In the Forest of the Night Review

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Let’s play the Kill the Moon game again and put aside the question of public opinion, not look at comments, and just go straight out. Not because I’m about to go on another rave about how this is a transcendent piece of Doctor Who, although it basically is. You can basically fairly accuse it of being Kill the Moon as if it were the Olympic Opening Ceremony, and that’s a fair criticism, so, spoilers, I’m going to put it in second. Well, though you can fairly accuse Kill the Moon of being a pro-life parable. So I guess in the end it goes down to the aesthetics of the thing, and personal preference. I think the ending of Kill the Moon is paced a bit better. So still second, but damn, that’s close.

But the real reason I’m putting public opinion aside is that this is, as many thought possible, the Blake episode. And I should set that reading up quickly, because it’s tremendously important to the episode and how I’m going to read it. If you’re a Blake geek, this is a hell of a thing. So. The Doctor suggests that the forest comes from the manipulation of time, and specifically mentions the date 1795. That is the year Blake began printing the combined volume Songs of Innocence and of Experience, from which his famed poem “The Tyger” emerges. This is the poem the episode’s title is taken from, and the tacit reason that the Doctor, Clara, and Maebh are menaced by a tiger. 

This connection is reinforced by Maebh’s description of seeing and hearing “ideas” flying around her, a description that consciously evokes Blake’s biography. Blake, and there’s not really another way to put this, had visions. These visions directly inspired and shaped his work, which was often an attempt to express the revelations he experienced. His famed miniature The Ghost of a Flea is, for instance, an illustration of a literal ghost he claimed to see. There is very little reason to think Blake was a charlatan in this regard. Certainly if he was, his act was terribly ineffectual. He lived in poverty his whole life, stubbornly clinging to his visionary art despite clearly being talented enough to fashion a career if only he were more disciplined. If he was a charlatan, the adaptability needed to craft so convincing an act failed him in every other aspect of his life. No, any reckoning of William Blake as a great artist and writer must accept up front - his art was the product of visions. Numerous hypotheses exist as to the nature of these visions, but they genuinely motivated his work. 

So when Maebh Arden stands within a forest from 1795, and says she sees ideas, she is in explicit communion with whatever strange source was tapped to produce Jerusalem the Emanation of the Giant Albion and America a Prophecy. She communes with the hand that dared seize the fire. This is a story about the visions that William Blake saw - visions that come from some older, stranger eternity. One we are told is the very mythic past of Britain - the image of the dark forest, the savage unknown that lurks beneath the surface of this world, and will emerge and cover over our bones when our time is done. This is Albion. This is Faerie. This is the central, sacred myth. The national character.

And it’s expressed in a vision of childhood that is not quite unreconstructed innocence, but is nevertheless fundamentally hopeful - the same one represented by Courtney. A bunch of fuckup kids we lie to and tell they’re gifted and talented when in fact they’re the problem cases. The thick and the violent and the just plain broken. Redeemed by the classic spirit of every British children’s story ever, and turned to wonders who save the world. Innocence and Experience. Much like the “sun that creates and the sun that destroys,” or the marriage of heaven to hell. Jane’s going to have a field day with this. 

The Doctor, Clara, and Danny are all clearly themselves, and they do things that advance the plot, but the plot is essentially that of Warrior’s Gate - one in which the answer is to simply do nothing. Just be. Fear less, trust more.

It is here my quibble comes up. Much as with Kill the Moon, there’s a use of the medium to celebrate its own magical power. It’s television as ritual - art as magic. A textbook example of what Moore and Morrison are talking about, even if it wasn’t actually conceived of in terms of that explicit philosophy. This is a spell. When it ends, we will wake up and forget it ever happened, but it will still effect us, in our dreams. The magical forest that lurks beneath the world reached out and saved us, and for one moment we got to commune with its dark and wondrous beauty. Much like we collectively used the moon to give birth to the possibility of utopia by leaving our lights on so Tinkerbell would live a few weeks ago. 

Except that Kill the Moon was a spell telling us to wake up. To fight, and reclaim our utopias, by being brave and standing up for the beautiful and the strange no matter how many people tell us we are wrong. And this is a spell telling us to trust the world, which is a terribly dangerous thing to say when we are on the brink of choking it to death, and of choking ourselves to death.

This is, of course, merely a difference of aesthetics. And it’s a tension that’s always implicit in Doctor Who, which can never be pure and Innocent, and is always tainted by Experience. You can make plenty of criticisms of Kill the Moon, and it’s possible that I’d have liked this one more if it had aired first. Certainly this has loads of good politics. The angry snarl against reflexive and unthinking use of psychiatric meds, and against pathologizing people is beautiful. The fact that Maebh’s visions are both legitimate in the sense that she really does talk to the trees and legitimate in that they are products of her actual and real trauma is perfect.

But at the end of the day, this is a story that tells us not to medicate the genius out of William Blake, and Kill the Moon is a story that tells us to be William Blake and fly angrily against the entirety of our times, radically embracing the glimmering lights on the other side of the veil between here and faerie. One must go above the other. I pick Kill the Moon

  • Good lord, though, this is brilliant. 
  • The show has gotten so very, very adept at advancing character development in a tangible way each episode. It actually, notably, hasn’t meant a ton of coordination among scripts. Instead, there’s just been an orderly breakdown of “pick up Clara’s life here and put it down here” selected for each script and given to the writers. One is reminded of Moffat’s grousing that nobody told him that Age of Steel ended with Rose and Mickey pissed at each other, and if they had he’d have written Girl in the Fireplace differently. It looks like his approach to getting a season arc this year has simply been to make sure everybody is briefed expressly on where the characters are meant to go. It’s worked marvelously - to a “this is clearly the way to do it for the foreseeable future” extent. Come up with a twelve-step arc for your main characters, give one step to each writer, and tell them to write a Doctor Who story around it.
  • This season has very much retained the “movie poster” idea of self-contained, high concept stories. A very “television as pop music” version of “here’s our latest hit single.” It’s very WicDiv. This approach appears to pay off very well with new writers - ones who are eager to do “here’s my big definitive statement on Doctor Who” stories. Even Jamie Matheson, whose ideas have been among the most modest of the series (and remembering that the first half was largely turned over to letting Peter Capaldi make his big definitive statements on classic types of Doctor Who stories), has clearly thrived on the fun of doing definitive takes on things. 
  • And this really combines those approaches to a satisfying degree. It’s simultaneously a huge, definitive Statement of an episode - the most blatant and comprehensive take on a particular vision of Doctor Who ever attempted - and a satisfying exploration of the character interactions between this particular version of the Doctor, Clara the control freak who’s a little too good at being the children’s book heroine, and Danny the good man who really did go to war. It’s been thought through politically, visually, aesthetically, in terms of genre, in terms of British history; this is a sleekly ornate piece of thematic unity that I am going to get to have a blast with when I do a TARDIS Eruditorum on it. It’s a gonzo entry waiting to happen. It’s also a lovely character piece. 
  • I wonder what will annoy people more. The moon being an egg, or the science in this.
  • You know what would have improved this episode for me? A little more acknowledgment of the possibility that one day the trees won’t save us. A reminder at the end that the Doctor’s speeches about catastrophe were true, and that there absolutely is an end for the age of man on this planet, and we don’t actually know when it is. If it had left that edge to things even as it went for its happy utopian resolution, it would have supplanted The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang as my all-time favorite Doctor Who story. Instead, it’s a 10/10, but with a touch of “respect instead of love” for me. 
  • I love the scene of Clara sending the Doctor off and accepting her fate, because it’s played completely straight, despite the fact that we know it’s not actually going to play out. The believability of the scene is precisely zero, but it’s nevertheless such an iconic, perfect Doctor/Clara moment that it doesn’t matter. All that was missing was the line “run, you clever boy, and remember me.” 
  • You know, thinking about it… I actually think I liked Listen more than this too.
  • So, rankings. In fact, let’s freshen things up a bit, and rank off the top of my head, if I were to rewatch an episode right now, which one I’d choose, in ranked order.

  1. Kill the Moon
  2. Listen
  3. In the Forest of the Night
  4. The Caretaker
  5. Mummy on the Orient Express
  6. Deep Breath
  7. Flatline
  8. Into the Dalek
  9. Time Heist
  10. Robot of Sherwood


Comments

dm 2 years, 8 months ago

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dm 2 years, 8 months ago

With Swamp Thing and faerie in an episode that got its name from Blake, do you think that maybe our Phil just wished really, really hard?

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dm 2 years, 8 months ago

I hesitate to quote this, because I think the late Mr Ebert was dead wrong about this film, but here we go:

My rational mind informs me that this movie doesn't work. Yet I hear a subversive whisper: Since it does so many other things, does it have to work, too? Can't it just exist? "Terminal whimsy," I called it on the TV show. Yes, but isn't that better than half-hearted whimsy, or no whimsy at all? Wes Anderson's "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou" is the damnedest film. I can't recommend it, but I would not for one second discourage you from seeing it.

Find and replace.

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xen trilus 2 years, 8 months ago

Both surprised and not surprised that the 'tyger' ended up being borderline irrelevant.

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ScarvesandCelery 2 years, 8 months ago

I feel like this one will get a similar fan reaction to "Love and Monsters" and "The Rings of Ahkaten", both stories I love that are (mostly) hated by fandom. This wasn't my favourite episode - I don't usually mind child actors but some of the acting on display was particularly cringe-worthy (okay, the kids mostly did a fine job, but some moments felt off). Also, the plot thread with Maebe's sister was completely undercooked, and as a result the episode's final sting felt completely undercooked.

Other than these weaknessess, though, I loved it, if not as much as the Season's more consistent episodes. The script was beautiful - it reminded me a lot of "Millions" (the film version particularly) - I loved how it got me rooting for the band of misfit year eights. And the character work was once again top notch, especially the Doctor quoting Clara from "Kill the Moon", though I also appreciated Danny's slight shift - he seems a bit more willing to accept Clara's travelling with the Doctor now. It's a hot mess, but I can't complain too much when Doctor Who is being this brave and strange on a weekly basis - it's confident enough to try and be different to any other Television.

Also, that "Next Time" trailer

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ScarvesandCelery 2 years, 8 months ago

Agree with Daibhid - it felt like the episode was criticizing the way we try to pathologize people who are neuroatypical instead of understanding them. The line about the voices Maebh hears reminded me of this TEDtalk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=syjEN3peCJw

Eleanor Longden talks about her experiences with schizophrenia, and how she was only able to get better once she understood what the voices in her head meant, and accepted them as a part of her identity.

The episode would have been better if it had a clearer line on medication. But overall, I think its message is the same is Longden's, and that's a message I'm happy to see Doctor Who promoting.

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heroesandrivals 2 years, 8 months ago

I think that Doctor Who is best ratio'd as 30% romps, 30% serious threatdowns, proper 20% (or less) Series Mythology and 20% Batshit Insanity.

Capaldi is an older doctor, but in this episode I noticed that in a couple places he was MOVING like an old man. He's only 56 years old but I worry that the physically punishing schedule and demands of producing this show are wearing on him.
(Oh well, he'll be buffed up by next year. Tennant talked about how all the running was hard in his first years but kept him in great shape after that.)

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Anton B 2 years, 8 months ago

The use of drugs to deal with 'mental illness' (a horrible label. Daibhid's 'psychologically atypical' is better) is indeed a controversial subject. In my experience medication is often issued not as a cure but as a chemical cosh to sedate or supress symptoms or quieten behaviour that carers find difficult to handle. Anyway I don't feel this particular drama was advocating either using or not using medication. It was advocating listening, fearing less and trusting more. In this particular context the girl's medication was preventing her revealing the solution to the wider problem.

The child actors were child actors neither particularly good or bad but certainly positively added to the energy of every scene they were in.

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Anton B 2 years, 8 months ago

I need to sleep on this one and definitely watch it again a few times. Like Kill the Moon It's lyrical imagery seemed slightly at odds with its pseudo -science and I imagine will provoke as much debate.

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heroesandrivals 2 years, 8 months ago

I blame the there-ness on the conversation with the forest-whatevers, which was somehow anti-expositional. It just kept sliding off my brain. I know it was supposed to be delivering important information but I couldn't even listen, it was just... blecgh.
That, and the science was AWFUL. I'm not even nitpicking but even its internal logic was all over the place. I suspect there's some arc-logic requiring a giant Solar Flare (which was the source of almost all the problems) but man, it was stinky. We needed a much higher quality of handwaving.
It tries to get by on emotional logic but there are lapses in that. not int he least that the front half of the episode presents the disappearance like an abduction, not a runaway, and the shift to "she can just come home" is a violation of the strongest emotional element of the episode.

That aside -- man, THIS is how you do a budget-saving bottle episode! Almost all practical effects on a limited number of sets and locations dressed up with discount shrubbery and cemented with a handful of CGI. And outside of the animals even the effects looked dodgy and half-realized in this one... but it worked, from a production standpoint. With a better script this could have been brilliant.

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heroesandrivals 2 years, 8 months ago

It had a more interesting story to tell that was derailed by the presumably-arc-relevant solar flare.
It had BETTER be arc-relevant, otherwise, blecgh.

So no damage to streets or facilities because of the trees? This solar flare would have destroyed every satellite in orbit, subtracting trillions from the world economy and crashing whole countries...? Not even a handwave?
This was saturday-morning-cartoon science. I don't expect Doctor Who to be hard SF, but I do expect better than this. Those sorts of things COULD have been handwaved or lampshaded, but it was just ignored.
(Or maybe it was lampshaded, the last 10 minutes seem to have been chopped all to hell with evidence of missing bits-and-bobs and abrupt transitions. Perhaps the handwaving ended up on the cutting room floor? The Doctor losing Maebh after they venture out into the forest for one.)
Great opening to the episode... starts heading down 13 minutes in and never stops.

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ScarvesandCelery 2 years, 8 months ago

Another thought - I've seen people comparing Capaldi's Doctor to Sherlock, but the Moffat lead he reminds me of most is James Nesbitt's Hyde

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ScarvesandCelery 2 years, 8 months ago

Listen
Kill the Moon
The Caretaker
Deep Breath
Mummy on the Orient Express
The Forest of the Night
Flatline
Into the Dalek
Robot of Sherwood
Time Heist

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heroesandrivals 2 years, 8 months ago

Maybe Moffat's run out of things from RTD's run to undo?

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heroesandrivals 2 years, 8 months ago

Listen
The Caretaker
Mummy on the Orient Express
Flatline
Time Heist
Robot of Sherwood
Kill the Moon
The Forest of the Night
Into the Dalek
Deep Breath

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Scurra 2 years, 8 months ago

Well, of course, we're all psychologically atypical, thank you very much.
For instance, we live in a world in which alcohol and tobacco are not considered to be the coping/calming medications they so clearly are (discounting those for whom the side-effects are deleterious, but that's true of any medication.)

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Lewis Christian 2 years, 8 months ago

Waste of an episode. Nice visuals but that's about it.

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jane 2 years, 8 months ago

The forest is called "Here."

Be Here Now. Interesting book.

Some other things I found very interesting: First and foremost, Clara's acceptance of Death. She's practically beyond the Doctor in this regard. She recognizes that Death is preferable to a life of misery. Whether it's the misery of being orphaned, the misery of beholding the misery, or the misery of being "the last" of any kind. (Not that I think she's right -- millions of kids learn to cope with being orphaned. But it's still very much a thing Clara would think, given the loss of her own mother.)

Secondly, Clara out-Doctors the Doctor. Not only does she reflect his Doctorly thinking (not everyone has to die) but she does so to manipulate him back to the TARDIS, to save him rather than vice-versa. She totally played him.

Third: Mythos. And not just the blatant ecological message. The World Tree comes alive and saves the world as a shield. The World Tree is, of course, a symbol of integration, of the axis mundi that connects Above and Below, Past and Future, to the Here and Now. Interesting that it's called "Here" and uses the first-person plural. Singular and plural at the same time. The union of opposites.

There is nothing to do, just coming together, and going home.

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Gallifreyan_Immigrant 2 years, 8 months ago

This was Doctor Who crashing into children's television. Some people my dislike the children's acting, but their acting brought me back to those movies I would watch when I was little. And of course Doctor Who would fit into that genre nicely. That's why the ending science is iffy, though its iffiness is for a different reason from KtM's iffiness. KtM's pseudoscience was due to both the focus on the "unknown" as a theme and the focus on ethical issues as opposed to hard science. Forest's pseudoscience, is due to the children's television genre's magical underpinnings...it's hard to put in words, but a hard sf concept would have felt wrong for this episode. I liked the episode, and want to see more of the writer Frank Cottrell Boyce and the director, Sheree Folkson

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Philip Sandifer 2 years, 8 months ago

Oh good, nobody caught what was actually going on thematically with the medication before I got my review up. That's satisfying. It's nice to feel like I still have a point to my existence.

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Philip Sandifer 2 years, 8 months ago

Fun, thank you. Small attendance, but a good time was had.

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frank fair 2 years, 8 months ago

Dear Phil Sandifer

Thank you so much for telling me this is brilliant. I know it is, I feel it is, but literally thousands of angry voices on the internet are telling me it isn't. And if Gamersgate has taught me one thing, it's that angry voices on the internet have a power all of their own. But this episode made me feel things, and made me feel differently from any other episode...ever. And that's wonderful. And I shouldn't dismiss that. I hope the production team aren't dissuaded, like Neil Cross was with Akhaten

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jonathan inge 2 years, 8 months ago

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Philip Sandifer 2 years, 8 months ago

I am not sure how that revelation would be a difficult or out of character one for her to come to.

