Traditionally in Doctor Who, the “second last” stories tend to have a bad track record – and this extends way beyond the confines of the new series. The penultimate story of the very first season, The Sensorites, doesn’t exactly have a good reputation in the fandom; and this trend continues through to the second-last Troughton story, with The Space Pirates placing 235th of 241 stories in the Doctor Who Magazine “first 50 years” poll. Things looked up in the 70s, with stories such as Planet of the Daleks and Genesis of the Daleks putting up a good case for the penultimate slot, but this all fell apart with the airing of Underworld in 1978; from this point onward the list is cringeworthy – The Power of Kroll, Timelash, Terror of the Vervoids, Fear Her, Closing Time, Nightmare in Silver…need I go on?
In fact, because I was feeling particularly nerdy, I did a little calculation. I took the bottom 50 stories in the DWM poll (keeping in mind it was out of 241) and shockingly discovered that 14 of these were penultimate stories. That’s almost 30%. Just from this statistic alone we can see it’s the worst programming slot throughout the entire 50-year history of Doctor Who – can you understand why I was naturally anxious when I sat down to watch In the Forest of the Night?
It’s kind of a shame too, because “penultimate” is my favorite word in the English language…
So, did this week’s story fall short of our expectations, or did it go beyond all odds and become a season highlight? Let’s take a look as we attempt to navigate the overnight forest…
A Few Initial Reactions
- The beginning of this story would have been so much better if we hadn’t been told in the next time trailer that “London is a forest”. Oh well, they have to give us a reason to come back each week.
- Wait, the Doctor has a jumper this time?! And it has holes in it for no apparent reason? That’s definitely a new one.
- The TARDIS is bigger on the inside like…Coke. Well, that’s new.
- I want to say, that child actor is really, really cute – and she did a really good performance considering her age.
- Pfft, as if Coal Hill School would let two teachers who were obviously dating take a bunch of kids out alone on an overnight trip. This story already has annoying piddly plotholes, it’s really not a good sign…
- I just realised that I totally missed the “Museum” caption the first time around. They put it at the bottom of the screen at the end of the credits for goodness sake. No wonder I couldn’t figure out why they were sleeping on the ground in a cave.
- This first six minutes of this episode were awesome. There were a million possibilities were running through my head: time warp? Parallel universe? Part three of The Keys of Marinus? …and then the news reports of the “overnight freak forest” hit. Oh, it’s just The Power of Three all over again.
- “I’m a time lord, not a child minder!” haha, that’s definitely something Eleven never would have said. I love grumpy Doctor.
- “Why are they shouting at each other?” “That’s what people do when they’re in love! Don’t you know anything?!” I love how the kids spread gossip about Clara and Danny. It’s kind of what happens in real life…
- Uh oh, I found piddly plothole #2 – Clara’s backpack is tiny! As if it contains everything she needs for a night away with a bunch of kids and her boyfriend. Also, she was seen rolling up a sleeping bag in the cave – where did that magically disappear to?
- “That attitude is…actually very attractive”. You know, I realised something – Danny’s refusal to abandon the kids is very similar to something Eleven (but not Twelve, duh) would do. That kind of explains why she likes him so much.
- Kids taking selfies in front of the Trafalgar Square lion…in the middle of a forest. Sounds about right.
- Aww, I was majorly disappointed that we couldn’t see the other angle on the triangle in Danny’s maths class; I wanted to find x!
- “He pretends he’s not interested, and then he has an idea. He’s playing for time.” Uh oh, Clara has the Doctor figured out. The companion should never have the Doctor figured out
- Clara’s time is going to end badly very quickly. The only exception to this rule is Romana, she had the Doctor figured out from day one.
- Wolves escaped from the zoo? Seriously? I mean, was that part really necessary?!
- Annnnd Danny saves the day. You know how I totally adored him in The Caretaker? That’s fading a little now. I don’t know, I think it’s his opposition to the Doctor that puts me off him. He’s still an adorable match for Clara though.
- The trees are alive? On their own accord with no extraterrestrial influence?! You have got to be kidding me.
- That kid’s accent is so cute when she says “thought”. Can I take her home?
- Come on Clara, you should know by now that all the Earth “futures” you saw can be rewritten. We thoroughly covered this one in Kill the Moon.
- “I don’t want to be the last of my kind.” That’s really, really interesting. Not even if you got to travel with the Doctor for 60 years and then die? Really?
- “This is my Earth too. I walk your Earth, I breathe your air.” Heard that one before? Take a look at Clara’s angry monologue from Kill the Moon…
- Oh, right, so the government is getting ready to spend millions of dollars burning the forest and they’re going to listen to a little girl who doesn’t even explain herself properly. *Facepalm*
- “I just want to know the truth. I don’t care what it is, I just want to know it.” Okay, I’m starting to like Danny a bit more now.
- Missy is back and just as cryptic and annoying as she’s always been! I’m really keen to find out who she is though.
- “The human superpower: forgetting.” Huh, you’ve got that right. Just ask my mother (just joking, I love you mum!).
- The girl’s sister came back? Seriously?! *Bangs head against desk several times*
Next Week: Dark Water
“I’m not Clara Oswald. Clara Oswald has never existed!” What, whaaaa? Ugh, all those theories about Missy (“Miss C”, according to theorists) being Clara better not be true. It would explain a lot of things, but I still don’t want it to be true. That has to be one of the best ‘next time’ trailers ever, I definitely want to know what happens next. As morbid as it sounds (and feel free to judge me) I hope we get treated to a classic (and permanent) companion death, it’s been a while since we’ve had one of those.