8.10 – “In The Forest Of The Night”
Clara and Danny take a group of “gifted” students for a sleepover at the Natural History Museum in London, only to wake the following morning and discover that the whole of London has become overgrown with trees. But it’s not just London, as The Doctor soon discovers; it’s the entire planet.
If I was in a cruel mood, I’d probably find it quite easy to dismiss “In The Forest Of The Night” as a piece of filler designed to tide us over before we get to the two-part series finale, where all of the interesting shit always happens. But having watched the episode and mostly enjoyed it (as well as having fun spotting all of the William Blake references), I’m inclined to be a bit more generous towards it’s lightweight nature. There’s also a nice little message tucked away amongst the foliage instead of being forced down your throat.
Playing out with a fairytale atmosphere, “In The Forest Of The Night” is the story of a planetary invasion with a twist; rather than the Earth being plagued by some alien menace or transdimensional beings, nature itself is apparently rising up in rebellion. Overnight, the entire planet has become swamped by trees of all varieties, turning the Earth into one giant forest.
There’s the usual running about as The Doctor and Clara attempt to figure out what’s really going on, with the assistance of a young girl named Maeb who for some reason is able to hear the voices of the trees. When they realise that the trees can’t be destroyed it starts to look as though the forest will become a permanent addition to the world, that is until The Doctor looks in Maeb’s school book and sees that she’s drawn a picture of the sun burning the Earth up. Investigating further, The Doctor discovers that a solar flare is going to hit the planet and destroy everything.
Okay, so science is pretty much meaningless in this episode, as solar flares do not work that way. As it turns out, the trees have grown up to protect the planet, not invade it, so that when the solar flare hits the excess oxygen the trees have created will be burned away by the flare and the Earth will be safe. Again, not science. Not even close.
But that’s alright; this is very much a fairytale episode, with the emphasis being on the ideas, specifically that people should’ve trusted a little more and feared a little less (the government for example immediately attempts to burn the trees, only to find that they are impervious to fire). It’s a fine message, one that isn’t slapping you about the face and trying to make you feel bad. It’s a positive idea.
But despite good performances all around and the subtle message…yeah, this isn’t an episode that I’d ever watch again. It’s enjoyable enough but it certainly doesn’t rank amongst the most memorable of stories.
“In The Forest Of The Night” is a fun little pit stop before we dive into the more serious drama of the series finale and, for the most part, it works just fine. Lightweight, sure, but diverting and enjoyable nevertheless. And for once I didn’t recoil in abject horror at the performances of the child actors! A curiously watchable 5/10.
Written and edited by Richey Hackett