The 12th Doctor – Series 8, Episode 10 – “In the Forest of the Night” – Too Much Fantasy

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Since Moffat has become showrunner of “Doctor Who” after Russell T. Davies left there has always been an element of fantasy in his series. The strongest of this and the best version of it was Series 5 when Matt Smith was the 11th Doctor, and weakest was the series 7…Smith’s final season and one of the most inconsistent seasons that gave us a lot of the worst of Moffat’s writing and themes. This episode is not as bad as the worst of series 7 and would have been good if not for the ending, but because of the ending I can only call it okay. I’ll get into what I mean in the assessment.

The episode was directed by Sheree Folkson and written by Frank Cottrell Boyce.

The premise is that the world has become overgrown by a forest that grew in a day. The Doctor doesn’t know why it happened and is left with Clara and Danny as they find that one of the Coal Hill Students Maehb maybe tied to the events and are left facing this new mystery and whether it is something good and temporary or a the signs of an invasion. From here the story unfolds.

Here is the assessment of the episode:

The Pros: The Premise – The idea of a forest overgrowing the world is a great idea! Especially since it adds a lot of mystery and in this instance plays into the human fear of the woods. Which we see in fairy tales like Hansel and Gretel and Little Red Riding Hood both of which are made visual illusions to in the episode. There is a sense of danger and a sense of loss too given the events of the fairy tales.

Danny Pink – Danny is good at being the one grounded on being in the moment and looking after the kids to make sure they are connected. We see how this appeals to Clara even though she is so drawn to the excitement, mystery and adventure of the current circumstances. She assumes the Doctor can sort things out, Danny assumes nothing. We learn that this was due to his experiences as a soldier and he has no desire to repeat it given what he wants most is right in front of him (Clara). It’s a sweet moment and I liked how he was handled in this episode. Even with Clara lying about adventures with the Doctor and them even happening he is there until she can figure things out.

Clara Oswald – Clara is very much the companion in this episode, and she loves it. We see her separate herself from the Doctor at the end though when she asks him to run since if humanity will go extinct they will do so together and she doesn’t want to be the last of her kind. We see her attachment to Earth in this episode and her love of Danny even if she doesn’t know how to fully communicate her situation with the Doctor and being straight with them both. But she grows some in this episode which leaves things curious in regards to how her leaving will be handled at the end of this series.

The 12th Doctor / The Twelfth Doctor – The Doctor is interesting in this episode. We see him not being very good with children in that he isn’t very aware of them and is drawn in the most to the mystery. It takes a student being connected to the events for him to truly care and though he says he will stay with humanity he is rejected like he rejected helping humanity in “Kill the Moon.” I liked him in this episode but he couldn’t save it as there were other things bringing it down.

The Cons: Child Actors – Having one is bad enough, but this one had a bunch. They weren’t bad all the time but it make the threat seem so much less since it’s a family show…they aren’t going to kill a kid. This made the episode feel G when it was dealing with mortality, which was a shame.

Everything is Okay Again – I really don’t like how this series, especially when the episode has a kid (“Kill the Moon” again, and “The Caretaker”) try to keep consequences from occuring. The Earth doesn’t change and the Doctor talks about people forgetting. There was no point for the episode beyond it advancing the character arcs, which is a waste of a premise. “Kill the Moon” at least gave Clara reason to doubt and for a while was actually a great thriller so the concept was handled better. This one, not so much.

Everybody Lives – There are aliens that predate the Doctor in this episode and apparently they saved Maehb’s sister. “The Doctor Dances” did this so much better, because it was a war, there was consequences going on, there was despair and death so people living meant something. This corny ending gave nothing to the Whoverse and made Moffat going dark feel like a lie. Well, we’ll see how the final goes. Most episodes have been good but this ending is part of what’s wrong with Moffat. It’s too much fantasy, and not the good kind where magic is an element but not a magic reset button of entire character situations.

This episode could have been worse, the mystery was better than “Robot of Sherwood” at least and the character moments did improve the story. But they got to stop using child actors…I know this is a kids show but the original Star Wars didn’t have any child actors and was better for it. Kids can take dark, and some of the darkest Doctor Who (Series 1-3 on “Doctor Who”) were actually quite amazing. Fantasy writing shouldn’t be an excuse for not having stories without consequences. Happy endings should have a cost, or better yet be bittersweet.

Final Score: 6.5 / 10. Would be lower if not for Clara, Danny and the Doctor.

The 12th Doctor – Series 8, Episode 8 – “Mummy on the Orient Express” – The Doctor’s Motivation

Mummy on the Orient Express

This is one of the better episodes exploring if the Doctor is a good man. What are his motivations? What drives him to make his decisions? This episode really captures the alien parts of that and pushes us closer to Clara’s leaving. It also provides a good mystery that keeps with the soldier theme of this series.

