Lions and Tigers and… Invisible werewolves? Oh my! Channel Surfing: Doctor Who – In the Forest of the Night

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Let’s see, in the last two episodes, we’ve had vampiric mummies and body-snatching alien zombies. So this week, we’re sure to have invisible skeletal werewolves, right? Right? We can only hope…

The episode begins with a little girl running through a forest. She comes across the TARDIS and knocks on the door. The Doctor opens the door, and doesn’t want to help her at first, but she tells him that she’s lost and thinks someone is chasing her. Apparently, she’s also from Clara and Danny’s school. The Doctor lets her into the TARDIS with his usual grumpiness. The Doctor is having problems of his own. He’s trying to get to the center of London, but keeps finding himself in the middle of this forest. He tries again, and starts arguing with the TARDIS-equivalent of a GPS when it tells him he has arrived at his destination. “No, I haven’t!” Whew! I though I was the only one who argues with a GPS.

The little girl tells him that he is in the center of London. They step outside into the forest. She’s quite pleased. Doesn’t Trafalgar Square looks better with the forest in it? The Doctor sees a lion statue poking out through the vines and trees. The scene moves upwards, following a large stone column, all the way to a statute of a man at the top. It’s Nelson’s Column, which means this is indeed Trafalgar Square, in central London. The view zooms out to show all of London covered with greenery. The forest has reclaimed the city. Huh. I guess the GPS was right after all. Don’t worry, Doctor, one day we’ll win an argument with it. One day.

The scene switches to Danny and Clara, getting the school kids ready to go after a class sleepover in a museum. The museum guard unlocks the door for them, but the door seems to be a bit stuck. Danny and the kids push against the door to get it open far enough to slip out. Danny and the kids are amazed to see the forest outside the museum. Danny herds the kids back inside, while Clara steps out to make a phone call. Clara calls the Doctor, proud that she found something amazing to show him. The Doctor doesn’t have time for that, he;s got a lost little girl from her school. Clara reminds him that the little girl does have a name, it turns out to be Maeve. Clara is shocked. Maeve was part of Danny’s group! Whoops. Looks like he lost one, then. She demands that the Doctor bring Maeve back to the museum, but the Doctor refuses. He’s got bigger things to worry about, like the “massive forestation crisis”! Clara is disappointed to learn the Doctor already knew about the forest covering London. It’s not just London, though, the whole world has been covered by trees. She heads back into the museum. Danny wants to know what the school and the parents said when she called them. Clara gets a blank look on her face, then tries to tell him that she couldn’t get through. Danny isn’t fooled, though. That seems to be a running theme in these episodes: Clara is a bad liar and Danny doesn’t believe her. How many times are we going to do this?

Danny quickly comes to the realization that she called the Doctor, even though she had told him they weren’t in contact anymore. Clara decides to shift blame, leading to an argument. Where’s Maeve, Danny?

imagesTEBDI39KWhen next we see them, Danny and Clara are guiding the class through the forest, trying to reach Trafalgar Square. Danny is taking charge, using his army training to keep the kids together. Clara wonders how a forest could just suddenly appear overnight. How did it happen? Danny is just focused on keeping the kids safe and getting them back to their parents.

Danny’s attitude may not make for good sci-fi, but it is a good attitude to have. We don’t want these kiddos turning into monster fodder. Those invisible skeletal werewolves are around here somewhere, right?

The Doctor is using his sonic screw driver to scan the trees. Unfortunately, the trees are obviously made of wood, the sonic screwdriver’s weakness. (Yes, it’s random, but it’s also canon and been around since at least the Tenth Doctor, so the time for arguing about it is clearly long past.) The Doctor can’t get any reading from the trees. How did they all grow at the same time? Maeve tells the Doctor that the trees talk to one another. The Doctor scoffs at this. Is spring just a bunch of trees all agreeing amongst themselves to blossom at the same time? The Doctor doesn’t think so.

Elsewhere, Maeve’s mom leaves her house to go pick up Maeve and encounters the forest. She’s just going to show up at the end so Maeve can be reunited with her, isn’t she? If I’m right, I’m going to be sad.

The group of school kids find the TARDIS, still in Trafalgar Square. The ground begins to rumble and shake, dust flying up everywhere. The trees are still growing. One of the girls, Ruby, manages to pull off a short branch from one of the trees. There are no rings inside, just plain wood. Why? The Doctor pops up nearby. The rings mark the years of a tree. These trees don’t have rings because they haven’t been growing for years, just overnight.

