Even more than ‘Kill the Moon’, this is Doctor Who as fairy tale. Whether it works for you depends on two things: how keen you are on that idea, and how willing you are to be led past main characters being completely stupid for the plot’s sake, without noticing it.
I’m normally not good at the second of those… but somehow this story tricked me into it. There’s two main issues I can think of, but there’s probably more:
- Danny loses a kid. He’s only got about eight, and he loses one of them, and doesn’t notice for until Clara points it out hours later.
- Clara decides it’s cool if she decides to let the children die, because they’d be sad if they were alive and their parents died.
These problems are unfortunate, because if you can look past them, this story is awesome in many ways. It has some excellent dialogue, especially from the Doctor. It looks amazing: the forest-in-London looks beautiful and strange, even if it is suspiciously empty. Danny and Clara’s relationship is still very touching, and avoids some annoying “you lied to me” clichés. And Maebh’s trouble with her sister and her voices is quite touching… up to a point. As a result of all of these, it feels fresher and weirder than a lot of Doctor Who. And I’m never going to be too angry at a story that feels new and different, and felt like it was trying to do something interesting.
The role of the trees is kind of beautiful, if you don’t get hung up on how to fit the story in with any of the rest of Doctor Who.[^1] If you do, it immediately becomes ridiculous–I wonder how many alien invasions the trees would have saved us from if that show-off, the Doctor, hadn’t jumped in. I did sort of like the idea that a random solar flare was just a natural event that the Doctor didn’t feel he could meddle in.
I realise, reading what I’ve said, that a lot of this story has to be ignored to enjoy the rest of it. But when I watched it, I really did… until the very last part, which pulled me out completely. Up to the end, the story seemed like it was happy to be the touching story of a child and her mum coming to terms with the disappearance of one of their family. But suddenly, the missing daughter appears in a jarringly cheesy moment–and doesn’t say anything, because obviously that would be a waste of money.[^2] It’s perhaps the worst wrong ending in Doctor Who since 'The Happiness Patrol’.
Which is a shame, because the story touches on greatness. I greatly look forward to any further Who from Frank Cottrell Boyce.