Doctor Who - The New Series
2.11: "FEAR HER"
TX: 24 June 2006
Written by: Matthew Graham
Directed by: Euros Lyn
Running time: 43' 50"
Location: London, Earth
Date: 27 July, 2012
Monsters and villains: The isolus (an infant alien with tremendous psychic power), the wardrobe monster (psychic projection of Chloe's fears).
Tardisode Synopsis: A fictional show called CrimeCrackers reports from Dame Kelly Holmes Close, where children have been mysteriously vanishing. Meanwhile, in one of the houses, something horrible with glowing eyes lurks in a wardrobe...
Plot Synopsis: The Doctor vows to find the children that have vanished from a small suburban estate. But how will he and Rose react when they find out that a little girl is responsible?
Smug Warning: The general smug chumminess between The Doctor and Rose throughout the episode (it's actually bearable this time around though).
"I'm sorry. I'm so sorry": No mentions.
Torchwood spotting: The Olympic Games commentator briefly mentions Torchwood after the spectators vanish.
Trivia: (1) Working titles were "Chloe Webber Destroys the Earth" and "You're a Bad Girl, Chloe Webber". They were deemed to be too long.
(2) Originally this episode's slot in the season was to be taken by "The 1920s", the working title of a script written by comedian and author Stephen Fry, but it was deemed too costly to shoot. Thus Matthew Graham's "Fear Her", originally an inventory script, was dropped in. Fry's episode was rescheduled for season three, but dropped altogether when other projects clashed with the rewrites necessary to accommodate new companion Martha Jones.
(3) Chloe lives on "Dame Kelly Holmes Close". Kelly Holmes is a British athlete who won two gold medals at the 2004 Olympic Games. Originally Holmes was to have played herself as the torch bearer, but a commitment to the celebrity game show Dancing on Ice prevented this.
(4) The Doctor mentions that he was a father. Although his son or daughter never appeared in the TV series, his granddaughter, who went under the pseudonym of 'Susan Foreman', was the series's first companion. She appeared in the first-ever Who story "An Unearthly Child" and her last proper appearance was in "The Dalek Invasion of Earth", when The Doctor left her behind with a man she'd fallen in love with. The appeared years later in a guest appearance in "The Five Doctors". In 1.09, "The Empty Child", The Ninth Doctor implies that Susan is dead.
(5) The Doctor says that the Isolus is draining heat from its surroundings; this explanation was included because although the episode is set in July, it was actually filmed in January.
(6) Cardiff's Millennium Stadium and Manchester's City of Manchester Stadium stood in for the London Olympic Stadium, which wasn't built at the time of shooting. Scenes showing the opening of the show were taken from the 2002 Commonwealth Games.
(7) The Doctor makes a reference to the cat nuns seen in 2.01, "New Earth".
(8) The colour of Dale's trousers changes between his initial disappearance and his appearance in Chloe's drawing.
(9) The Shadow Proclamation was also mentioned in 1.01, "Rose" and sp.01, "The Christmas Invasion".
(10) This is the second time we've seen The Doctor opening a psychic link with another being after 2.04, "The Girl in the Fireplace". He's been shown psychically connecting with his previous incarnations in the original series adventures "The Three Doctors" and "The Five Doctors".
(11) The edible ball bearings mentioned by The Doctor are known as dragées. They are little balls of sugar given a reflective sheen by tiny particles of silver.
(12) This episode uses a ribbon symbol for its Olympic signs; this was actually used only for the initial bid and an a different logo will be used for the actual event.
(13) Several walls can be seen with posters for Shayne Ward's Greatest Hits album. Ward was the winner of the 2005 edition of the TV talent show X-Factor.
(14) The Doctor says "Keep 'em peeled", a catchphrase from the old cop show Police 5
(15) A registration plate with 'UY61LJW' is seen at the start; this is for cars registered between September 2011 and March 2012.
(16) Other attempts at world building include the missing posters asking people to contact the East London Constabulary rather than the Metropolitan Police and the council van being from the fictional East London Council.
(17) The rights to CrimeCrackers, the crime show featured in the Tardisode, are actually owned by the BBC; the production team had trouble finding a fictional show name that wasn't already taken so they went for this one as the rights could be easily acquired.
(18) Tardisode writer Gareth Roberts intentionally made the tone of the CrimeCrackers clip sensational as a reference to the increasing American influence on British TV shows. The irony being that the new series of Who is heavily influenced by American shows such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
(19) The episode has some superficial similarities to the movie Paperhouse, which also featured a child whose drawings would 'come to life', albeit in dreams rather than reality.
(20) The Olympic commentator is real-life newsreader Huw Edwards.
Spoiler Synopsis: A young girl, Chloe Webber, looks out of her window at two boys playing while an old woman passes around posters about missing children and a council worker fills up potholes in the road with tarmac. Chloe goes so her desk and draws a picture of Dale, one of the young boys playing outside. He vanishes from the street and suddenly his image comes to life, clawing at the paper that imprisons him.
