Doctor Who Recap: “In The Forest Of The Night”
Welcome to my obsession. All the recaps are here. This sentence is here to warn you that spoilers are coming!
The title of this week’s episode comes from William Blake’s poem The Tyger. I love this poem–it’s a beautiful and on-point message about faith. Way I read it, he’s telling us that if you believe God made all the great things in the world, you have to believe s/he also made all the bad (scary, violent, upsetting, etc.) things in the world. I don’t have much of an opinion on whether there even is a god, but I like this concept. It sort of reminds me of this quote:
Side note: OH MY GOD I MISS HIM SO MUCH. Damn it. I was so smug like “pff I love it when the Doctor regenerates, the new actor always adds such interesting elements to the overall character.” Now I’m just I WANT MATT BACK WAHHHHH.
Here we go.
A girl is running through the woods. She has a red coat on, and bears a somewhat passing resemblance to baby Amelia Pond–long hair, red coat, cherub face. She eventually encounters the TARDIS and knocks. She tells the Doctor she needs help, she’s lost, and that Miss Oswald asked her to come find him. But she can’t really remember when or why, just that she did.
After a reluctant pause, he lets her inside. The Doctor tries to explain why the TARDIS is bigger on the inside but the little girl doesn’t seem impressed. She just figured it was supposed to be like that.
The Doctor, meanwhile, consults a map and can’t figure out why he’s in the middle of a forest instead of London. The TARDIS is being recalcitrant and won’t explain herself, and when the little girl suggests he consult an expert he tells her he can’t, since he’s the last of his species. Finally the little girl tells him they ARE in London, it’s just that a forest grew to cover it overnight. She grabs his hand and shows him the forest in Trafalgar Square. She thinks it’s lovely.
We reopen on a group of kids having a sleepover in a natural history museum, with teachers Oswald and Pink in charge. They pack up to leave but when they try, they find a forest has grown up and made getting out of the building difficult. The kids are typically fussy and complaining, especially after they’ve likely stayed up too late and not eaten properly. They fuss at each other and at their teachers. Danny is overly peppy to compensate. The realism is staggering.
One kid notices a fat, red ring in a cross-section of a tree and asks about it–why was this ring so much fatter than the others? Clara suggests it must have been a good year to be a tree. I decided it was obviously a vampire tree which tells you where my mind typically goes.
We get a little cut scene of newscasts all over the world–trees are everywhere! The whole planet has been afforested!
Clara calls the Doctor, promising him a spectacular thing. He asks if she’ll come collect the child in the TARDIS, and Clara reminds him that humans have names. The little girl says her name is Maebh. He also mentions the giant forest in London. Clara is disappoint because she really wanted to show him the thing, and he already knows about the thing.
Side note: Maebh is a great freaking name. We’ve had some good names this season.
Clara asks him to bring Mabhe to her, and he refuses, saying he has a global, rapid afforestation crisis to deal with and won’t do such a thing. Clara should come get the girl.
When she returns to Danny and the others, Clara lies poorly about who she’s been talking to. He rolls his eyes and tells her “Jesus Christ Clara you are the actual worst fucking liar on earth would you please stop.” Or you know, some more family-friendly version of that. She responds with a really shitty subject change, pointing out that Danny lost a kid, Maebh. In true Danny form, he grows more worried about Maebh when he finds out she’s with the Doctor. We learn Maebh has had some emotional difficulty. They decide to collect her before heading back to the school–all on foot.
Clara is going on and on about how cool the surprise forest is and asks Danny why he’s not more curious. He says he’s more concerned about getting the kids safely home.
Side note: I like the guy, and I like how Responsible he is in direct contrast to how the Doctor will put people in danger if he feels it’s necessary, but come on dude. Even you can admit this is kind of cool.
Cut scene: We hear a newscaster reporting that the government plans to burn pathways through the trees, presumably for cars. The scene zooms out to the Doctor watching the news on Mabhe’s cell phone while scanning the trees with his sonic screwdriver. He reports nothing, because the trees are made of wood and the sonic is long famous for not “doing” wood.
