Recap: ‘Doctor Who’ – ‘In the Forest of the Night’ is a good old-fashioned fairy story


After a series high last week where audiences played at being a Time Lord, complete with all the haunting decisions that stick with you forever, what adventure will our plucky heroes get up to this week? With no real villain* to tie the season together, it”s like getting dressed in the dark as to what theme we”ll be exploring each week is. Will there be ramifications to Clara”s psyche for letting people die on her watch? Will Danny discover her lies? Only time will tell “In the Forest of the Night.”

*Obviously Missy is the Big Bad™ (or the Big Red Herring™) but she”s too mysterious to be properly afraid of. She hasn”t even welcomed anyone to “Heaven” in forever.


A little girl is running through the forest to an ethereal soundtrack right out of Middle Earth. There are spiderwebs – again? – and I momentarily fear for her mortal safety. But never fear, she has found the TARDIS and her knock brings a confused Doctor to the rescue. He might not know who this child is, but something is chasing her and she was specifically sent to Twelve for help. No Doctor worth his salt could turn down such a tantalizing mystery, so she”s ushered in.

Our pint-sized TARDIS passenger is quietly impressed with the interior. The Doctor adorably explains by saying soda might only be yay big but the amount of sugar is exponentially bigger. The girl appropriately side-eyes this, but accepts a police box with a huge interior as quickly as any kid her age. Besides, she”s got bigger issues. Ms. Oswald was inside her head – odd phrasing that I”m sure we”ll come back to later – and Mr. Pink was in charge of her group but she got separated.

As is his wont, the Doctor is only half-listening because the TARDIS is broken. He keeps telling it to go to London and it keeps plopping him down in the middle of this forest. “You have reached your destination,” Sexy says repeatedly. The little girl can”t believe the denseness of old people. She takes the Doctor by the hand and drags him outside to point out the obvious: they ARE in London. We pan up to discover the whole city, nay the whole world, is covered in lush vegetation. It”s a veritable “I Am Legend” up in here.

Cut to a terribly stuffed wolf, which definitely isn”t symbolic of something later. Also, the London museum should fire its taxidermist. A group of children are waking up after an overnight school excursion to the Natural History Museum, supervised by one Mr. Pink and one Ms. Oswald. These kids seem a hell of a lot younger than their normal charges so is their school K-12? Or whatever the British equivalent is?

On the way out, the ginger girl is drawn to a fellow red-head in the form of an ancient tree. The budding dendrologist points out one of the rings is thicker and redder than any of the others. Should I be taking notes? There”s a lot of foreshadowing being dropped. 

A standard issue ancient security guard unlocks the museum doors – wait they were literally locked in all night? – but it won”t budge, prompting Mr. Pink to engage in a Heave-Ho with the kids. The doors finally pops to reveal the lush forest the Doctor is already dealing with in Trafalgar Square. The kids are taking this a little too well. Damn jaded unnamed generation after the  Millennials!

Clara calls the Doctor to brag that she”s found a mystery and he”s all “Yawn. Old news. Also, come get this kid.” Clara has no idea what he”s talking about but it soon becomes clear that Maeve is the missing girl. Of course the Doctor wouldn”t think to ask her name. Clara and Twelve bicker like an old married couple about the logistics of returning Maeve to the group. “No YOU go get her from piano lessons!” basically. In the end, the Doctor wins.

This means Ms. Oswald has to tell Mr. Pink that Twelve is in town. Awkward since, as far as Danny knows, she hasn”t seen the Doctor since the events of the Orient Express. So what does she do? Lies to Danny”s face. Twice. With ease. First by saying she called the school but had to leave a message. She only backtracks when Danny catches her out and THEN she throws the Doctor under the bus by saying he called her. When that lies falls flat, she deflects by asking Mr. Pink if he realizes he”s lost one of the children.

Out of all the companions on New Who, Clara is the only one that seems to be morphing into a mini-Time Lady. This pragmatism mixed with selfishness is becoming more pronounced. Interesting.

Danny is distraught, both at the thought of assumed sociopath Twelve being in charge of a child and the fact that Maeve needs medication of some sort. As mad as he is at Clara for lying, his first priority is keeping the kids safe and getting them home. By contrast, Ms. Oswald”s first thought is on how to solve the mystery – were they asleep for years or did the forest grow fast? – and she seems momentarily nonplussed by the verbal slap to get her shit together and focus on the children.

Back in Trafalgar Square, the Doctor is trying to get a reading but it”s all trees. The Sonic still doesn”t do wood. But something new! As far as I can remember, Twelve”s rant about wood having no mechanisms or circuits to control…not even rudimentary communication…is the first solid explanation we”ve gotten for why the Sonic Screwdriver is ineffective against wood. 

Maeve, with the wisdom of children, states you don”t have to talk to communicate. “I don”t have a phone and I know my mom is worried about me.” Bam! A Time Lord just got outwitted by tiny human.

