“Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In the Forest of the Night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Could analyse Doctor Who this week?”
– William Blake… sort of

As always, there’s spoilers throughout the article, so don’t read on unless you’ve watched this week’s episode.

Yes, we’re feeling poetic this week on The Companion Piece, as nature takes over and the entire planet (including, weirdly, the oceans) becomes one giant forest. It’s definitely an impressive and striking image – but did it work for us?

CookieYes, in a word – especially the reason behind it. Was another interesting idea – it had its little nuances that didn’t quite gel, but on the whole it worked for me.

PaulNot fantastically for me. Well, I liked the idea. Not quite sure about that pesky scientific reasoning though…

And I’m getting pretty sick of the whole “time can be rewritten, but hey we can’t go back in on our own timeline”. I think they need to write the rules of time-travel and stick with them.

MatthewI was happy to let the daft science wash over me this time, ‘cos it wasn’t taking itself too seriously and it was a great visual.

Apart from everyone’s mobiles still working, that is. Phones are something we’re all super-familar with, so ignoring that felt like a step too far.

CookieI hadn’t even considered the mobile coverage!
Matt KWell I was excepting more Tumblr references from that, but they used the term ‘selfies’.

PaulMaybe I am too concerned with the science. But I’d like to think that the stories are actually possible, even if they are fantastical.


Crap taxidermy, burning bright.

I wasn’t too sure about the whole “we’re doomed” bit either. I know they wanted to go the whole “Dr Fallible” route, but I’m pretty sure he should have weighed things up before telling people (even if it is Clara and Danny) that the Earth was going to be destroyed…

MatthewI have to ask, following that, whether people figured this one out before the Doctor did?

The flameproof trees were pretty strongly telegraphed, but it still took me ages to realise what was going on. Still sooner than the characters, though.

PaulYeah, I kinda did. Especially after all the “trees won’t burn” thing…
CookieI had an inkling when they first bought up the solar flare on its way.
MatthewDo we think the fact that we’ve seen two solar flares this series is important, or is that just a coincidence?
CookieI’m thinking coincidence.
PaulI’m thinking not. Though unsure if it’ll just be explained away in a throwaway comment or and actual plot line (they like doing the former).

MatthewI keep jumping between being certain it’s important and then certain it’s not. I guess we’ll see next week.

But, regardless of whether we liked the magic trees, what did we think about the benevolent forces behind them?

PaulThey were also pretty throwaway. It was kind of like “Hey, they’re the root cause of it. Bye then!” “Oh, I guess stuff’s okay then…”
Matt KYeah those little ‘pixies’ didn’t make all that much sense apart from being around forever.
MatthewI always like it when Doctor Who gives us a creature that’s already on Earth – like the Silurians for example – rather than yet another outside alien presence. These ones were a little bit weak (they really are just pixies) but that idea still appeals to me.

CookieI loved they touched on how important nature is, and how it evolves to protect the planet. Also liked the idea that they do communicate with each other.

It certainly made me sit up and think.

Matt KAll it made me make think of was Groot.

MatthewYes! With all the glowy little spores!

I think Cookie’s on the right track here: The reasons for everything happening didn’t matter too much to me, because this week was all about the message.

Did we think it did a good job as an environmental story?

Matt K


Not to scale.

Well we understand the fact that the Earth had better keep all it’s trees.

PaulErmm, not really. Other than “nature will prevail” (and randomly reunite little girls), it wasn’t a message to actually do anything. If the Doctor wasn’t there, the Earth would have been saved by the trees anyway…
CookieThat’s what I really liked about this episode though, seeing the Doctor have to face losing his adopted home. Seeing him helpless with his hands tied.
Matt KAnd the fact that when the Earth itself is doing something to protect itself and humanity then comes in and tries to tamper with things, show us that we need to think a bit more on what the Earth itself might be doing.

PaulBut by the same token, the environment isn’t exactly caring about humanity itself. I don’t see hurricanes leaving buildings intact because there was someone inside…

We’re more inconsequential than anything else.

MatthewBut we wouldn’t have been saved if the trees weren’t there. Isn’t that the message?

It’s a simple one, but I found it kinda effective.

PaulNot really, because there wasn’t really much of a way to get rid of the trees in the first place…

MatthewI don’t mean those trees. I mean all trees.

