egg in the "oh please no no no" department.
posted by Catblack at 9:22 PM on October 25, 2014 [2 favorites]


I just want to know where everybody went. You can't just expect people to stay indoors because trees.

I'm also really relieved that the trees were sturdy enough to resist fire and form a global "air bag" (WTF?) but not sturdy enough to damage roads, houses, plumbing, bridges, people--except for a zoo, of course.
posted by Ik ben afgesneden at 1:07 AM on October 26, 2014 [8 favorites]


her looking at the Earth on a monitor reminded me of a Kang and Kodos cameo on the Simpsons when they don't have anything to do but have to make their annual appearance

Foolish earthling! Totally unprepared for the effects of time travel!
posted by Servo5678 at 1:13 AM on October 26, 2014 [2 favorites]


I thought this episode had its charms but: The trees'll make more oxygen which will be like a giant airbag? Urgh. (But at least the Moon didn't hatch!)

The kid's name was a massive clue. Forest of Arden anyone? Were the wolves named Pyramus and Thisbe? And isn't Maebh the queen of the fairies (AKA Mab)- her name was right up there with Remus Lupin in terms of giving the game away early, but rather enjoyable all the same.

I'm surprised the show is allowed to make cracks about famous soft drinks and lucrative music theatre pieces - they should make up fake ones and use more real science, or something.

The Missy sub-plot is giving me the pip, it had better be worth it.
posted by Coaticass at 2:50 AM on October 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


Some fantastic commentary on the Radio Times blog talking about the Blake and Shakespeare references, among other things.
posted by Coaticass at 3:42 AM on October 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


Philip Sandifer is, unsurprisingly, all over that.

I really love the fact that the episodes this season have been all over the place. Interestingly the place where the low budget lets it down isn't the effects, but the fact that the city ought to have had bewildered people wandering around in it - at that point it would have been a properly Mary Poppins story. It's become quite clear over a few episodes that allowing a character to speak adds to the cost enormously (note that the man-with-a-flamethrower is faceless and his dialogue is voice-over - not technically a speaking role).

I was going to go through the continuity glitch in detail, but that would be madness. Suffice it to say, there's one shot of the two or three that they're cutting between where the phones are in the other hands (pink in the right and white in the left rather than vice versa) so they keep jumping between hands. They've been heavily colour-coded in order to be distinguishable, so once I saw it I couldn't take my eyes off the phones. It's not really important, but it did prepare me to notice the shot in Sherlock: A Study in Pink (which immediately followed on BBC3) where Sherlock's on the right and John's on the left and for one shot, they're the other way round because, momentarily, we're seeing them in the driver's rear-view mirror. Which I'd not noticed before.

Anyway, not my favourite episode, but obviously someone's. That's what I like about this season - almost every episode is a candidate for someone's favourite.
posted by Grangousier at 3:57 AM on October 26, 2014


This episode felt a bit like a first draft to me; the potential was there but it needed a clearer sense of priorities and some restructuring to match them, followed by a polish or two. Overall I thought it was a mess, not unlike Clara herself--at this point she lies almost as much as the Doctor (maybe even more over the last few episodes). Can she not have a normal relationship?

I liked Millions and loved Cosmic, but I thought it was disappointing to see the author throw in the crack about Clara's appearance and the crack about Danny supposedly being a P.E. teacher. The absence of that last week was not a flaw.

Also, as someone who has struggled with depression for thirty years, the whole "mentally ill person actually just has a remarkably heightened view of reality" trope feels as overdone to me as it does patronizing. If what I've got is a remarkably heightened view of reality, then remarkably heightened views of reality can go to hell. On Amazon I see that someone claims that a character in one of his books is cured of depression by viewing a Renoir painting. This would suggest to me that either he has no personal experience with mental illness or that I need to visit the museum more often.
posted by johnofjack at 6:39 AM on October 26, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm surprised the show is allowed to make cracks about famous soft drinks and lucrative music theatre pieces - they should make up fake ones and use more real science, or something.

