Mighty Oaks

It is the tall trees that block out the sunlight from a forest. Beneath them nothing will grow. Their branches, leaves and thick trunks cast a shadow over the young saplings which, deprived of the sun’s life-giving rays, fail to flourish. 

But then, one night, a bolt of lightning strikes, and a mighty oak crashes to the ground. Light pours in from on high, and over time, smaller trees burst forth…

There are many “mighty oaks” in the forest that is Doctor Who. They come in the form of established writers and the classic monsters. When too many loom loftily on high, new “sapling” scribes and foes wilt in their shade. 

And indeed, a bolt of lighting has hit our show this year. Mighty oaks, such as Chris Chibnall and Neil Gaiman, have fallen. Zygons, Ice Warriors and Time Lords have crashed down in the forest of Doctor Who. In their place new trees have flourished – the ‘treesome’ of Peter Harness, Jamie Mathieson and Frank Cottrell Boyce. Bearing spiders, graffiti monsters and a mummy, they have made our Whovian forest a stronger, healthier and livelier place.

Cottrell Boyce’s “In the Forest of the Night” feels refreshing and new. The story’s strong environmental message couldn’t be clearer – trees are our friends – and the episode also educates the viewer. Many a youngster will have learned something valuable on Saturday night, be it the significance of tree rings or even how to behave when faced with a wild dog.

The episode occasionally feels more Blue Peter than Peter Capaldi, with its cacophony of children who hilariously run amok around the Tardis. The Twelfth Doctor, as he interacts with these wee bairns, comes across as more approachable and likeable – a very necessary improvement, for the survival and success of the show.

It is highly satisfying to see Danny enjoy another full adventure. I hope he signs up as a full-time regular on the Tardis next year. But my gut feeling says that this future scenario will never come to pass, due to the presumably momentous events in store for us in the upcoming series finale.

“In the Forest of the Night” has been a welcome addition to the recent run of new and original “Doctor Who” adventures. It has contributed to the show’s renaissance and met the high standards set by the previous four stories, in terms of writing, acting and special effects. 

Next week, it is the turn of those mighty oaks that are Moffat, the Cybermen and UNIT. If they do indeed manage to put the recent run of “sapling” stories into the shade, it will be nothing less than – and please forgive my final pun – a tree-mendous achievement!

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