Aired 24 June 2006
Doctor Who returns with a story focused around a public event for the second time in this run, following up ‘The Idiot’s Lantern’ and the Queen’s coronation with ‘Fear Her’ and an episode leading into the 2012 London Olympics.
Intentional or not, ‘Fear Her’ gives the impression that it was written with a tight budget in mind. The scope of the story in noticeably smaller than most this series, the setting being another suburban residential neighbourhood where a frightful young girl overtaken by a lonely alien presence. However, being set some six years into the future from the transmission date, the neighbourhood and even the television pomp and circumstance surrounding the Olympics fails to demonstrate the emotional fever pitch and patriotism that will inevitably invade the entirety of the nation.
Unfortunately, the majority of the story is filled with cliched scripting and performances. This not only applies to the various neighbours but also the possessed Chloe Webber herself. Child actors are notoriously difficult to predict even in the best of circumstances, and while Abisola Agbaje gives a startlingly touching and menacing performance as required, the uninspired lines and raspy voice do her little favours. With her own feelings of loneliness being amplified, she is relegated to spending most of the story sulking by herself. Still, the concept of a child being able to draw a person out of reality’s existence and into a sketch is a frightful one, though the fact that the Doctor is himself a victim means there will be an inevitable return without consequence. Likewise, the desire for the alien to be loved and to belong is a novel concept in and of itself as well, but the resolution with Rose delivering the pod to a celebratory group comes off as a bit too convenient.
Truly, the last few minutes of this episode are going to divide viewers into two camps, those who feel the intended pride and emotion and those who cringe under weight of the saccharine and overly sentimental events. The Olympic torch being a figurative and- for the Isolus- literal beacon of hope, Chloe and her mother staying safe from the animated evil drawing of her father by singing their Kookaburra song, and, eventually the return of the Doctor to pick up the fallen torch and continue to provide hope and inspiration are all sure to have their supporters and detractors.
In fact, having the Doctor appear at the site of the torchbearer is a bit strange since everyone else who had been taken returns to find their loved ones ecstatic, and so his appearance so far away seems written more just for the convenience of the visual and the ensuing celebration. Tennant’s been given a rough go in his first series as the scripts continue to steer him toward this hyperactive mania as seen with the torch lighting, but fortunately this is balanced out with a more tempered dialogue as he comforts Rose and tries to figure out the Isolus threat earlier in the episode. There’s a lot to love about Tennant’s portrayal and his Doctor, but the manic outbursts being written into seemingly every script sadly don’t do him justice.
There are some sweet and tender moments tucked into ‘Fear Her,’ but unfortunately the average production values and overall oversentimentality brings down the overall episode and does nothing to heighten the tension leading into the two-part finale, a brief mention of a storm coming by the Doctor aside.