Doctor Who: Forest of the Dead
This will have to be a very quick appraisal because I'm currently going through a week from hell. This includes being stranded in Scotland for three hours after a woman decided to throw herself in front of a train I was traveling on. If only Steven Moffat had been around - he could have clicked his fingers and brought her back to life. The selfish cow.
And that, in a nutshell, is my problem with The Forest of the Dead, and nu-Who in general.
The rot started to creep in with the climax to the 1996 TV Movie with the Pertwee Logo on it when the TARDIS resurrected Grace Holloway and Chang-Lee with the help of some fairy dust and a temporal "fucking" orbit. But given that the episode also revealed that our hero was half-human this dramatic faux pas was the least of its problems, even though it went against the very ethos of the show. If the Doctor can simply reverse time - not to mention death - then what's the bloody point?
I can still remember the days when noble, heroic, gut-wrenching deaths actually meant something: Katarina - dead. Sara Kingdom - dead. Adric - so dead it's almost funny. If they were making the classic stories today then Marcus Scarman would end Pyramids of Mars with his feet up having a nice cuppa, Nicholas Parsons would give us a life-affirming sermon before the credits rolled on Fenric, and the parallel universe from Inferno would have a nice bucket of cold water poured all over it.
In fact, the only really significant goodies from the current series that are killed heroically and then have the audacity to *stay dead* are Lynda with a Y, Suzie from The Long Game and Jefferson from The Satan Pit. I'm sure there's a couple more that you'll all throw at me in the comments section but as far as I can remember everyone else either escapes death or cheats it outright: Jenny, Captain Jack (who's made a career out of it), and now River Song all manage to scoff in the face of death despite being, technically speaking, corpses! Even Kylie Minogue gets brought back as fucking Tinkerbell. Face of Boe? Natural causes (well, as natural as a 78 billion year old omnisexual's death can be). Ditto for Reinette. Japan gets roasted alive but even that gets rewritten. A whole country brought back from the dead! Mickey sort of gets killed in The Age of Steel - but don't worry, they've got a spare! Same goes for the rest of the Tylers.
It's a never ending series of cop-outs, and while you could argue that River isn't really alive at all and she's actually trapped in a perpetual suburban limbo for all of eternity, with no possible hope of escape - which is a fascinating and fairly contentious idea (surely it's a bit cruel?) - the episode never really addresses this. It's played as a straight happy ending. So happy I almost vomited.
Whatever happened to "Everything has its time and everything must die"? I thought this programme was supposed to be steeped in death? Death isn't the undiscovered country anymore, it's a short stop-over in Majorca.
And as a result of this, if anyone significant (say, for example, Donna or Rose) were to pop their clogs heroically in the very near future I simply won't buy it. I'll just be waiting for the inevitable magical cop-out. So cut the tears, drop the cod-emotion, and stop pulling of our heartstrings. Unless you have the balls to really go through with it, of course.
Death isn't the undiscovered country anymore, it's a short stop-over in Majorca.
Another problem I have is with this episode is the Vashta Nerada. They are introduced as an implacable force of nature that you can't negotiate with and yet they end up as thoroughly reasonable chaps who are quite happy to let the Doctor sort his shit out while they hang fire for 24 hours; reading old Target novelisations and quaking in their boots, no doubt. But then what? Unless I've missed something obvious I just don't understand what happens to them after that. Will the library have to be shut down forever (or until the little blighters starve to death)? Or will special library staff be employed to stand in around the cookery section, chucking chicken legs into the darkness three times a day?
Something else that bugs me - the Doctor happily lets a book about his future adventures sit around in a library for any passing super-villain to stumble across. This is either very clever foreshadowing by Moffat or utter stupidity on the part of the Doctor.
And let's be honest here, who's happy with the Doctor opening the TARDIS doors as if he's the Fonz? Seriously, how smug is that?
Aside from these misgivings, Forest of the Dead is still a bloody great episode of Doctor Who that's comfortably head and shoulders above anything else we've seen so far. It's certainly the most interesting and consistently witty story we've had for a very long time and I can't fault the passion of the acting, the direction, the score, the set-design or the sheer inventiveness of the whole thing. Donna's simulated domesticity gave Tate something to get her teeth into, Lux's role was genuinely surprising (but his actions are just as suspect as the Doctor's), and River's role in the story was quite brilliant. That Moffat is a clever bastard, isn't he?
I'm now convinced that River travels with two future Doctors. She certainly understands regeneration and when she implies that the Doctor looked younger to her last week it doesn't necessarily mean that she meant this version of the 10th looks younger. She initially believes that he is a future incarnation before realising that he is a past incarnation. Which he is to her. So does this mean we will we see a scene with the future Doctor knowingly sending River to her death? Not that he'll be overly bothered of course - he knows that death is not the end.
Not in this show.