The Doctor and Rose arrive just a short walk away; they've turned up for the Olympic Games, which are to begin that day, but Rose is quickly distracted by several missing children posters. The Doctor notices that the air is awfully cold for a July day and detects some energy on the lawn where Dale vanished. A car breaks down halfway down the road but starts up again as soon as Rose and the council worker - Kel - push it a small distance. Kel says it keeps happening at that point. He adds that the Olympic torch will go past the end of the street later that day, which is why he's spent the last few weeks laying the tarmac. The only problem is that something caused a big pothole to appear.
Tom's dad finds The Doctor inspecting the spot where Dale vanished and The Doctor uses the psychic paper to identify himself and Rose as police officers. more of the street's residents turn up, including Chloe's mother, Trish. The Doctor says that he can smell something like a burnt fuse and points out more areas of energy where people have vanished.
A little later, Chloe starts drawing a picture of a cat outside her window as a companion for Dale. Rose and The Doctor watch in astonishment as the cat enters a cardboard box and vanishes. The Doctor says that he can use this latest disappearance to trace the source of the kidnappings. Meanwhile, Chloe is arguing with her drawings, saying that at least they're not lonely like she is. She scribbles on some paper in anger. Outside, Rose opens a garage door and is attacked by the scribble. The Doctor 'kills' it with the Sonic Screwdriver and takes it back to the TARDIS for examination.
There, he discovers that it is just pencil graphite, somehow brought to life by 'ionic energy'. Rose suddenly remembers how frightened Trish was when she saw her on the street. They go to her house and use reverse psychology to enter. Trish says that Chloe is withdrawn and says that her abusive father died ages ago. Rose goes upstairs to use the bathroom and sneaks into Chloe's room, where she notices that Dale's picture has moved when she wasn't looking. She also finds a drawing of a demonic-looking man at the back of Chloe's wardrobe.
Chloe herself is downstairs, refusing to submit to The Doctor's questioning, when Rose shouts for help. The group head upstairs and Chloe says that the picture in the wardrobe is of her father and that she drew it the day before. She also says that she's been dreaming of him a lot, and that she and a mysterious third party need to "stay together". The Doctor gets Trish to admit that she's seen some of the pictures moving out of the corner of her eye and says that Chloe is somehow transporting the children into "holding pens" inside the drawings.
He puts Chloe into a psychic trance and asks to speak to whatever is inside her. It says that it is an infant isolus and was travelling across the universe with its brothers and sisters when a solar flare separated it from them and caused it to fall to Earth. It says that it was drawn to Chloe as she felt so alone. The Doctor tells it that it must leave Chloe and stop taking children as friends for itself, but a new, terrifying voice comes from Chloe's wardrobe and says that something is coming soon. Chloe begins to fret, so Trish calms her by singing "Kookaburra". The girl falls asleep.
Downstairs, Trish says that she tried to just forget Chloe's father and Rose says that this might have made Chloe feel even more lonely. The Doctor says that the isolus is kidnapping the children to replace its lost family and that it is used to having around four billion siblings. Upstairs, Chloe is awake again and watching the TV coverage of the Olympics, which is expected to have an audience of 80,000 people.
Chloe watches Rose and The Doctor head back to the TARDIS, where The Doctor mentions that the isolus's ship is drawing heat out of the neighbourhood to keep itself capable of relaunching. As The Doctor makes a machine to help return the isolus to its siblings, he points out that the isolus is just a frightened child and what it needs to make it across the universe is love. The TARDIS says that the isolus's ship is in the street, but as The Doctor and Rose set off, Chloe completes a drawing of The Doctor and the TARDIS. They disappear and The Doctor's machine falls to the floor, breaking.
Rose demands that Chloe free The Doctor but Chloe refuses. Rose realises that the isolus ship must have burrowed into the tarmac that Kel has been laying outside, absorbing its heat to keep itself powered. She uses Kel's pickaxe to dig up the part of the road that the car stopped on earlier and finds the tiny spaceship. Meanwhile Chloe has already kidnapped the Olympic audience, much to the bafflement of the commentator, and has started drawing the planet Earth on the wall of her bedroom.
Rose and Trish run up to her bedroom, but Chloe has barricaded it. When Chloe doesn't react to the news that Rose has the isolus's pod, Rose uses the pickaxe to break down the door. However, the voice of Chloe's father booms from the wardrobe and the isolus threatens to release him if Rose tries to stop her. Rose shows her the pod and Chloe says that it needs more than heat to fix it. Rose looks at the picture of The Doctor and notes that he's pointing to a drawing of the Olympic torch. At the same time, the commentator says that the torch is a beacon of love. Rose realises what's needed to fix the pod.
