"I don't want to see more things. I want to see the things in front of me more clearly."
IN THIS ONE... A forest grows all over Earth overnight.
REVIEW: If you didn't like Kill the Moon, you will likely hate In the Forest of the Night. Because guys, not only is the Moon a dragon egg, but the Earth is protected by a magical forest that pops up anytime an extinction-level event is expected. Yeah, tell that to the dinosaurs. Frank Cottrell Boyce may be an award-winning novelist and screenwriter, but all he's done here is somehow repeat Peter Harness' points from KTM, and peppered it with Doctor Who's greatest hits. Like Kill the Moon, it's got kids taking part in the action, an annoyingly magical world view, Clara arguing that she's visited the future and it was fine, an appeal to the world not to kill the "monster" (a little girl calling everyone is even less likely to get Earth's cooperation than Clara in KTM, come on), and "doing nothing" as the appropriate solution. The Doctor has very little agency, in fact, useful mostly to puzzle out what's going on and what'll happen regardless. It's even got the Doctor throwing Clara's KTM point back at her about Earth being his home as much as hers (more osmosis). Greatest hits: A solar flare (Time Heist), a ridiculous metaphor for the TARDIS being bigger on the inside (The Robots of Death), there being no monster (Listen), the burning sky (The Poison Sky), and so on. Even so-called character development between Clara and Pink feels completely redundant, with Danny coming out with the same point that he doesn't want to be lied to. He has a nice speech about wanting to explore his world rather than go off to find new ones, but it's hardly enough to save the episode.
No doubt what will infuriate viewers is that, as in KTM, science has taken a vacation. This magical forest appears out of nowhere, disappears the same way, somehow covers the ground with dirt, is flame-proof, and so on. I'm equally perplexed that school kids can have sleepovers in museums, and that despite being a city of millions, cramped into a relatively small space, so few people come out of their houses. Never mind the fact the forest grew overnight... simultaneously all over the world, even where it was day, even on the oceans. And I certainly don't buy Clara refusing to save the children on account of their missing their parents. She lost a mother and turned out all right, didn't she? But while Kill the Moon worked on a thematic basis, In the Forest either doesn't or else hits its themes too bluntly. For example, the whole thing with the problem kids in class actually doing the reverse of what they're known for - literal Ruby (the bit with the x was actually funny) who seems dumb, but as the best sense of observation; the kid with anger management issues asking nice; the silent traumatized child opening up to the Doctor - is perhaps meant to echo the threat turning out to be Earth's savior. Well, okay, but it needed to be more integral to the plot. It just seems like a random weird thing with no explanation. And then there's the fairy tale motifs, which just seem like Boyce is doing Moffaty things because he's working for Moffat. The plot echoes such random things as Little Red Riding Hood, the Big Bad Wolf, Jack and the Beanstalk, Rumpelstiltskin, Blake's Tyger Tyger, and Hansel & Gretel. Had the crisis lasted longer, I'm sure Clara would have lost a glass slipper. The point is, it's there if you want to see it, but aside from screaming "FAIRY TALE!" at you, it doesn't bring anything to the story. It's gratuitous.
But aw, a little girl looking for her lost sister - lost how?! - and then finding her at the very end of the episode in a bush - what?! - it's all so cloying and sentimental, and I feel nothing. Nothing at all. What's left? A neat directorial trick to show how news was reported all over the green world, a distorted view of the TARDIS interior, a few jokes, Danny's speech, kids more acceptable than the ones in Nightmare in Silver... Not enough to recommend. Because we also have a ropey sequence where the heroes avoid being crushed by Nelson's statue, a nearly incomprehensible voice for the "fairies", the TARDIS having a Star Trek computer voice (huh?!), and the Doctor dead set against kids taking their medication, which I must admit made me uncomfortable. A real mess.
THEORIES: Okay, so how do I make this episode make sense? By tying it in with Torchwood's Small Worlds. Remember the Torchwood fairies? (Wow, well that was an unfortunate turn of phrase.) They kidnapped little girls and turned them into fairies, flitting back and forth through time via natural spaces. They could manifest vegetable matter (rose petals, mostly) and were pretty mean and murdery. What if the tree spirits seen here are a different manifestation of the same beings? That would account for Maebh's missing sister and use of Maebh herself as a chosen one they could talk to. The fairies could be grabbing children as payment for the important service they offer, i.e. the protection of Earth from certain catastrophic events. With the temporal abilities, these creatures could conceivably manipulate time so vegetation could grow at an accelerated rate, and take those trees right out of time when the task was done. And if we were willing to accept the fairies in Small Worlds as scientifically possible (extradimensional beings, etc.), then we can accept the New New Forest. Possibly, they will evolve into the Great Forest of Cheem by the year 5 billion.
REWATCHABILITY: Medium-Low - The season's low point, it features a magical plot and makes the same points other episodes did, only not as well.