Now that the TARDIS is back to normal size and the dimensions are leaving each other alone again, time for a trip into the origins of all fairy stories:
There’s a little girl running through a forest and she’s wearing a red, hooded coat. We are not told where her grandmother is, but she’s in a bit of a tizz, seems a bit lost, until she chances upon a blue police box. She knocks on the door and asks for help and out pops a hawk-faced man asking if she has an appointment. It’s the Doctor! She was looking for him too, so that’s nice.
It turns out she’s on a school trip with Clara Oswald and Danny Pink, which is one of the few things she can be truly sure of, being a confused sort of little girl. That and the fact that the TARDIS is in the middle of a forest which is also in Trafalgar Square, London.
Elsewhere, Clara and Danny and the rest of the red hooded girl’s classmates are leaving the Natural History Museum, in which they have spent the night. It takes a while to get out because the door is stuck, and the door is stuck because the whole of London, no Britain, no, the Earth, is covered in dense vegetation which has appeared overnight, and no one knows why.
Clara rings to Doctor to invite him to come and see and is quite put out to realize he already knows. It turns out the red hooded girl is called Maeve and the Doctor isn’t about to bring her to Clara. Danny is not best pleased to find out where Maeve is, as she’s experiencing a period of vulnerability, and needs medication. Clara tries to involve Danny in the mystery of the trees, but he refuses to be budged from his mission to get the kids home. All the kids, including Maeve.
The Doctor can’t gather any form of communication from the trees, as they’re made of wood, the kryptonite to his sonic screwdriver’s Superman. Also, Ruby, Danny’s most inquisitive (but not terrifically sharp) pupil, has noticed the trees don’t have any riings. They have grown overnight.
The Doctor is calling this a natural phenomenon, the Tree Age. Or at least he was until he realizes that trees are somehow traveling in time in order to grow so quickly, and rushes into the TARDIS. Danny, Clara and the kids all follow (well, except Maave) and then Danny spots Clara’s marking in a pile in the TARDIS. And then the Doctor realizes that Maeve has drawn a picture of the Sun with lightning coming out of it. And that she is missing.
He and Clara go off to find her, leaving a suspicious Danny behind, and Nelson’s Column falling down upon their heads. This draws Danny and the children out of the TARDIS, and they elect to go and see if Clara and the Doctor are alright.
They’re fine, but now they’re following a trail of Maeve’s belongings, inspired by Hansel and Gretel. Maeve herself has come across a team with flamethrowers, attempting to burn the forest down, but it doesn’t work because the trees are subtracting the oxygen around the flames, putting them out. But that’s not what is concerning the Doctor right now. Right now he is more interested in the huge solar flare that is on the way to Earth, and how Maeve managed to predict that it was coming in her homework book.
Maeve has her own problems, not just because her sister has gone missing, there is also the small matter of a pack of wolves that have escaped from the zoo. Following her screams, Clara and the Doctor find her just as the wolves are preparing to strike, but they suddenly run away, scared off by the TIGER that has just appeared. A TIGER THOUGH!
Luckily, Danny and the school gang arrive, and scare the tiger off with a torch to the eyes. Maeve runs off again, scared of the things she believes she has created with her mind. These appear to have taken a physical form for Maeve, so the Doctor traps them in a gravitational field, revealing them to be sparking lights, representing a group consciousness, the voice of the trees, that has existed for thousands of years. They have been called into action by the sun and they have no idea who the Doctor is.
So, what does all this mean? It means the solar flare is on the way and the planet is doomed. The trees have called down the end of the world and there is nothing the Doctor can do about it. Clara realizes that there’s a chance they could get out alive and Danny leads them back to the TARDIS. It’s here that things turn emotional.
Clara points out that the kids won’t want to be saved, they’ll want to be with their families. That Danny won’t leave the kids, and that she won’t leave humanity, she won’t become the last of her race. So she orders the Doctor to leave before the planet is destroyed. Meanwhile the nations of the world try and defoliate those flame… proof… trees…
Just a minute! This could work out OK after all. Providing the trees are unharmed, the solar flare will be repelled by the extra oxygen from the new trees. The trees are forming a shield to save humanity! Let’s hope no one damages those… important… oxygen-creating… leaves…
HANG ON! We need to stop the humans damaging the trees. And there’s only one way to to that. Maeve constructs a message they can send to every phone on the planet, and she asks humanity to leave the trees alone. Job done! All that remains is a trip to space to see everything happen, although no one wants to go apart from the Doctor and Clara (who has totally just snogged Danny in front of the kids).
Out in space, they watch as the solar flare fails to burn the planet to a crisp, and so does Missy (remember Missy?). Then, back in Clara’s flat, they watch as all the trees disappear, ready for the next moment of threat from on high.
Outside Maeve’s house, the last bush to vanish reveals her lost sister, waiting on the doorstep.
Next time: “Dark Water”
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