Fear HerBookmark and Share

Monday, 26 June 2006 - Reviewed by Geoff Wessel

There's really not much to say about this one, I'm afraid.

As much as everyone complained that "Love and Monsters" was filler, I really think this one qualifies. Despite the neato-keeno background of the London 2012 Olympiad, this one was pretty inconsequential I thought. (And did we HAVE to have another episode of Daddy Issues? Huh? Did we, really?) Neat concept about the drawings, but, meh. I had an overall feeling that I'd experienced this episode before, and not just because of the seemingly shoehorned foreshadowing of the 2-part finale. Which makes it, preciesly, like this season's version of "Boom Town." Same placement in the season and everything. Replace Eccleston's revelation about seeing the words "bad wolf" everywhere with the "there's a storm coming" and there you have it, "Boom Town."

No, seriously. Back in 1996 I'd written a multi-part fanfic about a colony where a lonely child was stealing people out of thin air and into another dimension. I'd even riffed on the Doctor being able to smell something in the vicinity of where the people had disappeared (although I'd mentioned brimstone instead of graphite). Now, while it's strange that this should later turn up in an episode, it just goes to prove that there really are only so many thoughts you can have in Doctor Who.

But WAIT A SECOND. HANG ABOUT. A tiny species in a tiny spacecraft, crashlanding on Earth, possessing a human host and able to move people out of thin air into another dimension?

Frak me, this is frickin' "Evening's Empire!"

You remember "Evening's Empire," right? 7th Doctor/Ace comic strip in DWM circa 1991, written by Andrew Cartmel (McCoy-era script editor) and drawn by Richard Piers Rayner, who would go on to draw the comic that the Tom Hanks movie The Road to Perdition was based on? Infamous because it was never completed in DWM and had to come out as a comic special a couple of years later to see the completion of it?

No?

Well, trust me, this is it. Close to it, anyway.

So, yeah, maybe there really are only so many story ideas one can have for Doctor Who anyway.

Moving on -- next episode. Yes, for all the foreboding and all that happy crap about Rose...

It seems that Ann Coulter is in charge of Torchwood.

Oh, and the other thing.

It ain't just Cybermen there. Rewatch the trailer. Distinctive laser-blast sound effects, and very distinctive way of dying seen within that trailer.

It ain't just Cybermen. I may just have to squee next episode.

*whistles*





Fear HerBookmark and Share

Monday, 26 June 2006 - Reviewed by Simon Funnell

As fans we really can give the producers of Doctor Who a hard time. In the old days, producers got so little feedback (except ratings) that they could blithely carry on making a mess of the show (stand up John Nathan Turner) almost unfettered by fan criticism. But every now and then, you start to suspect that we've gone too far the other way. I know that lots of people hated Love and Monsters. Someone complained in the OG chat room this evening that the production team's risks had not all paid off. So what? Would you rather a bland show that DIDN'T take chances, that didn't have a go at getting outside the box. Noone complains when Joss Whedon or Chris Carter turn a show's format on its head and experiments. Who remembers Buffy's "Hush" - for my money one of the most exceptional episodes of television ever produced, or more obviously "Once more with feeling".

I write this because I can already imagine the complaints about "Fear Her". So let's get something straight: this episode was a filler, virtually a bottle show: almost entirely filmed outside on a modern estate. It can't have cost all that much to put a red light in a cupboard and get someone to shake the doors. But who cares? They've got to make some of the episodes cheaper so we can have a great finale and great episodes like the two parter set in space a few weeks back which was, for my money, phenomenal. Nobody, not Joss Whedon, not Chris Carter (stand up - Millennium!) gets it right every time. So thank God that they did something with the budget. It wasn't a great episode of Doctor Who, but it wasn't terrible. Russell's kept leaving Rose on her own this season (do you think he might be trying to tell us something?) thinking the Doctor isn't coming back. So, OK - Russell we get it.

Look, it wasn't a great episode, nor a great script. But it wasn't bad either. In fact, I was surprised at how quickly the time went when I was watching it. In fact, it was still better than New Earth, my least favourite episode of the Second Season so far. Although I'm sure that my fellow reviewers will probably slate it - I think a lot of the criticism will be unfair. This was a filler episode and I don't think anyone was pretending anything else. But who cares about "Fear Her", after the trailer for next week. It was worth sitting through tonight's episode just for the trailer!