The Doctor tells Maebh that the sonic works by communication–any kind of communication.
Side note: That’s interesting.
He also tells her that since trees have no moving parts, they don’t really communicate. Maebh says of course they do, how else could they have all grown at the same time? The Doctor gives her some smart-ass comments about trees having Facebook and shit, but Maebh shuts him down.
Maebh: You don’t need a phone to communicate, do you? I haven’t phoned home, and I know my mom is worried about me.
The Doctor has the good sense to listen, and look somewhat ashamed of his snarky attitude.
The scene shifts to Maebh’s mother rushing around to grab her keys and yelling at someone on the phone that they were supposed to pick Maebh up after the sleepover. She tells the phone that fine, she’ll go, but bursts outside to find the entire world covered in plants. That will probably make it harder to take the car to Coal Hill School.
Back to Clara and the kids. The same girl (Ruby) who noticed the vampire tree ring points out to Clara that she learned trees reproduce by turning flower blossoms to nuts and fruit. Clara is basically ignoring her until the girl points out a tree that has blossoms and nuts at the same time.
They make it to Trafalgar Square, and another kid (Bradley) asks if he can please take a selfie with the big lion statue. Clara and Danny consider the small miracle of a somewhat bullying child saying please for anything, complete with bully kid flashback (where Clara totally ignores that the shitty kid hit another kid and knocked his desk over. Um what?) They then go on to reminisce about how Ruby is normally not very attentive or imaginative, with an algebra joke about finding x (it’s right there, at the top). It actually seems kind of mean spirited, but I can only imagine how maddening being a teacher must be so this too seems pretty realistic.
Ruby who can’t figure out what finding x means points out that the new trees have no rings at all. The Doctor joins them to explain that the trees don’t have rings because they’re all brand new. The Doctor explains that the trees are a natural event, nothing alien about them. Danny asks how that’s possible and he compares the trees to the ice age, sudden glaciers from nowhere (which I don’t think really happened like that but… whatever it’s not a sciencey show. Stop asking questions). The Doctor says he’s not sure what he can do to help, but Clara maintains faith, telling Danny that the Doctor always says no first, then goes back and figures out a way.
Side note: Okay but I don’t remember him doing that before now. This Doctor in particular does that, he’s hesitant and reluctant and bitter. And I think, underneath, very scared. I just don’t know what he’s scared of at this point. Maybe himself. Probably himself. I know I’m scared of him right now.
Everyone follows the Doctor into the TARDIS where he and Clara speculate about whether the tree growth is malicious. He says something has to have been able to both manipulate time and communicate with trees to make them all grow overnight like this. He gets distracted, though, by a crowd of kids in the TARDIS.
He asks if anyone is surprised it’s bigger on the inside, and Ruby says “um, there was an overnight forest so nothing is that surprising anymore.”
The Doctor says the trees are no coincidence. He says, “there’s no such thing as an arboreal coincidence.” That might be my favorite line this season. He says to coordinate such a thing, you’d need to communicate but he can’t hear anything, even with every communication channel open on the TARDIS.
Meanwhile, Danny finds a pile of student work sitting in the TARDIS. He’s flipping through it when the Doctor notices and gets very interested in a picture of a mean sun jabbing lightning bolts at the ground.
The homework book belongs to Maebh. He goes to talk to Maebh but has somehow forgotten what she looks like and checks every child to be sure. It turns out that Maebh is missing. Clara tells the Doctor that Maebh is fragile and sometimes hears voices because her sister went missing last year. He asks what they say, she says they give her medication so it stops. The Doctor does his “oh you humans are all alike” thing and says you should listen to children. Danny mentions that the Doctor didn’t listen to her either, and the Doctor agrees–Maebh was trying to tell him something when she was talking about the trees, and he didn’t listen.
On the TARDIS screen, we see him pull up an image of the sun.
The Doctor uses his sonic to locate Maebh’s cell phone in the woods and runs after her–after he gives the kids a very stern “don’t touch anything” command.