I think Clara's life is woven together quite tightly. What gaps do you see?

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frank fair 2 years, 8 months ago

Kill the Moon
In the Forest of the Night
Listen
Into the Dalek
Mummy on the Orient Express
Flatline
Time Heist
The Caretaker
Robot of Sherwood
Deep Breath

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Froborr 2 years, 8 months ago

I had to go to the emergency room a couple of weeks ago, and they left me and an elderly man strapped to beds in the hall while they looked for open rooms. The man was schizophrenic, and kept screaming in panic about nonsensical needs (for example: wanting a pen), while the assorted nurses and techs smirked at each other while one spoke to him softly and kindly and tried to calm him down. This repeated several times, greatly annoying me, because it was completely obvious to me what he was trying to say as best he could: "I'm scared and you've abandoned me in a hallway. Please pay attention to me. Don't leave me here."

So while I was initially annoyed by the fact that they were running around keeping a girl from her medication, all was forgiven when the Doctor explained why: you have to LISTEN first, then maybe medicate. He'd know about "Listen"ing to frightened children, wouldn't he?

And hey, Phil, we were just talking on Tumblr about how things like trust and hope and joy are revolutionary states of mind in a world of fear and cynicism, weren't we? ;)

So yeah, favorite episode this season. Absolutely beautiful, not actually Blakean in itself but celebrating and encouraging Blakean ideas and aesthetics. Jane's more than covered the World Tree aspects, and Phil Blake, and I've got blogging to do tonight, so I'm just going to poke very briefly at the concept of forest as opposed to tree, and specifically the idea of forests as a liminal space. Forests exist, traditionally, as a place to be passed through, a separator that divides origin from destination and thus divides both. They are a bridge between worlds, which is why Faerie is so often to be encountered inside them (say, as a swarm of glittering wisps in a strange circular clearing). And the astonishing ease with which one can become lost for a very long time in even a relatively small forest suggests that they may well be bigger on the inside. Forests are TARDISes, and this episode the trees get to be the Doctor, holding bits of time inside themselves, saving the world from giant menaces from space with junk science, being big and wonderful and scary, and toppling the statues of the great warriors of empire.

As a liminal space, a forest to travel through, it is interesting that the children wake in what appears to be a cave, sleeping in a pile on the ground (though it's actually an overnight in a museum--WTF? Is that a thing schoolkids do in Britain?), then journey through the forest and end inside the TARDIS. From cave-dwellers to Time Lords, with only the forest to suggest there is actually a separation between the two.

Okay, gonna rank the season now. Keep in mind I have not rewatched ANYTHING, this is all based on first impressions and (sometimes weeks-old) memories.

1. Forest of the Night
2. Flatline
3. Kill the Moon
4. Deep Breath
5. Listen
6. Robots of Sherwood
7. Time Heist
8. Mummy on the Orient Express
9. Into the Dalek
10. The Caretaker

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orfeo 2 years, 8 months ago

Thank you for pointing out a couple of more Blake references. I think this is one that will repay repeat viewing.

I would place it at the upper end of the season thus far (something I would emphatically NOT do with Kill the Moon, which stuffs too many ideas into its running time and then sells some of them short). It's never less than intriguing, and does a good job of making the forest both peaceful and calming and a threat.

If we're engaging in rankings, I think mine would currently go something like this:

1. Listen
2. The Caretaker
3? In the Forest of the Night
4? Deep Breath
5? Mummy on the Orient Express

And then the rest. The question marks are to indicate that those episodes are reasonably close together. The other half of the season are all okay, but would all be lower ranked. Some of them, like Time Heist, are just a bit inconsequential. Kill the Moon is the one that tries to be ambitious but then can't, in my view, handle what it's set up for itself.

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Froborr 2 years, 8 months ago

"a separator that divides origin from destination and thus DEFINES both"

Hopefully that's a little less nonsensically tautological now.

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mimhoff 2 years, 8 months ago

Through the whole story Mr Pink was reminding Clara that she *wasn't* the Doctor Who Companion, she was supposed to be an English teacher taking care of a class (the reverse of her thoughts in Kill the Moon when she was annoyed at the Doctor for dragging Courtney on the adventure).

Faced with the prospect of becoming the companion for the rest of her life, being like the Doctor with no home to go back to...

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Jarl 2 years, 8 months ago

I would agree that an anti-medication message is generally a bad thing, but this is a fantasy story and she's the seer. Of course she needs to go off her meds, they're suppressing the voices, and unlike in reality, those voices are real and helpful. See also: Phillip Gerard and MIKE from Twin Peaks. The alternative in such situations is when the seer doesn't hear voices, then you need drugs to induce such a state. See also: any given character on Fringe, or the Oracle at Delphi for a more historical/mythological perspective.

All that said, between the audio mixing and the flowery (aha, do you... see what, ha, I did... there...) language, I couldn't quite get a grasp on what the spirits of the forest were saying. I also gathered that the actual situation was what was happening before I ever got a sense that the trees were somehow calling down a solar flare.

Ending was a bit abrupt.

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Jarl 2 years, 8 months ago

This wasn't cartoon science, this was unapologetic fantasy. Not since we first heard the name "Amelia Pond" has the series been so overtly and unabashedly concerned with being a fairy tale. Literally, in this case.

If we must have an explanation, then I want you to imagine this: the astronauts and cosmonauts on the ISS wake up to a sudden terrible noise and shaking of the space station. They rush to see what's wrong, only to find, much to their shock, that the ISS has ceased motion. They are trapped in the vines of an enormous tree, they and a literal forest of satellites. Orbital junk crashes harmlessly into sturdy wooden limbs and branches, and all their sensors indicate that the thin whisps of atmosphere outside their airlocks is in fact highly concentrated oxygen. Suddenly, a burst of energy strikes them from the sunward side, but the oxygen and wood absorbs the impact. And then, as if a switch had been turned, as if an eye had been blinked, as if some phantom force in the universe had made a move eons beyond our comprehension, suddenly, there was no forest!

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jane 2 years, 8 months ago

I found the voices to be very helpful. They were rather lovely, and I miss them.

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jane 2 years, 8 months ago

And she's also had the experience of mirroring the Doctor so profoundly that her goodness was lost. So lost that she had to be told as much. The look on her face when she heard that goodness had nothing to do with it... no wonder she doesn't want to be the last of her kind.

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Jarl 2 years, 8 months ago

We once had a museum overnight at... oh... that would have been the Thomas Academy, back in the late 90's. That was an American school, but an American private school. My understanding is that in Britain, they call such places "Public schools", for the express purpose of causing confusion in these instances. I still don't have a good sense of what kind of school Coal Hill is supposed to be. I assumed it was what Americans call a public high school (and I hear is called a comprehensive school?) back in the day, but then we keep seeing younger and younger kids, and sometimes in uniforms, which is a very private (public) school thing, at least over here.

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jane 2 years, 8 months ago

"I'm just going to poke very briefly at the concept of forest as opposed to tree, and specifically the idea of forests as a liminal space."

The ubiquity of Underground signs in this particular forest made me think of it as an underworld metaphorically speaking. The Forest Below, saving us from The Heavens Above. Like a Star Whale, but homegrown. The Good Beast. And here, the "forest of the night" is always strewn with daylight, while the heavens above are truly hellish.

Of course, the Underworld also functions as a metaphor for the subconscious, where Faerie stories actually reside, at least when we (and they) are sleeping. Protecting us from the ravages of the conscious mind. And yes, the subconscious is a liminal space, it's a place to pass through, not a place to stay.

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Jesse 2 years, 8 months ago

This was my nine-year-old daughter's first episode of Doctor Who. She liked it.

We had just watched The Jungle Book together. Kind of an odd prelude. We made some jokes about Shere Khan showing up in London.

Anyway. I liked it too. (Complaining about the science in it is, to me, like complaining about the science in a Calvino story. That's just not the game this show is playing.) I don't know where exactly it would be in my personal rankings. I'll just say that Listen is still way up top; Into the Dalek is still way down at the bottom; and this is much closer to Listen.

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Alan 2 years, 8 months ago

I finally realize why I dislike Danny so much (even though I like the actor and think the character is played well) -- he doesn't like Doctor Who. I don't mean he doesn't like the Doctor. That's just a symbol of his disdain for the entire premise of the series. He is a metaphor for everyone who catches one or two episodes at the insistence of a fan of the show (i.e. Clara) and just doesn't like it. He can't imagine what it's like to desperately desire a chance to fall out of the world and travel the universe in a magical blue box and see the wonders of creation. And he is openly condescending towards Clara because she does want that and hasn't "grown out of it" yet.

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unnoun 2 years, 8 months ago

So this episode might be one of the best of all time? I think it might be. Probably.

"You know what would have improved this episode for me? A little more acknowledgment of the possibility that one day the trees won’t save us."

What? Was {{http://attackoneyebrows.tumblr.com/post/100938394320 explicitly bringing it up}} not good enough?

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unnoun 2 years, 8 months ago

Okay, don't know how to link things. Hmm.

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Jesse 2 years, 8 months ago

It isn't exactly unusual for someone to be medicated who shouldn't be, particularly when you're talking about kids who haven't consented to the treatment. So it's strange to me that this should be controversial. It's not like the show delivered a Peter Breggin-style rant against the use of any psychiatric drugs whatsoever.

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TheSmilingStallionInn 2 years, 8 months ago

I see the gaps in between the stories as well, but the writers and producers probably consider those as acceptable or even normal in Doctor Who with the possibility of fans and other writers filling in those gaps someday with stories or excuses of their own.

And maybe that is a fake-out with Clara in next week's trailer, that Missy or the Doctor is having a dream about Clara and when Clara is standing in front of the Cybermen like that, maybe she is trying to convince them that she doesn't exist to fool them when they are searching for her. Or maybe Missy turned up and told her something shocking about herself she didn't know, and maybe she is lashing out at these monsters, throwing back Missy's truth at them.

(This is my second attempt at replying. Grr.)

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Jesse Smith 2 years, 8 months ago

I came out of this episode with mixed feelings. It had beautiful imagery, and some well-delivered emotional resonance. But I was bothered by the fact that it doesn't appear that the Doctor contributed anything to the resolution of the crisis. If he had never arrived, would anything have happened differently? This is OK in real life, that things just happen to us, but on a show like Doctor Who I expect the Doctor to be a change agent in the plot.

I suppose he did rig up the universal phone call for Maebh to tell humanity not to defoliate the trees, but really - would the world's governments really pay any attention to a little girl's voice? And either way, in the time frame that this solar flare presented, could they actually defoliate enough of the forest for it to make a difference? So even this action probably didn't really change anything.

I'm not that familiar with Blake, though I do know the "The Tyger". The strongest connection for me is actually with "Planet of the Spiders" - I wonder if there's anything to be gained mining that link...

Oh, by the way, Phil, you meant "School Reunion" rather than "Age of Steel".

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TheSmilingStallionInn 2 years, 8 months ago

I think the path did meander a bit at times and they lost their trail of thoughts here and there in the vagueness of their themes. The problem for this episode might be its status as the calm before the storm, possibly setting up themes that will play out to their full resolution in the series climax/finale.

The nature of the trees, especially sprouting buds and nuts at the same time, points backward towards the spring and summer. This is a spring episode, bright daylight in the middle of what should be a late autumn evening. Where is the darkness? This is The Forest of the Night, but there is no night, only unnatural daylight in the middle of a natural/unnatural forest. And this forest surprised Missy.

From what I could tell, Missy was expecting the fire of the sun to burn out the Earth, but the trees protected the Earth. We have associated Missy with spring, gardens, paradise, heaven, teatime--bright colors full of light, yet there is still a darkness in her. She is still the Mistress of the Nethersphere here, which should be a dark place, and if the Cybermen are any indication, it really will be a dark place despite the false light and brightness.

And the Doctor insisted on telling Clara that we have to feel, we have to remember how to feel, or else we'll forget how to love and fight. And they are definitely going to have to remember their feelings for this climax with the Cybermen, the most emotionless creatures in existence. And Rusty the Dalek felt and experienced quite a lot when he was 'malfunctioning' and when the Doctor 'broke' him again.

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Jesse Smith 2 years, 8 months ago

I think Gallifreyan_Immigrant is right on with the references to children's television and why the pseudoscience in this fits with that genre. I also agree with Jane's references to the Underground/Underworld - I picked up on those signs as well, though I suppose they were just convenient markers to say "Don't forget we are actually in London right now!"

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macrogers 2 years, 8 months ago

The scene where Clara forces the Doctor to keep whittling down his salvation offer, leading to "I don't want to be the last of my kind," is for my money the best non-"Listen" scene of the season. Following the mildly presentable non-event of "Time Heist," this season has come gloriously alive with the riveting story of the Doctor and Clara's strange co-dependent platonic power-struggle. To me that was one of the biggest points of this story: to render the lead character largely powerless over the proceedings to study how that affected their needs from/expectations of each other. The central relationship is the foremost draw for me this season, in a way I haven't felt since since the first dozen Eight-Charlie audios.

The deeper we go into the season, the more irrelevant "Deep Breath," "Sherwood," and "Time Heist" feel to the bigger picture - like they were of necessity developed before Moffat & colleagues fully zeroed in on what they were doing. From "Caretaker" on I've gotten increasingly thrilled to tune in each week. What's kind of amazing is how our expectations have been shaped for the finale: we know all the themes that will be covered, but almost none of the plot or storytelling style. This season has felt so controlled so far that I find it hard to imagine Moffat not sticking the landing.

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macrogers 2 years, 8 months ago

"lead characterS" - erg.

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TheSmilingStallionInn 2 years, 8 months ago

I agree with you, @xen trilus, the poem does not seem to inform the whole trajectory of this story/episode, it seems to give a guideline, but the meaning of the poem to me might cover or suggest the theme of this story arc or where it is leading towards. The evocative, questioning language as to who or what could create such a dreadful thing and if this is the same thing could have created goodness as well?

I was watching The Moonbase recently, interesting enough, and the frame of the Cybermen as they marched across the surface of the moon was evocative as well--what dread hand? and what dread feet? This is the Cybermen, in some ways, these dreadful creatures, 'what immortal hand or eye could frame thy fearful symmetry' These creatures were created with a distinct, evocative, symmetric, standard form. Where did they come from? Fans say Mondas or Telos, and of course Pete's World, but the Cybermen origins have been even more muddled up and confused in recent years.

The Daleks, thanks to Genesis, have a pretty clear origin, but the Cybermen are less clear and distinct now. And the line about 'on what wings dare he aspire' makes me think of the TARDIS a little bit. Meanwhile, the whole thing about Clara possibly being manipulated by Missy or her change in character could be tied to the sinews of thy heart, and then there's that second mention of the heart in the poem with the Doctor's hearts featured in the series trailers.

And the whole Robot of Sherwood story, hammer! Chain! In what furnace was thy brain? With anvil and 'what dread grasp dare its deadly terrors clasp?'--creation of the Cybermen. And of course the stars, Time Lords, throwing down their spears and ending the Time War. They're not fighting anymore, because they're not winning. And maybe they're not feeling anymore.

I mentioned this in another comment, the Doctor said in this episode that when you forget how to feel, you forget how to love and fight. And they water'd--Dark Water!--heaven--Death in Heaven--with their tears, so they do remember how to feel in crying, and 'Did he (or she) smile his (or her) work to see?'

So the real Blake may be here and just ahead.

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TheSmilingStallionInn 2 years, 8 months ago

A little bit like childhood in some ways--nothing to do but be here now, come together with friends and other children, and go home after school. With a couple of special lessons from the school teachers and the parent flitting about the edges of the story, trying to reach or find their child. And the loss, struggle, and confusion of being a child, not quite understanding what is going on, trying to find a way out, and being wary of wolves or strangers, except for those trustworthy adults, and figuring out who those trustworthy adults are.

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TheSmilingStallionInn 2 years, 8 months ago

The director was good as well, especially in the beginning with the handheld camera or unstable stedi-camera, for Maebh's point of view is trying to understand what is going on here, running through the forest, and following the Doctor about inside the TARDIS, and there was a form of photographic realism and not enhanced, film-quality footage in those moments, lost outside in the CGI and fake form of the forest. And the scale of the TARDIS interior almost matches the canopy height and spread of the forest at times as well. In the Forest of the Night might indicate the TARDIS as well as the Earth forest.

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TheSmilingStallionInn 2 years, 8 months ago

There have been comments about the child acting, but framing this story with the child characters being members of a gifted and talented class, does this weigh against or favor the sometimes exaggerated styles of child acting? Bear in mind that they are being directed by grownups with the children trying to cope with the demands of the story and expressing meaning in a script.

Maybe the writer was aware of potential problems in directing children with such a script/story, and so intentionally used the gifted and talented aspect to create a form of leniency here. Plus there was a moral as to how all children really are gifted and talented in their own unique ways and to pay attention to and treat children with kindness and respect.

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TheSmilingStallionInn 2 years, 8 months ago

And now I just thought of the joke, "Is it barking up the wrong tree?"