The trailer for S1's season finale opener was pretty good, but pales into insignificance behind what I saw tonight. I wasn't planning on watching the trailer, but the moment that the Doctor Who music faded suddenly leaving behind the ethereal "Doctor" incidental theme (oooh ooh ooh oooh!) (which I LOVE, by the way - Murray Gold's music continues to get better and better) I was hooked, hooked, hooked. Rose's voice over left me breathless with excitement, fear and foreboding. I definitely saw, I definitely saw (Look away now, spoilerphobes) a dalek weapon shoot someone as clear as daylight - but whether it was from a dalek or from the Torchwood people who have stolen the technology, who knows. I'd be willing to put money on the Daleks appearing in the next two weeks. The whole thing looks fabulous, exciting and I wonder how I'm going to make it through the week. Everyone - just get over "Fear Her", you'll be panting for more RTD Doctor Who next week! I swear it!





Fear HerBookmark and Share

Monday, 26 June 2006 - Reviewed by Ian Larkin

Fast-paced, intriguing and with a suitably epic feel... But enough about the trailer for next week's Army of Ghosts, what was Fear Her like? Yes, you've got to feel sorry for writer Matthew Graham, lumbered with the dodgy episode 11 slot, forever to be known as 'the cheap filler episode before the big season-closing two-parter'. Last year it gave us Boom Town, which, I confess, was better than expected. But then I wasn't exactly expecting a lot...

But enough already - what about the episode in hand? Well... um... it was, er... all right, I guess. I don't recall hiding my eyes in embarrassment (well, perhaps just the once) or having to negotiate any unbelievably bad plot holes. But at the same time I didn't particularly find myself being drawn into (sorry) an exciting story. Possibly because there wasn't one.

After doing 'different' last week, Doctor Who tackled 'small'. An insignificant corner of a bland housing estate and only two real characters, apart from the Doctor and Rose. Nothing wrong in that. But you do need something - a bit of danger, a bit of intrigue, something to stop the viewer's mind from wandering. And the story of a small floaty alien thing possessing a lonely 12-year old girl in an attempt to meet some new friends wasn't it.

Both Abisola Agbaje as Chloe and Nina Sosanya as her mother Trish turned in good performances, unlike the actors playing the light-relief council worker and the 'pensioner who senses something's wrong', both of whom seemed to be reading their lines off cue cards, possibly for the first time. And Huw Edwards really ought to stick to (proper) newsreading.

The Doctor casually drops his 'I was a Dad once' line into conversation, which was obviously a bit of a bombshell for Rose, but not for folk that remember he used to have his granddaughter along as a travelling companion, once upon a time. Reasonably sinister use of a shadow and a red light and a voice growling 'I'm coming to hurt you' (hurrah for old school effects!) gave the story a bit of a lift, but it was a case of too little too late, really. Then there's the cringeworthy climax, with the Doctor trotting along with the Olympic Torch while Huw Edwards blurts on about love. Aw, shucks. Then the Doctor chillingly mumbles something about storms coming for no real reason, apart from to drum up some excitement for the next episode.

I'll remember New Earth for its awfulness. I'll remember The Girl in the Fireplace for its greatness. But Fear Her, which was neither, I'm liable to forget entirely. Oh well.

So, just the Army of Ghosts/Doomsday two-parter to go. Can it give the season a much-needed lift? Let's hope so. A couple of thoughts crossed my mind after watching the preview. Firstly, with Rose saying that this is the last story she'll tell (or words to that effect), maybe she won't get zapped - after all, how's she supposed to tell the story if she's dead? And secondly, that looked and sounded suspiciously like a dalek gun at one point. Is Russell T Davies going to succumb to that classic teenage fanboy fantasy and pitch the daleks against the cybermen? God, let's hope not.





