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In the Forest of the Night was the tenth episode of series 8 of Doctor Who. It was notable for employing a fairy-tale style of storytelling and a menagerie of child actors.

This story showed the school aspect of Clara's life, focusing on her students instead of the school and explored how Clara's relationship with Danny had strained since he discovered that Clara lied to him about ending her days of travelling in the TARDIS.


One morning, in every city and town in the world, the human race wakes up to face the most surprising invasion yet.

Everywhere, in every land, a forest has grown overnight and taken back the Earth. It doesn't take the Doctor long to discover that the final days of humanity have arrived...


A little girl is running through a forest, when she comes across the TARDIS and knocks on the door. The Twelfth Doctor opens the door, and the little girl explains that something told her to look for a doctor. Taking the girl inside, the Doctor goes on about how he's having trouble with the TARDIS not landing where he wants to be. After a takeoff attempt, a GPS voice says the Doctor has arrived at his destination, London; he argues that it's wrong. However, the little girl tells him that the device is not wrong, she takes him outside and points up, explaining they are in Trafalgar Square. The Doctor is left surprised by this, as a pull away shows all of London's filled with wild trees filling every open area possible.

In a museum, Clara and Danny have taken "special" students on a museum sleepover class trip. After dealing with some annoyance one student was causing, they gather up the class to leave. One student stops to stare at a cross-section of a tree on display, noticing that it has a single thick red ring in the rings depicting how many years it grew. Clara, not knowing what it means, simply guesses "must have been a good year to be a tree." The security guard attempts to unlock the door to let them out but finds it jammed. After the guard's futile attempts to open the door, Danny and the children push the door open. Everyone is left shocked by the sight of the trees, leaving Clara to think of answers. Danny goes to the roof to have a look; initially imagining they must have been involved in a "Sleeping Beauty" scenario, Clara soon struggles to account for the various inaccuracies of her theory.

Paris reporter

A French reporter reports from a tree-filled Paris.

All around the world, people are panicking over the sudden appearance of the trees. The British Government announces its plan to burn away trees to clear paths for people to get around.

Believing that the Doctor may already be in the area to investigate the situation, Clara runs off to find him. Danny and the children stay at the museum waiting for her to return. Clara phones the Doctor, learning that one of the children she and Danny were supposed to be looking after is in the TARDIS with him; they arrange to meet up at Trafalgar Square. Clara returns to the museum where Danny finds out she has been in contact with the Doctor who has Maebh, this results in an argument that confuses the children since they have been told by Ruby, one of the children, that Danny and Clara are "madly in love". Ruby explains that arguing is what you do when you are madly in love. They organise and set off for Trafalgar Square.

Once everyone meets up, Ruby brings a strange fact to the Doctor's attention; a branch from one of the trees she found has no rings of growth in it. The Doctor concludes that the trees sprang up overnight. Danny wonders how this is possible, with the Doctor pointing out it's a similar scenario to the Ice Age, joking "welcome to the Tree Age." The Doctor then lets everyone into the TARDIS for safety; this proves to be a bad idea as he constantly has to shout at the children to leave the controls alone. Surprised by the remarkable lack of intelligence displayed by the group, the Doctor asks Clara what's wrong with the children. After she explains, flashbacks show the children in her and Danny's classes, misbehaving and asking stupid questions.

Danny notices folders of homework assignments that Clara previously left onboard. As he begins to look through them, he is suddenly stopped by the Doctor. He sees a series of drawings depicting the growth of the trees and an impending solar flare (strong as the one he recently encountered, which destroyed the Bank of Karabraxos). He demands to know who drew the pictures, learning that it was Maebh Arden. He searches the children, asking for Maebh. However, Ruby says that Maebh is not with them. Clara informs the Doctor that Maebh is fragile and hears voices since her sister went missing last year. When asked what the voices say Clara says she does not know, Maebh takes medication and the voices go away. This angers the Doctor who says "If a child is speaking, listen to it." The Doctor uses the sonic screwdriver to get a reading on Maebh's phone and he and Clara leave the TARDIS.

The Doctor and Clara take off to find Maebh, while the children convince Danny that he needs to go after Clara to help and protect her; however, he annoys them with his choice of words. In the meantime, Maebh is leaving a trail of her belongings; she stops upon hearing voices, which belong to men in protective suits about to burn the trees blocking the road. Frightened, Maebh takes off in a different direction. The Doctor and Clara reach the same spot shortly afterwards, only to be ordered to vacate the area for their own safety. Kept from advancing, the Doctor and Clara watch in amazement as the trees will not burn even using flamethrowers; the Doctor explains that trees control oxygen, and therefore can prevent themselves from being burnt by depriving the fire of air.

Showing Clara the drawings, the Doctor explains that Maebh predicted the appearance of the trees, and has even written down the date; they have to find her because she's connected in some way to the trees.

Tiger forest

The tiger is frightened by Danny's flashlight.