Side note: What kind of dad was he? Was he the cranky dad, or the one who gave great “fear is a superpower” speeches? Was he dangerous and risky with his kid(s)? Or kind? Both? Did he even stay with any of them, or did his wanderlust drive him too hard and force him to leave? Does he still look after them? All the time in the world, what does he do with it?
Danny and Clara have another awkward “she’s obviously lying about how much she’s seeing the Doctor” moment, then Clara runs out to join the Doctor on the hunt for Maebh. They step out of the TARDIS only to be attacked by the falling statue of Horatio Nelson (yes I had to look it up). The Doctor says that if this is an invasion, than the trees have already won. What do they want, he asks.
Side note: Isn’t he normally charmed by this sort of thing rather than assuming hostility? Like in the last couple episodes he’s been charmed–the moon egg and even the 2-D people got a chance before he decided they were probably bad. I am willing to just chalk his erratic reactions up to bad writing at this point, but it makes me sad. This Doctor–he’s not settled on a way to be. I don’t know if that’s on purpose or not, but if it’s not I wish they’d get their crap together. If it is, then I can’t wait to see how they fix him.
Meanwhile, Ruby starts to freak about Clara going off with the Doctor alone. What if she’s crushed to death by trees? What if she’s eaten by wild forest animals. Danny agrees to go after her, and the kids are annoyed by his peppy positivity. Again, very realistic.
Maebh’s mother is cycling around trees in another part of the forest, looking for her daughter.
In yet another part, the Doctor and Clara find Maebh’s cell phone. Clara says she’s suddenly very scared, in fact she feels dread. The Doctor suggests that chasing a lost girl through a dark forest is one of humanity’s deepest nightmares, a sort of species-level fear. Her dread is part of our DNA.
Side note: Vaguely reminiscent of the whole “Listen” common nightmare theme, right?
Somewhere else again, Maebh is running through the woods and flicking at something invisible with her hands. She encounters a group of biohazard-suited people, then runs further into the forest. She leaves behind little belongings–a pencil case, her lunch box, so they can find her.
The Doctor and Clara encounter the biohazard people as they are trying to burn paths through the trees. The trees are apparently fireproof, and put out the fires immediately.
The Doctor suggests that the trees are manipulating oxygen content, feeding the fire with oxygen then smothering it immediately. Sentient fire fighting trees–not as cool as vampire trees, but okay. The Doctor asks why now? He says the entire natural order is turning against Earth but he doesn’t know why. Clara asks what else besides the trees is turning against Earth and he shows her the mean sun drawing.
He explains that there’s a massive, life-ending solar flare headed for Earth. He further explains that somehow Maebh dated her drawing for today’s date, despite having drawn it last Friday. He wants to find her so he can figure out what she knows and how. Missing the point entirely, Clara freaks out that Danny saw that she left grading on the TARDIS.
The Doctor says if there’s a way to figure out what’s going on, Maebh will know it.
Doctor: She’s lost someone. People who have lost someone, they’re always listening, they’re always looking, they’re always hoping. They notice more. They hear more.
Side note: This kind of speech is why I watch this show. Right here.
The pair are interrupted by a howl from a wolf. Clara points out that there are no wolves in London. The Doctor counter-argues that there is a pack of wolves in the London zoo that has probably escaped thanks to trees pulling down bars and stuff. He comments that they’re probably lunch, soon.
Back to Maebh, she’s evidently being hunted by this wolf pack.
She screams, so Clara and the Doctor can find her. They run for her, and encounter her on the wrong side of a fence. They tell her to jump but she sensibly goes through the gate instead. I like this kid. The Doctor tries to ask her questions but she’s still flicking her hands around. Also there are three snarly wolves on the other side of the gate. Clara asks if they can deal with the wolves first and he reluctantly agrees. He suggest they try to look like too much bother to eat, like a big creature with six heads. They make the most hilarious pose ever, and the wolves all jump the fence and run away.
Clara wonders what would wolves be afraid of? That’s when the tiger shows up.