The digs at Coke and Les Mis were probably my favourite bits (which does say something about the episode I suppose) but I also liked the "Who do you want to talk to? Monty Don?" because of course the watching kids and international audience are going to be well acquainted with melancholic British gardeners.
posted by sobarel at 6:56 AM on October 26, 2014 [2 favorites]


As others have said, it was an enjoyable episode though not a great one. And, if we're all honest, that's pretty much par for Dr. Who, no matter which incarnation you claim fealty to. And, yes, this ep struck me as being distinctly a "kids" episode, which is perfectly fine and appropriate.

The dig at Coke really stuck-out as quite deliberate. Not sure what to make of that other than maybe a "teach the kids good food habits" moment in a kid's episode? I missed the Les Mis dig, though. Then again, I wouldn't have recognized it, either, as I'm the last person on the planet to not have seen the damned show.

And, then we have Missy. How this is going to pay-off is a real question mark. It's pretty obvious, though, that Clara is somehow under Missy's control and this is going to be the crux of the finale episodes. I just wish the breadcrumbs had been a bit more overt over the past episodes. Tacking Missy onto the last minute or two, and having here prattle some sinister lines about Clara isn't really selling me on wherever the finale might go. I'd much rather have seen some more direct involvement in the season. Though, I'm sure the finale will feature at least one scene where the Doctor exclaims "It all makes sense now!" and we're treated to a quick montage of "stuff that happened near-or-slightly-off-camera in previous episodes" that explain everything.

I will say, though, that the preview for next week looks interesting in that "Clara wasn't really Clara" way that a lot of people have been assuming all along.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:16 AM on October 26, 2014 [2 favorites]


I missed the Les Mis dig, though. Then again, I wouldn't have recognized it, either, as I'm the last person on the planet to not have seen the damned show.

You and the Doctor: "Even my incredibly long life is too short for Les Misérables."
posted by sobarel at 8:39 AM on October 26, 2014 [3 favorites]


I think we've just been served the "Fear Her" for the Capaldi era.

Any need for this to be set in London? I mean, if you want to do the trees taking over on a Doctor Who budget, maybe do it in place with a smaller population perhaps? Or hire a few extras?

Here's the production meeting synopsis:

Frank Cottrell Boyce: So the trees take over the earth!
Moffat: Great! But where's the threat with trees? Weeping Angels they ain't...
FBC: er....

1 week later

FBC: huge solar flare!
Moffat: That's ludicrous! How's the Doctor going to sonic that?

Another week later:

FBC: OK. The trees work like a fire blanket against the solar flare.
Moff: So we need to make the trees fire resistant and since nobody uses fire blankets anymore, let's call it an airbag. It's a convenient metaphor for this story too.
Sanity Checker: There's so much wrong with this story, I don't know where to start.
Moff: That's good, because we spent so much on that ludicrous golden arrow shot that we can no longer afford you. You're fired.
posted by Juso No Thankyou at 8:42 AM on October 26, 2014 [7 favorites]


For whatever reason I didn't have high expectations going into this episode and those lower expectations were met.

The minimal development of the Missy storyline has been a disappointment. What's been building seems pretty weak for what is coming next week.

Though, I couldn't help but notic that Missy's coat, hat and cameo directly call back to Eleven's costume.
posted by plastic_animals at 8:58 AM on October 26, 2014


Any need for this to be set in London?

Semi-recognizable landmarks to a reasonable portion of the worldwide audience? Other than, perhaps, Paris or NY, there aren't a whole lot of cities that would be recognizable, while covered by a forest, to a worldwide audience. And, it's doubtful Danny could have gotten on overnight museum stay to either Paris or NY approved.

Also, Coal Hill School is "located" in London (Shoreditch), so, it makes sense to keep it local-ish.

