In The Forest of the Night
Reviewed by Eddie McGuigan
If you go down to the woods today…
…you’re sure for a big surprise. Because London – and, indeed, The World™, has been transformed into the Planet of the Bushes as, overnight (in a world where no one works nightshift or goes out after bed time it seems), a forest has sprung up globally. What the hey!? I hear you ask. For lots of reasons.
If you go down to the woods today…
…you’ll never believe your eyes. Because the Doctor just happens to be in Trafalgar Square just as Clara and Danny are having a museum sleepover five minutes away with a bunch of bratty first years, one of whom has managed to sneak away, whilst no one notices, out of the museum and across the forest strewn terrain when, ten minutes later, Danny has to force his way out because the door is covered in foliage. So what the hey!? I hear you ask. For lots of reasons.
For every bear that ever there was…
…well, when I say “bear” I mean “wolves and a tiger that’s terrified of a torch then completely forgotten about… which is just as well because the CGI is embarrassing” have escaped from the zoo, but not, it seems, any other animal at all… and terrorize a pretty impotent Doctor and his new ward for, well, about, two minutes…
Actually, sod this. I can’t be bothered being creative. In The Forest of the Night is a plot holed bloody mess. It makes no sense, does nothing for any character development and even the very good Capaldi, Coleman and Anderson can’t pull this out of the “Bottom of the Series Poll Position”. I don’t know where to start, and neither, it seems, does writer Frank Cottrell Boyce who, in my opinion, doesn’t get Doctor Who as much as Jamie Mathieson does.
I mean, to put a positive spin on it, it’s more a “Matt Smith Magical Fairytale” type of episode than anything so far this season, and runs a mile from the much more Wholike horror of recent weeks. It says a lot about ecology, like a 70s hippy. It comments on Man’s propensity for destruction first questions later and it does at least refer back to Time Heist. But, to put it in perspective, it’s the third last episode this year – it’s in the Turn Left, Utopia spot… but, in fairness, it’s also in the Fear Her spot.
The forest effects are quite good. You do get a bit of an I Am Legend feel about the overgrown London feel, but it’s ridiculously quiet. Where is everyone going “What the hell is a giant forest doing everywhere!!!” Themes seem to begin then fizzle out and director Sheree Folkson tries, at times, to find neat little visuals with fish eyes lenses and a clever “look at all the worlds news” gimmick (and watch the conspiracy theorists when one of those news reports comes from Africa!), but is fighting against a script that goes down blind alleys and illogical paths.
When you get a writer of Boyce’s calibre, it can be a double edged sword. It can either be so far away from what’s required, but you don’t want to say so, that you end up with a messy puddle, or you have to rewrite it so extensively it loses a lot of its punch. In The Forest of the Night suffers from this, I feel. It’s got “things people think are in Doctor Who” but really aren’t, mostly. The Coal Hill “kids” are just bloody annoying, like a bad SJA adventure. There’s no real threat. The dénouement isn’t affected by any of the leads and, mortally, the Doctor is pretty defeatist and, well, like an unsharpened pencil, despite Capaldi being, as always, fantastic. The TARDIS seems to have a satnav too… eh? Since when?
I realise this review is all over the place, but so is the episode. Thinking back and looking at my notes, rewatching it twice, I still can’t make it properly coherent. There’s even a bus with an advert for the series itself on it! What the hey!?
The over all arc of the series is tacked on awkwardly too, to no affect at all, and the whole thing will be pretty much instantly forgettable.
Damn, I hate writing a bad review. I absolutely hate it.