Truth to tell, I'm not really certain how I feel about "In The Forest Of The Night". The best thing I can say is that I have very positive feelings about it, because there was an awful lot to like in the episode. I'm just not sure I liked the episode.
Firstly, an episode with a bunch of kids is always tough, though Doctor Who
has always had a pretty good run with child actors, and this episode featured a fairly good group, with three stand outs - Abigail Eames as Maebh, Ashley Foster as Bradley and Harley Bird as Ruby. Bird, of course, is the voice of Peppa Pig
, one of my favourite litttle kid shows (seriously, if you've never seen it, you should - it's surprisingly hilarious), but she is a great little actress and made Ruby very likable. Foster's character, sadly, doesn't quite get as good as you suspect he should, despite a nice build up. Eames spends most of her time with Capaldi, and there's a nice contrast between her and the twelfth Doctor, who is somewhat tolerant of Maebh - interesting given how wonderful Matt Smith's eleventh Doctor was with little kids. Clara and Danny continue their relationship; Clara swinging back and forth in this episode between wanting Danny's loving life and her addiction to the adventures she has with the Doctor. Like a true addict, it's hard to imagine her not choosing her addiction over her family. Though the next time trailer suggests something maybe a little more odd...
I wanted to check something on this episode, and as I sat down to do so (the title theme is out of synch with the sequence), I ended up watching the entire episode again. A second viewing has changed my mind, and made me decide that I quite like the episode. It's not a simple plot and a second viewing makes things a lot clearer. The existence of a an ancient species on Earth that (is?) can control the trees is probably the biggest hurdle that the script requires of us, although there is still the question of how Maebh knows all that she knows. How can she pick up the thoughts of Clara and know that a solar flare is coming? Is that because of the creatures, or is that natural to her? These aren't really perplexing questions, but it would be nice to know the reason behind them.
The most annoying part of the episode, however, is Maebh's older sister. It's completely unclear why she disappeared, why she turned up again in the bushes and what the point of that part of the story was anyway. Seeing at it was mostly redundant, I can let it pass, but regardless it's a slightly annoying end to an otherwise enjoyable episode.
The plot holes mean that this episode will never be a five star event, but for the most part the sum of the parts are entertaining enough to overlook the disappointing whole. New director Sheree Folkson (a woman!) does a pretty good job for a director who has little effects experience. She frames the episode very well, though I can only imagine it must have been quite a learning experience given the sheer volume of CG that has gone into this. Perhaps that's the reason this episode was the final one in the series filmed. Regardless, Folkson should definitely return, and another script from Frank Cottrell-Boyce would be appreciated as well (though if Moffat and his script editors relaxed on the criticism because of Cottrell-Boyce's pedigree, they really can skip that next time round).
I don't think this is the weakest story of the series, but unfortunately, coming after what was probably the best, and heralding a particularly exciting-looking story to come, "In The Forest Of The Night" feels a little like a disappointing middle child. Definitely worth a watch, though.
If you're interested in my review for "Flatline", it's here: enterpriseofgeeks.blogspot.com…