And, yeah, the lack of millions of people roaming around in the forest was obviously obvious. But not really a deal-killer.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:19 AM on October 26, 2014


And another thing: Could we have a moratorium on aliens/entities that have secretly been inhabiting Earth forever? That's a Big Idea and should really only be done once or twice in the whole series, IMO.

I don't understand why so many people on other sites are complaining about Danny Pink. I think he's interesting, there's obviously something more to his story, and he's good-looking, so what's to complain about? Anderson is doing a fine job as far as I'm concerned.

P. S. Thorzad, the Doctor, and me. (Though I missed the Monty Don thing and had to look it up just now.)
posted by wintersweet at 9:34 AM on October 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


Semi-recognizable landmarks to a reasonable portion of the worldwide audience

I liked the way a title came up saying London Zoological Museum when they were in the natural history museum (and then later they all stood by a sign that said Natural History Museum anyway), because presumably otherwise Americans wouldn't know where the natural history museum is, or what it is, yet then in the next couple of scenes felt the need to have everyone somehow simultaneously stood next to:

a red phone box
a tube sign
nelsons column
the london eye
tower bridge
the houses of parliament

I'm surprised they didn't then have the queen drive past in a double decker bus.
posted by dng at 9:43 AM on October 26, 2014 [7 favorites]


Multiple red phone boxes showed up. I was starting to expect the Inspector to pop out.

And there was a double decker bus in the background right off the bat...with a (mostly obscured) Doctor Who ad on its side. (I think this is just a funny little Easter egg, but of course, some people are losing their minds.)
posted by wintersweet at 9:49 AM on October 26, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm also really relieved that the trees were sturdy enough to resist fire and form a global "air bag" (WTF?) but not sturdy enough to damage roads, houses, plumbing, bridges, people--except for a zoo, of course.

Fun that Nelson's Column was a casualty but the paving stones aren't shifted a whit. But even if you buy the whole thing there's a mood problem; it was supposed to evoke the terrors of the dark, primeval forest but all they had to work with was a tame woodland with dappled sunlight.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:03 AM on October 26, 2014 [5 favorites]


Maybe I missed a lecture in Chemistry class, but I'm a bit bewildered that the safe response to a massive solar flare is "Oxygen! Lots and lots of excess oxygen!" That's rather the opposite of normal fire-control procedures. Okay, magic fairy trees aren't flammable, but plenty of other things are.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 10:25 AM on October 26, 2014 [6 favorites]


I haven't seen Les Mes either.

The forgetting thing is starting to bother me. It feels like a super power in much the same way as Clara feels her students were "gifted and talented." Which, BTW, was a shitty thing to do to kids, I thought. I'm sure the writers meant well but it came across as mocking or something.
posted by Ik ben afgesneden at 10:36 AM on October 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


The excess oxygen response was ridiculous. Was it intended as a sacrificial surplus that could be burned so that normal levels would remain after the solar flare hit?
posted by plastic_animals at 10:49 AM on October 26, 2014


It seems like they didn't want a season-long arc but felt obligated to have one. Missy in this episode especially felt totally out of place and tacked on at the end (since it's Halloween, her looking at the Earth on a monitor reminded me of a Kang and Kodos cameo on the Simpsons when they don't have anything to do but have to make their annual appearance)

This is how they've been doing season long arcs for a few seasons now--like, we'll just have the doctor stare at a screen in the last five minutes and contemplate the possibility of Amy's pregnancy and then later shoe-horn in an awkward plot around it.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:37 PM on October 26, 2014


Elements of the story strongly reminded me of Robert Holdstock's novel Mythago Wood. Anyone? (That's not a complaint, I thought the magic forest idea was lovely.)
posted by Coaticass at 12:48 PM on October 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


This is an edited comment from a discussion I had online with friends who, like me, are long time Whovians.

