DWO’s Spoiler-Free preview of episode 8.10: In the Forest of the Night:
Doctor Who has always featured character arcs. Go right back to the very beginning of the programme in 1963, and watch as the Doctor changes across his adventures with Ian and Barbara. Compare the man they find in the Junkyard at Totter’s Lane with the one that they’re lazing around with at the beginning of The Chase two years later, and you can track his journey along the way rather easily. They’re not always so prominent in the ‘classic’ era of the programme, but they’re there, from Jo, to Tegan, to Ace. Once you reach the 21st century period of the programme, the focus has been shifted much more to the characters, and every season is crammed with lovely character arcs, right from the start.
That said, it’s a real delight watching the arcs unfold across Season Eight this year. I’m not talking about the little hints and glimpses that we’re getting of ‘Missy’ and the ‘Promised Land’ scattered through the stories, I mean the story of our three regulars - the Doctor, Clara, and Danny. It’s been great watching their story unfold over the last ten weeks, and it’s rather brilliant that every story this year has managed to turn and evolve their relationships to each other very definitely, without ever making it feel forced, or hitting you over the head with the point. In The Forest of the Night continues this tradition, giving us perhaps a greater glimpse at Danny’s real character than ever before, and putting him under the spotlight in the same way that last week’s Flatline did for the Doctor.
A lot of the praise for how well all of this is working needs to be laid at the door of the three lead actors in this series - Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman, and Samuel Anderson. It really is becoming increasingly difficult every week to find new ways of saying how brilliant the three of them are, and there’s not letting up in this episode. The only way to describe it is to say that we got chills at DWO when watching a scene of the Doctor and Clara together, because you simply know that you’re watching two masters at work. Simply stunning.
But what of the story itself? There’s been a lot of buzz around Frank Cottrell Boyce joining the programme with this story, especially after the seasons’ other new writer - Jamie Mathieson - has provided two very well received episodes for the run. Boyce doesn’t fail to deliver, giving us a story which manages to play on various fears, and do so while presenting us with logical explanations for them. The characters are all absolutely nailed, and the idea at the heart of the story - that the world wakes up one day to find the entire planet shrouded in a thick forest - is completely right for a Doctor Who tale.
Another new face joining the series this week is director Sheree Folkson, who comes in all guns blazing, and managing to make the forest look gorgeous in every shot. It’s amazing how just a few scatter objects that we can relate to as ‘every day’ - a traffic light here, one of Trafalgar Square’s lions there - can help to create the idea that we’re still very much in the heart of the city here, while also feeling remote and trapped. The use of light in this episode is especially nice - playing through the trees in every scene to create something really rather magical.
Five things to look out for:
1) “I can fight monsters, I can’t fight physics…”
2) All of this has happened before…
3) “A tree is a time machine”
4) Another London landmark gets destroyed
5) "You. Have you got a name, at all?"
[Sources: DWO, Will Brooks]