Fear Her


No! Not allowed! We were just in modern day suburbia. You can’t go back there on the next episode. Another planet, or another time, or both. Then you can come back here. What? There’s only three episodes left in the season? Yikes. Time flies.1

Fine then, a quick summary. We’re in London, 2012, as the Olympics are about to begin. Three kids have gone missing without trace from a quiet London street, and the police are obviously very busy not providing much security at the torch relay, and so can’t keep an eye on things.2 The Doctor and Rose turn up though, and while demonstrating some of their funniest interplay ever, manage to save the whole street from the terrible powers of the little girl. Along the way, Rose grows up even more.

The new series of Doctor Who has been very conscious of normal people, and the Doctor’s effect on them. Whereas the old series tended to focus on paramilitary organisations, kings, scientists and wealthy megalomaniacs, the new one has kept its feet very firmly on the ground, and demonstrated time and again the importance of single, standard, boring, lonely life-forms. ‘Fear Her’ feels much like the ultimate story about normal people — a few kids going missing in a quiet street — but doesn’t have the balls to say “That’s just as important as saving the whole world.” It’s possible that it would have been more boring if it had; but the episode seemed awkward when switching between the street and the world, and assured when the Doctor was in the little girl’s bedroom. This was clearly a “no money” episode — why not embrace it and keep us isolated and scared, rather than setting things a quick jog away from the olympic stadium?3

Abisola Agbaje was a reasonably creepy kid. She was at her best when she threatened to draw her mum, but she wouldn’t win a creepy kid competition, mostly because it’s been done so many times before. The Isolas alien inhabiting her was a cute idea, and the Doctor’s little speech did a really good job of illustrating what life must be like for the cute little space plankton creatures. Nina Sosanya played her mother in a slightly cold, withdrawn way that was very convincing; but I felt we were missing a scene before the attack of the bogey-dad when the pair could have started to bond a little more. When everything became sorted between the estranged family by singing “Laugh Kookaburra Laugh” it rang of the simplistic ending of a bad kids show.

The episode’s biggest strength was the regulars. The dialogue was great, and Piper and Tennant played every moment for all it was worth. And after joke upon joke, the Doctor lets slip that he was a dad once, much to Rose’s shock. I don’t know if this is just a random “Rose, you don’t know everything about him moment” or a specific “The Doctor had kids, and later on, we’ll meet them” foreshadowing — I suspect the former — but either way it was cool. I’ve really enjoyed Tennant’s Doctor, but it must be said that he’s not been quite as unpredictable as the Eccleston Doctor, due more to the writing than Tennant’s performance. This was a much appreciated little touch of mystery. Adding to this was the story’s themes of isolation and loneliness, and how they compared with the Doctor. Stealing a human child to feel less lonely is a concept that must hit home for the Doctor.4 And Rose was equally awesome, saving the day and then sadly wondering “Who’s going to hold his hand now?” when the Doctor didn’t turn up. I like the idea that Rose and the Doctor are protecting each other, and it fits nicely with Tennant’s childlike persona.

Some people have hated this episode, and I can’t quite understand it. For me, it was a little underwhelming, but funny and entertaining. My biggest gripe was the Olympics business. The over-the-top commentator5 saying things like “The Olympic Dream… is DEAD!” and “It’s a Beacon of Love!” undermined the spookiness in the house for me.6 Cheesy comedy clashed with suburban shadows and no one won, to speak of. Most shocking for me, after 2 seasons of shiny, CGI-enhanced, slick Doctor Who, was to see the show bumping up against budget issues. It seemed a bit of a waste to do a story with people getting trapped in pictures, but only to move the pictures in the pre-titles sequence. I kept on expecting them to move again, only to be disappointed. ‘Fear Her’ is fun, and a little spooky, but it’s just a bit… disappointing. The normal people deserved something better.7

  1. Mmmm, now there’s an idea. We’ve had time dragons; why not?
  2. I wouldn’t normally nitpick things like this except, well, it’s the kidnapping of children, three of them, in one street — surely the police would post an officer to the street if things kept happening like this?
  3. My brilliant idea (why does no one ever ask me for my brilliant ideas?) is that the story should’ve been set in an isolated country or seaside town. Yes, seaside, it’s prettier.
  4. Not that I actually picked up on this during the episode, no. I’d like to thank the LiveJournal community, and especially (watch out for a large spoiler here) nostalgia_lj, for being the number one source of insightful Doctor Who commentary this year. Who’d have thought?
  5. A real commentator, I know, but he played it over-the-top, is my point.
  6. I’m not a huge fan of sports cliches at the best of times. And the Olympic Torch as a symbol of love? Hope, maybe, even peace. But I don’t think I’d call it love unless it was actually the Olympics, and I had attended the opening ceremony, and I was a bit tipsy.
  7. I almost forgot to mention the best bit — the TARDIS’s materialisation mistake at the start — and the worst bit — the Doctor’s unsubtle “there’s a storm coming.” Take the best bits of Whedon’s shows, sure, but not the lazy foreshadowing.
Who's gonna believe the things you see out of the corner of your eye? No one. Except me. — The Doctor

5 Responses to “Fear Her”

  1. I thought ‘there’s a storm coming’ was said last season, but you’re right, it’s from Angel. The Doctor could have said ‘there’s a two part end of season episode with extra special effects in which we’ll be put in danger and you may die, coming next week’ but the storm line is shorter.

    I wasn’t keen on the Olypmics but I liked the Doctor’s pause to soak up the attention just before he lit the flame.

    Rose hasn’t had much attention this season and it’s good to see her investigation style has developed.

  2. People who care about spoilers should avoid reading the site that Tom has linked too, incidentally.

  3. Oh shit. My bad. Sorry sorry sorry. I’ll warn appropriately. Bother.

  4. It was Spike wot said that line in Angel. The Doctor’s profile in his big coat was reminding me a little of Spike this week as well. Perhaps he’s been possessed.

    What I now remember I meant to say, was that the storm line really surprised me, given that this is the same show that last year took the piss out of that sort of crap in ‘Boomtown’ — dramatic music, paranoid ramblings, then “Nah, just a coincidence!” And now they go and play it straight. Silly buggers.

    Mmmm — this, ‘The Satan Pit’ and ‘The Idiot’s Lantern’ have really done good things for Rose. She’s really grown up. I, er, I hope that beast was lying.

  5. Of course the beast was lying. Who would kill someone as hot as Rose? She’ll be fine.