After two episodes of equal parts horror and adventure it can feel a little odd to get back to one of Doctor Who’s normal episodes of saving the world on a grand scale. Then again, a large part of what makes Doctor Who such a unique show is that saving the world is considered more mundane than saving a couple of people. “In the Forest of the Night” is anything but mundane, luckily. It’s probably among the funniest and conceptually interesting episodes this season, even if the plot gets a bit too contrived making things work.
The episode begins with a very young girl named Maebh (Abigail Eames)—whose name is not pronounced the same as a certain cousin from Arrested Development—running through a forest in her red coat, looking every bit like Little Red Riding Hood. She comes across the TARDIS, knocks on the door, and tells the Doctor that she is being chased and that Clara’s voice told her to seek him out. The Doctor is, as usual, uninterested until he realizes that they’re in the middle of a forest.
The Doctor gives Maebh a quick tour of the TARDIS while the girl tells him that she’s part of Danny’s and Clara’s school group. The Doctor tries to figure out what’s wrong with the TARDIS’ navigation system since it’s telling him that he’s in the middle of London despite the forest all around it. Maebh informs the Doctor that the TARDIS is correct and she pulls him out of the TARDIS to show the Doctor that they are actually in Trafalgar Square. It seems all of London is covered in a huge blanket of forest.
Danny and Clara, meanwhile, have been chaperoning a group of troubled children on an overnight stay at the museum. Upon exiting the museum they see that the city is covered with a forest. It’s then revealed that the entire planet is absolutely covered in trees, not just London. Even the ocean is a tint of green. The planet is absolutely covered by greenery.
The Doctor phones Clara to inform her that he has Maebh, and he and Clara share information about what they’ve noticed about the forest so far. After the call, Clara lies to Danny about who was on the phone, but Danny assumes she was speaking to the Doctor. He has been under the impression that Clara and the Doctor have not interacted in a long while, but Clara defends her recent interaction with the inexplicable nature of their situation.
The school group make their way to Trafalgar Square to meet up with the Doctor and Maebh. While the latter two wait, Maebh watches a government broadcast announcing a plan to clear a path through the trees with fire squads to establish emergency routes. They ask that everyone stay in their homes as well but it still seems more than a little unrealistic that London seems to be absolutely devoid of any human life except for a scant few people.
The Doctor attempts to scan the environment for an inkling of what’s going on, but can’t detect a thing because it’s all wood—the one thing his devices have never been able to interact with (Robin Hood target shooting aside). A pretty bare-bones subplot gets introduced involving some of the episode’s minor characters including Maebh’s mother setting out to find her daughter in the forested mes, and the troubles of some of the students in the class.
NEXT: Fairy tales and something that burns bright