Doctor Who S08 E10: In the Forest of the Night

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“The forest is mankind’s nightmare.”

… says the Doctor, looking around a newly forested Trafalgar Square. Over the course of one night a massive forest has grown up everywhere. Not just London, not just the United Kingdom, not just Europe – everywhere. The Earth is covered in forest, from top to bottom.

This week’s episode of Doctor Who, “In the Forest of the Night”, pitches the Doctor, Clara, Danny, and a small group of students against nature, which is a fight they simply cannot win. Unlike the Daleks, Cybermen, Silurians, and the rest of the Doctor’s encyclopedic bestiary, there’s no time-field distortion, power overload, historical re-write, triggered volcano, or TARDIS consciousness to come to the rescue. The Doctor’s likely the cleverest person in the universe, but even he is impotent in the face of catastrophe, change, entropy, and inevitability.

There’s an underlying theme of the battle between nature and technology in the episode. Some are things we’ve heard before: the sonic screwdriver’s uselessness when faced with wood, global communication, mankind’s habit of shooting first asking questions later (the trees know better, by the way), but there’s also something else going on, and it reminded me more than a little bit of Alan Moore’s concept of the Green in Swamp Thing. I might be grasping at straws here, but fairy tales, the brutal and beautiful force of nature, and things hiding in the dark are echoed in both.

There have been stronger and scarier episodes this season, but the situational and character-driven mysteries in this episode were fascinating. Something is happening behind the scenes, here; and I very much believe it extends beyond Heaven (yes, the mysterious Heaven-woman appears yet again this week). I’m far more interested in the two sisters. Maeve, whom we are introduced to in this episode, is some sort of locus of primal energy. Or perhaps just energy, period? And then there’s her missing older sister . . . This is a secondary plot to the sudden global sprouting, but it’s no less interesting.

Who are these girls?

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