“In The Forest of the Night” Review

Dreams get to bypass logic and go straight for emotion. You can feel the sustained fear of being chased by a wolf without observing the physical and biological consequences (or lack of them). You can dream of a city as a woodland, without wondering where all the people are, or how the roots could have left power cables and structures in tact. Woods in dreams can be idealised, managed, with glades instead of thickets, no brambles to hack through, low hanging branches or scrub. When you wake up, you can forget them, because unlike real forests, dreams leave no physical traces. (Such as, say, Nelson’s column having collapsed.)

If “world get covered in forest overnight” sounds like a fairy tale that you’d like to see imagined on your screen, you’ll have loved this episode. Charming vignettes, intriguing visuals, zingy one-liners and an excellent group of juvenile characters are all strong points of this episode. But while in dreams, you just get on with feeling and experiencing the imagery and stimulus your brain is supplying, on TV that’s a lot harder. The medium insists on structure and logic, and while you can sometimes get away with fooling that you’ve provided those, it’s even harder within an established format like Doctor Who. I think this might have made a nice fantasy short on its own terms, but when I’m watching the Doctor I want to get asked a lot of questions and get given at least some answers, and Frank Cotterel Boyce’s story isn’t really interested in that.

Would the Doctor have left the Earth? “You can’t fight physics.” I don’t think he would, but then, I don’t think he does. He goes into the TARDIS for a think, it’s not a capitulation.

The global news-feed stuff felt very RTD. As did the cheesy “finale begins” caption on the next-time trailer. Coming right after the shmaltzy return-of-the-sister ending, this was a bit of a turn-off after a luke-warm episode.

I did admire, again, the way Danny is being written and performed (I mean he’s still a smug, self-satisfied whatever, but it’s nicely played). Hopefully next week we will finally hear about Danny’s time in the army, as well as the Doctor’s.

About Simon Wood

Lecturer in medical education, lapsed mathematician, Doctor Who fan and garden railway builder. See simonwood.info for more...

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