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thepoparena.com 2 years, 8 months ago

I was ready to put this in the "okay-but-not-great" column until the bit where Clara decides to let a bunch of kids die because they aren't entirely sociable. So I put it in the "fucking deplorable" column instead.

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TheSmilingStallionInn 2 years, 8 months ago

And like Phil said, this is the opposite of Kill the Moon--solar flare destroying the Earth, sunlight is death, as opposed to the moon as egg, creating life. However, the moon's hatching was a destructive act with tidal waves nearly destroying the Earth and the solar flare created a giant growth, literally. So such paradoxes complicate things a bit.

And of course, the whole imagery of the government workers trying to burn down the forest to clear a path for 'essential services'--like to Grandma's house. At times, humans see the destruction of forests as a necessary thing, to make way for themselves. This destroys natural animal life in the forest, yet it's also a sign of progress and movement for humanity, spreading out. Another paradox in the form of a controlled burn, is it really controlled?

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someguywithsomething 2 years, 8 months ago

I usually like this kind of episode. I loved Kill the Moon and was a big defender of the Rings of Ahkaten but this to me fell flat. I liked the little Danny/Clara and Doctor/Clara moments, but none of the jokes landed for me(ha ha ha, selfies), a lot of the fairy tale seemed obvious and irrelevant to what actually happens (we remember the fear? what was so scary about the forest?) and most scenes just seemed to lack momentum. I like Sarah Jane Adventures a lot, so I'm not opposed to children-oriented Doctor Who. But this seemed patronizing and toothless in a way that SJA so rarely was. I wanted to like this a lot, and I love to see Who writers taking risks, but this was probably the most disappointing of the season for me.

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d114b6ea-4c0f-11e4-b012-434da449211a 2 years, 8 months ago

As long as the dominant cultural narrative is that mental illness isn't "real", it's severely problematic to ever present an anti-medication message without at least carefully qualifying it.

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Who+ 2 years, 8 months ago

Easily the worst of the season for me, very possibly the worst since the Paul McGann movie. I enjoy William Blake as much as anybody, but you can't just throw some William Blake hat-tips into an episode that just *isn't* Doctor Who, wouldn't even pass muster as a Sarah Jane adventure, it's that far from everything 51 years of Doctor Who has stood for so far. Both the Doctor *and* Clara giving up on Earth and a bunch of helpless schoolchildren because, well just because "some kind of tricky predicament"? No, this is not my show. Lest you think me a troll/hater I've enjoyed probably 8.5 of the prior 9 episodes and still reckon this season is set to be the best of NuWho, but my goodness, this was a stinker (for me).

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Anton B 2 years, 8 months ago

@Froborr Yes museum overnights are a thing British schools do.

@Jarl. Coal Hill is definitely a standard English inner city comprehensive school of the kind I've taught in. The wearing of a uniform is typical and in most schools rigidly enforced particularly on a school trip (where the kids are seen to be representing their school). The age range in such a school would run from 11 to 18. Perhaps some of the kids look young because it's more typical for TV shows to use older actors to play schoolkids. I think it's refreshing and adds to the realism of the Coal Hill scenes that the casting is age specific.

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evilsoup 2 years, 8 months ago

Clara was fighting it out with Rose and Ace for the title of second-best companion (best, of course, being Donna), but now...

...now I know how Six fans feel, I guess. A single awful moment utterly ruining a character.

I mean, she (and Danny) were both pretty terrible in the episode overall. Not noticing that one of their pupils was missing (they should have used a register to count everyone at the beginning of the day), not pairing the kids up (you know, the 'buddy system'), just letting them all wander by themselves (one of them should be at the front of the group, one at the back). This is all pretty basic shit!

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elisi 2 years, 8 months ago

@ Jarl. All school children in Britain wear a uniform. And Coal Hill School is definitely not a private school! The kids seem to be working/middle class. Basically just ordinary kids that any children watching the show can identify with - my children certainly do. :)

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evilsoup 2 years, 8 months ago

Here you go.

You have to use HTML for these comments, so to create links you do < a href="http://example.com">text goes here< /a> (except removing the spaces in front of the 'a' and '/a'). You can also make things italic with < i>< /i> or < em>< /em>, and bold with < b>< /b> or < strong>< /strong>

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Anton B 2 years, 8 months ago

Well, it's Sunday morning, the first day of winter in fact and I was so enchanted by last night's Doctor Who that when it came to adjusting my clocks for daylight saving before turning in I managed to 'spring forward' rather than 'fall back'.Which seems kind of appropriate given the themes of the episode and gave me an extra hour this morning to think about it.

In the Forest of the Night was enchanting. Quite literally and in both senses of that word. It was literally a spell, over whose duration another world was conjured and it also evoked many literary sources not least of which William Blake and English (or perhaps more generally northern European) folklore.

Children lost in the forest. All of them incidently, labelled as 'gifted' later revealed by Clara to be the school's code for 'difficult'. And one - Maebh Arden, (Maebh - an old Irish name meaning 'bringer of joy, she who intoxicates' and Arden, Shakespeare's enchanted forest) hears voices and is searching for a lost sibling. To co-opt a phrase, we are definitely through the looking glass here people!

Yes this one will divide opinion. There will be carping about the 'pseudo -science', the apparent 'anti-psychiatric meds' agenda and the impossibility of the mise-en-scene ("wouldn't the trees break power lines, crack open gas mains and generally wreck more infrastructure than merely toppling Nelson' s Column?"). Well I'm sorry if your enjoyment was spoiled by any of those thoughts but I have to point out that in massively missing the point you're also massively missing the enjoyment to be had in 'Doctor Who visits the Land of Faerie'.

It's interesting that two stories this season have found the Doctor out of his depth in a forest. Whatever your opinion of Robot of Sherwood its purpose was to cause the Doctor to question his status as fictional character. Here he is forced to deal with his adopted planet manifesting its fictional form. The World Tree.

As our host points out, around 1795 William Blake was hearing voices, seeing visions of Albion and writing works such as The Tyger apparantly also some trees started growing too which would overnight, in 2014 reclaim London and the world in a massive act of reforestation that Greenpeace can only dream about.

Doctor Who at its best has always made the mundane sacred and brought the heavens down to earth. The Doctor, as fallen angel and lord of misrule is always the catalyst for change. Sometimes for good sometimes not. Here he was reduced to passive observer. Once again Clara points out to him that he breaths our air, that Earth is his adopted planet. This series has repeatedly emphasised his intriguing dichotomy of scared space orphan and wise old man.

Frank Cottrell Boyce has here taken the same approach as for his Olympic Opening Ceremony and written an elegiac hymn couched in the deep and ancient imagery of Albion but this time as an episode of Doctor Who. We should be glad of that.

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Anton B 2 years, 8 months ago

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Tom 2 years, 8 months ago

Scrips and scraps of commentary remain to me -

- The CGI in the zoomed-out shots of London reminded me of the "Life After People" sub-genre of documentaries - anthropocidal fantasies designed to illuminate our impact on the planet by removing us from the equation, popular in the 00s partly because they'd worked out how to show an overgrown world. So ITFOTN was in dialogue with those a little, raising similar general thoughts about ecology in a gentler fashion - the planet as protector, not just as something straining under our yoke.

- I loved "We don't know who you are" - a Tom Bombadil style conception of nature's relationship to story: the primal forest is the water the fish of story swims in - it creates the conditions for stories to exist, it doesn't care what they are.

- The second un-natural/un-seasonal forest this season, and for the second time telling us we're switching storytelling modes: though the Doctor's learned from Robin, and this time he's the one happy to remind Clara she's in a fairytale. (Another example of the companion/Doctor role switch perhaps).

- The Doctor really is getting old - a bit of klokeeda partha menin klatch would have made short work of that tiger!

- Speaking of the old series, it struck me that if this (and the same goes for Kill The Moon) had been an old series story, it would have been a serviceable and fairly well-regarded mid-table one: take a Doctor (maybe Five for the gentleness or Three because it feels his kind of a plot), drop him on an alien world, have the fire-wielders/defoliators be colonists, create some indigenous aliens to take the kids' role and exposit about prior, half-forgotten tree-events, rustle up a latex forest beast for the Tiger... there's a nicely stodgy four-parter in here somewhere! Hopefully nobody would want that as an alternative. But I think the episodes' power as a fable (and this goes for Kill The Moon too) and the horror over the 'dodgy science' comes from the same place - taking a science-fantasy concept and having the gumption to do it with Earth.

- When was the last no-monster, no-villain story? "That's why it was good", as my seven year old said when I pointed that out. I agree, though the fireproof trees/solar flare reveal really was telegraphed at small child level, I felt - "Doctor Idiot!" indeed. It didn't spoil things.

- Rankings, since everybody else is!

The Caretaker
Mummy On The Orient Express
Listen
Kill The Moon
In The Forest Of The Night
Robot Of Sherwood
Deep Breath
Flatline
Into The Dalek
Time Heist

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Anton B 2 years, 8 months ago

Additional thought. It's interesting that initially the Doctor rejects the tropes of faerie. Compare this Doctor's reaction to a scared little girl knocking on the TARDIS door to his previous incarnation's gleeful acceptance of the fairy tale Amelia Pond.

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elisi 2 years, 8 months ago

Let me clarify - you genuinely think that if the kids had been genius level she'd have herded them into the TARDIS to restart the human race somewhere else, nevermind the trauma of losing their parents (and their whole world)? I am very sorry, but that is one of the most uncharitable readings of a text I have ever come across.

The whole world was going to die - deciding to let all of humanity be killed rather than let a small group of children live, although they'd be orphaned, horribly traumatised and homeless forever more, might not be the 'right' decision, and Clara might not be the best person to make it (she obviously has issues re. losing her own mother at a fairly young age), but a choice had to be made, and - like in Kill the Moon - she made it. The children were just children. (And very well portrayed children.)

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macrogers 2 years, 8 months ago

I would suggest that you don't have to think Clara's right to think that scene's amazing, or to think that her character is amazing. Although I should stress that I'm not conflating "amazing character" and "consistently admirable character" here. I'm meaning more "well-drawn." I thought that scene was a superb depiction of how the Doctor-like ability (that the Doctor's cultivating in her and she's cultivating in herself) to think several steps ahead is a double-edged sword.

Because on one level, Clara's basically right: those kids would live miserable lives for years (they might eventually be okay, but they'd be traumatized and unhappy for a LONG time before that), Danny would never leave them, and being the last of one's kind is a uniquely bleak and damaging prospect. So her assessment is to some degree correct... but it's still wrong. She should still take the kids on the TARDIS, still try to raise them with Danny, try to preserve the human race, even in such a diminished way. She should undertake all that misery because it's better than passive genocide. It's the flaw of a particularly shrewd person - just because you can anticipate problems doesn't mean you shouldn't, on some occasions, *embrace those problems.* So yeah, I think Clara and the Doctor both made a mistake there, but it's one that's consistent with the development of their characters this season and was brilliant and heartbreaking. It enhanced Clara in my eyes, not as an admirable person necessarily (thought I still think she is in many ways), but as a fascinatingly drawn character.

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Aylwin 2 years, 8 months ago

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Aylwin 2 years, 8 months ago

This is going to sound tetchy and a bit precious, but that sort of pre-emptive head-shaking dismissal of anyone who fails to share your own positive reaction is a little rude.

And yes, in this case Anton I am directing this at you, but I am also talking about a wider phenomenon. "This one will be divide opinion" has become a bit of a cliche around here, and usually seems to come with the implied continuation "between us the enlightened, and the mean-minded fools who Just Don't Get It". The fact that this seems to be the prevailing image of "divided opinion" in a gathering with the self-conscious commitment to diversity and hostility to cultural authoritarianism found here is rather striking, but I suppose that just goes to show. Every community develops its consensus and seeks conformity with it, and I think this sort of thing is at times a manifestation of it here. And yes, I do find it more aggravating because I happen to be one of those unfashionable types who feel that a modicum of sense is regarded as something that tends to strengthen a story rather than being the mark of laughably unambitious pedestrianism.

I'm not going to go on at length about why I didn't much like this episode, partly for lack of time and partly because I just wouldn't enjoy it, especially as my reaction to the half-baked execution of an enticing premise was mostly a case of "not angry, just disappointed" (I'll get to the exception in a bit).

I will say a few things though. One is that, and this is probably a crankily personal reaction, while I would be willing to overlook the remarkable endurance of the infrastructure which you mention, I draw the line at the fact that the reason that it has to endure is so that in a world in which civilisation has been swallowed by the eruption of a primeval world-forest from the chthonic depths of wherever, the mobiles must continue to work. Because the one thing that is far too fantastical even for Doctor Who at its most offbeat to contemplate is the concept of a world without mobile phones. That would just be too crazy. [Rolleyes]

Another is that fantastical explanations can confer enchantment on the mundane (or draw attention what was there unseen all along). But imposing them on what was already wondrous risks making it look cheap and tacky instead. So the profound and complex role of the forest in human psychology and culture ceases to be the product of an intimate, ambivalent, tender, brutal, beatific and perverse relationship evolving over untold millennia, whose unfolding tells the story of humanity's ongoing remaking of itself and its world. No, apparently now it's all because occasionally a magic forest materialises and swallows an asteroid or a solar flare and then vanishes and everyone forgets about it, except subconsciously.

Yuk.

The comparable introduction of a fantastical "explanation" of something already cloaked in wonder (as well as a more recent deposit of disenchantment) in Day of the Moon worked better because it did not say "This is the real reason why you think the moon is special", it said "This is another reason why the moon is special, one that no one ever suspected until now". It added rather than taking away.

Grr maximum post length. I shouldn't say things like "I won't go on at length".

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J Mairs 2 years, 8 months ago

...so this is the second episode in a row that has ended with Missy watching "Doctor Who" on iPlayer.

Thoughts?

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Aylwin 2 years, 8 months ago

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Aylwin 2 years, 8 months ago

Finally, the one part of the review that I emphatically agreed with was the one that was presented rather apologetically and consciously undersold, namely "And this is a spell telling us to trust the world, which is a terribly dangerous thing to say when we are on the brink of choking it to death, and of choking ourselves to death." Quite. Made worse by all that "Ice Age" talk about how the climate just suddenly unfathomably changes from time to time in a totally mysterious fashion, and of course there's no way we could ever understand it, let alone change it. And anyway the Earth can look after itself, and us, regardless of what we do, so let's not worry. And were it somehow at any future point in time to turn out that we actually are doing anything harmful, someone will just have to say so and we will all sensibly and painlessly not do that and it will all be fine.

I'm sure that was not the desired effect - the episode seems to have good intentions on the environmental front, but they are so vaguely thought-through and ineptly executed that the overall effect is distinctly perverse. And as we've heard from time to time, "Intention isn't magic". Yes, this is mythic. And what actually comes out is the wrong myth for now.

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peeeeeeet 2 years, 8 months ago

that sort of pre-emptive head-shaking dismissal of anyone who fails to share your own positive reaction is a little rude.

And yes, in this case Anton I am directing this at you, but I am also talking about a wider phenomenon. "This one will be divide opinion" has become a bit of a cliche around here, and usually seems to come with the implied continuation "between us the enlightened, and the mean-minded fools who Just Don't Get It". The fact that this seems to be the prevailing image of "divided opinion" in a gathering with the self-conscious commitment to diversity and hostility to cultural authoritarianism found here is rather striking


Agreed with every word.

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Herms 2 years, 8 months ago

To be honest, I rather liked that the Doctor didn't ultimately contribute much to the resolution of the crisis. It's fun to watch the Doctor single-handedly save the Earth and/or universe, but too much of that and it begins to look like the world would collapse if he weren't around. This episode showed that the Earth has a few ways of saving itself. And the series definitely does alien invasions too often, so anything that seems like another invasion but turns out not to be is good in my book. Really, this was the sort of ending I was hoping The Power of Three would have.

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Herms 2 years, 8 months ago

"You know what would have improved this episode for me? A little more acknowledgment of the possibility that one day the trees won’t save us."

Well, I can't be the only one who was put in mind of The Ark in Space. I guess the trees weren't around to save Earth from that particular round of solar flares. And in this episode we got to see Nelson's Column covered in vines, like they originally wanted to include in the post-solar flare Earth in The Sontaran Experiment.

Anyway, on the episode itself...hard to judge overall. A lot I really liked, and a lot I thought was iffy at best. This was probably the episode this season I was most looking forward to, based purely on the title. But I guess no episode could live up to such a great title. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I was dreading Mummy on the Orient Express because of it's stupid, stupid title, but ended up loving it. There's probably some sort of moral here.

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Jarl 2 years, 8 months ago

That's Watching While American for ya. All school kids, really? There'd be riots in the streets here. As I alluded to, I went to a private school for two years, and the uniform shopping thing was always a pain. 11-18, that's interesting too. Over here, it's much more divided, with schools generally taking between three and four years of students at a time.

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Jarl 2 years, 8 months ago

I loved that, because I always hope for that sort of line to come out in a Doctor Who episode. In a comedic context, at least, rather than their more frequent dramatic use of it (the end of The Doctor Dances for example).

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Steven 2 years, 8 months ago

On rewatch:

In The Forest of the Night
Listen
Kill the Moon
Flatline
Mummy on the Orient Express
Deep Breath
The Caretaker
Into the Dalek
Robot of Sherwood
Time Heist

What a season though. I can't believe something as good as Deep Breath would be so far down.

