Starring: Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman
Airs Oct 25
Review by Cameron K McEwan
Inititially, this quirk emphasises the lighter side of the episode but, as the darker elements of the story develops, and the mystery becomes clearer, the camera gives weight to the fear and the danger. Folkson is to be congratulated for her vision and her boldness. A boldness which one feels, came from the spirit and heart of the script.
Speaking of which, the other newbie (though hardly new to the world of television and film), Frank Cottrell-Boyce has done, what I refer to as, a “Richard Curtis”. Older readers may remember Vincent and The Doctor from the Four Weddings and a Funeral writer – a beautiful, brave and touching story, with a message deep in its core. Well, Cottrell-Boyce has mirrored this.
On the surface, Forest is a story about the world being taken over by trees while the human race face obliteration. And, I’m sure, that will be enough for some viewers. But there is so much more going on, rumbling beneath (not very far, I should say) from the top.
Again, without wanting to spoil, Maebh’s story is heartbreaking at times, joyous at others; “I haven’t phoned home, but I know my mum is worried about me,” she stoutly informs The Doctor, who merely looks on, speechless bested by the wisdom of his new companion.
How we treat children affected adversely by the world around them is examined in a very moving fashion and, I have to admit, this tale may well evoke tears from its audience (well, those with a heart anyway). For me, it’s the first time this series when I’ve felt so touched by the story and characters involved.
In tandem, there’s also ecological themes being addressed and one cannot help but be reminded of 1970s Doctor Who when each week the social politics of the UK were being dissected. Here, however, it’s on a global scale and, as with the other issues, sensitively and prudently handled. Like the aforementioned director, Frank Cottrell-Boyce is also to be congratulated hugely for his mightily impressive debut.
As emotional as the episode is, there’s still a bucket-load of adventure in here – “Stars grow cold, planets implode. Catastrophe is the metabolism of the universe!” proclaims Peter Capaldi on the realisation that this battle may already be over, adding, “I can fight monsters, I can’t fight physics.” Great lines and delivered in a very Doctorly fashion. The Scotsman’s interplay with Maebh, perfectly played by Abigail Eames, is utterly delightful. Like with Courtney earlier this series in The Caretaker and Kill The Moon, Capaldi shows his Time Lord can spark off with the most unlikely of people.
Seeing him with Coal Hill’s so-called “gifted and talented” is a joy; his child-awareness amusing in the extreme. A particular standout from the children is the fantastic Harley Bird, who plays know-it-all yet forever worrying and panicy Ruby. In a line reminiscent of Lisa Simpson’s MTV generation comment, “We feel neither highs or lows,” Ruby says of the new world they find themselves in, “There was a forest, there wasn’t a forest – nothing surprises us any more.” Pfft, kids these days, huh?
Elsewhere in the story, we get a glimpse into the increasingly emotionally scaterred pysche of Clara. Next to The Doctor she may seem normal, but when you place her next to Danny, a very human and caring person, we begin to see how her outlook on life has been changed and how her priorities are vastly different to her fellow teacher. It’s a stark reminder how different she is to your regular Earthling.
In The Forest Of The Night may well feel and look like a fairytale but it’s anything but. It’s firmly grounded in reality and real issues. The children involved are a smoke screen for themes which the adult audience will savour and ponder whilst the mystery and its superb resolution will keep you hooked and satisfy greatly.
And your heart may just beat a little stronger too.
I'm relieved to hear that you think the episode is something special. I honestly didn't have particularly high expectations from the promotional stuff I'd seen, but going by your review the episode at least sounds like it has higher aspirations than just being a serviceable filler. I shouldn't really be surprised, Series 8 has been incredible so far, even my least favourite episodes have been simply average as opposed to necessarily bad. If the final two parter can keep up the quality (and by the looks of things, it will) I think series 8 will be a definite candidate for the best of New Who.
This review sets my mind at ease. I was worried about this being another Nightmare in Silver, which was mortally wounded by the presence of the two kids and never recovered. I've nothing against kids being in the show, unlike some folks (no problem with Courtney at all) but I was worried by the Next Time promo that the Doctor was about to start running a chartered bus service out of his TARDIS. Glad to be wrong.
The only things that bothered me about Nightmare in Silver was its rushed pace, which was the second worst of series 7, just behind The Power of Three, and the hardware upgrades per software updates, which make no freaking sense in my head.
It's actually my favorite episode of series 7 all things considered, but it became that only after I saw it for the third time(!). When you get used to the story's flaws, and realize more of the good things about it, it becomes better in your mind. It did so in mine, anyway. 😉 Still, it should have been 15 minutes longer…
About next week's episode: Third Doctor stories often had a message, especially those of Malcolm Hulke, so I look forward to how it will be handled here. It sounds intriguing. Still, my expectations aren't especially high, which they haven't been for most of this series, which helped me to feel positively surprised with almost every new episode. Let's hope the trend continues. 🙂