Review: Doctor Who – 2×11 – Fear Her

Fear Her

Ah kids. Little bastards, all of them. Give them a superpower and they’d all destroy the world in as much time as it takes to say, “I want my Happy Meal now!” It’s a lesson written large and clear in Saturday’s episode of Doctor Who, Fear Her.

The Doctor and Rose land in London, 2012, on the eve of the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. Before the words “truncated episode length” have even formed in your mind, our heroes discover that kids are going missing from the bizarrely upmarket part of East London that the TARDIS has landed in – it’s so upmarket, the council are actually filling in potholes in the road, which is something that usually only happens when the moon is in Aquarius, etc. Perhaps they’ve got a grant from the government?

The Doctor and RoseDeciding that for this episode they’re going to pretend to be police officers (focus groups have shown that play-acting works well with kids in the targeted demographic), Rose and the Doctor get a little too into character straight away and target the only black child on the estate as the obvious cause of all the trouble. They doorstep the poor kid’s mum and before the words “truncated episode length” have even formed in your mind, mum has fessed up that weird things have been happening in the house.

It very quickly transpires that whatever the child draws disappears from reality and enters the drawing. So the Doctor and Rose have to fix the child before she draws the entire planet, thereby destroying the Earth. All before her first Happy Meal of the day.

Fear Her was an interesting example of how RTD and co are willing to experiment with format. While previous producers have picked a theme (eg gothic horror, comedy, hard sci-fi, invading monsters, The Master, etc) and stuck with it for entire seasons, the current overlords of Doctor Who are more than happy to mess with comedy, monster horror, psychological horror, romance and other genres, all in the space of 13 or so episodes.

Following on from the intriguingly experimental Love and Monsters, Fear Her was again a unique genre-buster, a cross between Sapphire and Steel (Drawings/photos that can capture people? Assignment four again! At least mix it up a bit guys…) and Chocky (if Chocky had been evil, anyway). If those had been the only influences to the story, it could have been a genuinely good, scary romp.

But unfortunately, there was a moral. As well as S&S and Chocky, there was an extra genre-theft, too, not one often seen on Doctor Who, and not one it’s the better for, I think. Without wishing to ruin the ending for anyone who hasn’t seen it, there was more than a touch of The Care Bears Family Christmas to the whole proceedings.

The Doctor with Olympic torchYes, all the love that surrounds the Olympics saved the day. Presumably this is some parallel universe version of the Olympics in which lawyers aren’t already preparing to contest the drugs tests that reveal steroid abuse, no one’s grumbling that maybe Paris should have won the bid and no one’s had to use the “enhanced” London Transport links needed to get to the Olympic stadium (they really will be in place for 2012. Really. Honest. All right, maybe not). A parallel universe, at that, in which someone who picked up the Olympic torch and started running with it wouldn’t instantly be shot down by the trigger-happy anti-terrorist squad. It must be all that love again.

Sorry, but that is arse. Look at it from above. Look at it from below. Hold it up to the light. Whichever way you look at it, pure arse.

Apart from the arse ending, though, it was mostly business as usual. As always, DT gets more to do than CE ever did, shunting Billie P off to the side – mainly through the sheer force of DT’s acting, rather than because of the script, it must be admitted. But even when DT disappears, Billie P has little to do but run around wibbling about how she can’t get by without the Doctor, how great he is and if only the Doctor were here, he’d know what to do. You can tell why she might want to leave, can’t you?

The episode also showed more than a little hint of “end of season”-itis, judging by the seven or eight extras that it looks like they had the budget for – or maybe the mad thronging crowds we’ve come to expect of such events as the London Marathon are still stuck on the Crossrail link while they finish building it.

So, all in all, a not terribly fantastic episode. Intriguing, but not brilliant and ruined by an ending that had so little subtlety, it might as well have had Prince Adam and Cringer come out afterwards to explain it.

For your further delectation and for further good points, consult these other fine reviews from the Struggling Author (more of a review of the “Next week” clip at the end, but still bursting with good points) and Behind the Sofa, as well as the official Beeb podcast. No one else seems to have reviewed Fear Her properly yet, which suggests to me that others found it equally insipid. Or maybe they’re just so over-awed by it, they’re taking time out to recover. We’ll have to wait to see.

UPDATE: Someone liked it less than I did.

  • As I said in my post, I thought they were playing UP Rose’s role in this one (though I realise that doesn’t take much), by having her work out what was going on before the Doctor. It’s as if the writers were shouting “look – she’s turning into an old-hand Ramola/Ace-type companion who doesn’t need everything explaining to her! But oh, she’s about to ‘die’.. how sad….!” And it is sad.

  • Ah! Sorry, would have referenced your post but I thought you were referring to the “next week on” trailer at the end, not the actual episode.
    Not sure myself that it would qualify too much as a ‘Rose saves the day’ episode, since it’s ultimately the Doctor who points in the drawing to the torch and the Doctor who fires the pod into space at the end. It’s more like Rose is now on the same wavelength as the Doctor so can understand his more cryptic references.
    Plus I think they’ve been trying to put that ‘old hand’ element in for a while now – I consider it more of an established trait rather than a new thing.
    Tis a little sad to lose Rose. Would have been more sad last year, but she’s kind of petered out this year.

  • Poly

    Guardian has a review of the episode, interesting for the incident described at the beginning (poor child, no crime deserves a punishment like that).,,1805942,00.html
    As for me, I found the episode underwhelming, less than the sum of its part, but with many nice moments to keep me happy. And I get a kick out of the ambition that goes into the show. They sometimes miss the mark but they never miss it for lack of ambition.

  • Disappointing one, that. MonsterDad could have done with better lines (‘I’m coming to hurt you, Chloe!’ might have scared the kiddies, but it’s just silly for adults, especially if they’ve seen that episode of Black Books with Peter Serafinowicz going ‘Fran? I’m coming, Fran!’). And the PoL bit was ladled on a bit thick. You might expect the ultra-rationalist Doctor to talk about empathic fields and the amplification effect of crowds at least…
    A few nice moments, though. There can never be enough Nina Sosanya.

  • “…but it’s just silly for adults, especially if they’ve seen that episode of Black Books with Peter Serafinowicz going ‘Fran? I’m coming, Fran!'”
    Oh god, one of my favourite bits of TV comedy ever…! As for the Who. I think the ‘less than the sum of its parts’ sums up the problem. I can see potential in lots of scenes but they don’t always add up to something as great as it could be. I’m still way more interested in the show though than many others. I am though getting tired of earth. More quarries! More badly suited rubber monsters!

  • Bring on the Voord? Cracking. I’ll fetch me wet suit…

  • “Sorry, would have referenced your post”
    Haha I wasn’t fishing! But thanks anyhoo 🙂

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  • cocolottie

    thats a bit harsh take it you have really annoying kids then??

  • Yes. And the last time I gave them a superpower, they got as far as destroying Antarctica before I stopped them.

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