The Doctor is frustrated. There are no circuits to mess with, no minds to communicate with, no way of finding out how this happened. It’s just trees! Clara pays him no mind, introducing him to her class and telling them that the Doctor will solve everything. The Doctor isn’t so sure himself, though. He tells Clara that no, he won’t be able to.

Everyone heads into the TARDIS to stay safe and sheltered from the growing trees. Danny notices a stack of school workbooks, and picks them up and flips through one. The Doctor takes a keen interest in one of them: It shows an angry sun sending lightning bolts onto the earth, drawn by Maeve. The Doctor realizes (somehow) that she was right; the trees really are communicating with one another! Unfortunately, Maeve has disappeared from the group once again, and the Doctor theorizes that Maeve could led them to the heart of the forest, Maeve isn’t crazy, she’s just tuned to a different frequency! Clara and the Doctor use the sonic screwdriver to find out how far away Maeve is and in what direction, and head out the door, leaving Danny with the kids. Danny suspects that Clara has been lying about not seeing the Doctor anymore. When the Doctor first showed up Clara was immediately ready to charge in and help, not as if she’d seen the Doctor after a long time apart. It’s almost like Clara has been spending time with the Doctor without telling Danny. See? Danny’s smart.

Back at the TARDIS, the kids can’t figure out why Danny let Clara go off with as stranger. They convince Danny that they should follow Clara and make sure she doesn’t come to any harm.

The Doctor and Clara find Maeve’s phone, but no Maeve. Further on in the forest, Maeve sees men in fire proximity suits, readying flamethrowers. She drops a box from her backpack and runs off into the forest, flailing her arms in front of her face like she’s batting away flies. Is she trying to leave a trail?

Clara and the Doctor bump into the men with flamethrowers, who tell them to leave before they set fire to the forest. Clara and the Doctor back away out of sight, and the silver-suited men let rips with their flamethrowers. They set the trees on fire, but as soon as the flamethrowers stop, the trees are already fine. The Doctor whispers to Clara that the trees must be pulling the oxygen out of the air. They really need to talk to Maeve. The Doctor doesn’t understand it. There is a giant solar flare coming, like the one that took out the Bank of Karabraxos earlier in this season. No one knew it was coming. He didn’t know it was coming, even with the TARDIS at his disposal, but Maeve knew. That’s what the angry sun shooting lightning bolts at the Earth was supposed to be, a massive solar flare that will reduce anything to ashes. She even wrote today’s date on it, even though she drew it days ago. Why were the kids’ homework in the TARDIS? Clara left them in their earlier, and she’s worried Danny might have noticed. Pretty sure he did, what with him leafing through them and all, Clara. The Doctor is surprised by her priorities. To make matters worse, they hear wolves howling in the distance. Impossible? The gates in the London Zoo have probably been mangled by the trees. Wild animals running loose are a real possibility, according to the Doctor.

images2K7QQ43CMaeve comes across two eyes peering at her out of a bush. Yes! I knew the invisible skeletal werewolves would be—wait…how could we see the eyes if they’re invisible? Aw, man, it’s just a regular wolf. Actually, it looks like quite the hungry wolf…running would probably be a good idea Maeve! Maeve screams and dashes away, the wolf in hot pursuit. The Doctor and Clara run in the direction of her screams, eventually finding Maeve on the other side of a tall wrought-iron fence. Clara has the Doctor give her a leg up so she can reach over the fence to pull Maeve up, but Maeve just opens the fence’s gate and shut it behind her. Smart! Three wolves appear, snarling at them from the other side of the fence. The Doctor, Clara, and Maeve all stand together, trying to make themselves look bigger, like a three-headed monster to frighten off the wolves. The wolves leap the fence, but run away, frightened. What scares wolves? That’d be the tiger coming up on the other side of the fence. A light flashes it in the eyes repeatedly, annoying it enough to turn and leave. It’s Danny and the kids! Where did he learn that trick? In the army?

Maeve finds a glowing area of forest, the trees draped in cobwebs. Is this the heart of the forest?