RTD was excellent at ratchetting up the drama so that The Doctor was the maximum hero at just the perfect moment when all hope is lost. This led into the Doctor being viewed as literally God by the end of his run, something the old show runners would have never, ever done.

But what's happening now is, (and you can read the AMA (or blog posts) from the writer of the Mummy and Flatland episodes for confirmation of this theory,) Moffat writes his stories based on a single good idea. It worked well back when he did his cheeky take on Jekyll, taking that idea and fleshing it out surprisingly well for 6 episodes. But for Doctor Who, he's taking a single idea, usually the title of the episode, and having some writer bludgeon that into a script. And once that idea is locked into the script, he thinks that the improbable, illogical, frustrating scraps left over for a resolution are a 'twist'. But they aren't, they are just bad show producing. Those cookies aren't done Moffat, they are clearly half baked!

I rewatched the Forests episode and the sub plot with the sister is literally mentioned twice before the 'resolution' at the end -- and it isn't mentioned in the 10, 12 second scene with the mum earlier in the episode. That's absolutely unforgivable for a top-tier heavily popular show.
posted by Catblack at 1:15 PM on October 26, 2014 [3 favorites]


Was it intended as a sacrificial surplus that could be burned so that normal levels would remain after the solar flare hit?

Yeah, they said that the fire would "burn out" on the oxygen buffer. I think the writers' thought-process was something like this: the sun was going to shoot out a certain amount of energy, and if they turned all that energy into fire before it hit the earth there would be none left. It was stunningly dumb. It might be the dumbest bit of science I've seen on this show.

This was a notably terrible episode. Too bad: I was hoping for a near-perfect season.
posted by painquale at 1:59 PM on October 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


It might be the dumbest bit of science I've seen on this show.

I was going to snark with Egg-Moon but that was presented as a goofy premise. The same goes for the golden arrow being a fitting end to a silly plot. With all the other hand waving at the end about everyone forgetting and making this a fairy tale, I'm not sure why they bothered trying to make the oxygen thing sound plausible.

I liked Millions and loved Cosmic, but I thought it was disappointing to see the author throw in the crack about Clara's appearance and the crack about Danny supposedly being a P.E. teacher. The absence of that last week was not a flaw.

Moffatt is the show runner and I'm sure gets a pass at all the scripts for continuity. If you don't like those lines I wouldn't blame the individual writers. At least the PE teacher remarks, as far as I can recall, have only come up in episodes where Danny has been smart and resourceful and generally pretty great. I think they're trying to do the same where Clara looks great and the Doctor puts her down, but it's really tiresome at this point and they keep going back to that well for a joke that didn't work the first time.
posted by Gary at 5:51 PM on October 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


Moffat shot for the moon and I don't think he landed in the woodpile, but it was not a victory. Its reach definitely exceeded its grasp. The kids were okay (occasional good cracks like anger management), the forest was pretty but not menacing, and the animals ... did not convince. We're definitely in science fantasy turf this season, so I could go with the nonsensical science.

I'm so very tired of the Danny/Clara/Doctor triangle, though. Clara is behaving badly, Danny is missing the point (with all the "interested in the wonders in front of him" talk--great, so you don't want to be a companion? maybe you and your girlfriend are just incompatible!) and I don't understand why the Doctor is putting up with this whole business. Here's hoping that the next season brings an alien of some sort for a companion, and some actual looking for Gallifrey.
posted by immlass at 5:55 PM on October 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


Danny is missing the point

He also - despite the whole "he'd never abandon those kids" stuff - completely fails to notice Maebh running away twice. Coal Hill should probably accompany school trips with more competent teachers in the future.
posted by sobarel at 6:09 PM on October 26, 2014 [3 favorites]


Danny is missing the point

He also - despite the whole "he'd never abandon those kids" stuff - completely fails to notice Maebh running away twice. Coal Hill should probably accompany school trips with more competent teachers in the future.

