Doctor Who #736: Fear Her

"Feel the love."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Jun.24 2006.

IN THIS ONE... The Doctor is captured by a child's drawing and lights the Olympic flame.

REVIEW: Fear Her, considered by many the worst New Who has to offer, has a problem with things happening because the script demands, whether such things are logical or not (see Second Opinions). But by rewatching all the episodes in close sequence I've realized another of its problems, namely that it's too close a repeat of The Idiot's Lantern (which was NOT my favorite episode either). Now, the RTD era is very keen on Bad Wolfing each and every season with leitmotifs that may or may not become important - the full moon, people with birds' names, foreshadowing that Rose and the Doctor are doomed, and of course, Torchwood - but in no way does this excuse Fear Her's redundancy. Like The Idiot's Lantern, it takes place on a suburban London street on a national day of celebration while people are disappearing, captured by some innocuous medium (TV/drawings). One of the regulars is so trapped (the Doctor this time), and there's a subplot about an abusive father. Too damn close to be aired so closely together, especially with Love & Monsters just having told a contemporary London story about mysterious disappearances (up a monster's bum, but still).

In another season, it might have worked better, though it's STILL not very well thought-out, and just a little silly. Not the premise per se, I'm fine with this idea pulled from children's television (it's Simon in the World of Chalk Drawings, really), and there's some fun to be had with Chloe drawing a whole stadium, or the entire planet to capture billions of friends for the Isolus inside her (with a name like that, how can they not know some writer would isolate one of them?). And I love the scribble creature in principle (the scene where the Doctor puts an eraser to it is unconvincing though). No, the silliness is the Doctor lighting the 2012 Olympic flame, making sure this episode would continue to disappoint half a dozen years later. (I think I heard a TARDIS sound in the opening ceremonies, but that's about it.) The moment isn't earned. A runner collapses for no real reason, the Doctor comes out of nowhere to replace him as if he knew he'd be needed (while Rose waits, depressed and worried), nobody stops him, and the TV announcer spouts nonsense about the flame representing love because the script is adamant that it's what powers the Isolus spaceship. Dumb, dumb, dumb. And how about that closer? There's a storm coming, or as I call it, "we need to foreshadow the events of the finale, quick!" even though it's got absolutely nothing to do with anything. If it works at all, and I'm not saying it does, it's as a lead-in to the trailer for the next episode, which makes good use of the Beast's voice, but goes on to blow the Cyber-surprise. Dumb.

Too bad. Otherwise, there's some good banter early on between the Doctor and Rose. The bit where the Doctor gets the neighbors to shut up by doing the fingers on lips thing teachers do is a nice scene. And there are comedic moments peppered throughout the episode, like the TARDIS landing with blocked doors, Rose giving the Doctor a look when he rudely eats something with his fingers, and again when he casually admits to having kids. His use of hypnosis on Chloe is played like an exorcism, the monster in the closet is scary enough, and the tiny spaceship is a fun idea. But it just never comes together in a satisfying whole. You might also worry about the strangely racist vibe running throughout - the song, the violent father, the accusations levied at the council worker... I don't think they're doing it on purpose, but anyone who says "his kind" to a minority needs to go to a tone meeting.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: The TARDISode features a clip from "Crime Crackers", asking anyone with information about the missing kids to call a number. It ends on a shot of red eyes in a cupboard.

SECOND OPINIONS: In Fear Her in the Post-Moffat Era, I contrasted Moffat's fairy tales with this episode, as a way to show why it was so much less satisfying (mainly because it broke its own internal rules).

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-Low - It's not as heinous as you've heard, but it's not very good either. Messy logic, indulgence, and yeah, a great deal of déjà vu.


Toby'c said...

This one is tied with The Idiot's Lantern and The Lazarus Experiment for my lowest rated post-revival episode, but the fact that it tells a (disappointing) story in 45 minutes and still manages some decent character moments gets it a 7/10 and puts it above the worst stories of any of the classic Doctors.

Siskoid said...

Why did you remind me of The Lazarus Experiment? NOoooooooooooooooooo!!!

Anonymous said...

There's a missed opportunity here: when they're showing all the people watching the Doctor with the torch, they could have done a quick shot of Elton spitting out his tea in dumbfounded astonishment.

That wouldn't have been a "good" thing exactly, tying this episode to that; but I'm not sure it would have hurt either episode.

JDJarvis said...

The Doctor grabbed the torch because he was watching the runner 3 or 4 Doctors back and thought to himself "Hmmm... must help out with that sometime" and this episode became that sometime. Its all part of the silly The Doctor is earth's guardian angel thing they got going with the series.

Anonymous said...

You know whats really, really wrong with 'Fear Her'?
Its the 'men are bad, girls are so all-powerful' political correctness that the BBC espouses virtually all the time. The very title ITSELF pays lip-service to this sexist notion ; just because its a girl males should automatically quake in fear and terror. Many viewers saw this for what it was on its first transmission - blatant man-bashing.
Just as they ridiculed men in Matt Smith's second Xmas special a couple of years ago and again in this 50th anniversary special [what Queen Elizabeth said] the BBC has an anti-men agenda.

Anonymous said...

I claim no kinship with that other Anonymous.

Other Anonymous, you've certainly got an axe to grind, but here's something you missed, that I would imagine even most British schoolkids know. In rallying the troops during the attack of the Spanish Armada, a very old Queen Elizabeth addressed the troops thusly:

"... I know I have but the body of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart of a king, and of a king of England, too; and think foul scorn that Parma or Spain, or any prince of Europe, should dare to invade the borders of my realms: to which, rather than any dishonor should grow by me, I myself will take up arms ..."

That's why Queenie said "I may have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but at the time so did the Zygon."

Siskoid said...

1st Anon, I'm not sure you can back up your thesis, not the way BBC programming is so auteur-based. Even if you could show a anti-male bias in Doctor Who, can you do the same in Spooks, Luther, Life on Mars, Being Human, etc. (Hopefully, I'm not confusing the origin of any British show here.)?

We also shouldn't confuse pro-woman with anti-man.

Plus, aren't there female threats as well? In this season alone, Cassandra, the cat nuns, the Wire, Yvonne Hartman... and geez, Rose as a right git, for that matter. I wouldn't exactly say New Who treats one gender as above the other.


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