Last week we made a list of the most divisive Doctor Who episodes of all time, and as predicted the reaction was rather, er, divided.
Some episodes were found to be more loved than we expected, others we thought deserved a chance were roundly condemned, and a fair few people pointed out that we probably could have included more episodes people disagree on.
But we’ll probably have to agree to disagree on that.
However, one thing became very clear – after more than 160,000 votes were cast debating the merit of every episode on our list, one story stood out as the most divisive of all, with a near 50/50 split on whether or not viewers thought it was a great piece of Who history.
That story… was 2014’s In the Forest of the Night.
Written by novelist Frank Cottrell Boyce for the revived Doctor Who’s eighth series, this episode saw London engulfed by a sudden forest that trapped Clara’s class of plucky kids while the Doctor struggled to save them, and divided opinion almost as soon as it went on air.
While some enjoyed the upbeat and family-friendly tale, others considered it to be confusing and poorly-planned, with a scene where Clara decided to let a class of children die and many of the performances particularly derided.
However series showrunner Steven Moffat was quick to defend the tale, telling the episode’s critics that he was sure it would only grow in people’s estimations.
“I think I’d give a shout out to an episode that I think will grow in stature over the years because it’s so beautifully and elegantly written, In the Forest of the Night,” he said.
“There were people who thought it was maybe scientifically inaccurate – they’re wrong, I checked with the scientists – and any piece of television that includes the line of dialogue ‘catastrophe is the metabolism of the universe’ as a part of popular entertainment has to be… a beautiful episode!”
Our poll reflected that critical divide: In the Forest of the Night split the fan base more than any other episode polled.
In comparison, Mark Gatiss’s Sleep No More returned 46% good vs 54% bad, Kill the Moon polled 58% good vs 42% bad, and Vengeance on Varos ended up 57% good vs 43% bad.
In the future that might change, but for now In the Forest of the Night has the most mixed response of any Doctor Who episode. And we shouldn’t feel too bad for Frank Cottrell Boyce – apart from his very successful writing career outside of Doctor Who, it’s also been announced today that he’ll be back for another crack at the sci-fi series next year.