Yeah, I was puzzled that Danny and Clara were both at the front of the group when they were all going somewhere, rather than one of them being at the back making sure no one wandered off. It's like neither of them has ever taken a group of kids somewhere.
posted by johnofjack at 6:45 PM on October 26, 2014 [8 favorites]


Particularly since it's essentially impossible to go to London without a high risk of encountering such dangers as Cybermen invasions, Robot Yetis, Dalek battlefleets and performances of Les Misérables.
posted by sobarel at 7:17 PM on October 26, 2014 [11 favorites]


Particularly since it's essentially impossible to go to London without a high risk of encountering such dangers as Cybermen invasions, Robot Yetis, Dalek battlefleets and performances of Les Misérables.

At least they didn't camp out over a hellmouth in Wales.
posted by Ik ben afgesneden at 10:15 PM on October 26, 2014 [2 favorites]


I hated this episode so much. When I wasn't actively angry at it, I was bored. At one point I was sure that the show must nearly be over and it was only thirty minutes in.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:42 PM on October 26, 2014 [4 favorites]


This season is definitely the most problematic I've ever had with the show, and I've pretty much loved the majority of NuWho, each Doctor in particular, and shrugged off most of the RTD excess and dealt with Moffatt's demi-misogyny and other issues. I think my expectations for Capaldi were just too great; they only seemed to get the hang of writing for him halfway through. So now I feel like I have to rate the episodes on individual scales, e.g. characterization of the Doctor, and that just gets to be too much work.

Yeah, this was definitely rubbish science and sure, the development of the forested London idea fell deeply short. I wonder if it was the score that failed to sell the creepiness of the overgrowth, because I felt sun-dappled wasn't a wholly wrong choice there. And absolutely instances like the Doctor calling out Clara for thinking more about her relationship than, you know, the impending doom of the Earth point to lousy treatment of the characters. (But yes, maybe Danny and Clara just aren't meant for each other after all. Good point, immlass.) Still, I liked a number of bits quite well, such as sonicking a mobile to geolocate the owner of a contact stored on that mobile -- pretty sure the NSA can do this real time for Jack Bauer, so why not the Doctor? (Even if it seemed put there as another opportunity for a put-down.) The kids' acting didn't bother me much, more just the lack of individual agency, like a Shakespearean retinue waltzing on and off stage as needed. It wasn't a Doctor-lite show, but in a lot of ways it was definitely lite, and they feel the need to go back to the foregrounding-youngsters well a lot now that Clara is a teacher.

And yes, another vote for Earth having had more than enough species occupying it secretly since the dawn of time, and maybe a moratorium on that particular wrinkle.
posted by dhartung at 12:06 AM on October 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yeah this was a boring episode. It wasn't scary, and it wasn't interesting, and it wasn't that funny. This is an example of a writer having idea "London covered in trees!" and the show not having the budget to film it, with the cgi being particularly bad, and the throwaway line about staying indoors really not being enough to cover the obvious problem that London should be full of people. Also, what kind of stupid idea is it to burn down the trees? Its lucky they were bloody flame proof, as that would have led to a mass fire (they mention it is controlled, but wondering round with flamethrowers doesn't look super controlled to me.)

As others mentioned, apparently thre trees left all the buildings alone from London zoo (which, by the way, is not particularly close to Trafalgar Square so why the wolves and a tiger turned up I'm not entirely sure). So considering this happens every few centuries then everyone forgets about it, you could presumably spot the pattern by looking at when zoos spontaneously let all their animals out at once? And presumably lots of people died because the emergency services couldn't get there in time.