Fear HerBookmark and Share

Monday, 26 June 2006 - Reviewed by Joe Ford

I thought for the first five minutes of this episode that it might be hurt by following up another down-to-Earth episode with Love and Monsters but those fears were soon dissolved when I was dragged into this powerful, quite brilliant in its own way, story. And whilst there are influences here, notably the Excorcist, the Shining and even Doctor Who’s own Deadstone Memorial, it manages to subvert all of these and become a genuinely smashing episode in its own right. It is so bizarre, I seem to be enjoying all of the not so popular episodes this year (I adored Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel and Love and Monsters) and having difficulty with what the majority thinks are classics (The Idiot’s Lantern was trad Who but far too dull and The Satan Pit was a major disappointment after a stunning first episode in The Impossible Planet). Fear Her is (judging by the Outpost Gallifrey poll) another episode which has divided viewers but personally I thought it was very necessary, it brought the focus back on the Doctor and Rose (especially Rose), it provided some real scares after last weeks lighter episode, it hinted at greater drama to come in the coming weeks and most importantly, it managed to be a deeply serious episode, almost an adult drama without losing its audience to stifling borderm. For what is the sleeper episode of the year, the one which bides time whilst we wait for the finale that is no mean feat.

I probably wont be popular for saying this but I thought this was Billie’s best performance to date. I expect all the Father’s Day fans will crawl out of the woodwork and bludgeon me to death now but everything she did in this episode felt effortless, and after all of the smugness and jealousy Rose has radiated earlier in the season it is just wonderful to see her back to being supportive, resourceful and hugely entertaining to watch. Come The Idiot’s Lantern I was ready to admit I thought she worked better against Eccleston’s Doctor but The Impossible Planet and Fear Her have turned all that around. Piper and Tennant exhibit a natural chemistry now which doesn’t feel forced by the scripts (unlike say the beginning of New Earth) and their detective work at the start of this story is fabulous to watch. Rose gets to be intelligent without stealing the Doctor’s limelight and exhibits a personality of fun without forgetting that it is a very serious situation they are trying to solve. I loved the sense of curiosity she had, especially after she opened the garage and was attacked by the scribble…she never learns and like the rest of us cannot resist pulling open Chloe’s cupboard when it eminates strange noises! Piper’s performance when trying to egg the truth out of Trish whilst trying to stay sympathetic is very sensitive and her anger towards Chloe when the Doctor is stolen from her is palpable. I love that they gave Rose a chance to shine on her own before she bows out in the finale, her struggle to find the spaceship, to get it home and then save Trish and Chloe from the monster in the closet sees Rose at her all time best. If you ever wanted to know why Billie Piper won best actress in the BAFTAs last year watch Fear Her again and soak in her naunced performance.

But lets not forget David Tennant’s contribution, which is (as ever) vital to make the episode work. Not to repeat myself but just three episodes ago I was ready to declare Eccleston’s Doctor my favourite of the two, simply because Tennant did not seem to take the role as seriously and goes a bit crazy too often for my liking. I genuinely think Tennant has found his niche now, of all the episodes to convince me that he really is the Doctor I have always loved Fear Her was the one. Its that mix of eccentric and serious that Tom Baker mastered so beautifully that Tennant has exacted now, unpredictable as hell, crazy about life, desperately trying to help others and uncomfortably close to his best friend. Tennant is such an attractive man and his zest and energy just adds to that attraction. He is supplied with line after line of acidic wit in this episode that just adds further charm. He is reminiscent (talking absently to himself), manipulative (using his words very carefully to work his way into Trish’s house), deeply caring (stroking Chloe’s hair as she talks of her possession) and yet surprisingly awkward when trying to appeal to Chloe in a childlike way. My mother pointed out that it is fascinating to watch Tennant in the role because every week he reveal something new about his character, a fresh emotion is peeled away which makes the character so rewarding and (considering his spec as a 900 year old alien who travels through time) believable. His revelation that he was a dad once is almost skipped over it is so brief but it opens up a world of possibilities.

I thought that setting the episode in one street would limit its potential but Matthew Graham (creator of the excellent Life on Mars) proves me wrong. Making this such an intimate and believable setting only served to highlight the horror of the situation. Lets not forget that this episode deals with some very frightening (and real life) horrors such as children being abducted and abusive fathers. It is only due to the shows exhaustless format and juicy science fiction style that it manages to imply these terrifying dramas in a supernatural fashion. The parent’s anger in the street as they start pointing the finger at innocent people feels very real and Trish’s quiet terror at the thought of her dead husband is genuinely frightening. Simon thought the climax of the story was going too far for the show, having a manifestation of Chloe’s dad screaming out that he is going to hurt her and his dominating shadow stretching along the hallway but I couldn’t disagree more, it is refreshing to see the show pushing its boundaries and daring to frighten its audience this much. I would imagine any home where abuse is the order of the day found this unbearable but it is worth reminding the outside world that behind closed doors these terrorising things do happen.