She runs outside to the end of the street. As the torch bearer passes, she feels the pod begin to charge. It suddenly comes alive and flies into the torch's flame. The isolus says that it must leave and flies out of Chloe's window, telling her that it loves her. The missing people all reappear, but The Doctor and the TARDIS do not. However, Rose realises that if all of the drawings are entering the real world then the same must be happening to the drawing of Chloe's father.
Rose gets to the house just as its doors shut and lock. Trish holds Chloe as her father, now wreathed in red light, appears at the top of the stairs. Rose shouts through the door that the father isn't real, just residual energy from the isolus. Trish promises that she will stay with her daughter and starts to sing "Kookaburra". Chloe joins in and, as she begins to relax, the demonic father fades away.
Outside, the torch-bearer falls down; the commentator notes that he had been struck by lightning earlier in the day. Just then, The Doctor runs up and grabs the torch. As the crowds cheer on, he lights the Olympic flame and the isolus's pod lifts off into the sky. Later, The Doctor and Rose head off to watch the games. But The Doctor notes that there's a storm coming...
Review: "Fear Her" is regarded by many as being the nadir of Doctor Who's second season, or at least a close second behind "Love & Monsters", but I think this is a massively unfair assessment. Sure, it's nowhere near as good as "The Girl in the Fireplace" or "School Reunion", but on the whole there's a lot to love about this episode.
For a start, there's the script - Graham does a grand job of making a very talky episode entertaining thanks to some sparky jokes and plausible characterisation, even for minor characters like the old lady who knows something's up and Tom's terrified father. Also welcome is the conversation where The Doctor mentions that he was a father once, as Rose's reactions - first surprised, then inquisitive, then pulling back when she realises that The Doctor doesn't want to talk any more - are realistic and extremely well performed by Billie Piper and David Tennant.
In fact, the cast in general are uniformly splendid (well, with the exception of commentator Huw Edwards who should stick to news reading); Abisola Agbaje is convincing as Chloe and Nina Sosanya is great as ever. They go a long way towards keeping the audience engaged in what is a very dialogue-heavy episode.
Also keeping me happy is the nature of the threat - it's a nice change to have an alien enemy that's not a greedy thief or a man-eating killer, but just a frightened and lonely child. I hope that future episodes come up with some original motivations for the bad guys because aside from this episode, the only other ones that aren't about out-and-out evil baddies are Steven Moffat's "The Empty Child" and "The Girl in the Fireplace", both of which are about technology gone badly wrong.
Some fans noted that this episode shares some similarities with "The Idiot's Lantern" from earlier on in the season and sure enough it does. Both episodes have one of the protagonists incapacitated by the monster of the week, both have a family with an abusive father, both centre around a massive cultural event, both use the TV coverage of that event as a plot device and both end with a street party (in fact, the party at the end of TIL was altered to make it a little different to this one).
However, these similarities are really just superficial and the only reason I mention them is to point out what this episode gets right that TIL didn't; the family subplot. You see, in The Idiot's Lantern, the family that appeared in that episode were essentially superfluous to the plot. They existed to facilitate the monster of the week parts, sure, but their domestic arguments had nothing to do with anything and could easily have been chopped out without the episode losing anything important.
This episode, however, does a damned good job of tying Chloe and her mother into the larger story. The conflict with the father figure not only proves important at a couple of moments in the story, it also informs Chloe's character and explains why she's so withdrawn from the world. You can't remove any one element of the family setup without drastically changing the structure of the story. Better still, everything feels organic and logical - the writer is effectively invisible.
As I said, though, this is a largely disliked episode and not entirely without reason. For a start, the demon dad isn't quite as scary to adults as man-eating werewolves and cyberised humans. However, most of the kids I've asked have said that they found the concept of an unstoppable demonic father in the wardrobe rather scary. And even though it's largely composed of red lights and silhouettes, his appearance on the stairway is rather tense. Less successful is the scribble, which is fair enough - it's a daft idea for a monster and not very well executed.
Also unpopular was the ending and it's not too hard to understand why - the 'love saves the world' concept is saccharine and corny, although I think the team very nearly pull it off. I'm not sure that the Olympic torch as a beacon of love makes sense, though; does anyone watching the Olympics really care that much about the bleedin' torch? And the reason for the runner collapsing - he got struck by lightning (!) off-camera - is clumsy and obvious. Dear me. Still, it's not awful enough to override the quality of the first part of the episode.
What is definitely dreadful, though, is the last scene. Did we really need that foreshadowing? Really? Even though we've had two doses of it in the previous episodes? no, of course we didn't. And we certainly didn't need for it to be as clumsy and cack-handed as this. Ooh, a storm's coming! Terribly original. Tcha.
Still, it's a grand episode an a lot of fun, provided you're not looking for a "Tooth and Claw"-style runabout adventure.
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