Doctor Who: In the Forest of the Night Review (or “Never Work With Children or Animals”)

Doctor Who has been on a fantastic run lately, and I’ve joked about how that run would inevitably come to an end for the last few weeks.

And yet the quality remained constant.

Until now… (oooh, I sound like a Top Gear presenter).

Yup, it’s all come crashing down with In the Forest of the Night.

Doctor Who – In the Forest of the Night Review: What’s This One About

Working under the incorrect assumption that the entire planet goes to bed at the same time, Earth “wakes up” to trees everywhere.

And it’s all to do with a little girl.

Thoughts – Never Work With Children Or Animals

Some people like children. I’m not one of those people.

Ok, so I’m sure there are some out there in the world who aren’t irritants, but those are few and far between, and they certainly aren’t the sort who are involved in show business.

Tigers - Always Wary of Torch Induced Epileptic Fits

Tigers – Always Wary of Torch Induced Epileptic Fits

No, the ones in show business tend to be overconfident, obnoxious teenagers filled with a misguided sense of self-importance.

Sadly, In the Forest of the Night was full of them.

And without a shadow of a doubt, the worst of the lot was Harley Bird, who played Ruby.

I just looked her up on Wikipedia as I was sure she could only have got the gig through nepotism, or a parent calling in a favour, but it turns out that she is in fact the voice of Peppa Pig. And that explains a lot.

For while it’s ok – indeed, probably ideal – for a girl voicing a cartoon character aimed at preschoolers to over exaggerate every line she speaks, it’s not ok in a show like Doctor Who, which is aimed at adults and children alike.

Bird’s performance actually made me tense – that’s how bad it was – and it brought the whole episode down as a result.


The thing is though, having so many kids in the story implied that this was an episode aimed at children, just like Fear Her was. And indeed, this episode in many ways – including the way Maebh could communicate with whatever those shiny things in the air were – resembled that David Tennant episode.

But why would you want to pay homage to a story many people consider crap? It’s a mystery.

To be fair, it is a family show and in recent weeks you’d struggle to find what parts of it were aimed at kids, but I would argue that as long as it doesn’t break any pre-watershed rules, kids can enjoy episodes aimed more at adults. The thing is though, that adults will struggle to enjoy something aimed at kids.

So that’s In the Forest of the Night’s biggest failing in my opinion.

Apart From That Though…

Beyond that though, the writing doesn’t stand up to criticism.

Urgh. Just fuck off you obnoxious, overacting bastard

Everything I hate about kids – and especially child actors – is in this photo.

The idea that the world has been taken over by trees is good, and so is the twist that the trees are actually saving the planet from a solar flare, but that’s about it.

Essentially, there’s around 15 minutes of plot here, stretched out over more than double the time, and that left us having to watch people wander aimlessly around a forest. The parts with the wolves and the tiger existed purely to fill dead air.

Meanwhile, other aspects of the plot – and I’m thinking of the storyline with Maebh’s mother coming to find her – only served to make you ask questions that the writer forgot to ask himself. For example, why are the only people wandering around Central London a couple of school teachers and a very small class of children? Why weren’t any of the other kids’ parents looking for them? And in a 24 hour world, how did nobody notice the trees emerging?

It’s just  sloppy.

And that’s a pity because the show has been so good lately.

Random Observations

  • A quick check on Google brought me to the review of this episode by Neela “Caves of Androzani is shit/Arc of Infinity is awesome” Debnath. Naturally, she thought the kids were the best thing about the episode. Just reading what she has to say makes me think that she’s been hired by someone whose life mission is to wind me up.
  • There really was no need for the Doctor to “speak” to the trees in the form of those lights; it didn’t add anything to the story at all, and indeed the deepness of the voice of the trees was such that I didn’t even take in what it said on first viewing.
  • Another pointless aspect of this episode was the girl’s missing sister, and I just thought that her turning up at the end was utterly ridiculous.
  • The way that boy stormed out of Clara’s classroom would have earned him a suspension at the very minimum if he’d gone to my school.
  • And on that note, since when were class trips to spend the night in museums a thing?
  • And why would there be a trip to a museum taken by an English and Maths teacher? Surely it’d be a teacher of Geography, History or a science?

    This woman is smug because she realises she's the only child's parent who cares

    This woman is smug because she realises she’s the only parent who cared enough to look for her child.

