This review contains spoilers.
As I draft this, I’m on a plane from Orlando to LAX—the first leg of our journey home. And guess who’s on the plane with me? Orny Adams, who plays Coach Bobby Finstock on Teen Wolf. I caught a glimpse of him down the aisle as he was boarding and elbowed my sister hard enough to probably bruise her. After this plane, we’ve got a six-hour layover at LAX, and then a 13-hour flight back to Brisbane. It’s going to be a long night for me.
A forest has sprouted all over the world overnight. It’s up to the Doctor, Clara, Danny, and a bunch of kids from Coal Hill to figure out how and why.
Maebh Arden, dressed to look like a modern-day Red Riding Hood, runs through a forest, flapping her hands in front of her face. I’m not sure why. There’s nothing in her face. Maybe she’s trying to fly. She finds the TARDIS and asks to see the Doctor—Miss Oswald told her to find him. The forest has covered all of London and the TARDIS, which now has a new GPS voice, is in Trafalgar Square.
Elsewhere, a group of Coal Hill students finish up their random sleepover in a museum and walk outside to discover the new forest. Clara rings to inform the Doctor about the development and finds that he has Maebh. She leads the Coal Hill group to the TARDIS, which is a great idea. I mean, Courtney was in grade 10 and she vomited in the TARDIS and uploaded a bunch of pictures to Tumblr so an entire class of selfie-loving eighth graders is going to work out much better. But Clara can’t think these things through because she’s constantly distracted by how attractive Danny is when he gets all fatherly and protective over the children. Her ovaries explode twice, but very subtly.
Danny is cottoning on to Clara’s lies about travelling with the Doctor. Thank God. If it were any more obvious, it would be offensive. But, despite finding out/strongly suspecting the truth, Danny seems oddly calm. Maybe because he realises that he’s not Clara’s boss and therefore can’t tell her what to do.
We learn that the new forest is fireproof, and it hasn’t finished growing. Also, wolves and tigers have been let loose because the trees probably mangled their cages, but regular fences seem perfectly intact. Clearly these trees have poor judgement. Danny saves Clara and the Doctor from a tiger by shining a torch in its face. The tiger decides not to chase the bouncing light and Clara’s ovaries explode again.
It turns out that the trees have been called forth by Maebh … sort of. Maebh is visited by thoughts (or ‘foughts’, as she calls them) from ancient tree/firefly spirits because her sister ran away or disappeared last year. It’s all very dubious. However the trees appeared, and whatever these ancient firefly spirits are, one thing is clear: there is a giant solar flare heading for Earth and everyone’s going to die.
Clara begs the Doctor to save everyone but, when they return to the TARDIS, Clara refuses to let anyone go with him. The kids, she says, only want their parents. Danny won’t leave the kids while he’s still breathing. And Clara won’t leave Danny when he makes her ovaries explode so frequently doesn’t want to be the last of her kind. She only asked the Doctor to save everyone so she could get him back to the TARDIS.
The Doctor repeats what Clara said to him back in Kill the Moon: this is his world too; he walks this Earth and he breathes this air. Clara tells him gently that, this time, the human race is saving him so he can go and save the next world. I know this is supposed to be an emotional moment where we half-expect bad things to actually happen but I just can’t buy into it. Honestly, the Doctor’s reaction to the ‘I don’t want to be the last of my kind’ comment carries more emotional impact for me than the rest of this scene.
As he’s leaving, the Doctor realises that the fireproof forest will protect the Earth. He explains to the Coal Hill group that this (or events similar) has all happened before and humans have just forgotten. Maebh sends out a global phone call telling everyone not to panic and to stop trying to kill the trees and also to ask her sister to come home.
Clara tries to persuade everyone to come into space and watch the solar flare but no one’s interested. The kids just want their parents, especially after seeing Maebh reunited with her mother. Danny has had enough of risking his life during his time in the army and he just wants to focus on the things that are right in front of him. ‘One person,’ he says, ‘is more amazing—harder to understand but more amazing than universes.’ (Unless that person is going into space and you don’t feel like going with them for 10 minutes.) At that, Clara can’t control her ovaries anymore. She kisses Danny in front of the class, confirming the rumours that they’re madly in love.
Danny tells Clara that he’s figured out her secret and she tries to fob him off with more lies. Danny says he wants the truth, no matter what it is. But he doesn’t want it right now. He wants Clara to go home and finish her marking, and think about what she’s going to tell him. Since he saved her from a tiger today, he deserves at least that much.
What does that even mean? Are you indicating that she should go home and figure out who she wants to hang out with more? Clearly you already have the truth, you just don’t have the details. So whether or not Clara finishes her marking has no bearing on your relationship. That’s just bloody confusing. And why can’t you just get angry at Clara for once? I thought everything was so close to playing out the way I wanted/expected/hoped. I was so excited for Clara’s descent into time travel addiction and things getting messed up and it’s not happening because Danny Pink is too freaking calm.
Clara and the Doctor watch from space as the solar flare hits Earth and the trees protect it. In the Promised Land, Missy is also watching from some dungeon lair. She’s surprised by the solar flare and Earth’s continued existence, but she does like surprises. Be less terrifying, why don’t you? I don’t see why it would make any difference to her; whenever people have died in droves this season, she’s completely ignored them.
As Maebh and her mother return home, the last of the forest disappears in a burst of firefly spirits. In its place stands Annabel, Maebh’s missing sister, who is crouched like a gremlin in the driveway. Maebh reckons the ‘fought’ of Annabel came to her, but I strongly suspect Annabel’s been hiding in a shrub the whole time.
I do like the whimsical episodes but this one seemed to come at a completely random time in the season. Whenever Clara’s character arc is progressing towards a climax, something happens to stall it. The Doctor and Danny are letting her get off far too lightly for all her lying and I don’t trust it.
The two-part season finale begins. Clara is apparently evil or has never existed, Missy may be getting more than a minute of screen time, there are Cybermen in London, and are we rewriting the 50th Anniversary episode? Probably. Why not?