Season 28 Episode 11 – Fear Her, by Matthew Graham

May 9, 2008

review by Martin Odoni.

First off, all things are relative, but it’s wa-a-a-a-a-a-ay better than the self-indulgent crud that was offered the previous week. It could just be that my expectations were so massively lowered by Love And Monsters that all of a sudden anything that merely gets the basics right seems like something to applaud. But the point is, it does get the basics right, if no more than that, and that at least means I enjoyed it. It was a mild drama-mystery with a real plot that had a sturdy structure, instead of a pointless self-parody digging for cheap, lazy laughs. Still not the most cerebral episode ever, but a work of philosophical art compared with L&M.

Fear Her is no classic, mind, indeed it felt a little tired; I got the feeling while I was watching that I’d seen it all before, but I couldn’t be bothered trying to work out where ***. This might be why I found myself correctly guessing most of the plot points a moment or two before they were revealed; I heard myself muttering at the screen, “The ginger cat’s gonna vanish now… oop, there it goes… Chloe’s possessed by an alien child I reckon… I bet Rose gets strangled by a squiggle next… the pod’s in the tarmac, the stereotype with the pickaxe just said it himself, search in the tarmac… see, there it is!” etc.

There are still some silly moments, worst being the Doctor’s “manly, hairy hand” – ouch! – and DT again goes OTT when he doesn’t have to a few times, but at least the attempts at humour were a lot less blatant and unsubtle this week. He also got a new manner to portray in the scene when he interrogates Chloe, which is a relief. At last he gets a chance to do something other than the usual tack of playground-schoolboy-meets-revenge-driven-psychopath. If they can just give the Doctor more scenes that vary the mood like that, DT will finally have the chance to prove what a good actor he is, and how appropriate he is for the role.

The Doctor’s admission that he was a father once is an interesting moment, and raises the same issue that Sarah Jane raised back in School Reunion. Obviously the Doctor is a father, indeed he’s a grandfather. But it’s clear that once again he hasn’t been letting Rose in on the story; she obviously doesn’t know about her first predecessor, Susan. Not mentioning all his past companions is fair enough for reasons I’ve stated before, but surely the Doctor should’ve mentioned his grand-daughter before now?

Billie has another stronger outing when the Doctor goes missing again, as in The Satan Pit, and so Rose proves once more that she’s come a long way since her debut last year. But I don’t know why it’s deemed necessary to keep on proving that fact over and over; it was established with her rescue of the Ninth Doctor in The Parting Of The Ways.

The sentiment and ‘love-will-save-all’ talk in the last fifteen minutes I genuinely hated listening to, as it was laid on awfully thick. I especially hated the Huw Edwards commentary as it became more and more littered with cringing, sentimental cliches. “It’s not just a flame. It’s a beacon of hope. A beacon of love.” Yeeeeeesh! World of saturday morning 80’s adventure cartoons, here we come. Love can make a spacecraft launch? Puh-leeeeaaaze. Oh, and the Doctor’s revelation that “There’s a storm coming!” is a blatant lift from the end of The Terminator.

The kid playing Chloe was very good by the way, most impressed with her performance.

Not pleased about the blatant giveaway about next week’s monsters, but I guess the Radio Times did that months ago anyway. On that subject, why do the production team on new Who feel so desperate to keep leaking (flooding?) enormous details of the stories into the media in advance? It’s close to pointless watching some episodes, so much do we know in advance.

I notice these are the Cybermen from the alternative universe, rather than ‘our own’. This means it’s now possible to travel between universes, so perhaps Mickey will be making a comeback yet. Not necessarily a bad thing, but it would rather devalue his leaving scene in The Age Of Steel.

Oh well. I’ll be generous and, ignoring another totally superfluous Torchwood reference, give this one a 6/10, because it was such a relief after last week’s travesty.

Speaking of next week and Torchwood, they make their debut next. As I’ve been suspecting all the way through this season, so far Torchwood just looks like UNIT with a woman in shades in charge, in place of a Brigadier with a ‘tache. So I’m still not sure there’s any need for them to be there. ****

Oh, one more thing, Doctor. Rose wasn’t ‘deducting’, she was ‘deducing.’ (Deducting means to take away, which was what Chloe was doing.)

*** I later realised where I’d seen it all before; the scenario is almost identical to Idiot’s Lantern. A cosy, non-descript, out-of-the-way street in England’s capital where the pleasant locals, most of whom wouldn’t say boo to a goose, are infiltrated by some weird alien entity, and people start vanishing while someone is very scared that their ‘shameful secret upstairs’ will be discovered. Even the Doctor and Rose pretending to be Police was recycled from there.

**** And given what a bloody awful, puerile X-Files rip-off Torchwood turned out to be, all the hyping it up done throughout this season is made to look all the less forgiveable.

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