  • Wouldn’t the kids know the Doctor as the school janitor?
  • I get what she was going for, but the hand acting of the girl paying Maebh’s was really bad. But then kids rarely make good actors.
  • There’s only so many times you can accept thin explanations for stuff. I’m happy with the idea that the Moon is an egg, even though it’s a wee bit ropey, but the explanation that the entire human race will simply choose to forget about the trees is ridiculous.
  • Until it was explained as Clara looking for an excuse to get the Doctor back to the TARDIS, I thought she was bi-polar. “Let’s save who we can” she says in one scene before admonishing the Doctor for saying he was taking the kids with him in the next.
  • Am I the only one who thought the direction of Nelson’s Column falling over was paying homage to the cliffhanger in Revelation of the Daleks?
  • The resolution of having the kids send everyone a message to their mobile is a bit too similar to Clara asking the world to decide on its fate in Kill the Moon.
  • Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman were once again on good form, but alas that’s not enough to make me enjoy this episode.
  • I’d be very surprised if the writer of this episode wasn’t a member of the Green Party.
  • Doctor Who has taught me a valuable lesson. If I’m ever confronted by a hungry and dangerous tiger, all I have to do is flash a torch at it and it’ll wander off without incident. Presumably, tigers fear epileptic fits.
  • To its credit, this story looks great, but I wouldn’t expect anything less.

Doctor Who – In the Forest of the Night Review: Final Thoughts

Alas, the great run Doctor Who has been on has come to a temporary end.

While containing some good features, the unfortunate truth is that In the Forest of the Night is flawed on just about every level.

It doesn’t contain enough plot to justify its existence and it contains glaringly obvious logic issues in the plot.

Plus the children just really annoy me.

Maybe this wasn’t aimed at me at all though? Maybe this was one to appeal to the kids before moving on to a grittier finale starting next week? After all, that was the excuse used to justify Fear Her?

But I don’t think that’s good enough. If you want to do a kids show, do a kids show, and don’t put it on at 8.20pm.

Otherwise you’re just asking for moans.

Hey, you know I’ve written a book with my reviews of all the Classic Era Dr Who stories right? Bought it yet? Why not? Sort that out immediately!! As someone on a Dr Who forum said, “The humorous nature of the reviews is worth the asking price”. He’s right! Buy it now.



8 Responses to Doctor Who: In the Forest of the Night Review (or “Never Work With Children or Animals”)

  1. Flynn Sullivan says:

    I’m throwing this out here just because this page pretty much explains every reason Listen was bad. Written by a professional who knows his Doctor Who.
    Yes it’s petty, but I feel like I have to close this chapter of my fan life.

    I’ll get back to you on this episode though. 🙂

  2. George Dolley says:

    Absolutely spot on. I also couldn’t understand what the tree light things were saying, and honestly struggled to work out what was going on to begin with because of the avalanche of logical inconsistencies.

  3. Completely agree. The acting of the children was cringeworthy, the scene with the tiger was bizarre, and the notion that no-one saw the trees appear is ludicrous.

  4. Fred Fep says:

    At least that other annoying girl wasn’t around anymore.

    Pink is the most boorish supposed teacher. He is more interested in his navel than the forest around him. He is self-centered and selfish and why in the world would Clara love him. She must not be real…

    And don’t anyone else live in London?

  5. scienceguyuk says:

    The biggest problem about this episode, for me, is the complete failure of science. Lots of oxygen + a large heat source + a huge amount of fuel would lead to the greatest ever bonfire. Like Kill the Moon before it, this episode fails because it got the basic science wrong and made the episode unbelievable. The children were irritating but we’re actually a good representation of students their age. (In real life, if a student stormed out of a lesson like Bradley did, the teacher would be made to apologise to them for upsetting them not the other way round)

    • Perry Armstrong says:

      Well said. Obviously one watches programmes such as this with a certain suspension of disbelief, but that shouldn’t necessarily be the same as needing to switch off all critical faculties. Granted it’s been decades since ‘being educational’ was part of Dr Who’s remit, but it’s a shame to think some impressionable kid might come away from an episode more ill-informed than if they’d not watched it at all.

  6. Jim says:

    I agree about the “Revelation of the Daleks” homage!

  7. Flynn Sullivan says:

    Episodes aimed at kids shouldn’t even be a thing.

    A) Adults will find it childish.
    B) Kids expect stronger material from Doctor Who. They *like* adult episodes, because it makes them feel smart.

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