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Daibhid C 2 years, 8 months ago

Since everyone else is doing it:

Flatline
Listen
In the Forest of the Night
Mummy on the Orient Express
Time Heist
Robot of Sherwood
Into the Dalek
The Caretaker
Deep Breath
Kill the Moon

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Daibhid C 2 years, 8 months ago

All school kids in theory. When I started secondary school, my Mum was told the uniform policy was very strict. She took one look out the window at what the other kids were wearing, and never bothered buying me one. I wore a collared shirt and smart trousers, and at that I looked overdressed.

My niece is attending the same school, and apparently they enforce it a bit more now.

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Jarl 2 years, 8 months ago

Imagine a story where the Doctor literally landed in "Another dimension, roughly parallel to your own, where the laws of time and space and cause and effect and sanity are a bit... dodgy" and had to take part in a traditional Doctor Who adventure that was perverted and slanted by taking place in the chaotic realms where capricious fairies dance about...

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dm 2 years, 8 months ago

Why is this season so much more rewatchable than any since 2005?

10/10 Listen
10/10 Kill the Moon
9/10 The Caretaker
8/10 Into the Dalek
8/10 In The Forest of the Night
8/10 Mummy on the Orient Express
7.5/10 Flatline
7/10 Robot of Sherwood
7/10 Deep Breath
7/10 Time Heist

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Jarl 2 years, 8 months ago

I love the no-monster, no-villain stories. It would be neat to see more stories where the Doctor and his companion land somewhere and partake in character development instead of armed conflict. A debate adventure, instead of a running adventure. Personally, I've always wanted to see a historical where the Doctor and his companion land at Los Alamos during the Manhattan project and meet all the incredibly interesting figures involved in that, get in a debate about the Atomic Age, that sort of stuff. Clara getting hit on by Feynman, the Doctor and Oppenheimer trying to out-brood one another, etc.

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jane 2 years, 8 months ago

I think it helps to put aside our personal reactions before actually looking at what the episode is doing, what its own terms are, and why it's actually going about what it's going about. Which doesn't mean dismissing our personal reactions -- on the contrary.

Honestly, I wasn't thrilled with this story on first viewing. I found the pace too slow, the glowy faerie lights too precious, the reveal of Annabel unmoving, the dynamic of Danny and Clara uninspiring, and very little in the way of tension once the Tyger had been dispatched. The lack of "material" considerations and stakes surely played a part in that; the "fireproof" forest was foregrounded enough in the early going that I realized exactly what that part of the conceit was for well before the Doctor's idiot moment.

However, my initial reaction was largely shaped by my expectations, which had been honed by the last couple of Mathieson stories, with actual villains, more grounding in SF tropes and its problem-solving narrative structure, and just the generally more overt storytelling, not to mention (what is to me) the more overt display of symbolism to which I'm accustomed.

It's only upon reflection that I've come to deeply appreciate Forest of the Night, and that's only because I've actually attended to unpacking the symbolism and underlying values of the story. It's not even a faerie story -- it really is more a lyrical poem, and something so blatantly disregarding of any pretense of realism that it must be approached with a different mindset entirely. Poems have different aesthetic and philosophical values than SF, or faerie stories, and even Doctor Who stories up to now.

And this isn't a good thing or a bad thing -- it's just a thing. It has its positive and negative aspects, as everything does. Forest of the Night doesn't just ignore SF tropes, it actively rejects them. It's much more deeply concerned with the nature of the mystical experience -- which has value in of itself, but with the attendant blind spot of losing focus on material social progress.

At the heart of SF are a set of values that are concerned with control and specifically control of the material world. Which is what makes Clara's journey through this arc (and this story in particular) so fascinating, because she is so dominated by her control issues. The antithesis of control is, of course, letting go, which is also the gateway to the mystical experience, not to mention that of Grace.

The other thing about the mystical experience is that it takes one beyond Good and Evil. Which is to say, it necessarily discards judgment. I find it so interesting that the first thing fandom wants to do with a story is judge it, as opposed to unpacking and understanding it. Judgment is another way of exercising control, I suppose. And it's not just our fandom -- this is pretty much the way our whole culture goes about consuming stories.

I'm not sure I want to play that game anymore.

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Monicker 2 years, 8 months ago

"All" is definitely an exaggeration, not all British schools enforce one, but it has become much more common within the last twenty or thirty years.

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TheSmilingStallionInn 2 years, 8 months ago

Okay, for some reason, this reminds me of the logic scene in Deep Breath where Clara is trying to reason with the head robot (ha, joke) that it cannot kill her to get the information it wants and downgrading its threat to torture makes it look desperate as backpedaling, especially if Clara can resist torture for long enough.

A lot of this series, to me, has such moments of Clara and the Doctor having to choose between tough, life-threatening options, potentially charged with ethical, moral, and emotional concerns. And they are trying to reason things out and find solutions amidst all of this inner and outer turmoil with their adventures mixing with Clara's average life.

This may be typical for new series Doctor Who in some ways, but I don't think it's been highlighted as much as it has been this series or popped up in just about every single episode of a series, as it has in this one. This series really is trying to highlight and expand upon such morally tough choices between two equally bad options and trying to figure out which is the best of a bad bunch.

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thepoparena.com 2 years, 8 months ago

I do agree that it's in Clara's character, especially her growth over this season. Maybe I have a blind spot for this kind of thing, but when a character decides it's better for children to die when there's still a chance for them to (eventually) have a decent life (there are other places to send them besides an asteroid, you know), then that character is no longer a good person, certainly not one of the heroes.

And the Doctor's failure to protest this means he ain't much of a Star Whale anymore, either.

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David Anderson 2 years, 8 months ago

If I remember correctly, the children have at this point expressed their preference to go back home to their parents. They may be still young enough that Clara, in loco parentis, has the right to override their decisions, but that doesn't necessarily mean that she should.

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Monicker 2 years, 8 months ago

"Yes this one will divide opinion. There will be carping about the 'pseudo -science', the apparent 'anti-psychiatric meds' agenda and the impossibility of the mise-en-scene ("wouldn't the trees break power lines, crack open gas mains and generally wreck more infrastructure than merely toppling Nelson' s Column?"). Well I'm sorry if your enjoyment was spoiled by any of those thoughts but I have to point out that in massively missing the point you're also massively missing the enjoyment to be had in 'Doctor Who visits the Land of Faerie'. "

We could flip this around and consider it from this angle, however. If the priority is the concept, and indeed I would agree, then it would arguably be better for the story not to have tried the sort of rationale it attempted that was obviously at least partially designed to explain how the world can return to normal at the end, and instead opted for something more fantasy orientated that might have fitted the idea better anyway. Had the situation been some kind of reality distortion which is eventually overcome, maybe a little like the situation in The Wedding Of River Song, it wouldn't really have done any damage to the episode, or even have required changing the script all that much for more than a few scenes. The themes and the imagery don't really require any attempt to make it conform with 'the real world' however nebulously the Doctor Who version of that may be defined, so the rationalisation attempted was a rather unnecessary one. If anything, the increased unreality, for want of anything more elegant to call it, would probably have allowed for more creative freedom.

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David Ainsworth 2 years, 8 months ago

What I see going on here is quite complicated: some episodes operate really well on the textual level but not in terms of subtext, others well on both. Mind Robber works on both levels but the subtext is generally better than the text; Talons is wonderful textually but some of the subtext is awful (and some of it isn't).

Forest of the Night is subtextually wonderful, but uneven on the textual level. I think that also explains one set of comments focused on how heavy-handed the messaging was compared to a second set loving the subtext that the first set didn't see.

I don't quite agree with Jane that we should let go of our pre-emptive habit of judgment, but I do have to wonder what happened to our ability to recognize something as wonderfully executed but not our thing (Inferno, for me) or our willingness to acknowledge and appreciate something experimental that doesn't quite work (Dragonfire).

Then again, there are people who think Blake's Songs are simplistic or doggerel.

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David Ainsworth 2 years, 8 months ago

Moffat has decided that instead of simply trolling the fans, he'll make them the villain of the series?

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John Peacock 2 years, 8 months ago

"I find it so interesting that the first thing fandom wants to do with a story is judge it, as opposed to unpacking and understanding it."

For a few years I've been of the opinion (partly inspired by this blog) that "good" and "bad" are almost as useless as like/dislike for saying anything of value about something. Instead I've aimed to enjoy anything I encounter - that is to say "to enjoy" is an active, conscious thing one does rather than something that just happens to one. It requires a certain amount of discipline, often it's hard, sometimes it's impossible (in which case I just turn off, or switch over), but you do get so much more out of things.

Sorry if that seems a bit pious. I would recommend it though.

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David Anderson 2 years, 8 months ago

It seems Doctor Who exists in a space between two aesthetics: one of sf rationalisation and puzzle solving, and an aesthetic of surrealism. Obviously this one is far over to the surrealism side. At Doctor Who's best one doesn't have to choose. But this is certainly valid. Like a lot of people, I was disappointed while watching it (until the scene where Maebh's mother finds her), but I've been warming to it ever since.

Also, it's nice to see a directorial aesthetic that contrasts with the rest of the season. Everything else, except for some of the scenes in Robot of Sherwood, has been at night or poorly lit or in space, or otherwise had a rather dark pallette. I think Capaldi's Doctor works better here where he's contrasted with the surroundings than when he's blending into them.

Also, if earlier stories have been trying out Capaldi in classic Doctor Who roles this is the one that's trying him out in a role superficially suited for Matt Smith. (In fact, I think one could argue that it's making a claim that Capaldi's grumpiness means the story can risk going all out for whimsy in a way that would be intolerable if you put Matt Smith in it.)

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thepoparena.com 2 years, 8 months ago

The children are also completely unaware that they're about to burn to death.

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David Ainsworth 2 years, 8 months ago

After rewatching, I think this episode isn't a throw-away so much as the strongest statement of the themes of the season. The Doctor's "Am I a good man" start distracted us from the insight that we're not operating on the level of good and evil here, but on the level of Blake's Innocence and Experience. The Doctor starts out as experience's representative against Clara's innocence, but as the season progresses she loses that innocence, while at the same time doing things to render the Doctor slightly more innocent. (Mr. Pink, on the other hand, has returned to innocence as a result of experience.)

ItFotN explicitly has Danny reject experience for innocence, while underlining all the ways in which Clara has lost her innocence, which I suppose makes this forest also the Garden of Eden in a very restrictive sense. The lost daughter returning is, significantly, older than her sister and on or near the other side of innocence/experience.

Then we see Missy, definitely the embodiment of experience, watching the flare along with the Doctor and Clara.

Thoughts on the trailer: Clara saying what Missy was saying suggests possession or brain swapping. I now have the strong impression, especially given the Innocence/Experience theme, that Missy isn't the Master but is instead the Great Intelligence, or possibly a merging between GI and Clara. The Snowmen GI took the form of Dr. Simeon and mirrored him to a large degree, so Missy ought to do the same thing with Clara.

But we'll see soon enough...

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inkdestroyedmybrush 2 years, 8 months ago

for phil to think that this episode was brilliant (along with his review of Kill the Moon) makes me realize that the Docotr Who that he wants to watch, and the Doctor Who that i want to watch are fundamentally different. This is some of the most unwatchable stuff that Doctor Who has put on the screen since it returned in 2005.

I'll be blunt and succinct: If I wanted to watch fantasy, even fantasy couched in William Blake allusions, I'd watch another show. This is not what i watch Doctor who for. As i said to the wife last night (a not-we): I understand what Moffatt is going for and i don't like it. Its not that there is just a disregard for quality like the later Tom Baker years under Williams where fatigue had clearly set in after all the fights and lack of budget. No, Moffatt is clearly and ably guiding Britian's #1 export with a sure hand into a show that isn't to my liking. And, yes, I'm more than a little upset.

My rebuttal to Phil's review is that no matter how full of Blake-isms this is, it doesn't add up to anything but cleverallegory of Doctor Who falling down the theme-park rabbit hole, a rabbit hole of slightly higher literary allusions than is usually proffered. But its not entertaining, it doesn't make sense, its compressed dream time storytelling full of jump cuts that are jarring by the lack of logic, and its taking the close portal of Doctor Who to faerie, something that it always danced successfully on the line of, and dumps it wholesale over the line. And that, to me, isn't Doctor who. You can't just throw out basic logic and science because the narrative wants you to. It puts off viewers who want a little science in the science fiction. Even Holmes had to come up with a rational explanation for the Matrix in Deadly Assassin. Here? We have a plot and explanations to wave away anything that would get in the way of what the author wants to do that wouldn't have passed a 7th grade fiction writing class. "humanity will just forget", "Danny's reaaction to being lied to", the mother bicycling her way through the forest to the museum, the overly forced shots of the wolves eyes and the tyger menacing the girl in the red riding cloak (as theough the script was written just to get to that shot)... none of it works. Not any of it. Jammed in, ham fisted. Even the don't step off the path stuff... Standard faerie stuff, but since the forest just grew up, there was no path, so they even lost the simple power from creating a plot that makes that line work and uses the metaphor in the correct way.

Not my Doctor Who. not by a long shot. And, really, not good TV if you're not watching Supernatural or some other crap fantasy show. I despair for this program.

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Lewis Christian 2 years, 8 months ago

I would've preferred it if we'd had a gradual build-up to the forest, and then a slower 'removal' of it. By that, I mean I feel the "all done neat and tidy" thing in 45 minutes broke it a bit for me. Remember when the Slitheen crashed into Big Ben and the clock was still seen being fixed and scaffolded up in The Christmas Invasion. Remember when the massive BAD WOLF scrawl was still visible on the ground in New Earth. I feel it would've been nicer if, just as Donna off-handedly mentioned the bees vanishing in S4ep1, Clara had said something about "more trees seem to be growing these days" earlier in the series. I would've also liked to have seen some of the forest left at the end of the episode, to be cleared up (perhaps just a tiny bit of background visual during the finale - as the next story occurs, London is still tidying up), rather than "convenient magic pixie dust removes every last branch". Plus the fact that it seems only the forest was removed - so, uh, what about all those broken railings (y'know and the escaped animals!?), the cracked concrete pavements, etc. etc.? Just feel it's detail which is overlooked because of the 45min format, which could be slightly better explained/developed.

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Philip Sandifer 2 years, 8 months ago

If your assessment of a story relies on the assumption that a decorated and award-winning writer who is routinely entrusted with extremely high production budgets, writing a script that was supervised and approved by numerous experienced writing professionals "wouldn't have passed a 7th grade fiction writing class," you are not actually expressing a view worth taking remotely seriously.

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Nyq Only 2 years, 8 months ago

I found the episode interesting but a bit thin. The Grimm forest and the red-riding hood girl were nice ideas, as was the Blakean tiger. I liked the Doctor repeating back Clara's point from Kill the Moon and I liked Danny's rejection of traveling in the Tardis - but overall I don't think it hit what it was aiming for. The forest didn't look threatening and instead of the deep forest of European folk tales it felt more CS Lewis (with traffic signs instead of a lamp post).

1. Listen/The Caretaker
2. Kill the Moon
3. Mummy on the Orient Express
4. Deep Breath
5. Time Heist
6. Into the Dalek
7. Flatline
8. In the forest of the night
9. Robots of Sherwood

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Jesse 2 years, 8 months ago

As long as the dominant cultural narrative is that mental illness isn't "real"

That is not the dominant cultural narrative.

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jkorvin 2 years, 8 months ago

When I was a child, I heard voices frequently, as well as experiencing the occasional vision. I never told anyone about this and so I obviously didn't get medicated for it, and for that I'm very glad, although I was over-medicated for quite another, physical health, reason, between the ages of 2 and 15, with an antibiotic which is now banned for single use because of its side effects (not ones that could account for my hallucinations I hasten to add).
So as you can imagine this aspect of the story got a positive reaction from me. Loved it.

But another thing that happened to me when I was a child is that I was labelled 'gifted at science'. So you can imagine I reacted rather negatively to certain other aspects of the story. The relationship between fire and oxygen doesn't really work like that. Trees do have moving parts, they are complex organisms. A solar flare is an observable event which would have been noticed by the Earth, and one that dangerous would have caused authority to impose some emergency measures. A solar flare is not just a big bolt of fire, even symbolic fire, and even if it was, pumping loads of oxygen into the upper atmosphere wouldn't really help, and might in fact make things far worse.

I'm not a materialist fundamentalist. I believe in a transcendent reality, more than mere illusion of the brain, not fully subject to the laws and conditions of the material. I also think the relationship between the material and the transcendent exists and is more complicated than two realities separated. That we, as post-Enlightenment subjects, even perceive or imagine the two as separate in itself strikes me as contingent and relative.
I consider Blake a cultural and political hero too. I've no problem with considering Dr Who as a series about the intersections of faerie and, say, Shoreditch. But please, let's not forget the Shoreditch. Let's not ignore it. Let's not pretend, just because we might well find a faerie portal there, that it can function in any old fashion untainted by the misguided materialist Untermenschen.

I think I would have preferred it if the threat had been as much faerie as the forest, instead of pretending to be something material and 'sciencey', but frankly failing in that. Or, that the threat had been something material that would actually be solved, or at least ameliorated, by a sudden surfeit of flora - such as, say, global warming.

