Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Only Thing We Have to Fear is More Bad Stories Like This


Fear Her has earned a reputation of being not just perhaps the worst NuWho story of all time (in the most recent poll, it ranked 192 out of 200, the lowest revived series episode in the rankings) but perhaps one of the worst Doctor Who stories of all time (Classic and NuWho).  I was so appalled by Love & Monsters that I deliberately skipped Fear Her and ended my Doctor Who watching days with Doomsday Parts 1 & 2 (Army of Ghosts/Doomsday), not watching again until at least Waters of Mars.  It is only now, in my efforts to watch every Doctor Who available, that I plunge into the one episode I deliberately skipped.  After watching Fear Her, I concur with the general opinion that it is pretty bad.  Well, perhaps not bad, but terribly weak, trying to find its way in what appears to be a good idea and then getting lost in its call for sentimentality and silliness.

The Doctor (David Tennant) takes Rose (Billie Piper) to London 2012, the opening day of the Olympic Games.  However, there is something evil afoot.  In a neighborhood where the torch will run past, children have been disappearing.  The old neighbor Maeve (Edna Dore) is concerned, but most of the neighborhood isn't too concerned with all this.  About the only parent who doesn't register concern is Trish (Nina Sosanya), who has worries of her own.  Her daughter Chloe (Abisola Agbaje) doesn't want to go outside, doesn't want to do anything other than draw.  She draws the children that have disappeared, which also come to life.  I believe Trish knows that the pictures come to life, because I think one of the pictures she has (that of her late father) has on occasion come to life.

The Doctor and Rose soon trace the disappearances to Chloe, whom we learn has an alien within her, the Isolus.  This is a lonely demon, part of a large group that were separated.  In order to make up for the Isolus' loneliness, she had made Chloe (whom it sensed was lonely too) draw her companions.  However, just as the Doctor is needed most, Chloe draws the Doctor and TARDIS, trapping both in the drawings.  It is now up to Rose to save the day (and apparently the Olympics).  She does so by finding the hottest place around (a filled pothole) that has the Isolus' tiny spaceship.  With the torch coming past, Rose is able to release the Isolus from Chloe and free her and everyone trapped in the pictures.  This includes all those at the Olympic stadium, which the Isolus trapped in a picture.

However, where is the Doctor?  It is at this point that we see that a man with a trenchcoat picks up the Olympic torch and races to the Games.  Now, with things restored, the Doctor and Rose look at the stars.  Rose dreams of perpetual travels with the Doctor, but he senses a storm coming.

After watching Fear Her I don't think it was a horrible episode.  It tries, it tries so terribly, terribly hard to be sentimental and thrilling, but there are so many things wrong with it that it all ends up failing badly.

First, the resolution to this crisis is so quick and silly that it boggles the mind how anyone thought it would resonate.  Oh, look, all the 'villain' needed was just a touch of love.  "Feel the love" I think Rose says as she throws the Isolus' ship into the incoming Olympic torch, and with that, the Isolus is able to leave Chloe.  There was no tension, no excitement, no sense of this having taken up our time.  It all seems too pat, to quick, for us to care.

Second, some of the performances were pretty bad.   I don't know if one can blame Abgaje for being terrible in this story (this as far as I know is her only acting job).  However, as bad as Matthew Graham's script is, Abgaje came across as whiny and obnoxious, someone I couldn't care for.  Same goes for her mother, who was weak and at times slightly dumb (she had one thing to do: watch that Chloe not draw, and she leaves her alone twice!).  Going back to Chloe for a moment, from what I understand the little girl favors her abusive father.

I also wonder whether having a major plot point be the brutal father was a good idea. 

Third, Fear Her has moments that are just embarrassing for all concerned.  Having The Doctor pop up and carry the torch may have been a nice patriotic touch but it only makes Tennant (and the Doctor) look foolish.  Really, what was the point of all that?  I also think that this whole 'love is the answer' bit is silly and trite, having no real reason and making it all a quick resolution

Despite all this, I kept thinking that somewhere in all this there WAS a potential for a good story.  The ideas behind it weren't all that bad, but the execution just didn't pan out.

Looking back at Fear Her, I don't think there was ever a real threat.  Even when we were given something of a threat (the evil father coming back to life), it appeared to be there only to stretch out the story.  I found Fear Her to be instantly forgettable, boring, and not worth our time.  Yes, it's bad.  Not horrible, just bad.

You've been a bad, bad girl... 


Next Story: Doomsday Parts I & II (Army of Ghosts/Doomsday)

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