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Monday, 26 June 2006 - Reviewed by James Tricker

Phew- a welcome return of the show known as Doctor Who after last week’s strange interlude. A brief word, however, about last week: despite my disliking of Love and Monsters, I was absolutely delighted to be proved wrong about the audience figures for the episode which were actually up on the Satan Pit, and it is even better news that the figures for Fear Her are an improvement still. I shall refrain from further alarmist concerns about viewing figures therefore. As for my hasty and uncharacteristically blunt review of episode ten, I should perhaps praise RTD for provoking in me the sort of reaction that made me type what I did. But whilst accepting that the number of reviewers prepared to give the experiment the benefit of the doubt outweighed those who weren’t, I still cannot find it in me to change my opinion of the episode itself. I have praised RTD stories I’ve enjoyed and sincerely hope he will again produce the goods with the season finale, but if episode ten is the future rather than just a one-off, I would contend that the show’s future would be short-lived.

Fear Her, however, was something of a little gem ( or is it that I am just relieved that we are back on track after last week ) written by the man who brought us the highly enjoyable Life on Mars. This appeared to draw ( no pun intended ) on various sources, including Sapphire and Steel ( again! ) and most notably the Exorcist, where yet again we have the premise of something potentially evil lurking in suburbia, although the story is no less entertaining because of this. I didn’t find the collection of neighbours particularly animated or convincing but I suppose I’ve been slightly spoiled by the brilliant cast assembled for episodes eight and nine which made this lot suffer by comparison.

This was an episode that returned Rose to the role of the saviour of the day but this time coming as it did as an exception rather than the norm it didn’t irritate me or appear to undermine the credibility of the Doctor to the extent that it did in the last season because there it seemed to happen with monotonous regularity. In this story her powers of deduction, began in the Idiot’s Lantern before being unceremoniously cut off in their prime by the Wire, are extended and she gets a chance to do a convincing Jack Nicholson impression with a pickaxe. By all accounts she enjoyed it and it shows- perhaps the episode was named after her? I can sympathise with those who have felt her character has been treated rather unevenly this season to say the least but I felt that they got it about right for this story.

There is much to scare the children here. The kids who have become confined within the paper that Chloe has drawn them on can still show their anger at being trapped, so that their facial expressions on the paper can change; and the evil Dad lurking at the back of the wardrobe- the very stuff of nightmares. It was a nice touch to have the residual energy lingering on and still posing a danger even after the alien threat is ended by the location and subsequent charging up of its spaceship. And so Chloe and Trish, together, have to confront their fears and defeat the energy- this could have been a blunt and unsubtle “ Doctor Who takes on domestic violence” piece but instead is handled in such a way that it feels fully part of the story.

As for the Doctor conveniently stepping in and running with the Olympic torch this to my surprise didn’t annoy me and I actually found it quite funny, but perhaps this was because it caught me on a high of post Love and Monsters relief where usually I might have cringed.

And then the scene is set for the RTD finale, not so much because of the Doctor’s warning of trouble ahead, of something sinister approaching, but because of his refusal to ratify Rose’s assertion that nothing can split them up. “ Never say never” is all he will say. Looks like Rose’s dream of that shared mortgage is in jeopardy.

A welcome return to form, Fear Her scores a solid 8/10.