In the Forest of the Night, is the 10th episode of Series 8, and takes it’s name from a line in the 1794 poem, The Tyger by Willam Blake.
The poem The Tyger, makes up a portion of Blake’s two part anthologies, Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience, and is a sister to the poem The Lamb.
This episode goes further than simply using the lines from the poem in its title, it also incorporates images from The Tyger and The Lamb to make up the story, with the innocence of The Lamb, embodied in some part by, Coal Hill’s class of Gifted and Talented children, Maeve Arden and The Doctor himself, and the fear featured in The Tyger, of man’s more primal concerns and ferocity, appears in the form of the forest of the title.
In the Forest of the Night was recently voted one of the most divisive episodes of Doctor Who, with fans either loving or hating the episode.
I have to admit myself, that out of all the episodes I have watched and covered so far, In the Forest of the Night, is the one that I have been the least looking forward to discussing.
Well stick with me and I will endeavour as ever, to give you my own highly opinionated, and always over thinking review of this particular episode.
In the Forest of the Night finds London over-run by a forest, which has sprung up over the course of a single night, and has covered most of planet Earth.
The Doctor and Clara Oswald are brought together in this singularly odd occurrence by a single thought and a missing child, Maeve Arden.
So far so simple, but that’s my main problem with this episode, from a fairly imaginative and simple beginning, the plot then opens up and attempts to cover jealousy, loss, death, escaped zoo animals, and of course betrayal.
The subject of betrayal is a motif that has loomed large for most of Series 8, and again, it makes up much of the emotional framework of this episode, because this is the one where Danny Pink finally finds out that Clara has been lying about still being in contact with The Doctor, and worst than that potentially, is that her first thought in times of trouble, is of The Doctor.
Who is Danny Pink?
Although Danny has appeared throughout most of Series 8, In the Forest of the Night is the first episode since The Caretaker, where we spend any extended time with his character.
So, who is Danny Pink?
Well, in this episode we learn that he’s a former soldier, who has changed his career to be a teacher, and who is currently dating Miss Oswald, wait, sorry, if I’m confusing you, I’m not discussing the episode The Caretaker, where we learned that Danny was a former soldier, turned maths teacher, who was in a relationship with Clara, this is episode 8 where we learn…STOP, this could go on, depending on what time zone you are reading this in, literally all day or night.
The point I’m trying to make, is that rather than expanding on the few details we have already been given/learned about Danny, we’re given no more information about his character, bar he’d rather stay on Earth than spend any time exploring space in The Tardis, because for him Earth still holds too many wonders.
The fact that Danny wants to spend his life with his feet firmly on the ground, and yet has chosen as his partner in that life, a woman who literally longs to be above the clouds, is an interesting plot point for both Mr Pink and Clara, however, and I really hope I’m not bursting any bubbles here, but In the Forest of the Night, is the last episode in which we will see Danny and Clara alive together, there’s more story for this pair to come, but only one of them will have a pulse in it.
The fact that we never really learn any more about Danny apart from the basics of former occupation, his real name being Rupert, that he grew up in a children’s home, and is now a teacher, is for me a huge missed opportunity, because unlike Rory Williams who grew and expanded over time as a character, we the audience, will only ever have this truncated time with Danny, and it’s not enough, over time we learn why Amy loves Rory so much, why two completely mismatched people will literally jump off a roof together rather than face the prospect of life apart, In the Forest of the Night gives us something of a replay of this idea, with Clara choosing to stay on Earth and die, partly because Danny won’t leave the children in their care.
But unlike Amy and Rory, Clara’s motivation and feelings for Danny never, in my opinion at least, ring true, not only do I not believe that Clara loves Danny, I also, more importantly, don’t know why Clara is in love with Danny.
Apart from Amy and Rory, the only other couple that has ever appeared for any extended period in NuWho is that of Rose Tyler and Mickey Smith, who again like The Ponds were an item before their travels with The Doctor.
In many ways The Ponds and Rose and Mickey start out in similar places in their relationships, having all been dating or at least friends since their shared school days, Rory and Mickey are also cast as the stable, and boring partners for our leading ladies, and while Amy learns just how much she loves and needs Rory, Rose chooses The Doctor over Mickey, and the pair become friends, rather than lovers, Mickey deciding to walk away from Rose because not only is it the best thing for him, but that he’s always felt that Rose was meant for better things.
Amy’s realisation that she loves Rory more than The Doctor, and Mickey’s acknowledgement that he needs to put himself first rather than Rose, are earned by Amy and Mickey over time, Danny however appears in Clara’s life as a flirtation, and then over a short space of time they jump in to all the dating, this isn’t a bad thing, Clara is a character who after Series 7b, desperately needed to be expanded with a life outside just The Doctor and The Tardis, and this expansion pack, at first with a new job, then a Dad, Step-Mum and Gran all seen briefly, and in Series 8, finally a boyfriend.
Before I fall any further down this particular rabbit hole, the point I am trying to make/slowly ramble towards, is that while it is nice to see Clara with a boyfriend, I don’t believe that Danny is that boyfriend for one moment, because I don’t know, or believe in Danny Pink as a character.
Now on with the rest of the review, and no more Danny Pink bashing I promise.
In many ways, In the Forest of the Night, looks and feels like an earlier Nu Who episode, and I could easily imagine The 9th Doctor with Rose, or 10 and Martha, or Donna exploring the forest of London.
Where this story differs particularly from any hint of the David Tennat Era, is with the interesting twist that the forest knows nothing of The Doctor, and that this is a plan devised by the planet Earth without need of The Doctor or his intervention, it is Clara, and her thoughts of The Doctor that bring him to the planet, and cause Maeve Arden to seek him out.
The Doctor, like Clara, Danny and the children, turns out to be just another witness to the main event, which is Earth saving itself.
Where this episode also differs from say, the David Tennant Era, is in Clara’s impossibly hard decision, to let her class of children die along with everyone else, rather than use The Tardis as a potential lifeboat, personally, I don’t agree with Clara’s choice here, and if I’m honest, it feels really out of character for her, and is yet another thing that jars and never quite rings true with this episode.
In conclusion, In the Forest of the Night, isn’t a terrible episode, it’s also not a particularly good or memorable one, it’s just bland.
There is a reason why I have devoted so much of this episode to discussing my issues with the character of Danny Pink, and it’s that in many ways, In the Forest of the Night, and Danny share the same blandness.
A forest appearing over night, all over the world, is an event that is both, as amazing, as it is terrifying to contemplate, yet the story which unfolds to us rings hollow, as hollow as Clara deciding to sacrifice herself to stay with her boyfriend.
In the end it all just happens…
I’m giving this a 5 out of 10, because despite all the blandness, the jokes manage to still be funny, and I particularly like the scene, where the children now in the safety of The Tardis begin to panic over the loss of Maeve Arden and The Doctor’s growing hysteria as the children hype him up.
Talking of bland, Clara, you’re only getting a 4 for your outfit, cute backpack aside.