The latest episode of Doctor Who, In The Forest Of The Night, is full of adventure and good old-fashioned fear. This was a very tightly written episode. Unlike the first few episodes of this season, the viewers, just like the children, are treated as intelligent beings. We are not spoon fed every morsel of information. We are allowed the freedom to find the little nuggets of social commentaries and moral story lines on our own. These are fun extras which add to the experience, without taking away from the main plot of saving the world.
Doctor Who Spoilers Ahead!
Right away we are introduced to London with the same deep internal fears which begin many great movies and childhood stories. A little girl, we later learn her name is Mave, is lost in the woods. She has ran away from a school trip supervised by Danny and Clara. She is seen running through the woods, brushing something away from her face and head. (Her coat is red. Remember this coat, it will be important for a later scene.) The frantic running, the deep woods, and the dark music, sets the stage for a horror flick in motion. In a normal movie the evil doer would have chased her down, but, instead, Mave finds the TARDIS and proudly announces she is looking for The Doctor. The fear and tension are decreased with a well placed joke from The Doctor. After stating he is The Doctor, he promptly asks, “Do you have an appointment? You need an appointment to see the doctor.” When she tells The Doctor she is being chased, he allows her in the TARDIS. When Mave enters the TARDIS we are treated to our first social commentary plug concerning the great amount of sugar contained in soda. The Doctor uses the description of a small soda’s ratio to sugar to describe how the TARDIS is bigger on the inside compared to the outside.
The jam-packed opening moments also brings to the forefront that children just accept things the way they are and they trust that is the way things are supposed to be. When Mave did not question the fact the TARDIS is bigger on the inside compared to the outside, The Doctor seems flustered. As grownups, we know there comes a time where all things are questioned and our minds can’t accept something we don’t understand. Throughout this episode, all the children seem to just accept what they see as fact. There is no reason to question it. They assume the TARDIS is normal, the trees will eventually go away, and the grownups will save the day. All they wish is to be with their Mums and Dads. This is a very deep look into how people grow from a trusting child, to a lack of trust as an adult.
For instance, the entire plot is set around the earth being taken over by nothing greater than trees. Something, humans assume, as weak and as vulnerable as trees has encased the entire planet. The humans assume they must burn or poison the trees to get rid of them. Even The Doctor has a very hard time understanding how this happened and for what purpose. He is very vulnerable in this episode. As DR Who so plainly points out, he sonic screwdriver is worthless on wood. Without his sonic screwdriver and no way to scan the trees, The Doctor will have to rely on the people around him to discover the truth behind the invasion of the planet. He does this while running from wild animals and protecting the world from a gigantic solar flare. He must rely not only on Clara, but also on the children and Danny Pink.
Relying on the children really points to the fact many grownups do not pay attention to their children enough and instead of listening to their children, they medicate them into silence. Mave is one such child. She has the ability to feel and hear the spirits which inhabit the trees. She can literally speak for the trees. This ability came after her sister disappeared, so everyone assumed she was losing her mind. She was medicated so she would no longer hear the voices. DR Who makes it very clear in this episode we should listen to children more and find out what they are trying to say, instead of trying to silence them. This stab towards over medicating people is written so professionally the message is clear without overtaking the plotline. The class, which Clara calls the Gifted and Talented, is really a class of children with emotional issues. During this episode, the children find they have their own talents, and given the right circumstances, everyone has something wonderful to contribute. One child needs a flashlight to sleep. This flashlight is later used to scare off a tiger. Ruby is so smart, she points out many obvious points about the trees, which the adults seem to miss. Mave is seen as weak and scared, yet, she is the one who is able to tell The Doctor what is happening.
This is one episode that shows a side of Clara which is complicated. Normally she is this wonderful, strong-willed, responsible teacher, but throughout the episode she is constantly wanting to know more about what is going on, be in the middle of the action, she continues to lie to Danny, and forgets to call the children’s parents. It is Danny who steps up as the responsible one. From the moment they step out of the museum he takes charge of the children, he uses his military service experience to keep them on track, and make sure they are not scared. He works with the children to bring out the best in them. When Clara runs after The Doctor, she leaves Danny to stay with the group of children. He and his little band of students end up saving Clara, The Doctor, and Mave. Maybe this switch of roles was written on purpose to develop Danny’s character. When Clara eventually must compare a long-term relationship between The Doctor or with Danny, this episode proves Danny is a very intelligent, reliable, responsible, and a trustworthy choice for a lifetime of memories. One side note; With so many little children, I did get the slightest vibe of another fairy tale, Snow White. The forest full of fears, with little people, and a Prince Charming to save the day. Of course, Missy would be the evil step mother.
I found this episode very interesting since The DR really did not save the world. Just like in “Day Of The Moon”, he was merely a co-star in the whole system of events. The earth actually saved itself. Danny saved Clara. Danny was also willing to die with the children and Clara was willing to die with Danny. It seems, from a few of these episodes, the earth is figuring out how to save itself many times without The Doctor. Is this a hint to something more?
There are some very memorable moments, which many people will enjoying discussing day after this episode airs. One moment is when Mave, in her red coat, is running from the wolf. The comparison to “Little Red Riding Hood” is very obvious in this scene. The fear of the woods, running from the evil in our minds, written and remembered in our fairy tales, is something we can all relate to. Of course, for long time DR WHO fans, I can’t see a wolf in an episode without thinking BAD WOLF. I don’t think the reference here was to BAD WOLF, but it would be a lot of fun if somehow it was.
Of course, it is blatantly clear that humans should show more respect to our forest and not treat them so badly. They have been protecting us before The Doctor and will be here protecting us long after he is gone.
I also thoroughly enjoyed the moment when Danny Pink stated, “I didn’t try too hard to survive, but, somehow, here I am.” Was that just a throwaway line or was there a deeper meaning to that statement? Was it somehow linked to Colonel Orson Pink? It would be really awesome if there was a connection between these statements and some deeper meaning.
Again, we are given a glimpse of Missy. What was Missy surprised about? About the big solar flare? The Trees saving the world? Clara willing to save The Doctor? The Doctor willing to stay on earth? I have the feeling we will get to know Missy all too well.
One wonderful part about this episode, as far as we know, no one dies. For a DR Who episode, that is always a good thing. Don’t get too comfortable. I have a feeling, over the next two weeks, the death toll will more than make up for the lack of death in this episode. Until then, enjoy your solitude in knowing the earth is saved once again.
Until next week….