This is all without a rewatch but I'm putting this out there because I want to counter this narrative that's being constructed before my eyes that those who object to 'bad science' in the series are dull throwbacks to a technocratic materialism. I'm pro-faerie, but anti-ignorance. This episode, again I stress without a rewatch, I'm chalking up as 'nice try, but no. Just no. Don't do that.'

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jonathan inge 2 years, 8 months ago

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quislibet 2 years, 8 months ago

Presumably you didn't mean it, but your reply comes across as strikingly close to "award-winning writers with big budgets whose previous work has been praised can no longer be criticized for the quality of new work." Even Homer nods, as they say.

Let's set aside the apparent offensiveness of the 7th-grade statement, since (a) 7th-grade writers don't write Blakean metatext and (b) it is not, in fact, the basis of the argument. Everything else in the comment above is a perfectly serious criticism: first, a judgment of taste about the direction of the series—one recognizes exactly what the show is doing and prefers things the show used to do. I don't entirely agree (I don't mind the fantasy elements), but even a recognition that a long-running show must change or die does not necessitate approval of every change. De gustibus, &c.

Second, I mean, come on: given the neon signs with which it lit up all of its Blake references for those who know them, this episode was ham-handed even when it was being esoteric. The comment you're replying to lists many of the same aesthetic problems that Jane does when describing her personal reaction to the episode. It's not even a case that one is judging teleologically whereas the other is sticking to aesthetics: what's different is that Jane appreciates the goals that those aesthetic qualities appear to be in service to, whereas inkdestroyedmybrush finds them incompatible with the continued existence of the show in the form he (?) prefers. It is a view no less worth listening to than, for instance, finding the Pertwee years a bit of a letdown because it doesn't match your vision of the show.

As for me, I am liking this season. I didn't like this episode.

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David Anderson 2 years, 8 months ago

My reaction is almost inverse to my reaction to Power of Three. Power of Three I enjoyed until I realised it wasn't going anywhere worth going to. This one I didn't enjoy until I realised it wasn't trying to get anywhere.

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quislibet 2 years, 8 months ago

"fly angrily against the entirety of our times, radically embracing the glimmering lights on the other side of the veil between here and faerie"

Hmm, I myself saw instead a large dose of "Don't struggle; you're only making it worse": not just sitting back and letting the trees take care of everything, but also Clara's decision not to save anyone back before they knew the trees were on their side. In fact, much of what I dislike in the episode, from Danny's superhumanly understanding reaction to being deceived, to Maebh's sister's reveal at the end, to the global reset to status quo at the end, are all arguably in service to this "don't worry and everything will be okay" theme, which also seems to be the message of "Kill the Moon." For me, understanding this makes them worse rather than better. Since the show is hammering on the "making hard choices" theme, that the answer—in the episodes Philip convincingly argues are perfect expressions of what the series is doing nowadays—keeps turning out to be "you should decide not to act" is troubling both as a viable philosophy for living in the real world and as a central message for a series that has for half a century taught us to root for the universe's Number-One Interventionist.

On the other hand, assuming the previews aren't trolling us, if Clara does turn out to be some sort of villain, at least it might not come out out of nowhere, given the number of times this season Clara's opted to let humanity go extinct.

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quislibet 2 years, 8 months ago

Interesting: I did not intend for my second comment to appear in the same thread, and specifically reloaded the page to avoid it. Alas.

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unnoun 2 years, 8 months ago

It's not your Doctor Who. It never was. And, Grandfather willing, may it never be.

The Grandfather will bury you.
Nature will bury you.
The loa will bury your bones unseen.

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jane 2 years, 8 months ago

"I want to counter this narrative that's being constructed before my eyes that those who object to 'bad science' in the series are dull throwbacks to a technocratic materialism. I'm pro-faerie, but anti-ignorance. This episode, again I stress without a rewatch, I'm chalking up as 'nice try, but no. Just no. Don't do that.'"

The more I hear of the scientific objections to the episode, the more I appreciate it. Because it becomes ever more apparent that the episode absolutely rejects any sort of rationalist or empirical approach to its study.

Mind you, I'm not against rationalism, empiricism, science, or indeed material social progress. These are all fine things to have in Doctor Who. But not every Doctor Who story needs to have them, not to be "good" or "Doctor Who" or "progressive" or what have you.

Forest of the Night wears itself on its sleeve -- it most assuredly has very little to do with the world around us, and the more that rationalist evidence against it mounts, the more we must seriously consider that such an approach cannot be relied upon to grasp what it strives for. Rather, it's about the world within -- be it the individual subconscious or the collective dream of Albion, the Earth, what have you.

These things, they cannot be approached "rationally." The subconscious resists the probing the analytical conscious mind. Forest resists and indeed repulses that line of thought. So the sun here is not the ball of fusion fire that keeps our planet warm. The forest is not a collection of trees, subject to the laws of biology. The envelope of oxygen is not oxygen in the chemical sense. The world presented, in other words, is a lie. A fiction. No -- a myth.

To approach myth with any kind of literalist intent is, I think, a mistake. We do not believe that Apollo literally turned Daphne into a tree, that Amaterasu goddess of the sun literally hid in a cave, or that Spider Grandmother created the stars by throwing a dew-laced web up into the sky.

To approach the subconscious, the conscious mind -- particularly the analytical, rationalist, materialist part of the conscious mind -- must be put to sleep. If Forest indulged that part of the mind, it would stay awake. The underlying intent of Forest, then, if I've gleaned it, would be compromised.

The forest is not a forest, it's a Forest. The sun isn't the sun, it's the Sun. Its fire isn't fire, but Fire. The air isn't air, it's Air. Breathe deep (take a Deep Breath) and let it go.

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storiteller 2 years, 8 months ago

I think both the mental health issue and the thread with her sister would have been much clearer and better if the story had tied them together more. They did state that her issues came on because of her sister's disappearance, which as we find out at the end is presumably because of faerie. I think they came on precisely because Maebh saw her sister disappear, told adults what she saw, started hearing things related to that disappearance and no one believed her. Her "issues" weren't because of something genetic or inevitable - they were specifically because of the trauma of her sister's disappearance. Much like no one believed Amy when she told them about the Raggedy Doctor, although they didn't medicate her.

The problem with Maebh wasn't that she heard voices, it was that she was deeply traumatized and no one listened to her well enough to tell what had happened. And that is something that happens to kids all of the time - adults don't take children's trauma nearly so seriously as they should, often waving it off as stories. Of course, that's something that Doctor Who has been dealing with all season (and arguably since it started), that children's fear is real and something adults should listen to respectfully.

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Monicker 2 years, 8 months ago

It's somewhat frustrating though that this episode is making it unnecessarily difficult for itself by trying to fit it all into a pseudo-scientific rationale of the kind given when it doesn't really need one.

I mentioned The Wedding Of River Song earlier. That episode had a situation where all of time was mixed up and the time zones were in a mess, resulting in, effectively, an alternative reality where all kinds of 'rules', however defined, could be easily broken. Hence I cannot help thinking that this episode would also have held together better - and it would have been truer to the mythic qualities it was trying to evoke - if the action could have been taking place in some kind of fractured or distorted reality in a similar way to how that earlier example did, even if not for the same reason. Still on Earth, still in London, still with all the overgrown trees and foliage, still with the children and the others isolated, and with the same kind of character treatments and thematic content. The only pseudoscience this episode really needed was, on a very broad level, a means to explain how the situation came to be and how it could be restored to normality by the end, and in a series that has already embraced the kind of fantasy contained within, say, The Mind Robber and The Three Doctors, even that could easily have comprised a much more elegant hand wave than was evident here. No real necessity from a writing point of view to connect it to anything in the real world, the myth and symbolism are quite enough in themselves to achieve the desired results.

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John Peacock 2 years, 8 months ago

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jane 2 years, 8 months ago

Perhaps... the lack of it being in an "other world" is also deliberate, deliberate for its intentions. It's very easy to dismiss an "other world" and to simply not consider it. Because now the world of Faerie and Myth has encroached beyond its safe boundaries. It's here, making a mess of things, and we have to deal with it, not compartmentalize it (as Clara is wont to do).

The desire to keep it separate is yet again the desire of control and containment.

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John Peacock 2 years, 8 months ago

Oddly, if there's one work of fiction that both this and Kill the Moon remind me of, it's Dodie Smith's inexplicable sequel to One Hundred and One Dalmatians - The Starlight Barking. I won't even try to explain it here, but look it up.

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Philip Sandifer 2 years, 8 months ago

I confess, I found the degree to which inkdestroyedmybrush went beyond "this is not my aesthetic" and into "this aesthetic is contemptible" striking. Not just the seventh grade comment, but the "it doesn't make sense" trope (which is particularly insidious, since it in effect serves to cut off discussion - one can't even get into something in the first place if it's just nonsense), "throw out logic," insisting that there's a "correct way" to do things, and, of course, "some other crap fantasy show," particularly when the one named is conspicuous for the fact that it's strongly aimed at women.

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Prandeamus 2 years, 8 months ago

I have extremely mixed views on the success of this episode. I don't usually care too much if the pseudo-science of Doctor Who isn't objective reality. The line where maebh says she didn't ask why the Tardis was bigger on the inside is because it was supposed to be was beautiful. But ... if the writer is going to try for some sort of makeshift science explanation, then do it properly. This one didn't work for me because my mind went off on a tangent thinking how excess oxygen would help the earth survive a solar flare. I don't really care about the science here: I know it's a story, but I want to enjoy the story without distractions.

(Digression - when the nation held its breath watching "Rose" I did get quite hung up about "anti-plastic". Surely there must be a better way of describing it, I thought. That's a stupid name. And perhaps it is, but there wasn't any point in calling it something like a nanomolecular neutron reversing depolymerising agent, because if the Doctor had used a name like that he would still end up explaining it as Anti-Plastic. I am lot more relaxed about that now.))

The idea that humans will forget about all this the next day is getting tired. Kids of my generation remembered those walking shop window dummies all our lives. I'm 51 and it made such an impact on me in 1970 I couldn't walk past a tailors shop without wondering ....

Also, where was everyone? Londoners in Who are getting adept at mass evacuations, but why did only Maebh's mother exist outside the tardis/school bubble? What made her think she could use an urban bike in a forest environment? I was thinking that in some way that the forest would turn out to be a semi-real projection linked to Maebh's mental state, and being child-like only focussed on the people in her life: her teachers, friends and mother, and one random old guy with a blue box.

I will now get pretentious and claim the episode exists in a liminal space *between* the real world and the world of faerie. More prosaically, there was just an overload of fridge logic; deep freeze logic perhaps.

What did the fairies say? I don't usually have a problem with dialogue but I couldn't decide if the fairies were calling down fire and brimstone from the sun or saving us from it or something.

If I had a bunch of difficult/challenging children, I would not lie to them telling them they were "gifted and talented". G&T is now one of the standard terms in British primary education to mark out the top academic and other achievers. I can see that at the next Coal Hill parent's evening. "Yes, your child is a bully, who is unable to understand the meaning of the word 'navigate', and is afraid of the dark, so we lied to him and said he was gited.".

No, changed my mind, I didn't like it much after all.

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Leslie Lozada 2 years, 8 months ago

I find it interesting that we've had at least two overtly 'fairy -tale' like episodes, this season.

And also the fact it's sorta connected to Torchwood's Small Worlds, which dealt with faries. And the fact that, in both stories, the heroes really didn't have that much an impact on the plot.




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Scurra 2 years, 8 months ago

How about the reading that says that Clara isn't making that decision (to condemn the kids to death) at all? She's actually goading the Doctor into solving the problem by knowing that, having met the children, he wasn't going to go away without solving the problem. Hence I thought she was slightly startled when he did go away, but didn't appear to be at all surprised when he came back (although she was, clearly, a bit mffed.) But I may simply be reading that whole scene differently to others?

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Monicker 2 years, 8 months ago

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Monicker 2 years, 8 months ago

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Monicker 2 years, 8 months ago

The only separation involved is that which is already there. The makers of the series have it inbuilt to the format in practice. It's the how it can be done, rather than the rights and wrongs of the principle of it - a subject which, in this context, and at this particular time, I have no interest in discussing - which are relevant to anything I'm talking about. The world being rewritten wouldn't be separate in any meaningful sense for the characters experiencing it, because that is effectively what happens in the episode to all intents and purposes as it is. The ordeals and events that they undergo remain the same, and mean just the same to them. And for us as an audience it's not even clear exactly what is causing the situation until rather late into the episode. All it really means in practice is allowing it to deviate further from the nominally real world it's supposed to be set in by making it possible for greater changes to have occurred around them. Perhaps they could be the only people left on the planet. Perhaps the architecture of the cities is literally crumbling, distorting and dissolving beneath the foliage. It really matters very little how far they take it or what they do because ultimately the viewer would be well aware that in the end, the usual order of things will be restored, no matter what the means, as indeed still happens here. I would actually also say that whatever the nature of the disruption being talked about - whether the world being physically changed or replaced with another where more fundamental changes have occurred - neither would be safer or more reassuring than the other, even if for no other reason than if it can happen once it can happen again in theory - so it makes no difference in terms of safety or control or any of the rest of it. It doesn't alter the scale or nature of the theoretical threat.

The awkwardness of trying for a pseudoscientific rationale ends up straining the effect and undermining it rather than enhancing it, which is a shame, as that particular kind of rationale wasn't really necessary. The capacity of those small light beings or life forms, faeries if that's what we wish, to reorder matter, change the composition of the Earth, cause forests to spring up overnight, which could perhaps - if one wanted to link it mentally with previous examples of fantasy science processes in Doctor Who - have the potential to be thought of as being something similar to the kind of nanotechnology or Block Transfer Computation, or Key to Time concepts explored before... their being in a communion with the child, and the changed world resulting is a concept that could potentially have been developed further, and would have been enough in itself to function as the concept driving and explaining the story, also rendering most of the arguments about science largely redundant

Means of disrupting and restoring an order of things is the kind of issue that can be dealt with very simply and economically in the series in practice. I think it stumbled somewhat at that here, when it really needed very little pseudoscience to achieve much the same story in most respects. An increased focus on the more important elements of the story, both in the mythic and character sense could therefore have resulted too, which would have been preferable to me.

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inkdestroyedmybrush 2 years, 8 months ago

@philip et al - wow, i find myself at a loss to see how far my venting my frustration was taken here, and, sadly, all in the wrong way. After all the posts where i thought i made good, interesting points that no one ever commented on, the one post i fired off quickly gets completely out of hand. gack. Lets see if I can clear this up:

Phil - I have always enjoyed and been fascinated by your redemptive reading on older stories, and I've seen how much you've been enjoying this current series, and so my comment is not to say that anyone else is wrong and i'm right, just this is the level at which i'm not enjoying this version of Doctor Who that Moffatt is currently working hard on. When I use the phrase "My Doctor who" its not imply ownership in any way, but to imply: "this is the type of Doctor who that I, personally, enjoy". its a shorthand, and could be taken the incorrect way.

Clearly i seem to offended people here, and it was not my intent to do so. I bring up Supernatural, a show that i've watched twice and simply didn't like, as a negative reference, not as an anti-female comment. I'm annoyed at doctor Who, but only for my own sake, not for anyone elses. I've never even bothering to look at who Supernatural was being marketed towards other than, to me, fantasy/horror lovers.

I would like to reiterate that that this was ENTIRELY a "not my aesthetic" and my emotion was directed entirely at the building up of my dislike of this direction, that spilled out this morning.

I DO think that there were things that didn't quite line up in terms of the storytelling last night, and while i think that Moffatt is a master storyteller, that doesn't mean that i don't feel like i can't point those things out. Taking out the bad science part: I believe that we took a step backwards in the Danny/Clara dynamic last night. That didin't make sense to me emotionally. I didn't think that Maeve's mother bicycling to the museum made logical sense without any other look in on the school or the other parents. It made fairy tale sense to me, but not logical sense. To me. I've often felt, and said, that the things that didn't make sense this season have almost always felt as it the compressed time to tell a complex story means that soemthings are always being skated over.

And, lastly, Moffatt is the man who gave me the best two seasons (matt's first two) since Hinchcliffe's first two with Tom Baker. I've said so many times in posts. he's brilliant and amazing and i've been dismayed at people's reactions to his female characters and storylines. I have nothing but respect and admiration for the chances he takes and his willingness to go for it. He's going full tilt in a direction this season that I dislike. i mean nothing else to my critique than that.

sigh. again, remind me never to vent on the internet. ever. it can get taken really poorly in ways that i never would have imagined. i'm not trying to troll anyone here, or piss them off. this was not the discussion that i was looking for.

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inkdestroyedmybrush 2 years, 8 months ago

jane, i should have read your reply before venting this morning, it would have prevented making a fool out of myself in teh above thread. had i watched the show this season with your viewpoint i would likely not have been as upset as i was last night.

I've never minded Doctor Who doing the occassional Mind Robber episode, but to take the season into that territory as a whole is something new.

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William Silvia 2 years, 8 months ago

"I wonder what will annoy people more. The moon being an egg, or the science in this."

I've been debating this, because I was one of the people most bothered by the science in KTM; however, the egg being a moon was never what bothered me. It was the egg being a moon used as an explanation for the moon having properties that eggs don't that bothered me. That, and numerous other scientific problems that did their best to tear down the concept and make it as difficult to explore as possible (like "bacteria" with exoskeletons and teeth and other things that require more than one cell to have).