The Doctor says there are some solid scientific reasons to be frightened just now. I still love his massive discomfort with feelings. Luckily, Danny Pink shows up with a flashlight. Apparently flashing a tiger in the eyes makes him annoyed and he runs away. THE MORE YOU KNOW.
Clara is suitably impressed with Danny’s tiger-charming skills. Maebh is still flicking the air. The Doctor tries to get her to speak but she won’t. Danny yells at the Doctor, basically telling him to back off but the Doctor says she’s not being mentally ill she’s reacting to something. Even Ruby is like “give the poor kid her meds.” Maebh runs off.
They chase after, and find her in a little glowing clearing in the middle of the forest. Maebh tells the Doctor she hears thoughts she doesn’t want to hear, and that she belives she caused the forest to grow because she heard the thought and figured it was a nice one that people would like. She tells him there’s too many thoughts, they’re too fast. The Doctor takes off his coat (because it’s business time) and decides to “increase the local gravity” to see what Maebh hears.
Don’t ask questions.
He points the sonic at her (Danny protests), and poof, a bunch of little glowing things appear.
She says they don’t like to be held (presumably by gravity), and the Doctor asks who they are. The creatures commence speaking sort of through Maebh.
Creatures: We are here. Here always since the beginning and until the end.
Doctor: Here? That’s it?
Creatures: We are the green shoots that grow between the cracks. The grass that grows over the mass graves. After your wars are over, we will still be here. We are the life that prevails.
Doctor: Why now? Why are you here now?
Creatures: We hear the call and we come, as we came before to the great north forest where we lie still in a great circle, as we came to the vast southern forest.
Doctor: Who is calling you now?
Creatures: The sun that creates. The sun that destroys. You are hurting us. Let us go.
Doctor: You sent for me. The girl came looking for me, why? Why me?
Creatures: We did not send. Pain. Did not send for you . We don’t know you. We were here before you and will be here after you.
Side note: how great is this? Check your ego, Doctor.
Bam, he lets them go. No more shiny things. Maebh falls down. The Doctor asks her who sent her to him. All she can tell him is that she heard a thought, and it was probably Miss Oswald’s. She says the voices are gone now–and why does everything have to go?
The Doctor looks grave. Clara asks “why would the trees want to kill us? We love trees” He mentions that we’ve been basically killing them for centuries, and maybe they’re fighting back by calling down fire from the heavens. He says that planets die, that catastrophe is the metabolism of the universe and he can’t fight it. He can fight monsters, not physics.
Side note: Yes, the plot from now on is pretty obvious and telegraphed badly. I’m irritated the characters are too dumb to hook up “fireproof trees” and “solar flare” in their minds. This could have been done better. But it’s still a nice story, I think.
Clara says they saw Earth’s futures, and he says they’re about to be erased. She says okay, then we’ll save who we can. They tromp over to the TARDIS but when they get there she says nah, man. We’re not going to save those kids and take them from their parents. They’d be unhappy forever in space. She says she doesn’t want to be saved either.
The Doctor: You don’t want to live?
Clara: Of course I want to live. I just…
Clara: Don’t make me say it.
Doctor: Say what?
Clara: I don’t want to be the last of my kind.
Doctor: Then why did you bring us all here?
Clara: Because it was the only way to get you back to the TARDIS. Make you think you’re saving someone. Well you know what, Doctor? This time, the human race is saving you. Make it worthwhile.
Doctor: This is my world, too. I walk your Earth, I breathe your air.
Clara: And on behalf of this world, you’re very welcome. Now go. Save the next one.
Side note: The quote about “walk your Earth, breathe your air” is a direct quote of Clara in Kill the Moon when she is chewing his ear off for being an asshole. He’s showing her he’s trying to get back to her, and humanity, I think.
Another side note: Someone on twitter said they found this episode trite, preachy and therefore not great. I love a good morality tale, so that’s not my complaint. But really, I loved this episode for this bit here. This was so big, so painful, and so important. Go watch it if you haven’t.
The Doctor gets in the TARDIS to leave. The kids read on their cell phones that the goverment is going to try chemically removing the trees.
