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02 March 2015 @ 09:10 pm
In the Forest of the Night (Again) by way of Valentine's Day  
Valentine's Day in our household almost invariably ends up being a family affair for some reason. This year Tame Layman and I faffed about discussing booking a restaurant and then going to a play or something to fill up the time (the babysitter comes in a minimum 4 hour stay). We decided to go to see Top Hat tried to figure out how to fit the evening showing around a meal, then decided to go to the matinee at which point we thought we might as well take NLSS Child with us. We can cook a perfectly nice meal, we said, at home.

So on Valentine's Day we (all three of us) went to a show. Then we (all three of us) had a slap up meal - although only two of us drank the champagne (NLSS Child being firmly of the opinion that alcohol in all its forms is a great evil that should never pass her lips) and then we (all three of us) decided to watch a video together and NLSS Child picked In the Forest of the Night because Tame Layman hadn't seen it yet and it was her favourite.

I was aware, watching this, that I had somewhat panned the science behind it first time around and, very shortly after I did, Stephen Moffat somewhere or other defended it on the basis that all the science had been checked with real scientists. This was brought to mind in the discussion of our Randomizer rewatch of Time and the Rani when [personal profile] sir_guinglain (I think) mentioned that Pip and Jane Baker had been very proud of all the science they had put into that. So I couldn't help wondering what makes the science in both these stories seem so particularly not-science in comparison to stories where the writer simply didn't really care. In particular, it was obvious on a rewatch that there is indeed a lot of science in In the Forest of the Night. Almost everything the characters do in order to resolve the situation involves deducing things (tree growth, atmospherics, etc.,) about the situation based on scientific principles.

I think the problem is that at the heart of each story is a really, really, massive piece of not-science. A whole load of vaguely scientific gobbledegook which translates into "I'm going to destroy the planet" and features a giant pink brain in the case of Time and the Rani and, well, magical space trees that can grow massively overnight and will bring back missing sisters if you wish hard enough in In the Forest of the Night. All the science, in both stories is really just set-dressing and could have easily been replaced by technobabble for all the difference it made to the story.

That said In the Forest of the Night is way, way better than Time and the Rani* and I appreciated it much more on second viewing when I was prepared for the magical space trees in advance. NLSS Child still loves it to bits.

*Incidentally, I mentioned to Tame Layman that I thought Time and the Rani was probably the worst Doctor Who story ever and he said "that snake one" was worse. I'm sort of looking forward to Kinda's inevitable appearance out of the randomiser to see how it fares.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/144983.html.
wellinghallwellinghall on March 2nd, 2015 07:43 pm (UTC)
How did you like Top Hat? We saw it a few years ago in Bristol, and thought it was great fun.
louisedennislouisedennis on March 3rd, 2015 10:15 am (UTC)
We enjoyed it a lot, even NLSS Child who was initially grumpy about it since we pulled her away from some critical Youtube moment in order to catch the bus. She was initially, to our amusement, concerned it was going to be scary but conceded in the interval that this looked unlikely.
wellinghallwellinghall on March 4th, 2015 06:53 pm (UTC)
But it is scary! I mean, he might not get the girl! She might not get the boy!
louisedennislouisedennis on March 5th, 2015 08:21 am (UTC)
I mentioned this but she explained it was only "jump scares" she was worried about.
daniel_saunders: Leekleydaniel_saunders on March 2nd, 2015 11:38 pm (UTC)
You know, the science in In the Forest... didn't bother me (despite complaining about a lot of other stories this season). I think I just had it down as magic realism and didn't care.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on March 3rd, 2015 10:16 am (UTC)
I'm not sure quite why it bugged me so much, especially when I was less concerned about Kill the Moon. I'm wondering if it was precisely the juxtaposition of scientific reasoning with a request for massive suspension of disbelief that did it.
a_cubeda_cubed on March 3rd, 2015 12:52 am (UTC)
I think there's a good comparison here with "The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe". In ITFOTN they try to make it all very hard scientific, but the basic premise is so full of holes that putting a science-y sheen on it just highlights the holes. On the other hand, TDTWATW is pretty much mystical from the get-go. The only science bit is a rain of acid (hardly acid rain) used to harvest a large forest all in one go. The lack of any attempt to scientify the tree souls makes it work far better than ITFONT IMNSHO.

Sorry for all the abbreviations - these titles are just too long.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on March 3rd, 2015 10:17 am (UTC)
I do wonder if it was the attempt to actually shoe horn a lot of science into In the Forest of the Night, that threw the big "just believe this please" aspects into such sharp relief.