I've been thinking since watching this - especially since reading the first paragraph of this review, which I did hours before getting the chance to read the rest of it - why I like "Forest" more than "Moon". I think a lot of it has more to do with seeing the Doctor from "Flatline" return rather than the one from "Sherwood". Having characters interact rather than be independent plotpoints is a plus as well; the UNIT era would have been far worse if Jo and Liz were the only ones who got to talk with the Brigadier, after all.

Otherwise, I can't quite put my finger on it. "Forest" lends itself to a happier aesthetic, but as a horror aficionado I can't exactly say that "Moon"'s aesthetic drives me away, either. There's something more subtle, hard to describe, at work here.

The fact that the supporting cast here is the most well-developed it's been since the 50th anniversary (if not longer) probably has something to do with it.

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Daru 2 years, 8 months ago

I remember lying in St. James's park in the green, under a massive tree and imagining that the whole country and beyond was taken over by the Wildwood. Here in Southern Scotland the ghosts of the Great Wood of Caledon still stand on the bones of the hills, waiting.

Bloody beautiful episode.

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William Silvia 2 years, 8 months ago

Digression - when the nation held its breath watching "Rose" I did get quite hung up about "anti-plastic". Surely there must be a better way of describing it, I thought. That's a stupid name.
I prefer to think of it as "Bat-Plastic Repellant".

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Daibhid C 2 years, 8 months ago

The way I put it is that "Forest" is presented clearly as a fairy tale. "Moon", as Phil says in his own review, uses the trappings of Hard SF. The science of "Forest" bothered me, but that wasn't the overall feeling I took away from the episode. Whereas with "Moon", it pretty much was.

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jonathan inge 2 years, 8 months ago

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Daibhid C 2 years, 8 months ago

Come to think of it, another thing I don't think anyone's mentioned is how the kids were written, which was clearly not according to The Book of Character Traits to Quickly Define Kid Characters. According to that book, if a kid is first mentioned in the context of allergies and phobias, that kid is The Wimp. If the angry kid has any weaknesses, he's in denial about them.

But when you think about it, there are loads of reasons why those character traits might go together. Maybe he's angry because he knows his weaknesses, but doesn't know how to deal with them. Maybe he uses his problems as an excuse when his temper gets the better of him. Maybe a bit of both, or maybe the two things are entirely unrelated and he's just a kid with allergies and anger issues.

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Daibhid C 2 years, 8 months ago

Hmm, that was meant to be a reply to the discussion about how the kids were played, way, way up the thread...

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jonathan inge 2 years, 8 months ago

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peeeeeeet 2 years, 8 months ago

Jane -

Are you sure you didn't watch Kinda by mistake*? The episode you describe sounds fun but doesn't resemble the one I actually watched the other night. It's all very well to welcome arationality** as a refreshing break from rationality, but this episode doesn't reject rationality at all - it makes a hamfisted attempt to aim at it and misses so badly it hits irrationality instead. To conflate the two seems to me as sound as hearing a musician play a few bum notes and proclaiming her the new Schoenberg.

* OK, it is never a mistake to watch Kinda
** Hope I just made this word up, suspect I didn't

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jane 2 years, 8 months ago

And yet it's a conversation that's actually quite interesting. It's those "fast ventings" that often expose how the subconscious mind is actually working, before the conscious mind has had time to tidy it up and make it look presentable -- something Clara would appreciate, actually.

For example, your first post makes it quite clear that not only do you prefer one aesthetic to the other, you believe at some level that that aesthetic is a superior one. Even here, in the recanting, your continued reliance on "logical sense" as a critique belies your conscious recognition that any such claim to aesthetic superiority is simply incorrect.

In other words, you've just exposed one of your own internal conflicts. Which is actually a brave thing. Now comes the hard part -- identifying why this is so.

For example, you recognize that Maebh's mother searching for her daughter makes "fairy-tale sense" but why isn't this sufficient for the story at hand? Why do we need to see the other parents -- surely the mother who's already lost a daughter can stand in metonymously for all of them? And what exactly about the Danny/Clara dynamic didn't make sense, given what we've already seen of them so far? Those are the sorts of questions whose answers will be far more illuminating in the long run -- either because they'll have prosaic explanations that others can provide, or because they'll genuinely expose the limitations of narrative compression, which very much depends on closer readings to fill in the gaps -- active participation on the part of the audience, if you will.

But getting back to the main objection -- what is the underlying appeal of the tropes of SF? Why the disdain for aesthetics that aren't beholden to them? Why is it so upsetting to let them go? I say "upset" because in the first post that emotion is obvious, and rather than skirt around it, I think that's the most fruitful place to start.

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jane 2 years, 8 months ago

For example, I think my initial disenchantment with the story was actually because I was afraid of what it was saying. I'm someone who's heard voices, who's been lost, who's struggled to compartmentalize her life. And this story pushed a lot of my buttons. Rather than face those buttons, I resisted the narrative -- and I didn't even realize I was doing it.

But that's part of what's unique about the genre of Myth and its precocious daughter, the Faerie Tale. Its logic really is focused on presenting images and scenes and scenarios that get under the skin, that operate on the subconscious mind, and they're so effective precisely because they reject what the conscious mind is looking for.

The best such stories, I'd argue, are those which can't be "made sense of" on the surface, material, literal level. As such, they can only be "made sense of" through reflection, and particularly self-reflection. (Another thing that Clara's resisting.) They work sideways, not head on. And if there's stuff beneath the surface that we don't want to look at, of course it's going to provoke a reaction. The fact that it does provoke a reaction rather indicates that there's something underneath that needs tending to in the first place.

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jane 2 years, 8 months ago

It's not like Boyce "doesn't know" how to do SF -- look at Code 46 for starters.

So no, I don't think it's aiming at rationality at all, peeeet. There's too many internal contradictions and suggestive allusions for me to believe that. For example, when the "fire-proof" nature of the Forest is first revealed, by men in silver-suits no less, the Doctor suggests that the trees aren't releasing any oxygen. Yet later on it's an oxygen envelope that buffers the earth against a solar wave?

The sun is creator, the sun is destroyer -- and referenced to Karabraxos, an allusion to Abraxas, a creator/destroyer deity. The eyes in the bushes are wolves; the eyes in the bushes are Annabel (who is really Lyca in yet another Blake poem, one that's mirror-twinned into two, playing on the lost/found dichotomy). The forest as horror, the forest as protector. Blossom and nut, conjoined. Danny and Clara fight; they kiss. Danny's given up soldiering, and yet he still embraces it -- "Everywhere we go, people want to know, who we are..."

A bicycle in a tree -- a bicycle in a window -- a mother on a bicycle, with a leopard-print helmet. The Doctor and Clara, following Maebh, end up on the other side of a gate, getting there before she does. A mystic grove full of spider-webs, with no spiders, and no comment whatsoever: this is pure imagery.

It's not aiming at the fuel tank, but at a circle in a square, a symbolic gesture at gnosis, integration, the union of Above and Below, Past and Future, to the Here and Now. Divine Revelation unfurled, and gathered up by the subconscious. The ego just has to get out of the way.

Which is, of course, the very last thing it wants to do.

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jonathan inge 2 years, 8 months ago

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Anton B 2 years, 8 months ago

Okay. I'll admit I've hesitated before replying because I needed some time and space to unpack this critique of my comment which, I'd like to clarify before I go into detail, was in no way intended as elitist or holier than thou but was a genuine response to the many negative comments both here and on the interwebz about this story.

And I needed to go and have a drink with some friends because. Sometimes you have to have priorities.

So, for what it's worth, here's my late night drunken response.

Firstly I'm sincerely sorry if I offended anyone with my opinions. I have opinions and so should you. 'opinionated' and 'pretentious' are two insults whose power I don't recognise.

Secondly I'd like to point out that my comment was a response, partly to Phil's review which I loved and partly an attempt to formalize and clarify my own reaction to this episode.

What it was not was a
" pre-emptive head-shaking dismissal of anyone who fails to share [my] own positive reaction.
I'd hardly call 'pre-emptive' a reaction to at least a dozen negative comments about this episode which precede mine on this blog alone. Let alone, at the time of posting, across the wider internet.

Of course I agree with Jane - Judgment is another way of exercising control, I suppose. And it's not just our fandom -- this is pretty much the way our whole culture goes about consuming stories...I'm not sure I want to play that game anymore.

Anyway I genuinely am sorry if anyone took offence at my comments but remain slightly puzzled as to what the hell we're arguing about. I liked it you didn't. Let's move on.

Finally I posted the same words, on my Facebook account and got this response from a friend.

I liked it. A little annoyed by the pseudoscience but it was less central to the action in this one. Could so easily have been illusory trees, actually an artificial force field generated by the sparkly beings and made to look like trees so as not to alarm the locals -- but they've lost track of time and don't realise how incongruous all these forests look. For me, that sort of [tech] gloss would have worked, without muddying actual elementary school science. Also, the Tunguska event would make a great MacGuffin for an episode of Doctor Who, but didn't really make sense here. But Capaldi played it great as ever, it kept me engaged, and Clara's face really is almost perfectly spherical in this episode.

To which I replied

...I like your handwavium explanation and will retro-fit it into my head-canon.

Peace and love.

Anton.

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Doctor Memory 2 years, 8 months ago

The whole Smith era is already starting to feel like some weird and not entirely pleasant shared hallucination. Objectively of course it wasn't anywhere near the show- and career-destroying smashup that the Colin Baker seasons were, but I can't say I'm any more likely to voluntarily go back and watch any of the Smith episodes than any of Baker's.

Charitable interpretation: running an internationally popular high-budget science fiction show is incredibly difficult and the BBC lucked out more than they knew at the time in that RTD seemed to be born knowing how to do it, whereas Moffat has taken the better part of five years to figure it out. Less charitable interpretations left as an exercise to the reader.

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quislibet 2 years, 8 months ago

The science of "Moon" annoyed me more for exactly the "it's a giant egg, so of course the bacteria are glowing spiders" reasons you mention. But I liked the episode itself well enough. Meanwhile, you can't get very far in Nu-Who if you're bothered by magic trees or burning atmospheres that don't hurt anyone, so, while completely ridiculous, it was not one of the (several) problems I had with "Forest."

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jane 2 years, 8 months ago

Doctor Who is too weird to call a "science-fiction" show -- indeed, at this point, such a moniker is anything but charitable. It's more apt to call it a mythology, and even that is a stretch.

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jonathan inge 2 years, 8 months ago

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Adam Riggio 2 years, 8 months ago

I only got my own review up now, and it's so far down the list (and only a few hours away from whatever story you have to fill the Angels in Manhattan post) that I'm sure no one will follow the link, but I'd like to make my contribution to the discussion of this episode, which I think was my absolute favourite of the season and a brilliant contribution both to Doctor Who as a text, as a television show, and as a myth, as well as to environmentalist and ecological philosophical thinking in wider human society.

http://adamwriteseverything.blogspot.ca/2014/10/they-arent-villains-this-time-doctor.html

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jonathan inge 2 years, 8 months ago

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Kit 2 years, 8 months ago

I didn't think that Maeve's mother bicycling to the museum made logical sense without any other look in on the school or the other parents. It made fairy tale sense to me, but not logical sense.

You get it!

I've never even bothering to look at who Supernatural was being marketed towards other than, to me, fantasy/horror lovers.

I've not seen more than two seconds of Supernatural, but knowing that it's been written for by Ben Edlund and Ben Acker & Ben Blacker, I assume it's for people who enjoy witty, knowing-but-loving spins on genre material.

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Eric Gimlin 2 years, 8 months ago

Very late to the game, myself, as I only now just got it watched.

Did anybody else get a Ray Bradbury vibe off the story? Using some of the tricks of science fiction to tell something completely different. The tone of this story was reminiscent of some of the Martian Chronicles to me.

I can see why a lot of people don't like this episode, even if I don't agree with them. It's easily my favorite of this series.

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TheSmilingStallionInn 2 years, 8 months ago

Yep, I'm definitely with you there on the GI stuff. I think something similar had occurred to me earlier in how Missy was employing/using Clara to save the Doctor for her own purposes--if Clara had not been around, the Doctor wouldn't have dealt with GI, he wouldn't have encountered any of her shadows, he wouldn't have been saved from the GI entering his scar. He would have destroyed Gallifrey, though, and he would not have sent Gallifrey to the other dimension, which mean they wouldn't have created the crack calling for him, leading to the big showdown on Trenzalore. Thus the Doctor may or may not have died on Trenzalore, but if it wasn't for Clara asking the Time Lords for help, they would not have given him extra regenerations. Things of that nature.

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David Anderson 2 years, 8 months ago

I think the pseudo-scientific justification is no less dreamlike than anything else in the episode. (And yes, aside from the government ordering the trees burned, which gives us the shots of men in masks, the absence of other people is as fairy tale as the physical events.)

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Daru 2 years, 8 months ago

Yes it was really beautiful wasn't it!

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Daru 2 years, 8 months ago

"But this episode made me feel things, and made me feel differently from any other episode...ever."

Oh yes, this is one thing that I have loved from some of the stories this series - that like you I have been touched and really felt something. Beautiful experience.

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Daru 2 years, 8 months ago

Enjoyed your comments Anton, especially feeling the resonances with the spirit of Albion also.

Feel moved to include an excerpt from my wonderful Blakean friend, Barry Patterson's poem The Giant Albion's Nightmare:

& the Giant Albion is crazy wise
& all his children of any size
Who number millions throughout the land
Can also come to understand
A deeper power rules.

Crazy wise Giant Albion & all his children raise up their voices & sing
& when they go to sleep they go to sleep & dream sweet
& when they wake up they wake up & raise up their voices & sing again
They sing together the song of ancient life,
That never had a beginning, nor can it end
They sing together the song of ancient life,
That love has always woven in our blood
From oceans long ago in the heart wood of giant trees
A state of innocence denied to no living thing
That all may know & celebrate, but soon forget
When they become afraid of fear or are hurt by pain.

http://www.redsandstonehill.net/2013/12/the-giant-albions-night-mare.html

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David D 2 years, 8 months ago

Hi all. The below written before inkdestroyedmybrush and jkorvin’s posts and jane’s responses, all of which I’ve found very helpful and worthwhile, as I’m mostly in a state of ambivalence…One quick new unformulated thought is that surely anything transcendent depends on what isn’t transcendent i.e. material reality to validate it; if, as here the representation of actual material reality is questionable, then the transcendence loses its own reality. Anyway, here was my initial reaction:

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David D 2 years, 8 months ago

I'm quite surprised by Phil's positive review. The episode was for me flawed from almost every perspective, and - if paying service to the thematic and technical ambition of this series, an ambition I welcome (though think may be suspect), under-reached itself by some way.
Thematically: like some commenters above, I don't think the overt William Blake references add much, other than allowing those who get them (I'm not a Blake expert, but I do) to congratulate themselves for getting them. They don't really integrate into the story - '1795' is a throwaway line; the 'tyger' is chasing wolves in a more or less incidental scene to allow Danny to become hero in a way that doesn't really affect his relationship with Clara or the Doctor or theirs with each other. In the poem, the 'Tyger' is the starting-off point for an unresolved questioning of divinity and the existence of God. Nothing so interesting is addressed here, except by the watered-down eco-message that the earth is perhaps 'Gaia' in Lovelock's sense - except it's not because, in distinction to Lovelock's (disputed) use of hard science, the earth is here somehow explicitly in the care of the 'tree twinkles.' Regarding this, I agree with many of Aylwin’s comments above in response to Anton B.
Yes, there is also a connotation of 'World Tree' in jane's sense, with the uniting of opposites, but it's lip service to this, missing is any explicit sense of mythological antecedents that could have been intertwined. Missing, too, is the most well-known tree in our culture, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and any interrogation of those themes and the Doctor's, Clara's, Danny's place on the continuum between those concepts. This matters because it is a key theme in other episodes this series, starting from Deep Breath.
Again, yes, there's a forest, but the attempts to bring out its connotations of fear and liminality, historical, mythological, fairy-tale, in the way Froborr suggests, are crude - they're either made as statements in the script mentioning fairy-tales e.g., Hansel and Gretel, or by production choices like the red jacket. Albion has always been a much more complicated, darker place than anything here suggests.
It's not ground-breaking to assert that artists have visions which go into their art. If the programme wants to take up the debate about medication vs non-medication, or the classification of 'mental and emotional disorders', then there must surely be subtler, more sensitive and more impactful ways to do this. Many people I know struggle greatly with the issue of psychiatric diagnoses, or whether to take or not take psychopharmaceutical medication; there are different answers in different contexts.
I'll avoid the science as a whole. But it does have, has to have a place in Doctor Who, and if the writer's going to use what I think are correct scientific terms as he does, then it's beholden on him to at least somehow ground the resolution in what might in reality happen. I agree wholeheartedly with Phil's 6th bullet point - because this would at least have been 'true' in a real world sense, as well as deepening things thematically. (I share some of Monicker’s view about how some ‘pseudo-science’ would have helped.)

