Doctor Who: Forest of the Dead, BBC1

by | Jun 9, 2008 | All, Reviews

Did we like it?

A fantastic conclusion to perhaps the best story of the series so far, with David Tennant and Catherine Tate equally impressive in what was effectively a split screen scenario between the reality of the Doctor and the illusion Donna was experiencing.

What was good about it?

• The affectionate yet fractious dialogue between the Doctor and Professor River Song, which lingered on until she whispered his name in his ear that soothed his ire and ensure they worked in tandem.

• The way in which the words, “I have two shadows” quickly became terrifying. And the abrupt repetition of a line, “Hey, who turned out the lights” and “We should go, Doctor” became a precursor of one of the crew’s deaths.

• The virtual reality world of CAL that was set up similarly to a TV drama, in which the unimportant events are edited out and only the most memorable parts of daily life are retained, with the sinister Dr Moon (Colin Salmon) filling in any blanks with his seductive voice. It resembled an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation where Captain Picard experienced life among a now extinct species after he was zapped by their probe.

• Donna’s maternal instinct overpowering the truth of the deformed Miss Evangelista, so that she refused to believe her beloved children were figments of her imagination. While we were initially sceptical of Catherine Tate’s role as the Doctor’s assistant given Donna’s (scripted) one-dimensional showing in the Runaway Bride and the altogether awful Partners in Crime, she has become better and better throughout the series. And an upshot of which means we’re no longer so cynical about Billie Piper’s fully fledged return in two weeks.

• The moment when Donna’s ‘husband’ Lee McAvoy caught sight of her and tried to call out, but his debilitating stammer thwarted him and he was then teleported off the planet.

• The Doctor gradually building up a grim resistance to the death around him – “Where’s Other Dave?” “Not coming.” – which was ultimately broken when the doomed Anita was finally devoured by the insatiable Vashta Nerada.

• The best and most touching scene was when River Song sacrificed herself to save the 4,023 lost souls from being wiped out of existence, knocking the Doctor out to prevent him becoming the martyr. Her perfect logic was that if he were to be the one to perish, then she wouldn’t be able to enjoy the rich fulfilment of her past and his future. (Although the flaw was that if he did die then she would not have met him in the future and been able to contact him to appear at the library in the first place.)

• River Song’s new ‘life’ inside CAL, in the same dreary early 20th century world that Donna had inhabited, with her equally deceased crewmates where she paradoxically became CAL’s surrogate mother.

What was bad about it?

• Why did CAL choose a dreary suburban early 20th century setting for her virtual reality world (other than for budgetary reasons)? She apparently had the whole of history to choose from yet selected an era and people that wallow in mediocrity.

• The Vashta Nerada, we’re a little confused. If the Vashta Nerada eat humans for sustenance, why did they allow the 4,023 “saved” souls one day in which to flee? And also how had they survived the previous century?

• But if the Vashta Nerada don’t need to eat people in order to survive, why do they hunt and kill? Perhaps, they are an alien version of odious Otis Ferry’s fox hunting jamboree and savour hunting defenceless mammals before brutally killing them for their joy alone.

• The Doctor took rather too long to make the connection between the spawning of the commonly arboreal Vashta Nerada and the presence of billions of books.

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles


Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!


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