Monday, October 27, 2014

Straight out of child's book - In the Forest of the Night

There's been a lot of talk this season of Doctor Who maybe starting to not be for kids any more. Mostly because of its later time slot. It's the sort of topic I'd avoid, it not really fitting into the whole narrative approach I'm interested in, except 'In the Forest of the Night' shuts all those critics up.

An episode about a forest springing up over night just to protect us, while also managing to fit in a missing sister and a bunch of escaped animals from the zoo is perfect kid fodder. Not to mention we set the whole thing up as a school trip. If there was ever a more kid-friendly episode of Who, I think we'd all be diabetics after it.

Besides Who’s reputation has always been scaring the bejesus out of kids and them watching behind a sofa.

First though, 'Forest' has a fantastic opening. The little girl running through the forest and coming across the TARDIS in a glade. Maebh being a perfect vehicle for exposition, with her both coming across just as a child speaks but also getting a lot of build up out of the way. The Doctor trying to travel to London, and the TARDIS to suddenly develop a sat nav voice and he's already there, then the big reveal it's all of London that's invested with trees. It's one of the most effective cold opens I've ever seen.

After the titles finish we cut to Clara and Danny, and we finally get to see them as teachers properly. We've seen them briefly in various quick scenes, mostly in 'The Caretaker', but here we have the children never really leaving their side so they stay in Teacher Mode throughout. Or rather they should. For the ongoing Clara/Danny story this is another turning point, because Clara is too busy being a companion. She's constantly distracted by the excitement the Doctor offers, the thrill of going into space and investigating the unknown. Danny figures her out, yet is cool with it. Which surprised me, but endears me more to Mr. Pink.

The real interesting part was we hit the exact point Danny could have set foot on the TARDIS for an adventure. The Doctor offered him and the kids the chance to jump on board to watch the solar flare hit Earth, yet they all turned it down. Danny revealing that his time in the army allowed him to get the need for adventure out of his system but he's not going to forsake Clara that chance, just as long as she's honest with him. If anything this has become an incredibly grown up relationship. There's no arguing, no controlling, no calling out. He has no problem with her doing her own thing, just as long as she's doesn't keep him in the dark about it.

Most other shows, this would be the point their relationship collapses. Given the choice of running away, or staying and probably dying, Clara chooses that if it is the end then she needs to be with Danny. It proves that the Pink/Oswald pairing might have some real legs to it. As much as I don't want Clara to go at the end of this season, if she does Moffat and co. have sold her decision really well. This is no Tegan stating “Oh I've seen too much.” this is one of those life events that has a slow build and when you make the decision everything changes.

Another of those themes that have been popping up this year is “Superpowers”. The original and noticeable speech was in “Listen”, where we had the Doctor explain how fear gives humans superpowers. We've had a couple of extra mentions of it throughout the season, but nothing quite as evident as the two here. First Clara states her “gifted and talented” students are “superpowers, if you use them properly”, then the Doctor reveals that humanity's greatest superpower is the ability to forget, and that in a few days everyone will convinced themselves this wasn't real, and it'll slip into the subconscious mind. It's not the first time the Doctor's claimed that, but more importantly where's all this talk of every day thought processes that make us 'super human' going?

Well the finale starts next week, so I'll guess we'll find out soon enough. But 'In the Forest of the Night' is Doctor Who as a classic children's fable, and it slides into that mold brilliantly.

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