Urgh. All this would have been forgivable if there had been a sense of pace or... anything, but it all felt pointless, the children were mostly terrible, and the whole mental illness is magic thing was massively insulting. Worst episode of the season by a looooong way.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 1:05 AM on October 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think that perhaps the Doctor Who writers room ) need to hire someone whose whole and actual job is to sit in creative meetings and say "What?! No!". A professional naysayer.
(Essentially Marcia Lucas's old job)
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 4:05 AM on October 27, 2014 [3 favorites]


thre trees left all the buildings alone from London zoo (which, by the way, is not particularly close to Trafalgar Square so why the wolves and a tiger turned up I'm not entirely sure)

If we're going to do pedantic nitpicking (and, hey, that's what the internet is for) then I might also mention that London Zoo doesn't even have any wolves. Although the Doctor mentions this was in 2016, so maybe they get some in the next year.

Also, what kind of stupid idea is it to burn down the trees? Its lucky they were bloody flame proof, as that would have led to a mass fire

I think we can assume the Tories are still in office - this sounds like a continuation of their environment policy.
posted by sobarel at 5:04 AM on October 27, 2014 [4 favorites]


For all the weird science around excess oxygen (they should have just said that the special trees would shield humans against the radiation rather than the fire, much easier to bluff "weird, the sonic says the leaves are full of lead"), the government plan to burn down the forest was just bonkers. Plainly you'd burn down the entirety of London too. What idiot ordered that?
Had they gone with the radiation shield idea, they could have had a race against time to stop the UN/government/whoever from dropping defoliant over the cities. As it was they mentioned that but never did anything to stop it.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 5:36 AM on October 27, 2014


I think there are some wolves in reading.

If you're walking at wolf speed the whole way (8 to 9 km/h , loping pace according to google) it'll take you just short of 9 hours to go direct from the UK wolf conservation trust to Trafalgar square.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 5:36 AM on October 27, 2014


No one has mentioned that in the CGI, the entire Earth was covered in greenery ... including the oceans. I'm not entirely certain why that bothers me more than all of those trees appearing suddenly. I can fanwank an explanation, I guess.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:38 AM on October 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


Aglae and/or seaweed.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 6:46 AM on October 27, 2014


The possibility of wolves at the zoo was definitely the least convincing element of this episode.
posted by biffa at 6:51 AM on October 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


No one has mentioned that in the CGI, the entire Earth was covered in greenery ... including the oceans. I'm not entirely certain why that bothers me more than all of those trees appearing suddenly.

We noticed this and I definitely had an "ocean boiling BAD" moment when I saw it. But we were already in the "science doesn't work like that" zone, so it didn't bother me any more than the rest of the not!science did. The moon as an egg set my expectations to science fantasy without realism for the rest of the season.

(But yes, maybe Danny and Clara just aren't meant for each other after all. Good point, immlass.)

Danny as written and shown in the series has sent up so many red flags as an emotional abuser that it horrifies me to think that the show contemplates Clara going off with him. The Doctor has been a total jackass to Clara this season, but Danny makes the Doctor look good and reasonable and that scares me. I hope whatever payoff we're getting in the next two weeks makes Danny look better. The idea that the man we've seen is the best partner for any woman does more to make me side-eye Moffat's attitude toward women than his failures with women characters (River Song) ever could.
posted by immlass at 7:23 AM on October 27, 2014


I've mentioned a season or two past that I was just about ready for Moffat's time as show runner to be done. The one-two of this and Kill The Moon has established I'm well past that now. Show needs to be in the hands of someone else. They need at least a couple seasons of staying away from Earth entirely, dropping the now terribad straining for season arcs, and please give Capaldi better material to work with. That talent is drowning here.
posted by Drastic at 8:59 AM on October 27, 2014


I'd love to see the Doctor ditch Clara and Danny and take off to explore the universe with Disruptive Influence for a while. They'd make a great team.
posted by InfidelZombie at 9:04 AM on October 27, 2014 [6 favorites]


You know, one of the more frequent criticisms of RTD and Moffat was that their sci-fi plots were silly. And the Capaldi Doctor was going to "fix" that.

