Sunday, 26 October 2014
Doctor Who: In the Forest of the Night
"It would be slightly awkward if the world were destroyed at this point..."
I'm glad I delayed blogging this episode (I sprained my ankle rather badly last night in the Pets at Home car park and have spent a surreal couple of hours, in a wheelchair, in A&E- it's a long story), as it only occurred to me this morning that the whole episode, superficially a bit like Kill the Moon in its use of a big natural phenomenon as an apparent but not actual threat, is in fact entirely about William Blake's The Tyger.
Not only is there the episode title, and the appearance of a single tiger, but we have innocence (the children, sort of, but at least Maebh), and different kinds of life experience (the Doctor, Danny, and Clara in-between. I'm nowhere near enough of a Blake scholar to prove much further; for that, I suspect you may wish to look up the excellent Phlip Sandifer's blog review as he is very well versed in Blake indeed, and there's no way I'm looking at his review until mine is done.
This is an excellent script from Frank Cottrell Boyce, whom I mainly know from 24 Hour Party People. The scenario is weird enough to give us a vivid pre-titles spectacle of London landmarks among bagsy a great forest, mysterious, and perfect as a way to bring Clara, the Doctor, and Danny together. The Gaia-like conclusion, that the sudden appearance of trees is nature's way of protecting the planet from asteroid impacts, is ingenious (what about the impact at the end of the Cretaceous, though?), and the way that "Class project- save the Earth" involves the kids is cute but just manages to avoid being too trite. This is a script that manages to be both intelligent and kid-friendly, however, and this is a very good thing. Long live quality children's telly.
I note that, once again, the Doctor explains to Clara that, although they may have seen many parts of the future, they still may never come to pass. This, again, echoes Kill the Moon and, again, uses much more evocative and poetic language than simply referring to "fixed points in time". I'm impressed.
This is also a great episode for the characters, and I don't just mean the Doctor's splendid declaration that "Even my incredibly long life is too short for Les Miserables". Yes, Danny finds out that Clara has been continuing to travel with the Doctor, butchers philosophical about it; all he wants is the truth. And Danny is very heroic here, his first thoughts being for the children even in the face of certain death. And, in declining the chance to see the solar flare, he explains that "I don't want to see more things. I want to see the things in front of me more clearly." He's a wise, damaged man who has seen and done terrible things in war, and who has had enough of excitement. He just wants to cherish the world he knows and to love Clara. It's a touching viewpoint, and a powerful critique to the ideology of the Doctor and, indeed, the programme.
The trailer for next week looks a bit spoilerific but I, for one, can't wait for what looks like a truly epic finale, a two parter as in days of old.