Speaking of Maeve”s mom, she”s also having an argument about the logistics of picking up her kid and is shocked to open the front door to dense underbrush. So either the WHOLE world has been asleep or this is indeed a fast-growing forest.

The field trip group is trucking through the underbrush towards the TARDIS and Maeve. Our ginger dendrologist – named Ruby because really? – points out one of the trees has blossoms and nuts, which is weird. Clara tries to balance the teaching moment with being desperate to get to the Doctor and, assumedly, safety.

All the kids want to do is take a selfie with the lion statue, though. 

We get a flashback to Mr. Pink teaching math and I know I”m supposed to be focused on how the kids are acting nicer and smarter than in their daily lives but all I can think about is how Danny draws an “X” weird.

Meanwhile, in the present, the kids newfound interest in education continues. Nelson”s Column wobbles menacingly and the kids rip out part of the underbrush to show Ms. Oswald and Mr. Pink something amazing. The trees have no rings.

Enter the Doctor, right on cue, to say “Of course” they have no rings because the trees grew up overnight. Which makes me wonder how well that went over in parts of the world where “overnight” was actually “the middle of the freaking day.” Clara is confident the Doctor can solve all this but Twelve is still not one for sugarcoating things, even in the presence of children. There”s nothing to save humanity from, this is a natural catastrophe. First the Ice Age, and now the Tree Age.

Clara covers for him, says it”s normal for the Doctor to talk like this right before being clever. I am immediately reminded of Psi from “Time Heist” telling Clara she”s good at making excuses for Twelve. But a single sentence reminds the Doctor that there hasn”t been enough time for a forest to grown so perhaps someone was messing with the very fabric of the universe! In that case, it could be an attack and everyone better get inside the TARDIS while he sorts it out.

Oh God, this was a mistake. The Doctor just let a group of unruly schoolchildren into the TARDIS. If one of them doesn”t get lost in the tunnels, never to be seen again, it”ll be a miracle. While the Doctor tries to sort it out, Danny finds some damning evidence of Clara”s recent trips through time and space. She left her students” workbooks in the control room. But thank goodness Danny found them because Maeve recently had a crayon prophecy about the sun destroying Earth.

There”s just one thing. Maeve is not on the TARDIS. She”s missing…again. Which is bad, because she needs her medication to stop the voices in her head. The voices she”s been hearing since her sister went missing last year. “What do the voices say?” asks the Doctor but how should the humans know. You don”t listen to voices in your head, you medicate them away.

Exasperated once more with humanity, Twelve runs off to find Maeve and Clara offers to tag along, leaving Danny with the kids. Danny hedged for Clara to explain herself, because she seems awfully at home running off with the Doctor without so much as a hello, but she chickens out. The Doctor uses the Sonic to tune Clara”s cell phone to Maeve”s – with a great quip by Ms. Oswald that it”s “not a magic wand” – and they”re off. 

And there goes Nelson”s Column, collapsing into the undergrowth.

The kids are incensed. How dare Mr. Pink let Ms. Oswald run off and almost get crushed to death by a statue? If you love someone, you go after them. Ruby convinces Mr. Pink they have to go, for the sake of True Love™. 

Further away, Clara and Twelve have found Maeve”s cell phone. But no Maeve. Clara is now properly freaked out because not only is a little girl missing, but the forest has grown over the path. Any minute now, she expects a candy house with a cannibalistic witch inside.

Well, this is “Doctor Who” so it”s a valid hypothesis. 

But Maeve hasn”t been abducted by a fairy tale villain. She”s just running and flailing through the woods. She stops to put down another bread crumb in the form of her pencil box before commencing with the running and flailing again. She stops once more to stare at men in a hazmat suits, but running and flailing take precedence and she sparkle motions away into the woods.

Moments later, Clara and the Doctor stumble upon the same hazmats. They”re about to control burn the forest in an attempt to get the Earth back to normal. Sad day. The trees have evolved and are flame retardant. This upsets the Doctor because Maeve”s crayon prophecy was right. The TARDIS saw the solar flare headed for Earth, as big as the one in “Time Heist” that took out the bank. The trees are preparing to save themselves. 

So of course Clara”s first thought isn”t “Oh no, we”re all going to die” but “Oh no, now Danny knows I was lying to him.” Girl, priorities! 

You know, like the sound of wolves which have escaped from the zoo. “Stick to the path,” suggests the Doctor. Clara responds, “There is no path.” Mmmmm, delicious foreshadowing.

Elsewhere, Maeve is still flailing so yeah, she can definitely see something the rest of us can”t. It”s like she”s running through a never-ending gauntlet of invisible spider webs. Which sounds like the worst fate in the world…until the wolves show up. Now instead of running and flailing, she”s sprinting and screaming. As you do.

Maeve hits a fence just as Clara find her. But there”s no way to boost her over! What will they do…oh there”s a gate. The visualization of the Doctor and Clara overlooking an obvious solution is subtle. But it”s there.