Maeve keeps flailing around her head, there’s too many thoughts! She thinks the forest is her fault. She’s been hearing voices ever since her sister disappeared. The Doctor doesn’t think she’s crazy. He uses the sonic screwdriver to make what is affecting her visible. Hundreds of glowing motes of light appear around her. What are they? They begin to talk to the Doctor through Maeve. It’s quite creepy: A rumbling bass voice overlaid with Maeve’s voice. The motes tell the Doctor they were the ones here before humans, and they will be here after. Why did they take over the world? The sun creates, the sun destroys. They heard the call and responded. Well, that’s utterly confusing.

The motes leave Maeve and vanish.

Clara is confused: How can the sun destroy everything? They’ve been to the future of Earth, lots of futures. We have this conversation a few episodes ago about the moon, Clara. Just because you saw something in the future, doesn’t mean things stay as you perceived them. The Doctor says those futures will be erased. The solar flare is coming, and there isn’t anything he can do. Clara points out that the TARDIS could be a life-raft.

When they get to the TARDIS, however, it turns out that Clara wants the Doctor to use it to save himself. The kids wouldn’t want to go without their parents, Danny won’t go without the kids, and Clara doesn’t want to just save herself, because she doesn’t want to be the last of her kind, like the Doctor. This time, the humans will save the Doctor. While they talk, one of the kids shows Danny a news update on his phone. It appears that the government has a new plan. They’re going to drop chemicals on all the trees to make them shed their leaves and be easier to burn. Yeah, I’m sure it’s the leaves that are your problem there.

The Doctor takes off in the TARDIS but is almost instantly back. He’s figured it out! The trees are flameproof, and there’s a giant stream of ‘fire’ coming from the sun. The trees aren’t the enemy, they’re a shield for the Earth! The Doctor cites the Tunguska event as something that should have cracked the Earth in half, instead it just knocked down a lot of trees. I don’t really buy the logic there, but I’ll let it pass.

All they have to do is wait out the solar flare and the trees will protect them. This could be a problem, as the government is trying to destroy the trees. New plan: The Doctor says they will call everyone on Earth at the same time. Are the phone networks equipped to handle every phone in the world getting the same call? I sure hope so! Maeve wants to do it, so the Doctor suggests a new class project—Save the world. After a bit of consultation amongst themselves, Maeve reads the kid’s message to the world. It basically boils down to “Everything is under control. Please don’t harm the trees”. Maeve also asks for her sister to come back.

The Doctor invites them all to watch the flare (or is it a coronal mass ejection? I always get those two mixed up) from space, but Maeve sees her mom coming up to the TARDIS and runs out to meet her. I knew it! This prompts the rest of the kids to want to find their own parents, too. Danny isn’t interested in seeing it from space. He has wonders right here. That’d be Clara. He knows, however, that she’s been traveling in the TARDIS. The date of the homework books was last Friday. He wants her to tell him the truth, he doesn’t care what it is, so long as it is the truth. They agree to talk about it later.

The Doctor and Clara are the only ones to watch it from space. The fire from the sun (again, flare or CME?) streams over the planet, the trees shielding the planet and absorbing the energy that hits the Earth.

Missy watches on a monitor, expressing surprise at the events. Meanwhile, on Earth, after the danger has passed, the planet-wide forest disintegrates into more of those glowing motes, returning the Earth back to its previous state.

Maeve and her mom walk up to their home. A bush disintegrates into glowing motes in front of them, revealing…Maeve’s older sister? Well, that came out of left field. Why was she in a bush? No, really, why?

This episode was rather weak compared to the last few. We finally had Danny and the Doctor together again, and there was no character development between them. They practically ignored each other through most of the episode. Clara is still trying to keep Danny in the dark, but it’s unclear why. Danny has made it clear he just wants her to be honest, it doesn’t seem like he’d make her stop traveling with the Doctor.

And once again, the “monster” of the week turns out to not be what they thought. It’s becoming a theme for this season, which is fine, except for the fact that it’s killing the suspense. It’s happened so many times already that It’s just becoming rote. See something creepy and weird, strange and horrible? It’s probably just a misunderstood creature. Yawn.

Next week, though, it looks like the plot is going to pick up a bit. There’s Missy, who hopefully will FINALLY provide some answers, Cybermen (I’m pretty sure they won’t be just misunderstood and confused), and—Clara goes evil? Should be interesting!

~ K.L. Davis ~

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