But this episodes rivals "Kill the Moon" as the silliest gibberish in all of NuWho.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:25 AM on October 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


I really didn't mind the moon hatching and I didn't think it was out of line for Doctor Who. (It's going to be hard for anything to be sillier than the Tardis dragging the Earth by chain to a new solar system or overweight people on diet pills exploding into little cuddly creatures made of fat.) But the trees creating an oxygen airbag really rankled me. I've been considering why the Moon and Forest episodes feel so different. I've decided that it comes down to a lot of reasons, but there are three main ones.

Firstly, Forest is set up as a mystery. The explanation about the trees creating a buffer is supposed to be the solution to the whole episode. It's the punchline. The moon hatching wasn't the punchline to the whole episode. After the first act, it was the premise around which the rest of the episode was structured. It wasn't presented to the audience as a cathartic explanation of all of the action.

Secondly, I don't think the moon being an egg is nearly as impossible. They said a lot of things in that episode that made very little sense (why was the mass of the moon increasing? how could the creature lay another egg of the same size?), but if you don't consider those issues, the premise itself is fine. I think you could probably write a decently realistic piece of sci-fi positing that the moon is an egg... and many people have before. It's a hugely implausible premise of course, but it doesn't outright contradict laws of science. There are no little niggles to wave away in the Forest episode, on the other hand. That premise is inconsistent with everything that everyone knows about anything, and it is rotten to the core.

Thirdly, the Forest explanation feels stupid. It relies on a really naive conception of fire, so whether or not this was the case, it feels like it was written by some idiot who has no idea how fire works. I'm not really prompted to make any judgments about the writers of Kill the Moon: they clearly knew how brash they were being. But I've now increased my subjective probability that Frank Cottrell Boyce is an incredible dummy.

Also, Forest was just boring. Kill the Moon had lots of fun bits. I liked the geriatric Keystone Kosmonaut.
posted by painquale at 2:38 PM on October 27, 2014 [3 favorites]


Out of curiosity, if it turns out next week or the week after that this season has mostly taken place somewhere like The Land of Fiction - the tip-off being The Doctor's suspicion regarding the actuality of Robin Hood and the greenness of Sherwood Forest - to what extent would people be disappointed and to what extent relieved (that we weren't to expect egg moons and instant forests from the "real" world)?

I'm assuming that angry and disappointed would win out because it's so fashionable these days, but some relief, surely?
posted by Grangousier at 5:43 PM on October 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


Out of curiosity, if it turns out next week or the week after that this season has mostly taken place somewhere like The Land of Fiction

I don't think they should bother. "Listen" would make even less sense, and I wouldn't mind seeing The Boneless return. The nice thing about Doctor Who is they have good stories and bad stories and only really move forward to tell new stories. Trying to retcon things to have them make sense is a path that only leads to more retcons and a really convoluted back story that only the biggest fans can explain or care about.
posted by Gary at 6:05 PM on October 27, 2014


Is angry and disappointed fashionable? Really?

But yes, I'd be angry and disappointed. I'd feel like the authors weren't trying, and didn't care, and held the viewers in contempt. That's undoubtedly because of my disinterest in and weariness of metafiction, which I think is frequently done badly and rarely done well.
posted by johnofjack at 6:05 PM on October 27, 2014


I'm wondering why this wasn't a problem handed off to U.N.I.T.. Surely they haven't gone the way of Torchwood.

I think that perhaps the Doctor Who writers room ) need to hire someone whose whole and actual job is to sit in creative meetings and say "What?! No!". A professional naysayer.
(Essentially Marcia Lucas's old job)


Interesting thought. There has been a remarkable turnover in producers during Moffat's tenure. They are in the best position to be a naysayer.
posted by ZeusHumms at 6:54 PM on October 27, 2014


It wouldn't make those episodes any better in retrospect. I'll buy any crazy concept as long as it's done with verve and elan, and at least a bit of internal consistency. Add in a touch of wit and some character development and I'm a happy bunny.