A fence won”t stop the wolves though. The leap over. But they weren”t looking for food…they were running in terror. From a tiger. Out of the frying pan, as the saying goes. But suddenly, a wild Danny Pink! He uses FLASHLIGHT. It”s super effective…for some reason.

With everyone reunited, Mr. Pink is determined to give Maeve her medication because she is getting worse. The Doctor is adamantly opposed to this because the meds will keep Maeve from telling them what she hears. In the middle of the men fighting, Maeve runs off. We follow only to discover a grove of backlit spiderwebs. So, are spiders that aren”t spiders a running theme this year?

The Doctor asks Maeve who is doing this and she says “I am.” She finds thoughts everywhere, she can see them. And one of them was of this big forest, so obviously this is her fault (it”s not). Using Time Lord logic, Twelve increases the gravity around Maeve and suddenly we can see what she”s been swatting away. They look like fireflies and they speak for the trees. 

Speaking through Maeve in a spooky voice of authority, the Firefly Lorax claim they are the life that prevails, they heard the call and they have answered it. They were here before humanity (or maybe they meant before the Doctor) and they will be here long after. 

It occurs to Twelve that Clara never told Maeve to come find him. She was hearing Ms. Oswald”s thoughts about how the Doctor is a hero and figured he could save her. But there”s no saving the Earth from this solar flare…the future of our planet is about to be erased.

Mouth set in a firm line, Clara actually uses life lessons learned last week and applies them to the here and now. If you can”t save them all, you save who you can. The TARDIS is a lifeboat. This rouses the Doctor enough to get the kids moving again. But while Clara learned a lesson last week, it wasn”t the obvious one. She knows the Doctor can”t save them all, so she lied to him, as easily as breathing. She lied to him because people with hope run faster.

The TARDIS is a lifeboat…for Twelve. On the behalf of the human race, Clara Oswald is saving the Doctor. Twelve offers to save her and Danny but Mr. Pink would never abandon the children. The Doctor counters by offering to save just Clara and she”s forced to hurt him by saying, “I don”t want to be the last of my kind,” before gesturing at the Twelve to get in the damn TARDIS. Distraught by how quickly it”s all ending, he does.

Once inside, he”s set to watch the solar flare destroy the planet he loves most when an epiphany hits him. “I am Doctor Idiot,” he declares before running back to Earth. Clara and Danny try to ignore the yelling but the kids immediately turn tail and run back to the magic police box. 

An agitated Doctor explains the trees aren”t saving themselves from the solar flare, they”re saving the humans. He even says the rarest words in the universe: “I was wrong.” Ruby pipes in about the huge red ring on the tree in the museum. This has happened before. When the Earth is threatened by solar flares – or any extra planetary threat outside of alien invasion – the trees act as a shield. 

So yes, the Firefly Lorax was not ominously saying they”d been here before humans and they would outlast them. It was scoffing at the minuscule amount of time the Doctor has been protecting humanity compared to them. 

But there”s a problem. Governments around the world are in the process of defoliating the trees since they won”t burn, thus destroying Earth”s chances of survival. The Doctor offers to use the TARDIS to make a worldwide phone call ,but Maeve asks if she can be the spokesperson. With help from the class, they write up a super cute PSA to broadcast. “Be less scared, be more trusting.” Maeve even throws in a request for her sister to please come home now.

Included in the phone call was Maeve”s mom, who”s been riding around on a bicycle this whole episode looking for her kid. They share a tearful reunion outside the TARDIS, which makes the rest of the kids long for their parents instead of getting a front row space seat to to see the solar flare. Danny”s pretty done, too. He doesn”t want to see more things, he wants to understand the things that are important better. 

“There are wonders here,” he says before kissing Clara. As far as pick-up lines go, that”s pretty damn smooth. The kids cheer!

But it”s not all rainbows and butterflies. While taking the kids home, he brings up Clara”s excessive lying. He wants to know the truth about the Doctor and how Clara feels about him. But not right now. After she”s thought about it because Mr. Pink deserves a good answer. Clara agrees.

Later, Clara and the Doctor are peering out of the TARDIS from space. Even after Danny bared his soul, she still chose Twelve. They watch from above as the solar flare passes harmlessly over the Earth, burning up in the overly-oxygenated atmosphere. Perhaps the extra oxygen is why the kids were suddenly more alert and curious about learning?

Somewhere else, Missy is also watching the solar flare. She is surprised, and not in a good way.

Back on Earth, the trees dissipate into fireflies, returning London to its original state. The Doctor hypothesizes humans will forget this ever happened. After all, we forgot the last time. All we”ll remember is the fear and it”ll transform into fairy stories.

This statement makes me suspicious, so I popped over to Google real quick and yep. Maeve is one of the names of the Fairy Queen. Which would just be a fun naming coincidence except the episode ends with Maeve and her mother returning to their home only for Annabelle – the missing sister – to appear from the bushes in a glow of fireflies. Maeve is not surprised.

So what did you guys think? Will we see the Firefly Lorax again? Was Missy hoping the solar flare would destroy Earth? Will Clara choose the Doctor over Danny?

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