They continue searching for Maebh, only to be shocked still by the howl of a wolf. Clara is in disbelief since they're in London, a big city; however, the Doctor points out that the trees may have likely broken the gates of the zoo and let out the dangerous predators inside it. They find Maebh, who is being pursued by wolves, but find themselves on opposite sides of a fence. Maebh sees a gate and joins the Doctor and Clara on the other side of the fence. The Doctor instructs them to stay huddled together, hoping to scare off the wolves by pretending to be a monster. The wolf pack jump the fence but run past them whimpering. The Doctor believes his plan has worked, however, Clara flatly asks him "What are wolves frightened of?" A tiger slowly approaches from the other side of the fence, ready to attack; however, Danny arrives and scares the beast away.

Maebh begins swatting the air with her hands, saying there are too many. Clara and Danny think its a fit and Maebh needs her medication; however, the Doctor stops them as the child is communicating with something related to the trees. Maebh runs off again and everyone pursues her. She goes to an area that looks like a circle of bushes that are covered in cobwebs. Using the sonic screwdriver, the Doctor makes what Maebh is swatting at visible as sparks of light. The lights become still and use Maebh to communicate; they tell the Doctor that they are the lifeforce of the trees, which have been and will always be there, and that a powerful solar flare is coming. The lights then leave, freeing Maebh.

Clara urges the Doctor to use the TARDIS as a lifeboat to save the children, Danny, and herself; they head back to the TARDIS, where the Doctor is ready to take everyone on board. However, Clara tells him that the children will always want their parents and that her idea was a ruse to get the Doctor back to the TARDIS for his own safety. Not wanting to be alone, the Doctor tells Clara that Earth is his planet too; however, she sends him away ironically telling him that she does not want to be the last of her kind. Alone in the TARDIS, the Doctor comes to a sudden realisation: this scenario with the solar flare and trees has happened before!

The Doctor ushers everyone back into the TARDIS, where he explains the solar flare; to his surprise, Clara kept the news from the children. Regardless, the Doctor then explains that the trees are benevolent; they have been protecting life on earth for centuries, and have sprung up all over the world to keep it safe from the solar flares. A child points out that the governments are still planning to destroy the trees with a defoliant; a horrified Doctor realises they have to quickly spread the word about the trees' purpose around the world. Maebh offers to convey the message since she was the first to receive the news; the Doctor agrees. The children work together to compose a speech while the Doctor hacks into every communication device in the world.

Maebh's speech is heard around the world, advising everyone to be calm and that the trees are to be left alone as they serve a benevolent purpose and ends by asking her sister to come home. Everyone then leaves the TARDIS, where Maebh is greeted by her mother, who has been searching for her. The Doctor offers the group the rare chance to watch a solar flare from space, but everyone turns down the offer; Clara will join the Doctor after the children are returned home. She and Danny then share a kiss, which the children laugh at as the rumours about them dating have been proven true.

Later, the Doctor and Clara watch the Earth from the open TARDIS doorway. The solar flare hits Earth, but the trees protect the earth from harm. Elsewhere, Missy also watches the event on her tablet, commenting; "Now that was surprising. I love surprises."

Earth In the Forest of the Night

An Earth with normal amounts of trees.

Back at her apartment, Clara and the Doctor watch from the balcony as the trees covering London crumble away. She wonders what will be told about the trees in the future, but the Doctor tells her that the entire event will have been forgotten as it's the human superpower to forget.

Elsewhere, the Ardens are returning home, when Maebh notices something looking at them through a hydrangea bush. The hydrangea withers away, revealing Maebh's lost sister, Annabelle.



General production staff

Script department

Camera and lighting department

Art department

Costume department

Make-up and prosthetics



General post-production staff

Special and visual effects


Not every person who worked on this adventure was credited. The absence of a credit for a position doesn't necessarily mean the job wasn't required. The information above is based solely on observations of the actual end credits of the episodes as broadcast, and does not relay information from IMDB or other sources.


  • When the Doctor and Clara speak over the phone about the forest, the Doctor compares the new forest to New Forest, only newer.
  • The minister states that COBRA had been in agreement to take action during the massive forest-crisis.
  • The kids from Coal Hill School ask twice if they can take selfies.
  • Clara says all they've got are Oyster cards, in contrast to the Doctor's TARDIS.
  • The Doctor explains that the Tunguska and Curuçá events are evidence of the protection of Earth by trees.

Culture from the real world[]


  • The title of the episode is taken from a verse of William Blake's "The Tyger", presaging the appearance of the tiger ("Tyger! Tyger! burning bright / In the forests of the night."). The actual title makes a minor modification of the line, changing forests (plural) to forest (singular). The poem was previously quoted in the audio story The Emerald Tiger and read aloud by Tommy in the television story Planet of the Spiders.
  • Maebh's last name is Arden, a reference to the forest in As You Like It.

