“Fear Her” – Review: Redux

Doctor “No, I’m not really a cat person. Once you’ve been threatened by one in a nuns wimple, kind of takes the joy out of it.”

Fear Her

Watching a programme made in 2006 that heavily featured the 2012 Olympics, with the benefit of hindsight might have led your average viewer to think that there could be some interesting comparisons to be made about the fiction and the reality of the two Olympiads. And indeed, the first thing to strike me here was remembering how silly I thought the torch being run down a suburban street appeared to be back in 2006, only to find myself camped by the side a road near my house six years later watching exactly the same thing for real. There was no way that a drama on a budget could hope to replicate the scale of the real thing, so when the Doctor lit the flame at the Opening Ceremony, and it all looked a little cheap and cheerful. However, that was the least of this episode’s weaknesses.

The penultimate story of Series Two, before the much anticipated two-part finale, was the enigmatically titled “Fear Her” (although I rather enjoyed the title proposed earlier in production: “Chloe Webber Destroys The Earth”). Coming off the back of the Abzorbaloff turkey/masterpiece* (* = delete as applicable) and suffering from a slightly disappointing “Next Time” trailer we find our dynamic duo arriving at the 2012 Olympics. However, rather than heading to the Beach Voleyball or Greco-Roman Wrestling, they wander, for no apparent reason, into a fairly pleasant housing estate and stumble upon a mystery surrounding some children that have been disappearing. Obviously, there is a suitably Who-ish twist to the events as it turns out that 8-year-old Chloe Webber has been drawing pictures of the children, which manage to pull them out of reality and into the images themselves and this is really the first problem, the premise itself is a load of old tosh.

I understand that the juxtaposition of the frightening (the possessed monsters in cupboards and disappearing kids) against the mundane (suburbia) was probably a good idea on paper. Indeed the paper in question was being written upon by none other than Matthew Graham, who had brought us the astonishingly good first series of “Life on Mars” immediately before this. It would be five years before Mr Graham would return to Doctor Who and redeem himself. Despite the fact that the story was unengaging, it has to be said that Abisola Agbaje did a sterling job as Chloe, in a role that demanded two personalities and lots of screen-time, and the whole thing wasn’t entirely without merit. And I don’t think I’ve ever seen Nina Sosanya, here playing Chloe’s long-suffering mum, doing anything other than being marvellous.

Everything looked utterly ordinary on the surface and may be this was one of the reasons that the whole thing completely failed to capture my imagination. It was the visual impact of episodes such as “Tooth and Claw” and “The Impossible Planet” that gave me a certain satisfaction that I was watching something truly special with Series Two: evidence, as it were, that Doctor Who was not just to be a flash in the pan return to our screens but something that had a permanent place in the schedules. Here, it looked (whisper it) a little bit like a cheap version of Hollyoaks. Two relatively duff episode in a row and my optimism had started to lag for the double part series finale, which you’ll read about here tomorrow. Before signing off though, there is one little tidbit of fannish intrigue that sits behind this episode and that is that Stephen Fry had originally been commissioned to write the episode for this slot but for reasons of cost (or so we are led to understand) never made it in to production. I have a great hope that one day that (allegedly, very expensive to produce) script will be dusted off and find its way in to a brand new Peter Capaldi story. Well, I can dream, can’t I?

Highlight: The cameo from Edna Doré

Lowlight: Hard to know where to begin

Talking Point: Are mid-series lulls habit forming?

Demon’s Run Rating: 5 out of 20

Original BBC1 Broadcast: 24th June 2006

Marathon Status: Pretty much a quarter of the way through this now.

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