Trying to track down the surviving carrier of Richter’s Disease from Hellheim, the TARDIS brings the Doctor and his friends – with Nyssa once again aboard the TARDIS – to an alien forest. The Doctor and Tegan are taken to Purity, a village in turmoil in the wake of its leader’s disappearance. While the locals are concerned with the implications of two “unclean” visitors, they also fear the Takers and observe almost-ritual hygenic cleansing practices. Nyssa and Turlough meet more locals from Purity, but they also encounter the Takers, who seem to be far more advanced and powerful. The Doctor and Tegan are caught up in the succession struggle in the village of Purity, and their lives are threatened at every turn by a pretender to the throne who thinks they’ll bring infection and death with them.
Cast: Peter Davison (The Doctor), Janet Fielding (Tegan Jovanka), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Mark Strickson (Turlough), Hayley Atwell (Seksa), Sue Wallace (Mertil / Woman), Paul Shelley (Jestan / Man / Taker), Harry Melling (Hervey / Taker / Demi-Taker), Lennox Greaves (Anulf / Taker), Aneurin Barnard (Antan / Taker)
LogBook entry and TheatEar review by Earl Green
Review: With its theme of an advanced civilization that has regressed to primitive superstition, repurposing technical procedures as a religion, The Whispering Forest bears more than a passing resemblance to the Tom Baker four-parter The Face Of Evil. That much feels like familiar ground for this story. So, too, does the scene in which Turlough and Nyssa are trapped by the mysterious Takers, echoing a scene in which Turlough and Tegan are helplessly “sterilized” by a fumigating robot in Terminus.
The most intriguing element of The Whispering Forest is the three-way family / court intrigue element, though much of the credit for keeping that element so interesting goes to the guest actors. The character of Mertil is portrayed particularly well – she’s a forceful personality who’s gone from well-meaning to overpowering. The idea of health and sanitary protocols starting as best practices and ending up as holy writ seems ripe for some social commentary in a day and age where the world has braced itself, trembling in a media frenzy, for bird flu, swine flu, and one flu over the cuckoo’s nest, but no such reference to the modern day is forthcoming, perhaps for the best if one’s trying to evoke 1983 instead of the 21st century.
The Whispering Forest is a neat little story unto itself, but it somehow lacks the fireworks going on in the two stories surrounding it in this trilogy, so it’s easy to write off as being a bit nondescript and too derivative of other stories in the Doctor Who mythos. The hints of connecting tissue in the form of the contagious disease from Cobwebs dissolve pretty quickly too – perhaps drawing that plot element out as a carrot on a stick, even if it had nothing to do with the “impurities” being fought by the villagers, would’ve made things slightly more compelling.