Thursday, 23 October 2014

Doctor Who: In the Forest of the Night - Spoiler-Free Preview

Doctor Who: Series 8, Episode 10
In the Forest of the Night

Written by: Frank Cottrell Boyce
Directed by: Sheree Folkson

Broadcast Date: Saturday 25th October at 8.20pm on BBC One

Reviewed by Louis Rabinowitz for The Gallifrey Times

The Gallifrey Times have seen In the Forest of the Night and have put our spoiler free preview together.

The past two episodes of Series 8 have stuck firmly to the 'old school Who' remit - with creepy new monsters, a distinguishable threat and a generally large focus on the Doctor. This week's episode, In the Forest of the Night, couldn't be more different - and while the difference from the general tone of the series is often refreshing, the episode often comes unstuck in exploring the plot.

In the Forest of the Night certainly has a strong concept - in one night, trees overtake the Earth. It's an ambitious idea and the TV budget often holds the execution of the concept back - but overall it's an idea that's represented well visually, and fits nicely into the fairytale atmosphere of the episode. There's even a small throwback to the Russell T Davies days with a set of amusing news reports which at least lends some global scale to the events, but the whole concept feels perhaps a bit too large for TV.

The execution of the idea is somewhat mixed too - there's some lovely ideas and moments in there, but for every strong emotional moment there's an irritating moment where the plot goes off the rails. There's not much of a sense of threat either - while In the Forest of the Night clearly feels more child-friendly than recent episodes and therefore is somewhat justified in dialling down the threat level, it does often feel a little lightweight and inconsequential for chunks of its runtime; and when the threat does present itself, it's fairly standard and you'll have seen it plenty of times in science-fiction and in the show itself before. It's not the most 'plotty' of episodes, and the lack of any real threat robs the episode of any urgency.

There's plenty of strong material in the episode, however. The child actors are surprisingly good (if not particularly noteworthy) - there's a few moments where the children can get a little grating, but overall they're an endearing bunch who get a handful of genuinely amusing lines. Cottrell Boyce clearly has a talent for writing children, as they're far less irritating here than you'd expect - and Abigail Eames, who plays a key part as Maebh, is surprisingly strong; in an episode with several child actors, Eames stands out as the strongest performer.

After a few episodes with fleeting appearances, Samuel Anderson returns here in a slightly bigger part than usual as Danny Pink. Danny doesn't play an especially huge role in the story (save for one slightly improbable moment), but Anderson remains a solid performer - and the gulf between Danny and Clara's outlooks on life is highlighted in an interesting way that serves to flesh out Danny as a slightly more unique character. Whether Danny will play a large role in the finale is yet unknown, but Anderson cements himself here as a strong part of the ensemble.

Outside of the strong character work, however, In the Forest of the Night can be a little shaky. The third act in particular is poor, with a cheap resolution and a slightly clumsy eco-message - while Cottrell Boyce is to be commended for tackling important issues in Doctor Who in a way that hasn't been done since Vincent and the Doctor's take on mental illness, eco-messages are hard to pull off and there's a noticeably clunky moral to the story.

Overall, In the Forest of the Night is something of a heavily flawed masterpiece - there's some great character moments and in parts it's excellent, but the aimless plot and awkward resolution pull the episode down to 'average' level. It's an episode that'll heavily divide fandom - but with the two-part finale on the way, it's still a decent filler before the storm...

The Gallifrey Times Rating: 7/10
Thanks to the BBC for providing an advance copy for review.