Wednesday, October 14, 2015

8.10 In the Forests of the Night

Signs are taken for wonders. “We would see a sign”:

The word within a word, unable to speak a word,

Swaddled with darkness. In the juvescence of the year

Came Christ the tiger
         T.S Eliot

The whole wide world has been covered by a great big forest. A great big flame proof forest. Which grew up overnight. A little girl in a red anorak is lost in it. Some wolves and tigers have got out of London Zoo. Nelson’s Column falls over. It turns out that this is okay. They are friendly fire proof trees. Earth was about to be destroyed by a solar flare, so the fire proof trees grew up to protect it. A bit like in Edge of Darkness, only that time it was tulips. The grown ups are going to burn down the fire proof trees; so the children of Clara’s school phone up everyone in the whole wide world and ask them not to. So they don’t. The girl in the red anorak's sister comes home. The end.

It’s never been exactly clear to me what William Blake meant by “the forests of the night”. That sentence is also true if you leave out the last six words. The red striped tiger is like fire; so I suppose it is lighting up a dark forest. “The tiger is so bright it makes everything else seem dark" is the take-away idea. Of course, the poem isn’t about the tiger, or indeed the tyger, but about God. Blake wrote a companion piece about a Lamb. The Lamb represents God. The Tiger doesn’t represent anything. Blake's message is more “woooooo what must God be like if he can think up a creature like that?”. 

When the stars threw down their spears
And watered heaven with their tears
Did He smile his work to see?
Did He that made the Lamb make thee?

Bob Dylan wrote a fabulous lyric about his friend John Lennon, who he also sees as illuminating the world around him. 

Shine your light
move it on
you burned so bright
roll on John. 

As everyone knows, C.S Lewis wrote a book in which a Lion represented Jesus. His friend Roger Green wrote one in which He was represented by Tiger. Lewis graciously said that Green's book came first. 

For the third week running, the explanation of what is going on in this story is inaudible. I take it from the pictures that fairies or glowworms magicked the forest big. I am sure this is deliberate. I keep moaning that Doctor Who “doesn’t make sense”, so Moffat is placing explanation shaped holes in the narratives to indicate that it doesn’t need to. There is some sense in this. I would much rather that the answer to “How exactly does the Doctor change from one body into another” were “He just does, okay?” than “Because there are special Time Lord midichlorians in his blood stream”. Old Who was good at bamboozling us with totally meaningless pseudoscience. The story works perfectly well without knowing what the glowbuzzers said.

I honestly do wonder if this is a rejected Sarah-Jane script re-purposed for Doctor Who. It’s about a school. The Doctor is in it, but he really doesn’t do much. The jiggory pokery could have been handled by Luke and several of the perky streetwise kids lines could have done better by Clyde. The final summation, spoken by Danny, is pure S.J. What have we learned today? That the universe is brilliant, that staying where you are is also brilliant; that family is the most important thing; that there's no place like home.

“I don't want to see more things. I want to see the things in front of me more clearly. There are wonders here, Clara Oswald. Bradley saying please, that's a wonder. One person is more amazing, harder to understand, but more amazing than universes.”

Sarah-Jane episodes were mostly about something. An alien doohickey makes Clyde invisible to his closest friends: that's a scary kid-sci-fi idea, but it also into a gentle metaphor about how we choose not to see the beggars and homeless people on our streets. There is no sign that this story is about anything.

It’s quite nice to see Danny and Clara with some kids. As expected, Danny is entirely believable as a teacher and Clara is entirely not. The kids have been kept in suspended animation since Grange Hill finished. The kids say things like “When I get stressed, I forget my anger management.” Danny says things like “Is the Doctor CRB checked?” There is some incredibly patronizing stuff about how being scared and being angry and being allergic to nuts are not problems but superpowers; and how we shouldn’t give schizophrenics medication but listen to what the voices are telling them, and hey, aren’t I lucky that I have the special ability to see everything more blurry than everyone else, certainly not going anywhere near Specsavers. The problem class pulls together quite well during the crisis, so there is sort of a message about adversity bringing out the best in people.

There’s also some stuff about how forests and wolves appear in fairy tales as symbols of fear; but that’s gestured towards rather than explored. I am not sure that “every few thousand years the whole earth gets turned into a giant forest” is needed as an explanation for why fairy tales have forests in them. I think “they were made up by German peasants who lived near, er, forests” does the job very well. 

The tiger doesn't represent anything, and has nothing to do with William Blake. The poor beast just escaped from London Zoo, along with some big bad wolves. Danny scares it away with a torch. 

There used to be wolves in London Zoo. You could see them from Regents Park. There is a film in which the Great Intelligence is living with the Seventh Doctor in Camden Town. It finishes with the Great Intelligence shouting lines from Shakespeare at the wolves. The wolves were removed to Whipsnade in the 1990s. In the Sarah-Jane Adventures, the International Gallery appears to occupy the space that the National Gallery does in the real world; and while the kids are obviously having their sleepover in the Natural History Museum, it’s referred to as the London Zoological museum, which does not exist. So maybe the wolves escaped from a fictitious London Zoo.

Last week the Doctor and Clara decided to lie to Danny. This week, Danny finds out that the Doctor and Clara have been lying to him. This will lead to one of three outcomes:

1: Clara dumps Danny;
2: Clara dumps the Doctor;
3: The Doctor invites Danny to join them on the TARDIS and they all live happily ever after at least until part 6 of Season 9.

Since Danny spent this week being so absolutely clear that he didn’t want to see the universe and was perfectly happy seeing the earth in a grain of sand, I would place my money on 3.

When Blake said “forest” he presumably meant “jungle”. Which makes me think that the “forest of the night” is probably a bit racist. Dark continent and all that.

My mother bore me in the southern wilds
And I am black, but oh my soul is white
White as an angel is the English child
But I am black, as if bereft of light

Auguries of Innocence I quite like. Jeremy Bentham used it as the epigram to one of his Doctor Who fan books.  

To see a world in a grain of sand
Heaven in a wild flower
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour