One of the things that Stephen Moffat has done since taking over Doctor Who is to get in big name guest writers such as Neil Gaiman or Richard Curtis who have delivered mainly pretty high quality scripts. This week’s episode is written by Frank Cottrell Boyce, the main writer for the 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony and collaborator with Michael Winterbottom on films like 24 Hour Party People as well as his children’s fiction. This is a writer with an amazing pedigree so it’s a major coup for Moffat to get him on board, but does he deliver a good script?
No. In the Forest of the Night is dreadful and from a writer of this quality it’s a crushing disappointment as he’s written some amazing stuff, but this is drivel. The plot is nonsense, even for Doctor Who which has it’s odd bit of sheer nonsense over the years but on the whole it’s normally enjoyable nonsense. This is just plodding, dull rubbish.
The plot is that Earth has been overrun with plants and trees overnight for no real reason. The Doctor thinks it’s an alien invasion while Clara is with Danny Pink and a bunch of CBBC schoolkids having a sleepover in the Natural History Museum (yes really) who wake up to discover a London overrun by a new forest. There’s a whole lot of drivel involving a girl called Maebh, some more stereotypical CBBC kiddie antics, some wolves, a tiger scared by Danny Pinks torch (seriously) some sparkling lights, more bad CGI, a falling Nelson’s Column and a London totally devoid of all people apart from those only needed for this story. Unless it’s Christmas Day, London is constantly busy with Trafalgar Square (the main location of the story) constantly flowing with people but in this there’s a handful of schoolkids, a few army people and The Doctor.
Eventually the Doctor finds out that a massive solar flare is about to be launched at Earth from the Sun and that this will wipe out all life on Earth and there’s nothing he can do to help. In fact the Doctor doesn’t do very much in this episode apart from realise he’s as much of planet Earth as Clara is. Eventually the Doctor works out that this has happened before and the Earth grows this forest as a sort of airbag to deflect the flare thanks to the extra oxygen in the atmosphere, which is what happens. After danger is averted things go back to normal. The End.
Coming on the back of lat week’s excellent episode, this is even more disappointing. There’s a germ of an idea and under someone like Barry Letts we’d maybe have got a better episode, but we didn’t which is why we got this mess. Yes, the programme has played loose with science over it’s 51 years but there’s a line where as a viewer you go ‘get to fuck!’ and this is it. So on that note let’s forget this episode ever happened and think about the two-part finale (a dreadful Americanism which has sneaked into the UK) starting next week. We know it’s got Cybermen and the mystery of Missy will be explained, but it also looks like Clara has her own secret which we’ll find out soon enough.
Just no more forests please.