As always, DO NOT READ unless you're caught up on Series 8 of Doctor Who! As River would say: *spoilers*
Hail, hail, the gang's all here! This week, The Doctor, Clara, and Danny are all pulled together to figure out a fully grown forest that somehow sprang up overnight across the globe with a group of school children in tow. The story centers around a specific student, Maeve, who is apparently suffering from a psychotic break, has predicted the end of the world (by way of massive solar flare) by drawing pictures of a frowning sun, and is hearing voices, seeing things, and constantly running off for no apparent reason, because otherwise there would be no story progression. During one of her random, psychotic romps into the forest, Maeve manages to find a ring of trees covered in cobwebs (because why the hell not?), and once everyone else catches up to her, they discover that the voices she's hearing are the voices of the trees and that they've been around forever. The Doctor takes from this revelation that the Earth is essentially doomed, and Clara decides that she'd prefer the kids die with their parents rather than live away from Earth and tells The Doctor to leave and save himself. It's supposed to be a grand gesture that she's making, but it's actually pretty sick that she just condemned herself, the man she loves, the group of children she was supposed to be caring for, and the entire human race to death rather than taking The Doctor up on his offer to save the group in the TARDIS. Lucky for her, the forest actually grew in order to save the planet from the solar flare so no one has to die after all and we've got yet another episode this series without an actual villain. (This doesn't change the fact that Clara had, moments earlier, pulled the plug on the planet for no discernible reason, so she's still a horrible person.)
This should have been a whopper of an episode. Danny and Clara should be having it out about her abysmal attempts at deception, but apparently Clara has somehow managed to keep Danny in the dark about her continued travels with The Doctor. Clearly Danny is either incredibly thick, or he doesn't actually care that Clara has been leading a double life. Either way, the lack of any actual reaction to her lies (despite his stern warnings and ultimatums in previous episodes) is a big 'ole let down. Honestly, this whole episode was a let down after 'Flatline'. In addition to the story itself being a bit disjointed, several things that happened were either terribly convenient or simply made no sense at all: At one point, Danny scared off a bloody tiger by shining a flashlight in its eyes, the TARDIS suddenly has a GPS style voice, and even though London has a population of roughly 8.3 million people, the forest is all but deserted.
|The citizens of London collectively decided to sleep in today.|
This is not to say that I didn't enjoy the episode at all. Peter Capaldi's performance stood out yet again as The Doctor awkwardly interacted with the children, Maeve specifically, and continued to be snarky (but noticeably less of a jerk) toward Danny. Director, Sheree Folkson, took a chance by using some interesting camera angles that, for the most part, turned out to work quite nicely and added to the scenes she used them in. All of this was against a truly gorgeous backdrop as the set was masterfully done with yellow sunlight shining through the lush, green trees spotted with still working streetlights, London's iconic red phone booths, and Tube signs.
All in all, I wouldn't say that this episode was particularly bad or good, it was just rather mediocre. I probably wouldn't change the channel if it came on again, but I also wouldn't seek it out. With only two episodes left in the series, though, I am interested to see how all of these wildly varying episodes come together, or if they do at all.