Meanwhile, on the TARDIS, Doctor Idiot realizes flameproof forest + solar flare = everyone okay. DUH.
He lands again to give everyone the good news. He explains how the solar flare *should* kill everyone and the kids look pretty upset. He backs up and says oh, no, you guys are fine. He says the forests fill the atmosphere with oxygen, and that the atmosphere acts like an airbag, burning off the excess heat and flame and protecting the inhabitants of the planet. He says it’s happened a few times before (the “great north and vast south forests” the shiny things were talking about).
Doctor: I was wrong. The trees are not your enemy. They’re your shield. They’ve been saving you since forever. Protecting you from everything space can throw at you.
Clara mentions the wide, red ring on the tree. The Doctor says that it was probably atmospheric dust from another Earth-saving event. Vampire trees would have been cooler.
Ruby asks why, if the trees are good, are we chopping them down?
Doctor: What is with you people? You hear voices, you want to shut them up. The trees come to save you, you want to chop them down.
Clara: Or you come to save the world and discover it’s already saving itself.
Doctor: I did admit that I was wrong.
Side note: seriously what would happen if he didn’t have a companion to point out how much of a self-impressed douche he can be? I guess The Waters of Mars would happen.
The Doctor uses the TARDIS to hack every cell phone on the planet and tell them to leave the trees alone. Maebh volunteers to do it, and he says okay. The whole class writes the statement, then Maebh reads it to the world. Sweetest thing ever. She says “be less scared, be more trusting,” in her speech. She also asks her sister to come home.
Clara offers to take them all into space but Maebh’s mom shows up and then all the other kids want to see their moms too. Danny tells her to go ahead, but he’s going to take the kids home. She asks him how often you get to see something like a solar flare burning off a lot of magic tree oxygen but he says eh. He’s not big on big miracles. He prefers the every day “bully kid said please” kind of miracles. That’s enough for him.
Danny Pink, simple man with simple tastes. He wants to see the things he has more clearly, not a lot of new things. He sounds like a Zen master. They say we attract people that speak to our needs, don’t they?
Danny calls her out on the whole “lying about everything” thing. He tells her, “fear a bit less, trust a bit more.” She acknowledges she should probably tell him the truth once in a while, and starts to but he tells her to wait. Always good to put off difficult conversations as long as possible, eh?
The next scene is Clara and the Doctor in space, watching.
Doctor: I hope I’m right. Slightly awkward if the planet gets destroyed at this point.
The solar flare does indeed burn off a bunch of oxygen, and as we’re watching the scene pulls back to show us someone else is watching too.
“Now that was surprising,” says mystery woman. If she’s actually God, she probably wouldn’t be all that shocked would she? That’s it, that’s all we get. However, our next two episodes are a two-part season finale and theoretically feature this woman FINALLY.
The show ends with Clara and the Doctor witnessing the trees turning into pretty fireflies and whisking themselves away. Clara asks how humanity will explain all this, and the Doctor says that humanity will forget.
Clara: We are not going to forget an overnight forest.
Doctor: You forgot it the last time. You remembered the fear, and you put it into fairy stories. The human superpower–forgetting. If you remembered how things felt, you’d have stopped having wars. And stopped having babies.
Side note: see? The Tyger’s central message, here it is. All things wonderful AND terrible are part of the human experience (and in the poem, created by God). You can’t only look at half the picture.
One more scene shift to Maebh and her mother returning home. They approach the house only to discover another pair of eyes lurking in the foliage. The bush turns into fireflies to reveal:
Yes, Maebh’s missing sister has been magically returned by trees. That’s it, that’s the end of the episode. Now THIS bit I found trite, too easy and kind of cheap. I could have lived without it. It added nothing to the story and even took away some of the real important things about mental illness, pain and the importance of listening to people who are hurting. Not impressed.
Overall though, I enjoyed it.
Next week, Clara goes mental. I believe I spied a cyberman. We might even get an answer or two (ahaha right).
(screencaps from http://screencapped.net/ and are believed to fall under “fair use”)