That’s not to say that there is no imagination here. It would be easy to rely on real life dangers and forget about the SF angle but Graham mixes the two effortlessly and whips a surprisingly potent script. There is more than a touch of the X-Files episode Scary Monsters here (where a child’s drawings of horrid things come to life) but this feels more magical and yet more clinical and thus more real. I adore the scribble monster, what an excellent idea and seeing the boy in the picture run towards the camera screaming is an amazing concept. Chloe later on drawing the Doctor and the TARDIS cranks the suspense up brilliantly and suddenly we are presented with astonishing visual of the stadium full of spectators suddenly, inexplicably empty. Great, great ideas. The red-lit cupboard screaming abuse whilst Chloe hurriedly scribbles a picture of the Earth on the wall is a very memorable climax too, as usual there has to be a worldwide threat but what an imaginative way to do it! I can think of a few repeated Earth-in-danger ideas the show has toyed with ad nausem but this is something entirely original.

I feel I must compliment both Euros Lyn (the best looking director on the planet) and Murray Gold. I was pretty hard on Lyn’s treatment of The Idiot’s Lantern, not because he did a bad job, on the contrary it was effortlessly executed but unfortunately the script was totally schizophrenic and thus so was the direction, switching from domestic drama to film noir to horror in the blink of an eye. Fear Her is a much tighter script which knows exactly what it is focusing on and Lyn’s direction is extremely tight, milking the horror on the everyday street for all it is worth. The climax was especially effective, Lyn not shying away from the drama and squeezing every bit of horror out of Chloe’s drawing of her Dad coming to life. Murray Gold’s contribution to this show is largely debated and whilst I am mostly in favour of his style I understand that he does milk the sappiness and drown out the action at times. So it pleases me to see how much he understands the tone of this story, mostly cranking up the tension with some very scary music but also pushing us towards the climax as Rose has to fight on her own.

Fear Her surprised me a great deal just like Boom Town did this time last year, it was not the forgettable filler I was expecting but instead turned out to be one of the most thoughtful and desirable episodes of the entire year. Given its limited setting it is shockingly scary in places, hugely imaginative and achingly poignant. Not only that but it might just be the most adult drama Doctor Who has served up in many a year.





Fear HerBookmark and Share

Monday, 26 June 2006 - Reviewed by Mike Eveleigh

"Fingers on lips!!"

A touch of 'Sapphire & Steel', a sprinkling of 'The Twilight Zone', a hint of 'Beasts'. Add my favourite David Tennant performance to date, great direction, a sparkling and quotable script, Andy Pryor,as per, doing an excellent job on the casting front...and stir.

Result? (Besides dodgy cooking allusions, that is?!) A delightful 45 minutes of television that I thoroughly enjoyed. Matthew Graham just seems to 'get' current 'Doctor Who'. Apart from the abusive (dead) father, there are no villains in this story; just a lonely alien being empathising with a lonely human child. The Doctor understands and, with a lot of help from his friend (Billie in great form...again) the day is saved again. (and he gets a cake decorated with ballbearings!!!)

Speaking of the Doctor...well, I've hardly been backward in coming forward with my praise for David Tennant, and here he gave a lovely performance, aided by great lines, sympathetic support and the ever impressive Euros Lyn. "I'm being facetious...there's no call for it." "I've got a colleague...Lewis!" "I'm not really a cat person..." "Thanks! I'm experimenting with back-combing...oh." "I'm help." And, most ominously, "Never say 'never ever'" ....all delivered with aplomb. Moments that had me cheering included the Doctor picking up and running with the olympic torch ("Feel the love"...Ahh, I'm just a hippy at heart, I think) and the and the *gorgeous" fingers on lips scene...bit of a "Go to your room" moment. If he carries on in this form, David Tennant might well become my favourite timelord, period.

Nina Sosanya and Abisola Agbaje performed well as the damaged mother and daughter, and Abdul Sallis gave a completely winning performance as Kel the council worker. He takes pride in his work! (the "council axe...council road" bit had me chuckling.)

Some 'previewers' refered to this as a low-key, "hemmed in" episode. Maybe. Maybe that's why I liked it so much. The (almost) present day settings need to be varied with more alien worlds, and I hope that will happen, but stories with this much zest and warmth I can live with! (and Season 7 is easily my favourite Pertwee season.) Childrens drawings. 'Evil' in a wardrobe. Paranoia on a normal street...it works. Aside; anyone pick up on a 'Survival' part one vibe? Especially when that darn cat appears...

