Let’s start out by acknowledging that good child actors are hard to find and good performances from children are hard to get. This is not as an excuse for anyone but simply an acknowledgement that for every Haley Joel Osment or Maisie Williams there’s a thousand of everybody else. Having said this, I don’t think the problems with this episode really had anything to do with child acting, nor do I think this episode had any really massive problems anyway. I just think there were a lot of little problems that all added up to an unspectacular episode.
“Forest” was fairly engaging throughout and was a lot of fun for most of the time but didn’t quite fire on all cylinders the way it could have. The concept was interesting enough but became less so after resolution. The last segment and a half just might have been a bit too magical for my taste.
The bits with The Doctor and Maebh were actually funny and quite sweet in the way that The Doctor was able to pay attention to part of her personality that Clara and Danny weren’t or couldn’t given their charge and responsibility for her care. Its an example of how The Doctor’s aloofness can be used as an advantage on some occasions.
This may not have anything to do with the actual episode, but it struck me this week how refreshing it is that Clara and Danny are actually good teachers who enjoy working with kids and not two jaded, bitter, overstressed young adults who hate their jobs and all their students. I’m certainly not saying that teachers have nothing to complain about, I’m simply saying that it’s refreshing to see a depiction of educators that doesn’t view or present their occupation as some kind of punishment.
Finally, at the risk of abusing a metaphor, I have to admit that here on the cusp of the conclusion of the season, I can’t really see the forest for the trees as far as the larger narrative goes. I’m not really seeing how everything we’ve seen comes together (if indeed it does). Missy has popped up from time to time, but it’s unclear how she’s influenced events (if indeed she has). She’s clearly being set up as the “Big Bad” for this season, but she hasn’t been a proper antagonist because it’s unclear what The Doctor and Clara have been up against vis a vis Missy. What I’m saying in a nutshell is I don’t know what her character is all about, which is fine-I don’t need to know everything, I just don’t know how to properly evaluate the season overall without that information, but I’m probably not supposed to have that information yet anyway, so it’s fine. I’m certainly not complaining, it’s simply that I’ve been enjoying this season immensely on an episode to episode basis and now the end has crept up on me all of a sudden and I’ve come to realize that I can’t pick out a unifying thread that runs throughout the whole collection of episodes, which is exciting in its own way. I’m excited to see how this all turns out.