Okay so after we found out last week than Clara wasn’t a very good Doctor we this week find out that she isn’t a particularly good teacher nor even the best companion the Doctor could have picked it seems. But before we get to all that we get magic trees and little red riding hood. This is the last stop on the whimsy road before we get to the big earth shattering conclusion to what is sure to be an overhyped, over complicated, under explained season finale.
So the Tardis has landed in what the Doctor hopes to be the centre of London but is instead the middle of a very large over grown forest. We know that this is not personal error of course due to the handy GPS the Tardis is now outfitted with to inform him when he has “reached his destination”. Why the Doctor was trying to land in the middle of London in the middle of the day I don’t know, perhaps to avoid someone picking him up and flying him there again instead of just knocking on the door. It seems Timelords are quick to realise that we humans have no manners, or common sense. Fortunately he runs into a small girl enacting red riding hood that informs him that this is indeed the centre of London and we thus learn that overnight the entire world has become covered trees. Even it seems the oceans though I will give them that it could have been algae or something similar.
As the Doctor tries to figure this out Clara and Danny Pink scoop up their class from their overnight stay in the national history museum and proceed to make their way to the exit before stopping off for some dodgy foreshadowing with what will become to be known as the red ring of life. For some reason the museum had a large disc cut from a tree which shows the rings of age including an oversized red ring which Clara is quizzed on by one of her pupils. It’s not the worst foreshadowing the show has ever done but it was far from the best and you can tell fairly easily that it will play into the plot line ahead.
Leaving the museum, the party discover the sudden rise in plant life and try to figure out what to do with Clara going straight for ring the Doctor a move that doesn’t go over to well with Danny who had hoped she would have had the sense to ring the school or parents first. This is a far cry from the character I met at the start of the season and this kind of common sense, think of others approach really won me over in this episode along with his question of leaving the kids around the Doctor with “is he CRB checked?”
As you can probably guess the Doctor and the field trip soon meet up with the notion that the child the Doctor encountered was one from their group. A traumatised child who got away from the sleep over and went for a run around London without either of the teachers noticing. Okay maybe Danny isn’t that great of a teacher but he still comes out ahead of Clara in this week’s episode.
It turns out that Maeve has been hearing voices since her sister disappeared and this could be connected to the sudden rise in forests around the world. Past this I would be getting into spoilers but to be honest the episode kind of ruins the fun idea with being a little overt with its go green message and its desperate need to wrap everything in a nice family friendly bow by the end.
There are fairies and no real villain that really damages any sense or urgency and danger the episode had managed to build up by this point. It won’t be too much of a shock that the day is saved and the Doctor lives to fight another day but it really hammers it home that this is a throw away episode by even having the trees magically disappear as soon as the danger is done and all the streets and thousands of pounds of property damage wiped clean before the sickeningly sweet wrap up you probably saw coming but felt sure even they couldn’t sink that low.
They try the old line about humans being perfectly content to forget anything that doesn’t fit in with their world view but the amount of times Doctor who has tried this in present day London now is just coming across as lazy and frankly a bit boring. Couldn’t we run with this, explore a modern day society who knows that life is out there. That tries to explore these mysteries without a sonic screw driver and psychic paper. Kind of like Torchwood but without all the needless sex and swearing. Doctor who needs to spread its wings and go back to quarry pits in wales or it will have to deal with these kind of things before people really call them out on the actually decent stories we are missing out on because of it.
The idea for the episode was fun and the early shots of London wrapped in green looked quite nice but ultimately the episode ending up being a little to neat and throw away like a fun size snicker. Nothing anyone will remember by the time next season rolls around. Still it’s not every day that you get to come out of an episode like this one and say that the kids weren’t the worst thing about it.