I mean "invasion of the 2D aliens" isn't any more plausible than "a forest covers the earth overnight" but it was just a better constructed and written episode.
posted by sobarel at 6:55 PM on October 27, 2014 [3 favorites]


Surely they haven't gone the way of Torchwood.

i see what you did there.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 1:55 AM on October 28, 2014


This was a so so episode for me. I continue to like Capaldi's Doctor, but in this case, I really felt that he was left grasping with a poor script. His confusion over not being in the center of London because he apparently looked out the door, was kind of underwhelming. The Doctor would have pulled up a map with the TARDIS equivalent of GPS, at least, and then at least wandered why his map was also messed up. He would have done so much more than scowl at the trees and complain his TARDIS wasn't working right.

I doubt it was intentional, but it was extremely funny watching the little girl run through the woods waving her hands at invisible things in the air like she was crazy. It felt like some random comedy bit, like the kid in Men in Tights who ran around screaming and waving his arms.

Yes, Virginia, tigers can be run off with a flashing light. There you go.

I had hoped there would have been a darker wood with more throwbacks to the fairytale fantasy, but the best we got were a few short references and a momentarily Red Riding Hood joke. I guess it would have contradicted the "science" of the episode or something, who knows. Additionally, the special tree ring on the stump cut out makes no sense since the magical trees all vanished after doing their job.

I wasn't even aware, due to how little the B plot of the missing sister was mentioned, to realize it even existed and found the end extremely random. "Oh, some girl just appeared in a bush with bright eyes...and everyone is happy. Well then. Good."

I consider this episode probably my second least liked episode of the season.
posted by Atreides at 7:15 AM on October 29, 2014


From kasterborous.com: Is In The Forest of the Night actually work of genius?

Spoiler: The author doesn't make a strong case.
posted by plastic_animals at 7:29 AM on October 29, 2014


"It felt like some random comedy bit, like the kid in Men in Tights who ran around screaming and waving his arms."
That part of Men in Tights wasn't too random, it was making fun of Home Alone, when Kevin freaks out. So if anything it felt more random in this episode since it wasn't supposed to be slapstick comedy. It should have been swatting at specific, unseen things instead of wild flailing at everything.
posted by Green With You at 11:21 AM on October 29, 2014


I have to admit that I didn't understand how or why that bush (which presumably was the neighbours' bush that her parents hated?) turned into the missing sister. Had she run away with the golden glowing creatures, or got lost and been found by them, or something? Or was it just another "this makes emotional sense, don't question it!" moment?

The "oxygen exhausting the flames" bit is especially frustrating because every kid who knows that trees produce oxygen also knows that trees "eat" sunlight. Why not just have the trees absorb the solar storm (possibly with hand-waving toward magic-super-chlorophyll to absorb the higher energies), saving humanity whilst drinking in sweet, delicious sunlight, and the BBC orchestra provides an overwrought but life-affirming swell in the background? We see exactly the same shot of the flare hitting the green earth (why are the oceans green? Magic-super-chlorophyll!), the trees return to their contented slumber, the Doctor can notice that the atmosphere is a bit cleaner if you want to shoehorn an environmental message in, and absolutely nothing in the story needs to change.

I'm not arguing that the show has a responsibility to teach kids real science. However, the idea "oxygen doesn't burn but is necessary for burning" is already pretty weird for a lot of kids, and presenting this episode's sciencey crap in the same breath as trees making oxygen (which kids recognise as being from their science lessons) seems pretty irresponsible. Time travel and giant spider-bacteria are ridiculous enough to be fine,* but this is close enough to a confusing idea that I think it's a bit irresponsible in a kids' show.

*I won't deny that I cringed hard at the giant-space-spider-bacteria, but that's just because I'm a biology geek with absolutely no sense of fun.
posted by metaBugs at 12:16 PM on October 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


« Older Star Trek: Balance of Terror...   |  The West Wing: And It's Surely... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments