Review: DOCTOR WHO S8E10, IN THE FOREST OF THE NIGHT (Or, London's Overgrown)
We rarely see the Doctor as ineffective as he is here, floundering and lacking plans or ideas in the aftermath of the entire world being transformed into an enormous forest.
"In the Forest of the Night" is, for the most part, a lighthearted episode that more readily appeals to children in the audience. That's not to say it doesn't have suspense and stakes, though, and it's all about building to the moment where Clara implores the Doctor to just leave the world behind in order to save himself.
It's not really something you can imagine a companion saying to any of the previous three Doctors in the modern era of Doctor Who (or maybe any Doctor at all), but Clara has been voicing her frustrations with the Doctor for a few episodes now as she tries to find out if he truly cares about people at all. This episode finds him puzzled and out of solutions when it comes to how to save the world from its fate. As he says, "If this is an invasion, it's already over." It's almost no surprise that Clara would rather he just leave and save himself if he's not got anything else up his sleeve.
And the final development, while interesting, is one that any observant viewer would've picked up on much earlier in the episode. It's unusual that the climax demands that the Doctor essentially do nothing and let somebody else save the day (in this scenario, trees). There's an uneasiness to the scripting, as writer Frank Cottrell Boyce grasps for a meaningful way to involve the Doctor in the conclusion. Having the schoolchildren devise a message to broadcast to everyone in the world might be a warm and fuzzy way to end things, but it's narratively useless. The trees reveal they've got it under control, and then they save the world - the focus on human drama ends up feeling oddly tangential and inconsequential.
The most powerful material shines through in the scenes where Clara, the Doctor and Danny play off each other. Danny's complete lack of interest in travelling with the Doctor has become one of his key character traits, and it's to the show's credit that his feelings are not conveyed as jealousy but as concern for Clara's wellbeing. Their relationship is well-drawn and complex, and it's easy to side with him because he tends to think about the best short-term options, like saving the kids.
There are a couple of good moments of tension sprinkled throughout, especially when some animals from London Zoo are found to be on the loose. Overall, though, "In the Forest of the Night" has slightly less impact than the previous few episodes in this series of Doctor Who, save for some strong character moments. This is an episode that calls back to a couple of others in the series and resolves the fact that Clara has been lying to Danny about her ongoing adventures with the Doctor. Ultimately, though, this is a placeholder hour before the big two-part finale. And it feels that way.