It’s, like, totally a metaphor, maan.

PaulAh, the ordinary trees, that were still there after the other trees went…

MatthewI’ve got a question about that, actually.

When the Doctor said everyone would forget, did he mean immediately, or did he mean that it would eventually fall into legend and myth, like the nursery stories.

…or like Robin Hood, now that I think about it.

CookieThink he meant it would fall into legend like nursery stories.
PaulMyth and Legend. But to be fair, that universe had it’s fair share of Dalek invaders and Cybermen attacks…
MatthewYeah, they should be pretty used to it by now. Nothing surprises them any more, as that girl said when she saw the inside of the TARDIS.
Matt KI suppose the young ones seem to adapting easier than the grown ups.
CookieYeah the TARDIS seems to be getting a lot of visitors this season. Not sure I like that – with the Doctors presence supposedly being kept a little more discreet.

PaulIndeed. And kids at that. I think Capaldi has had more kids aboard than the previous three Doctors combined!

Though I do like the bit about the CRB check.

CookieYeah that made me chuckle, again the dialogue was strong this episode.

I like Mr Pink as a character, I think he brings an interesting mix to the cast. It’s interesting to see a character who really as no interest to travel time and space. One that just wants to stay on Earth and live life normally.

PaulThere seems to be a theme there – like the engineer from the Orient Express. Most people would give their right nut to travel with the Doctor…

…and as someone that has three, I could definitely spare one!

MatthewThey’re definitely contrasted to Clara, who’s slowly becoming more and more like the Doctor as the series goes on.

I did love the way Danny always kept the kids as his main priority, while Clara kept getting distracted by the weird stuff.

PaulClara does seem a little too deep down the rabbit hole to come back…



Sleepover at the history museum… with the English and Maths teacher?

But what about the Doctor’s latest visitors. What did we think of the Year 8 Gifted and Talented class?

PaulThey seemed to behave really well for that type of class…
Matt KWell they seemed all right but I felt a bit mixed about that one girl with the two ponytails (whatever that style is called).

CookieI think there was a good scope of characters, showing different reasons for being in the class. Loved how Mr Pink was so shocked by the boy saying please. Made me grin. It’s a shame some of them were left in the background though.

Wonder if they’ll be appearing again – the school seems to be central to everything this season.

Matt KWell they might be a big help in the final episode I reckon.

MatthewIt was a shame, but it’s just a matter of too many characters, I suppose. I liked the ones we did focus on – a couple of weaker actors, but mostly pretty great!

I liked that the fact that, ultimately, they were the ones to save the world.

PaulInteresting that they phoned “the Earth” just like they did in the episode about the Moon… Another theme?

Weaker actors, though? They are kids…

MatthewWell, yeah. But some of them were great – like the kid with anger issues who had great comic timing – and some of them were a bit wooden at times, like the main girl, Maebh. She just didn’t quite work for me.

…although she did manage to break my heart a little when she broadcast that extra message for her sister.

Did the sister plot work for anyone, by the way? I felt like “and then she came home” seemed too contrived, and was dealt with too fast to really have much impact.

CookieYeah it seemed to happen so quick – like an afterthought. Pleased the girl got her happy ending though.
Matt KJust felt a bit dumped down there really, didn’t really explain about what happened to her.
PaulIt really didn’t work for me. Why was the bush hiding her? Was she meant to be resurrected by the creatures? Why didn’t that bush go at the same time as the rest of the forest? I think it would’ve had more impact if it were presented differently – or had it so that she came back of her own accord or something.
MatthewI think the implication was that she’d come home after hearing the message – but the way they talked about her disappearance (and Maebh’s trauma) sounded more like a murder or kidnapping than running away. It was mainly just weird.

CookieYeah I thought that she had been abducted – they way they spoke about it. Really weird subplot.

MatthewDid we think they handled Maebh’s trauma well? Even if the resolution was rushed, and at least some of it turned out to be the trees talking to her?



Forts everywhere!

I kind of liked how they kept her on tablets – if only to say “they don’t freakin’ work!“. It’s a relevant comment on how we treat mental illnesses.