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David D 2 years, 8 months ago

Sorry, I wrote more than I realised (!):

Practically: I'll repeat others - where are all the people? At this point in the series' history, the lack needs better explaining. Also, how do Danny and the kids get to Trafalgar Square from Knightsbridge - they head for the tube – it’s a ‘15 to 20 minute journey, get off at Leicester Square’ if it's running. If not, we're talking a good hour hike. If so, why aren't they tired out, and again where are the other people?
The kids have been (from memory) in the fictional London Zoological Museum, but they pass a sign to the real-life Natural History Museum - which surely has the same sort of exhibits as the fictional one - a production error?
Last gasps!: the wolves would surely have outrun and caught Maebh very easily. How was her twee phone call to everyone supposed to stop governments doing anything? The CGI was below par for the series, that's why it stands out negatively. Some beautiful shots, some fine but unrevelatory Doctor and Clara moments, but in the context of the series, a disappointing episode.

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Steven 2 years, 8 months ago

I'll follow it.

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Daru 2 years, 8 months ago

I really enjoyed the call out to the "Life After People" genre. I live up in Edinburgh and I remember seeing a beautiful art exhibition that imagined the city taken over by nature.

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Daru 2 years, 8 months ago

Thanks Adam, have been reading all of your reviews and really enjoy your writing - so thanks for posting them!

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Daru 2 years, 8 months ago

"As a liminal space, a forest to travel through, it is interesting that the children wake in what appears to be a cave, sleeping in a pile on the ground (though it's actually an overnight in a museum--WTF? Is that a thing schoolkids do in Britain?), then journey through the forest and end inside the TARDIS. From cave-dwellers to Time Lords, with only the forest to suggest there is actually a separation between the two."

I got some interesting hits from this (in line with Jane's discussion on imagery further below) in relation to imagery from the Hartnell period. The journey from the cave, through the forest and Maebh's running through the trees all felt reminiscent of An Unearthly Child to me. In fact Maebh's hands first looked like an echo of the unconvincing run by Susan through the forest - not that Maebh was unconvincing to me, she was played brilliantly.

The sun was also a key symbol here as it was in that first story, as there is was worshipped as Orb; here the Sun or Fire is the potential cause of humanity's death - and as the story moves from The Cave of Skulls to The Forest of Fear we find that we are being asked to fear less and the forest is a source of protection and inspiration rather than terror.

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What Happened To Robbie? 2 years, 8 months ago

I can see the point of view of those who felt this veered too far into fantasy but at the same time if you watch DW for plausible science you must spend a lot of time disappointed.

I can't think of any era of the show where the science made any sense. Even when Bidmead insisted on a "hard science" aesthetic it was still frequently nonsense.

This is just my opinion but I think Doctor Who works better when they don't try and give everything a scientific explanation. Because when there is an explanation given it's usually just a bit of technobabble. Take any instance where there has been something supernatural - eg ghosts, witches, vampires, demons. When have any of the scientific 'explanations' for them actually even vaguely resembled science?

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What Happened To Robbie? 2 years, 8 months ago

For example in Tooth and Claw it isn't a werewolf it's a Lupine Wavelength Haemovariform. Which means nothing. You may as well just call it a werewolf.

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jane 2 years, 8 months ago

Love your riff on Unearthly Child, Daru.

The Forest is also a recurring motif in Moffat's Who, and I'd be remiss not to bring up those occurrences in the light of this episode. As usual, it all starts with the Library, a "Forest of the Dead" -- here, the word "forest" is used metaphorically to describe Books of the Dead, which ends up becoming a viable Afterlife.

In Crash of the Byzantium, the Forest is a union of trees and technology, converting starlight to oxygen, and it too has resonances with the afterlife -- particularly as it becomes breached by the Crack and commented on by Amy:

AMY: There was a light and they walked into the light. Doctor, they didn't even remember each other.

Then there's the Androzani Forest, which is implicitly cast in a recreation of River's ascension in the Library, with Madge sitting in for her. We also get a Forest-as-Otherworld in Hide, a collapsing pocket universe populated by romantic tree-monsters and one time-traveling ghost.

Most recently there's the fate of PC Forrest, stripped down to her nervous system after death. (Speaking of character names -- Courtney Woods? Even Clara Oswald, the "wald" being Germanic for "forest.")

The Leaf should also be mentioned here: there's the Prayer Leaf in A Good Man Goes to War that brings Amy's lost child home to her. There's Clara's Leaf, the most important leaf in the history of the Universe, which signals her birth, destroys a parasitic planet-god, and brings her home to herself in The Name of the Doctor.

And there have been several compelling shots of beautiful trees, the most interesting (to me) being Clara's flattened figure after falling in The Snowmen when her splayed out dress resembles a Christmas Tree. The TARDIS architectural reconfiguration system is a close second, a Tree bearing Egg-fruit that are really circuits (and there's even a terrifying Sun in that story, too).

Given that the government response team in Forest of the Night is called COBRA, we also get an allusion to the Garden of Eden. This brings into play the recurring gardens of Amy Pond and the Garden in Two Streams, though I don't find these instances nearly as compelling.

Taken together, though, Into the Forest of the Night continues a long line of tree-symbolism in the show, and effectively if strangely casts its own forest in similar terms -- it's a place where dualities coexist, an Eden, a place of Memory, and of apocalyptic catastrophe that turns out to be a source of rebirth.

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jane 2 years, 8 months ago

Also, Maebh's hands to me reminded me of what I'm like when I'm encountering spider webs across my path, batting them away before they cover my face.

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brownstudy 2 years, 8 months ago

Paul Cornell's 5 Brilliant Things about this episode: http://www.tor.com/blogs/2014/10/paul-cornell-doctor-who-in-the-forest-of-the-night

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Daru 2 years, 8 months ago

Thanks a lot Jane! And great to read your run down of Forest occurrences during Moffat's time so far, good list and thanks for sharing them all. When you look at all the appearances of Forests, it's quite interesting to see the transformation of their symbol in Who from terror to healing - at least that is what this story presents to me.

Fascinating that a lot of the symbols for Moffat track back to the Library - the afterlife has become more and more prominent hasn't it, especially in the light of the Nethersphere?

Two more peripheral and less key occurrences of Forests come to mind with Day of the Doctor, with the woodland being where the three Doctors are brought together by The Moment (slight link to Here?); and Time of the Doctor where the forest appears as the generic place of fear and the Cyberman transformed into wood - reminiscent of ancient technology.

Great stuff - thanks you Jane - like the anecdote about your hands too.

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Anna Wiggins 2 years, 8 months ago

I'll just pop in and give my current ranking:

Kill the Moon
In The Forest of the Night
Listen
Deep Breath
Robot of Sherwood
Mummy on the Orient Express
Time Heist
The Caretaker
Flatline
Into the Dalek

Wow, that was hard. The first two are actually really close, but Kill the Moon is barely winning out because the end of In the Forest... felt a bit weaker. I seem to like Robot of Sherwood more than most people here. It would actually be above Deep Breath, except Deep Breath is appealing to me for deeply idiosyncratic reasons.

I love the focus on iconography and tone over plotting, throughout this season. Lyric instead of narrative. This is television-as-poetry-as-magic and I'm loving every second of it. Nothing I'm saying here is really adding to the discussion, but I feel compelled to add it anyway.

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Whittso 2 years, 8 months ago

It was beautiful, wasn't it? Great to not just have a new idea, but also a new tone.

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dr.jimmy72296 2 years, 8 months ago

@ inkdestroyedmybrush
... it would have prevented making a fool out of myself in the above thread.

You didn't make a fool of yourself. Actually I'd say you're 100 percent correct. The current incarnation of the show does almost nothing for me either. FWIW I think Capaldi is brilliant in the role, but the writing is pretty much crap. It's not RTD-series-finale-level-awful, where I'm actually shaking with rage at how disappointing the payoff to that great setup was, it's mostly just there. A bunch of stuff happens that I'm only marginally interested in and at the end of 45 minutes it's all magically resolved and the reset button has been hit for next week.

And I fail to see how someone who didn't get the quite clear "abortion is murder" message that Kill The Moon bludgeoned us over the head with was able to pick up on the hidden subtext of your super sneaky, anti-woman Supernatural comment.

Since everyone else is doing it:

Listen (by about as wide of a margin as exists between City of Death and The Twin Dilemma)
Mummy on the Orient Express
Flatline
Time Heist
Into the Dalek
Deep Breath
Robot of Sherwood
The Caretaker
In The Forest of Night
Kill The Moon

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dr.jimmy72296 2 years, 8 months ago

@ Doctor Memory "Objectively of course it wasn't anywhere near the show- and career-destroying smashup that the Colin Baker seasons were, but I can't say I'm any more likely to voluntarily go back and watch any of the Smith episodes than any of Baker's."

Would you really put The Eleventh Hour, Vincent and the Doctor, Pandorica/Big Bang, Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon, Doctor's Wife, any of the Weeping Angels stories, or Name of the Doctor in the same category as anything from the Colin Baker era?

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analoguehole 2 years, 8 months ago

"There will be carping about the apparent 'anti-psychiatric meds' agenda...I'm sorry if your enjoyment was spoiled by any of those thoughts but I have to point out that in massively missing the point you're also massively missing the enjoyment to be had in 'Doctor Who visits the Land of Faerie'."

While personally I liked the 'anti-psychiatric agenda', for reasons I explain in another thread, it's interesting to contrast Anton's rather fannish, tribal response to a criticism he doesn't share, regarding it as mere 'carp', with the very generous response by Mr Cottrell-Boyce to this precise criticism, which he found both interesting and troubling 'food for thought'. Now that says something about fandom I think.

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encyclops 2 years, 8 months ago

Capaldi's grumpiness means the story can risk going all out for whimsy in a way that would be intolerable if you put Matt Smith in it.

Agreed. I didn't particularly enjoy him in this story, apart from a few moments here and there, but I tried imagining Smith in a few of the scenes that felt most like him and I couldn't bear it.

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encyclops 2 years, 8 months ago

I don't know if the GI would be a satisfying answer at this point, but there's no longer any way the Master would be, at least for me.

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inkdestroyedmybrush 2 years, 8 months ago

@jane Perfectly reasonable thoughts on my original post, and I'll try to answer some of your questions. you have an interesting insight and perspective, as always.

I believe that it is my expectation of the program that let me to my stance on needing a logical progression of the science and storytelling, the two things that bugged me the most. I don't believe that it is "better" or intrinsically "superior", but its certainly what i thought i was going to be getting.

For instance, when watching Gaiman's Coraline, i expected nothing other than fairy tale logic, and didn't need any sort of explanation of why there was a parallel universe, or a gateway to it. could care less. I'm only interested in the emotional journey of the protagonist. Same thing when I watch Lord of the Rings: I expect fantasy rules and i'm not disappointed.

And intersting collision comes when you're expecting one and it curves into another. Perfect example that comes to mind: The Dragonriders of Pern. Anne McCaffrey set up the first two trilogies with, essentially psuedo-science (telepathic dragons, teleportation, vegetation eating spores from space) and ran with it. I really never needed her to go where she did, which was to eventually ahve to psuedo-science the entire series before her death into.. well, inot oblivion.

I always expected Doctor Who to play at least partly by the "science" rules of science fiction, or at least science fantasy. I can accept a teleportation device, but it has to do the same thing every time so that you can't just wrap the story up with the wave of your hand. Frodo's One Ring? Who knows, it can pretty much do anything, I'm emotionally ready for the potential cheat in fantasy, which poorer authors often take, and the best don't.

The Danny Clara dynamic - next post down -

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encyclops 2 years, 8 months ago

The first 27 minutes or so were wonderful. I absolutely loved a forest springing up and covering London. Of course I thought of XTC's "River of Orchids" rather than Blake, but that's me.

The rest of it was a bit of a letdown, what with the primordial pixie-dust and so on. The science was, yes, annoyingly dodgy, and I'd almost rather they didn't bother trying than to be so flagrantly "who gives a shit, it's just a fairy story" about it. Still, if it encourages kids to love trees, sure, why not, whatever.

My feelings about this season are so mixed. Some aspects of it are so terrific. So why do I feel so apathetic about it? I haven't cared this little about anything that's at stake on Doctor Who since 2005. Perhaps it's the degree to which everything in the universe seems determined to bend over backward to be nice to humanity. It's tough to get too worked up when the frequency with which things turn out to be benign borders on self-parody.

Oh, well. I'm sure I would have adored this as a kid, and aesthetics go a long way for me. Let's say:

Flatline
Listen or The Caretaker
In the Forest of the Night
Mummy on the Orient Express
Deep Breath
Into the Dalek
Kill the Moon
Time Heist or Robot of Sherwood

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inkdestroyedmybrush 2 years, 8 months ago

@jane - the single most striking arc for me this season has been Danny/Clara, and the turn it took at the end of Orient Express, when she blatantly lied to him on the phone. Earlier in the season, Danny had made a point, a very reasonable one, that if they were going to be in a relationship, you don't lie to him. Powerful stuff, because real, adult relationships are based on that trust.

And Clara blatantly broke that, and continued to do so during Flatline. Even my 13 year old said to me, "lying like that is bad." Clara was going down a path we'd not see in a companion before, potentially so addicted to the danger that she can't not lie about going back to the TARDIS.

And the scene where Danny figures out that she was in the TARDIS a week ago had such little emotional impact that it really caught me off guard. Especially after Flatline, where she hits the "in a meeting" when he's calling, after he hears the crash through the window. I truly expected something chilling from him about being lied to. Or his anger about her suddennly in love with the adventure aspect, when he sees his primary, number one goal as taking care of the kids. She abdicates her duty as their teacher and surrogate parent without amoments notice.

And they didn't go there. And that didn't make emotional sense to me.

In retrospect, if I had been watching with the expectation of fairy logic, I would have been less bothered, but still found the much of the references forced, or, more simply, just not flowing in the context of the story for me. and I wish that they did.

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Anton B 2 years, 8 months ago

@analoguehole
Yes Cottrell-Boyce, As the author of the piece was polite enough to respond to a lengthy and personal critique with a tweet. While I, as yes a 'fan' of a TV show, but also someone with personal experience of both mental health issues and trained in education commented above on the 'anti-meds issue' in response to a few short comments which expressed a concern. Let me quote what I said
In my experience medication is often issued not as a cure but as a chemical cosh to sedate or supress symptoms or quieten behaviour that carers find difficult to handle. Anyway I don't feel this particular drama was advocating either using or not using medication. It was advocating listening, fearing less and trusting more. In this particular context the girl's medication was preventing her revealing the solution to the wider problem.
My use of the word 'carping' in my other comment was perhaps unfair but now you've balanced the injustice by describing me as 'fannish and tribal' and I hope that's satisfied you and you might accept the apology for any unintended offence which I offered above.

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Chris 2 years, 8 months ago

Phil and I are totally BFFs now. Or totally people who briefly met each other once. I always mix up the two concepts.

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Chris 2 years, 8 months ago

I just rewatched the episode (my traditional "rewatch after reading Phil's comments" screening), and I noticed something else. As noted, the Doctor mentions the year 1795, but the other year he mentions in that sentence is 2016. So can we infer that the present year for this story is 2016? Or maybe there is something significant about 221 years? Or it's foreshadowing of a Sherlock crossover? Or the Doctor just can't be bothered to check the calendar? Or perhaps it's representative of someone like me trying to read far too much into something that isn't significant at all? [insert randomly generated Illuminati conspiracy theory here]

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analoguehole 2 years, 8 months ago

Three tweets actually. FC-B retweeted the original criticism (which counts as a tweet in twitter idiom) and replied to it twice not just with 'politeness' but with reflective humility I thought. Rather refreshing too, in the current climate, that he didn't write it off as unenlightened trolling by someone 'missing the point', but rather as a reasonable argument worth listening to. A modern equivalent of Purple Haze playing football across the trenches in the early 90s.
I don't see how Robert Shepherd's critique was especially 'personal'. As for 'lengthy', I suppose 324 words counts as lengthy on Tumblr, but that's surely a reflection of our current cultural short-attention span?

I share your perspective on the issue as it happens, as I pointed out and referred to my other comment on this issue, under the name jkorvin(blogger this time decided to use my blog name rather than my username for the comment so that connection was rather mangled - incidentally, I think this comment will be registered as by 'Unknown'. Phil, can't you migrate to a better and more ethical blogging platform, like WP? Would make life so much easier).
For more on FC-B's perspective on the issue of visions in fictionsee this speech he gave.

I didn't describe you but your response as 'fannish and tribal'. They're not necessarily bad things - I didn't mean these especially pejoratively, although in this case I suppose so. I meant to say it seemed to me that you were taking a particular position (also mine as it happens), and that viewers who take a contrary position were being 'othered' and pitied as presenting a psychologically flawed response to the episode, with their unruly and heretical (yet presumably sincere?) thoughts spoiling their enjoyment of the sublime magic of the episode.
By saying its divisive you only make the division more real. Can't we unify these apparent opposites?

There's no need to apologise to me over this. My interest is purely academic.

I trust the irony of those judging and attempting to control heretical readings of the text by characterising them as, well, judgemental and controlling, is not lost? I detect a fearful symmetry there. I thought the contrast of the writer's altogether more listening, trusting, unfearful response to a highly critical reading makes that irony especially obvious.

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analoguehole 2 years, 8 months ago

OK, it didn't register me as unknown this time. I thought it would because that's what it indicated at the CAPTCHA stage. Phil, please ditch blogger.

