Frank Cottrell-Boyce

Doctor Who S10E2 “Smile” (BBC One)

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Contains some spoilers for the episode

It must take a huge sense of self-confidence and belief to be the show-runner of a huge international series like Doctor Who, to the point of hubris and arrogance. That’s not a criticism – I just don’t see how anyone could do the job otherwise. Part of that mindset must include never fully accepting when you’ve made a mistake – or at least, not one that you can’t rectify down the line.

Back in season 8, Steven Moffat picked children’s novelist Frank Cottrell-Boyce (of London 2012 opening ceremony fame) to write an episode for Doctor Who. The end result – “In the Forest of the Night” – sharply divided both fans and critics, and was the least popular story of that run. Personally I liked the episode somewhat better than most people seemed to and found its change of pace refreshing, but even so I can’t say I was clamouring for more of the same anytime soon.

But Moffat sticks to his guns, and Cottrell-Boyce gets a second bite of the Who apple with this week’s episode “Smile”. This sophomore effort shows that the writer has worked hard to address the criticisms of his maiden outing and in some areas is much improved, while other aspects show much the same hallmarks of Cottrell-Boyce’s work – for both good and ill. Read the rest of this entry »

Doctor Who S8 E10 “In The Forest Of The Night” (BBC One)

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Contains spoilers for the aired episode.

I wasn’t able to watch the latest episode of Doctor Who as it went out live, but I certainly saw the aftermath break out on Twitter. On this admittedly limited sampling of viewer reaction I think it’s safe to say that “In The Forest Of The Night” wasn’t so much disliked as it was actively loathed with lashings of vitriol. It meant that when I finally came to watching the story I did so with some considerable trepidation, wondering what utter disaster I was about to experience.

forestStrangely enough, however, for at least 30 minutes this story actually worked for me – and rather well at that. I’ve written before about how I miss the days when the Doctor would just go wandering around a new world finding things to explore like he used to do on Skaro or Vortis during William Hartnell’s tenure; the modern series usually has no such time for such aimless meanderings and every second of every single scene now has to earn its place in the running time by being forced to carry highly condensed industrial quantities of plot exposition and character development. But not this week: during “In The Forest Of The Night” we finally had time to breathe, and it was rather pleasant – at least for a while.

The bizarre alien world that the Doctor and Clara were discovering and exploring was 21st century Earth, but it was unlike any incarnation of London we’ve ever seen before. If ever an episode of Doctor Who has been inspired by a single image, then it’s surely here with the vision of the modern metropolis completely overrun by trees and plants to the point where Trafalgar Square is a dense forest. It’s kind of the inverse to the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics which depicted England’s green and pleasant lands being torn asunder by sprouting industrial chimneys; here, the trees got their opportunity to take their revenge for that affront. Surely that link can’t be just a coincidence, since this week’s writer Frank Cottrell-Boyce was Danny Boyle’s collaborator for that seminal occasion. Overall it’s the kind of thrilling notion that sends a shiver of delight rather than of fear down your back at the thought, but the question is whether the episode can bridge from this striking imagery and successfully transition into an engrossing story, and the unfortunate answer in this case is … Not really. Read the rest of this entry »