CookieYeah they seemed to handle that quite realistically – loved how the Doctor scolded them for always reverting to tablets for a cure. Instead of listening.
MatthewI thought it was a bit more nuanced than that, but yeah – it was saying our first response to this kind of thing shouldn’t be immediate medication, and that it’s more important to just listen and diagnose correctly. I really liked that.
PaulAnd they didn’t listen to the hint from the little girl, that the trees will be gone as quick as they came in the first place…

Matt KAnd about the age ring. A good bit of info to make it a little more interesting about the trees.

PaulI did also like the fact that they were guessing at what’s going on. Like “Alien invasion?!”

MatthewThat kinda ties the two plots together, I think, since everyone misdiagnosed the tree “invasion”, just like they misdiagnosed the girl.

And they used flamethrowers the same way they used the tablets! Umm… maybe that idea needs work.

Matt KAt the end I wondered how much of a clean there will be, since the trees did knock things down, let animals on the loose and wrecked people’s cars. That’s going to be a big clean across the world.

CookieWonder if the clean up will be complete for the next episode.

I’m guessing yes – in fact it will probably be like it never happened.

PaulThe clean up is definitely an issue – especially the animals in the zoos. And if the animals got out because of the trees, chances are there was other damage (like Nelson’s Column).
Matt KThe animals, the wolf and tiger, seemed not quite as exciting as I’d hoped them to be. But at least Danny got be a hero in front of the kids.
MatthewThe animals were a bit rubbish, but they do help my crazy theory: with the wolves in the bushes – and the sister in the bushes – my eye motif is back again!!
CookieInteresting – perhaps the truth will be revealed next week.
Matthew…when Clara claims she never existed. Was Paul B right about her this whole time?

PaulWe will see…

But if Clara never existed, what about Danny Pink?

CookieHe becomes Mr Green!

MatthewI do hope those two get a strong ending together. This series has been pretty great with their relationship, so fingers crossed.

We still haven’t seen Danny’s “bad day” yet either, so I’m sure that’ll be important somehow.

But before we get to that, we have to deal with this day. So what did we think overall?

CookieAnother good idea, however not as strong this week. Some bits just never really gelled properly.

Was good to see the Doctor facing a problem with no solution from himself – having to face possibly losing his adopted home. The kids were a nice addition. However the TARDIS seems to be becoming a tourist attraction rather than it being discreet.

Matt K


Mr. Tumnus? Is that you?

This episode was good on some parts but the end just felt a rushed in, but still an okay episode.

PaulOverall, I thought this episode wasn’t anywhere near as good other episodes in this season. The science just didn’t work (where did the matter for all the plant life come from?) and the pushing of “we can’t do this because MacGuffin A” is beginning to wear quite thin. I liked the fact the Danny was featured more heavily in this episode, although I don’t like the fact that there seemed to be little to no tension around the Doctor and Danny.

This episode also didn’t feel like it progressed the story of the season on that much. I liked the inclusion of Missy – being that she’s actually watching the Doctor as in depth as we are, and am just hopeful that the next few episodes are going to redeem all of the sourness of the worse episodes of this season.

MatthewSpeaking of Missy, I just realised something. When they asked Maebh who told her to find the Doctor and the TARDIS, she said she didn’t know, but she thought it was “Miss”. We’re meant to think she means Clara, but maybe she means a different Miss? One with a Y at the end, maybe…

For me this episode felt like a direct counterpoint to Kill the Moon. Both episodes are heavy on themes and messages – sacrificing plot logic and science to make a point – and both see humanity themselves solve the problem, rather than the Doctor, by means of a worldwide phone-call. The difference is that the message of In the Forest of the Night is one I can get behind, where I found the one in Moon disgusting. Both episodes also deal with troubled (and troublesome) children and, again, I felt this episode handled it much more deftly. It’s weird how similar they are.

There’s several ways to read this episode – there’s even an angle from which it almost looks like climate-change denial – but the basic message of “fear less, trust more” is a beautiful one. I’m not sure this is actually a good episode but, somehow, it worked for me.

What about you guys? Was yet more crappy science too much for you to bear? Or did the themes save it for you? And how did you feel about an invasion of kids on the TARDIS? Let us know in the comments below, Tweet from the branches, or leaf us a message on Tree-Facebook or Tree+. Just don’t write it down on paper – we don’t want to upset the trees.

We’ll be back with The Companion Piece next week, as some of this Promised Land stuff hopefully begins to make sense. Join us then, as we take the plunge into Dark Water.