Overnight, there’s a forest in the centre of London – just as Clara, Danny and a group of Coal Hill kids are on a school outing…
I suspect this is going to be another of the episodes which divides the audience – those who want a major plot-driven tale will probably be disappointed but those who have missed either The Sarah Jane Adventures or the Matt Smith fairy tale era of the show will find much to enjoy. Writer Frank Cottrell Boyce and director Sheree Folkson create a magical world at the start of the episode – there are some intriguing camera angles, lenses and narrative tricks used which help to create the tone – even if the story does take a sharp turn later on.
The most recent episode of detective series Castle in the States featured the lead having to interact with a group of schoolchildren for much of the time; the same thing happens here, with the Doctor embroiled in the adventure when one of Clara and Danny’s charges finds the TARDIS. The children are well-written and on the whole well-acted, and the balancing act that Clara is still trying to maintain becomes clearer when we see both her and Danny with them.
As with Flatline last week, there’s a neat conceit at the heart of this story, but unlike that episode, this doesn’t quite hang together. It’s a shame, because there is much to admire; Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman and Samuel Anderson give it their all – as do the children – but this is definitely one of the weaker episodes of the series.
Verdict: A reversion to a more children-friendly storyline sits oddly at this stage of the season. 7/10