“Mummy on the Orient Express” was written by Jamie Mathieson, directed by Paul Wilmshurst and produced by Peter Bennett.

The premise is the Doctor is taking Clara on a last adventure for her to say good-bye, which also gives him a chance to explore why the mysterious “Gus” has kept offering him free tickets as far back as “The Big Bang” on the Orient Express. We soon learn that they are test subjects as the mummy kills them in a pattern. From here the story unfolds as Clara considers whether this should be good bye for good and the Doctor’s reasons for the things he does are revealed.

Here is the assessment of the episode:

The Pros: The Orient Express – I really like the setting in the episode, it is classy and at the same time a prison. We see this when Gus drops all illusions on the train to have them appear in a lab and begins killing customers because they aren’t figuring out how to stop the Mummy, who kills people once they see it, in 66 seconds. For this reason there is constant tension throughout the episode as the Doctor and other doctors work to figure out how to stop it.

Captain Quell – He is the first soldier we meet on the train (this is a theme of the season and the episode) and we see that experiences PTSD when he was the only survivor of an attack. This leads to his lack of action until 3 crewmembers die. He goes down fighting and alive though, when the Mummy targets him for his PTSD and he dies whole. David Bamber was good in this role, as it takes a lot for him to come around to the Doctor. The Doctor has to earn his trust.

Perkins – Is the engineer who it hints at, may no more than he leads on. He targets the Doctor when the Doctor dismisses the deaths of the captain, the mythologist and others as he’s told they don’t have time to morn, they need action to find out how to stop the Mummy so their death’s weren’t in vain. Perkins eventually gets this and is on the TARDIS at the end and realizes the nature of the TARDIS forces a person to change, which leads to the Doctor mentioning how it has changed him, many times. He was a good minor character and Frank Skinner did a good job.

Professor Moorhouse – This is the character who is all about data, which the Doctor uses to his advantage to learn about the myths surrounding the Mummy, and to get information from him when the Mummy is about to end his life. He is serious about his work and is up until the end, though he does start trying to make deals and reason with the Mummy as others tried to do in the myths, which doesn’t save him. Christopher VIlliers was good for playing this gentleman.

Clara – A major part of this episode is exploring Clara’s relationship with the Doctor. They hinted at her  not being in this episode, which I wouldn’t have minded…but her being there did advance her arc with the Doctor. In this one she is his soldier lying to Maisie to get her to the room with all the equipment. The Doctor does save her when he tries an experiment and we are shown the Doctor is like Maisie’s grandmother…sometimes well intentioned, but cold and cruel. She calls him out on doing that, but he mentions that it was the only way to try to save her and she calls him a good man at the core…until the Doctor foreboding brings up the other part. He was as detached when he risked his life for Maisie as he was when Moorhouse and the Captain were killed. This is going to play a part later though Clara embraces the adventure now, knowing the Doctor will always try to do the right thing even if it isn’t coming from the right reasons.

The Mummy – Is a soldier from a future war. The reason it isn’t seen is because of cloaking technology, and it targeted them one by one to destroy the weak first so there wouldn’t be distractions and so it could take their energy. It had no choice to stop fighting until the Doctor surrenders. It was a really cool concept, and like Captain Quell’s PTSD showed another dimension to war. It dies saluting the Doctor and it’s core is used to beam everyone into the TARDIS before Gus destroys the train.

The Doctor – This episode is Capaldi in his element. We truly see the Doctor more fully and can better understand his motivations. He does the right thing or tries too, but it’s with detachment and he isn’t attached to caring about people beyond the present moment. We also see his investigative side in action as he solves the mystery of the Mummy and risks his life to find out the truth. He’s calculating, but also willing to take a chance on a whim if it will help someone and help him solve the case. He tries to find out who Gus is too but Gus destroys the train, which also put folks at risk when he did that from inside the train. The Doctor and Clara decide to take the next adventure together but the Doctor is questioning now since Clara was ready to say good bye and her change of heart has him confused since he knows he’s still the same person who made and makes her angry. For this reason, we are that much closer to Clara leaving, even if she isn’t aware of it.

The Cons: Maisie – Couldn’t get into her character. She was mostly there to draw illusions to the Doctor and Clara’s relationship through the relationship she lost and to give us a new perspective on the Doctor. She was a plot device.

This was a great episode and another one of my favorites this season. It was better than “Deep Breath” and a lot of fun. My only issue would be how much we don’t know about Gus and if he is connected to the Missy arc or not. I’m also waiting for an enemy that is generally bad and evil and isn’t a Dalek. Most enemies this season have just been misunderstood slaves or soldiers….or really cheezy villains like in “Robot of Sherwood.” I definitly recommend this episode and think that when Clara leaves, we’re going to feel it.

Final Score: 9.5 / 10