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encyclops 2 years, 8 months ago

I've been thinking a bit on the role of science in these episodes, and why it seems to make more of a difference when we're on Earth, and even (perhaps especially) when we're trying to tell a story rooted at least in part in fantasy. If anyone's still reading, see what you think.

Proposition: every alien planet on Doctor Who, in any story we think of as having something thematic to offer, is to a greater or lesser extent standing in for Earth. It's doing that because the show intends to use its aliens and their culture and conflicts and problems to talk about the culture and conflicts and problems of Earth. A very small list of examples: Drahva. Skaro. Solos. Gallifrey. Ribos. Zanak. Deva Loka. Varos. Terra Alpha.

Why do that? Why not set every story on Earth, if Earth is the planet you're really talking about? One answer might be that alien planets allow you to start with something we don't know any more about than the Doctor does, discover some relevant facts, and then draw our comparisons between the sci-fi / sci-fa elements and their Earth analogs. Earth:Solos::oppressed native populations:Solonians. Not only does this let one specific fantastical element stand in for multiple such situations on Earth, it also means that you can do weird stuff like let the Solonians have an exotic cycle of metamorphosis which adds another layer to the story. These elements don't really slow us down because while we know they don't happen on Earth, we can provisionally accept that they might happen on some other world.

The problem we're running into here is, as someone (Aylwin?) pointed out during the "Kill the Moon" discussion, that these stories with the scientific problems this season are trying to have us discover something new and exotic about Earth, such that Earth is standing in for Earth and the whole thing short-circuits. We have pretty good reasons to believe that there are, in fact, a lot of animals as good at hiding as predators are at hunting; that the moon is not in fact a giant egg capable of gaining mass from nowhere and infested with unicellular arachnids; that there wasn't a time when trees or glaciers appeared literally overnight and we just forgot; and so on. The reason this jars is not that we are dull plodding literalists but that the show is trying to tell allegorical stories using literal elements, trying to fill in gaps in our knowledge that are not in fact gaps at all and are already filled with facts -- at least as far as we know.

Doctor Who is, I would say, a show that's perfectly suited for this storytelling approach, for melding science fiction and fantasy. When it nails that meld, it's untouchable. But science isn't just something that gets in the way of a good story and can freely be discarded when it's inconvenient. Nor is science sufficient to ensure a good story. There's something very exciting about having "Kill the Moon" and "Forest" set on Earth, but when you end up with a fantasy Earth standing in for a real Earth, you might as well have set it on planet Zog after all.

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heroesandrivals 2 years, 8 months ago

My pet theory is that "I'm not Clara" is because it's OTHER Clara, from Victorian-era, in the Promised Land. Or yet another of the fragmented Claras throughout the timestream who's been recruited by Missy.

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encyclops 2 years, 8 months ago

All that stuff about how it's morally wrong to regard a person as a puzzle is going to seem a little awkward if she turns out to be a construct of some kind, isn't it? We'd better hope, Ms. Jackson, she is for REAL.

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BerserkRL 2 years, 8 months ago

Maebh Arden is a nexus of fantasy references. Little Red Riding Hood is the most obvious one, but there's also the prophetic child, as well as the [sister of the] child abducted by fairies. Then there's her last name, evoking the Forest of Arden (both the real one, never tamed by the Romans, and the one in Shakespeare. And her first name links her to the sometimes-queen/sometimes-goddess of Irish legend.

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Anton B 2 years, 8 months ago

@analoguehole
Well, I totally agreed with and enjoyed your earlier comment as jkorvin so there's that and I only found FC-B' s original tweet response not the second one so there's also that.

I've been fascinated and intrigued by some of the vehement reactions to this episode both here and elsewhere, including ( I'm not referring to you here analoguehole) some quite personal attacks. It seems people are still taking the Enlightenment's 'science versus magic' argument seriously.

What really strikes me about 'fandom' generally is the way that, particularly online, a colonisation and defense of polar positions rapidly emerges as the dominant response. I've got a little tired of it here but I kind of got caught up in all that and allowed snark to get the better of politeness in my exhortation to people to see what I was seeing (Which, thinking about it, was itself quite Blakean and therefore ironic and therefore a Good Thing in my book) and so took your comment less academically than it was obviously meant. Thanks for reassuring me, then, that my apology was in fact unnecessary.

Perhaps more ironically, my second viewing last night of In the Forest of the Night was tempered by these debates and I found myself enjoying it a little less, to the extent that I'm now tempted to try to watch it a third time from a totally empirical/science based viewpoint just to see if there's any mileage in the 'other sides' critiques.

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Whittso 2 years, 8 months ago

Its a shame to have to say this, and it doesn't change the reading, but the government committee that governs emergency responses really is called COBRA. It stands for Cabinet Office Briefing Room A. And yes, we are governed by a gang of overgrown school boys.

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elvwood 2 years, 8 months ago

During the bit before the title sequence I didn't care what the story was, because I was just enjoying looking at it. This continued through much of the episode, though to a lesser degree. Fortunately I'm a sucker for fairytales, so the story didn't disappoint either (though I wished they'd skipped the pseudoscience explanation of the threat and the defense altogether).

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elvwood 2 years, 8 months ago

This is my best guess, and likely to change (Kill the Moon in particular needs another watch):

1. Listen
2. In the Forest of the Night
3. Flatline
4. The Caretaker
5. Robot of Sherwood
6. Deep Breath
7. Mummy on the Orient Express
8? Kill the Moon
9= Time Heist
9= Into the Dalek

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Anna Wiggins 2 years, 8 months ago

@analoguehole: With regard to the choice of blogging platform...

I act as Phil's de facto sysadmin / webmistress / what-have-you. And while Blogger wasn't my platform of choice at the time I took up that particular task, I've since come to prefer it quite a lot to Wordpress. For one thing, PHP is a nightmare of poor design decisions that encourage poor programming practices, and I wouldn't personally recommend anyone trust their livelihood to a platform built on it. For another, wordpress gives you a really shitty choice between hosting your own instance (and dealing with the downtime and frustration of frequent updates, because, well, PHP code seems to have an awful lot of security vulnerabilities relative to the industry baseline) and using their hosted wordpress.com domain, which locks really crucial functionality behind paywalls that frankly feel arbitrary in relation to the effort required to maintain them.

But I digress. What confuses me is your implication that blogger is "unethical". I mean, unless you're making a sweeping statement about Google's ethics, (on which I mostly have no comment, (see below) but I will pause to ask if you randomly beg your friends to 'please ditch gmail' or 'please switch to bing') I'm curious to know exactly what ethical violations blogger, as a platform, has committed.

Or are you making a sweeping claim about closed-source software being unethical? Because, well, I've worked on both sides of that divide, and found that the open source community was, well, let's say "not as free as the theme song suggests".

And I assume on the face of it that you're not suggesting that your difficulties in logging in are an ethical violation on Blogger's part.

For my part, I ditched wordpress.com for my own blogging needs at the point where they injected obtrusive ads into pre-existing blog posts and then offered to remove them for a fee. Which struck me as, in a word, unethical.

Disclosure/disclaimer: My sysadmin work for Phil is done for free, and untertaken as a hobby and a favor to a friend. By day, I work for Google. Obviously, my opinions do not necessarily reflect those of my employer, but I also may not be at liberty to comment on some subjects.

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encyclops 2 years, 8 months ago

For what it's worth, I've had a lot of success and zero problems using (my own instance of) Wordpress, but my blogs aren't anywhere approaching the popularity of Phil's, and maybe it would be worse if they were.

None of your reasons for preferring Blogger relate to the user experience, of course, which I have to agree is pretty frustrating. It's eaten tons of comments of mine and kept me from posting numerous times (e.g. when on a tablet), which maybe is a boon to everyone else but me. :) But I'd never dream of using it for anything unless that aspect of it were greatly improved, or if Wordpress suddenly imploded to the point where Blogger were the only viable option. I hope your employer is working on improving the user experience; from my interactions with them, I know there are some smart people there who care a lot about UX.

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John Peacock 2 years, 8 months ago

Out of curiosity, would there be a lot of anger if it turned out that what we've seen over the last few weeks isn't actually set directly in Doctor Who continuity, but rather in something like the Land of Fiction? I think there've been consistent hints that lead to such a possibility.

If Danny actually does turn out to be a P.E. teacher there'll be riots. Ha.

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UrsulaL 2 years, 8 months ago

I took that scene to be an example of Clara's growing habit of Doctor-like deception.

Going back to "Rings of Akhatan" and "Cold War" what Clara has enjoyed about traveling with the Doctor is that they don't run away, and that they save the world.

Now, Clara convinces the Doctor that he has to do both - run away, abandon the Earth, abandon her, and let the world burn. But she knows that "run away and save myself" is not something the Doctor can do.

Being alone in the TARDIS, facing the problem without the distraction of the children around him, the Doctor finally thinks through the situation properly, and figures out what to do. The only way to save Clara is to save the world. So that's what he's going to do.

And Clara, I think, knows this. Or at least is betting on this, betting her life, and the lives of the children, on the Doctor's ability to save the world.

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ferret 2 years, 8 months ago

I'm very much of the "how keen am I to rewatch it out of context" group that is quite easily entertained. I don't actively dislike much so it gets tricky the further down I go. So:

1) Mummy on the Orient Express
2) Listen
3) Into the Dalek
4) Kill the Moon
5) Flatline / Deep Breath / Time Heist
6) In the Forest of the Night / Robot of Sherwood / The Caretaker

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encyclops 2 years, 8 months ago

Of course there would be a lot of anger. Like a LOT of it. But I imagine you're asking if people here would be angry. :)

...still yes, though. It would have to be done extremely well.

I'm curious: what hints do you have in mind? The science? The apparent ascensions (or whatever one calls passing into limbo)? The underblanket "monster" in "Listen"?

I'm wondering if Danny will turn out to be some aspect of Orson, rather than Orson being a descendant of Danny's.

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Roderick Thompson 2 years, 8 months ago

Many thanks for this post. I have been struggling to understand why I found it hard to engage with this episode, though I wanted very much to like it because of the wonderful imagery of the forest.

The notion that the episode is trying to make the "Earth" stand in for the Earth is very helpful in understanding why it didn't work for me.

And I thought that this was absolutely on point: "The reason this jars is not that we are dull plodding literalists but that the show is trying to tell allegorical stories using literal elements ..."

Mythology is not literal history, and the instant that one tries to make it literal, one kills it. As soon as we get an explanation of the trees in terms of scientific ideas such as oxygen and solar flares, we might as well be listening to fundamentalists telling us that the earth was in fact created six thousand years ago, and Adam and Eve were real people who were physically driven out of the Garden of Eden by an angel with a flaming sword, and Noah's ark really existed and actually carried all of the animal species in the world and can be found buried somewhere in Turkey or Armenia.

I recently watched Underworld, and I think that K9 has the right end of it -- myth is neither past nor future history.

LEELA: Why did you call him Jason?
DOCTOR: Who?
LEELA: Jackson.
DOCTOR: What? I called Jackson Jason?
LEELA: Yes. Is Jackson Jason?
DOCTOR: No, Jackson isn't Jason.
LEELA: Well, is Jason Jackson?
DOCTOR: No, no, no. Jason was another captain on a long quest.
LEELA: I don't understand.
DOCTOR: Ah. He was looking for the Golden Fleece.
LEELA: Did he find it?
DOCTOR: Yes, yes. He found it hanging on a tree at the end of the world. Perhaps those myths are not just old stories of the past, you see, but prophecies of the future. Who knows? What do you think, K9?
K9: Negative.
DOCTOR: What did he say?
LEELA: Negative.

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encyclops 2 years, 8 months ago

That's a relief -- I'm glad this makes sense to someone besides me! I think your point about mythology is right on, and your Underworld quote is terrific, especially as a contrast in approach and point of view to what's happening today. I would love to see combined the visual and storytelling sophistication we have in the Moffat era with this attitude toward its subjects.

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storiteller 2 years, 8 months ago

Oh yes. Even though he's considered one of the major influences on modern SF, Bradbury is totally science fantasy most of the time. He doesn't even try to hand-wave the science, instead focusing on the themes and characters, which is to his stories' benefit. Non-coincidentally, he's also one of my favorites and I think a huge influence on Doctor Who's approach in general.

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John Peacock 2 years, 8 months ago

I only just saw that you'd replied, sorry - there's a point at which comments disappear into a "load more" zone. I thought my comment had failed for some reason.

The first and most important thing is the Doctor pulling Robot of Sherwood apart around him - the kind of sceptical voice that Moon and Forest fly in the face of.

I think the lines of dialogue that people are calling the Doctor "begging" Clara are hints - they're not insults, they're just non sequiteurs that might seem to be insulting aimed at Clara as we see her. Incompetently written banter wouldn't sound like that. I think the Doctor's seeing something we're not.

There seem to be a lot of elisions, too; gaps in the narrative (I'm in totally the wrong brain space to remember very many - post-work dribbling - but the most glaring is the narrative leap from the air emptying out of the train to Clara waking on the beach in Mummy). I might watch a couple of episodes and see what I can spot.

Anyway, there are lots of things like that - consistent inconsistencies - that seem to be pointing to *something* and my thinking is that it's going to be the entire narrative turning itself inside out in some way. Like ganger Amy but for the whole season.

It's the sort of thing I like (which is why I'm making this nonsense up, I suppose), but which would bring a rain of fire down upon Mr Moffat's head.

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John Peacock 2 years, 8 months ago

That should be "negging" not "begging", obvs. Bloody autocorrect.

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encyclops 2 years, 8 months ago

Ah, yes, the "Load More" problem. :(

When you say "fly in the face of," do you mean that they're similarly implausible, and should have been picked apart with the same ferocity, or that their tone is so Pollyannaish that they demand the opposite of skepticism? Certainly "fear less, trust more" is what you might expect a sinister manipulator to guide you into doing, unless of course you watch Fox News.

Your explanation for the "negging" is more optimistic than mine, which is that it's a holdover from "Nightmare in Silver," either "beautiful woman, probably" stuff intended to ward off hanky-panky or protesting too much. I hope you're right about that, especially considering that the teaser for this week implies that there may possibly be something wrong with Clara specifically, if not with observed reality as a whole.

That particular elision would seem to be something the Doctor was conscious for (thus privy to) but that Clara wasn't, which could implicate him in whatever's going on. The Doctor lies, and what's fiction but a beautiful lie?

I must admit I'm warming to the idea. For a writer who's basically rebooted the universe and retconned seven years of angst, what's turning a single season inside out? The fire it raineth every day already.

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John Peacock 2 years, 8 months ago

The terrible thing is that I'm starting to enjoy watching people howling with anger at Uncle Steve's latest provocations. I'll definitely be getting extra popcorn in the next couple of weeks.

Yes, I definitely think we're not privy to the Doctor's view of things - we're seeing from Clara's point of view most of the time. What the Doctor is seeing is in a different order or through a different lens or something like that.

(That's all conjecture, of course - I just left the qualifiers out.)

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orfeo 2 years, 8 months ago

There is a whole vast discussion to be had about how our expectations about something shape our reaction to it.

I tend to discuss this at length with my main passion, music, but it seems equally applicable to something like Doctor Who, because to me it has long been an example of a television show that does not consistently adopt the same style and same tone every episode. I don't watch Doctor Who because I consistently like it, I watch it because it's tonal inconsistency fascinates me and sometimes the results are, in my subjective opinion, fantastic.

(Another show, incidentally, that I have quite similar feelings about is The X-Files, which spent a season-and-a-bit doing much the same thing each week before the creators realised they had a premise which meant anything was possible, so long as it could be investigated.)

But being a show of that nature inevitably means that the results are also sometimes, in my subject opinion, awful. That just comes with the territory. Although I obviously wouldn't keep watching if I felt that the ones not to my taste significantly outweighed the ones that I respond to.

The one thing I try very hard NOT to do, though, with a show like Doctor Who is to sit and down and watch an episode with a firm expectation of what it's going to be. I try, as much as possible, to let the episode signal to me what kind of world it's playing in. The key indicator to me of an episode's quality is not that it plays "my" rules, the rules I've set up beforehand, but that it establishes rules of its own and then operates within them. What I ask from an episode is largely self-consistency, not consistency with the wider Who style, precisely because there is plenty to show that the "wider Who style" is a whole range of styles. Indeed, Philip Sandifer has pointed out more than once on this blog that the very genius of Who's format is that it is highly adaptable, enabling you to go from historical to comedy to psychological horror.

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Katherine Sas 2 years, 6 months ago

"The show has gotten so very, very adept at advancing character development in a tangible way each episode. It actually, notably, hasn’t meant a ton of coordination among scripts. Instead, there’s just been an orderly breakdown of “pick up Clara’s life here and put it down here” selected for each script and given to the writers. One is reminded of Moffat’s grousing that nobody told him that Age of Steel ended with Rose and Mickey pissed at each other, and if they had he’d have written Girl in the Fireplace differently."

This is true, but the example you pick with Mickey and Rose seems to me the exception rather than the rule - in general RTD was VERY good as this, and this season of Moffat's seems a return to that seasons 1-5 structure after the arc-heavy season 6 and the episodic season 7.

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Jarl 2 years ago

I believe now is the perfect time for me to share one of my favorite verses by William Blake:

Tyger tyger, burning bright
In the forest of the night
What immortal hand or eyes
Could frame thy fearful symmeTREEEEEEEEEEEEESSSSSSS

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