Story notes[]

  • This episode is one example of Doctor Who as a television show being referenced in the show itself, with a bus in one shot advertising Series 8 of Doctor Who. A prior example of this featured in Remembrance of the Daleks which was set on the same day that Doctor Who premiered, with a television in the background saying "And now for a new science fiction adventure, Doc" before cutting out. The "bus" seen is actually a cardboard cutout, due to difficulties that would be faced in order to manoeuvre a real bus into a place of dense foliage.
  • This episode was ranked as Doctor Who Magazine readers' least favourite Twelfth Doctor story in their 60th anniversary poll of 2023. (DWM 594)
  • Russell T Davies recommended Frank Cottrell-Boyce, having worked with him on Springhill. Cottrell-Boyce was a longtime fan of the show and Steven Moffat wanted a writer of his pedigree.
  • Thinking in terms of the Third Doctor's adventures in contemporary London during his exile to Earth by the Time Lords, Frank Cottrell-Boyce aimed to devise a narrative which would similarly bring peril close to home for the audience. This prompted the notion of a contemporary London which had become mysteriously overgrown.
  • Frank Cottrell-Boyce thought that presenting the natural world as the apparent threat would place the Doctor in an unusually powerless position. The premise would also echo many beloved fairy tales, which were often set in deep, dark woods which embodied humanity's primal fear of the unknown.
  • Originally, the Doctor believed that the strange events were specifically targeted at him, but Steven Moffat discouraged this approach.
  • Originally, the goal of the worldwide phone call was to use the noise of the ringing phones to create a resonance pattern in the clouds, which would initiate a protective rainfall.
  • Although it would be ambiguous in the final episode, the voices which spoke through Maebh were intended to be called the Here. Maebh's
  • Ruby's name was inspired by her identification of the red ring in the tree trunk.
  • Samson was initially called Noah.
  • The episode comprised Block Seven of season eight. It was the last episode to be produced in order to take advantage of the Welsh greenery.
  • Steven Moffat defended the episode, saying it was "beautifully and elegantly written," and added, "I think will grow in stature over the years."
  • The first scenes to be shot were Missy's cameo and the Minister's appeal.
  • The fictitious London Zoological Museum was actually the National Museum of Wales. It was originally supposed to be the Science Museum and then the Natural History Museum.
  • Sheree Folkson was unable to complete all of the shots she had planned for the National Museum, resulting in the omission of a scene where Maebh's mum, Siobhan, arrived to find the building abandoned. It was hoped that the scene could be remounted, but this did not occur.
  • The wolves and the tiger were secured by the Amazing Animals firm.
  • A scene dropped during editing involved the Doctor describing the childhood vision he experienced when he gazed into the Untempered Schism on Gallifrey. He told Clara that he watched as aeons passed by in seconds, and a mighty forest rose and fell, much as the trees had suddenly sprung up on Earth overnight. His companion wondered if Gallifrey could be involved, foreshadowing the Doctor's attempt to find his home planet in Death in Heaven.


Filming locations[]

  • National Museum Cardiff
  • Forest Fawr Woods
  • Heythorp Zoological Gardens in Chipping Norton
  • Several residential areas in Cardiff

Production errors[]

If you'd like to talk about narrative problems with this story — like plot holes and things that seem to contradict other stories — please go to this episode's discontinuity discussion.
  • When Clara picks up Maebh's pink phone, she is also holding her own white phone. She is holding her white phone in her left hand and Maebh's pink phone in her right hand. Then in one shot, the pink is in her left and the white is in her right. It later returns back to normal in the following shots.
  • Roughly 15 minutes into the episode, when Clara asks if it's an act of aggression, and the Doctor responds with "By trees?", Ruby is not visible behind them, and the camera angle noticeably changes when she appears to say that "Trees clean the air" in an instance of poor editing.
  • The CGI used in this episode is generally very good, except for the sequences with the wolves and tiger. When the wolves run, on a few occasions, their legs bend forward more than a real wolf's can. In the montage running sequence, the wolves are merely trotting at a slow gait, just sped up. Also in the montage sequence, one of the wolves looks more like a golden labrador than a wolf. The tiger's CGI is a mixture of pure computer images and stock footage edited in. This means that between shots, the tiger's stripes change their pattern and becomes thin, and then fat. In the first shot of the tiger, it's head is out of scale with the rest of its body, making it look like it has no neck. In the stock footage sequences, the fur is illuminated by a light source that doesn't actually belong in this episode and belongs to whatever the background was in the stock footage.


Home video releases[]

DVD & Blu-ray releases[]

Complete 8th Series UK Cover

Series Full Box-set Region 2

Digital releases[]

  • The episode was released on Google Play, iTunes and Amazon Instant Video in HD or SD, also available as part of the Series 8 digital boxset. The digital boxset contains various features: trailer, interviews, The Ultimate Companion, The Ultimate Time Lord, Inside the World Tour and Doctor Who Extra episodes for each episode.
  • In the US, the series was released through digital streaming services Hulu and Netflix with a subscription.
  • In the United Kingdom, this story is available on BBC iPlayer.

External links[]

to be added