Television: Doctor Who, "In the Forest of the Night"

Well, you don't give an episode a title like that and then not have a tiger show up, now do you?

Alas, the "burning bright" came from a solar flare.

We also had a bit of Red Riding Hood and the wolf (or wolves).

But really, if you look at the plot from start to finish, the Doctor made zero impact. You could argue at the outside that he facilitated getting the message out not to cut down or burn the trees, but . . . That's not much. And that makes the very large assumption that (a) defoliating the trees would have made them burn [which I guess is derived from the idea that without the leaves the trees' ability to control the oxygen would be corrupted], and (b) that the humans would be able to work fast enough on the trees that it would have caused the solar flare to actually harm the planet—and that seems pretty unlikely given the size of the job and the inefficiency of government workforces.

Sum total, then, is that the Doctor was pretty bloody useless this go-round. Oh, he helped figure out what was wrong with Maeve. But even if he hadn't? Same result.

Thing is, it was a nice idea. London covered over by trees is a fun place to play. Too bad the rest of the plot was so dull. In fact, at one point I was reminded of The Happening. You know, the M Night Shyamalan movie in which nothing does actually happen?

If you're wondering about the actual plot, well, that's about it: One morning everyone in the world wakes up to find everything overgrown with trees. And so while the world's cities and governments are trying to figure out what to do about that, there's also a coming solar flare that may destroy the world. And there's a little girl who just happens to go to Coal Hill who is somehow tuned into the trees, or rather, she's tuned into the beings that made the trees grow. Isn't that a handy coincidence? Not some little French girl, or even some girl up in Yorkshire. Nope. A girl right there on a school trip to London.

Then, as the government works to burn paths through the trees, they discover the trees don't burn. The Doctor deduces an amount of intelligence in the trees, and that they are using their carbon dioxide to snuff the fires. But it turns out the trees aren't the threat. It's the coming solar flare that everyone needs to worry about.

At this point any reasonably thoughtful viewer should be putting two and two together. Solar flare? Oh, but the trees don't burn.

Still, doesn't make for very exciting television. There's nothing to do but wait out the flare. Ho hum.

So, yeah, one good idea [the overgrown London thing] with not much to prop it up or sustain it or make it more interesting. This episode could have been so much better and so much more fun. It felt like a wasted opportunity.

Books: Circle of Shadows by Imogen Robertson

This is what? The fourth Crowther and Westerman novel? Though, due to a large cast of characters, there is less of Crowther and Westerman in it.

Harriet's sister Rachel has finally married long-time love and lawyer Daniel Clode, but their honeymoon abroad goes wrong when Daniel is accused of and imprisoned for murder. So Crowther, Harriet, Graves, and Michaels set out for Maulberg to take up Daniel's case.

In a parallel plot line (there are usually two in these books that meet near the climax), the brilliant young Jacob Pegel hits upon university student Florian zu Frenzel and pumps him for information about a secret society.

Robertson has touched on spiritualism in previous novels. Before it was Tarot, here it is alchemy. The difference is one of low and high culture; in this story, Crowther and crew find themselves at court and surrounded by aristocrats, some of whom are dabbling in dark arts.

Circle of Shadows is certainly another solid entry in this series, and the return of Manzerotti is well crafted. He and Pegel could easily have their own novels. The only drawback to this particular book is that Crowther is something of a fringe character here; Harriet carries the brunt of the work, along with Manzerotti and a number of secondary cast members. Perhaps it was felt that the last novel was too much about Crowther, so it was time to tip things the other way. I'm only hoping the next book is a bit more balanced.