No 'Next Time...' caption this week; just sombre music and a Billie voiceover. Some things about 'Army of Ghosts' have been revealed to me (Cheers, The bl**dy Observer!) but thankfully much is unknown. Can't wait...

Anal point-scoring mode...'Fear Her' gets a 9/10. I'm off to read the reviews of 'Love & Monsters' now...a quick glimpse has suggested my thinking it'd get a mixed reaction is something of an understatement!

That's why I really like this site...such diverse opinions. And no-one slags off other reviewers who might disagree with them...he says, cautiously leading up to the fact that 'Love & Monsters' has grown on him and gets 8/10, despite certain reservations.

Cybermen, Torchwood, Rose Tyler's "last tale" (no spoilers here).....Here we go.





Fear HerBookmark and Share

Monday, 26 June 2006 - Reviewed by Simon Kelly

So another Saturday night and another sub-standard filler episode of Doctor Who. Fear her? Not really. Fear RTD? Definitely! You know, a lot has been said about this TV series over the decades with its men in rubber suits, silly stories and supposed 'wobbly sets', but one thing it would be difficult to accuse this show of is a lack of respect for its audience ... until now. It's alarming to see how - from the 'Christmas Invasion' through to 'Fear her' last Saturday - Doctor Who has become horribly formulaic, dull, smug and silly. Indeed, we may look back at this entire current series in the not-too-distant future and view it as nothing more than a warm-up act for Torchwood. The stories have been high on originality, but low on substance with an increasingly hackneyed and embarrassing 'monster of the week' structure to each episode. It doesn't seem to matter who or what the monster is, why it exists, where it comes from, or what motivates it (i.e. the 'pilot fish' of the Christmas Invasion, the cat nuns, the monks and werewolf in Tooth and Claw, 'The Wire', the demon/devil in the Satan's pit, the Absorbalov and so forth. All that matters is that it's a monster and it needs to be stopped. Oops, sorry, first it needs to threaten Rose so that the Doctor can get angry and righteous and then stop it (usually with a combination of sonic screwdriver and psychic paper). Then we can end the show with some long monologues explaining what just happened and the moral lesson learned. Of course, leaving some monsters mysterious is great (as with 'The Satan Pit), but there has been a long tradition in Doctor Who of starting with a 'monster', but by the end of the story we (i.e. the audience, the Doctor and his companions) come to understand this monster as something more complex - and often something much more challenging and/or terrifying. More than this, efforts have always been made to explain, or at least make some kind of sense of monsters and events within the narrative of the story told. Indeed, it's the Doctor's ability to reason through a mystery that has been the attraction of the series for young and old since the show first began.

What seems to have happened this series is a move from having an essential 'realism' to the Who universe, to an attitude that treats the whole world in which the story is set as an ironic in-joke that RTD can share with his audience. Even the Doctor and Rose seem to exit the TARDIS each week with a smug self-knowing grin waiting for the next 'monster' (nudge-nudge-wink-wink) to appear. This kind of irony can be used to great effect, and has been used on successful shows like Buffy, The X-Files, the various Star Treks, Lost, etc. But it only works as the exception to an established and respected rule. For RTD, his ironic take on Doctor Who IS the rule and as such it makes for stories which appear silly and childish to newcomers and embarrassing and alienating to existing fans. Worse still this ironic bit of fun then jars terribly with the sudden gear shift that inevitably happens midway through each episode when the monster becomes an actual (albeit short-lived) threat - again, usually to Rose - leaving the audience to reconcile these strained and conflicting elements in a very limited and often rushed time frame. The trouble is that there isn't an adequate pay-off for audiences wanting to go through this and as a result we have seen a steady drop in audience figures and general lack of interest in the show from the media. As it did in the late eighties, the show is fast becoming thought of as 'a bit of nonsense', or a kid's show. This is made all the worse by RTD admitting as much each time he is interviewed on Doctor Who Confidential and through his scripts which create and then hinge on his worrying mix of ironic childish silliness and adult innuendo. Of course what the makers of this series are forgetting is that great children's books, films, television, you name it, weren't 'good' because they were written for children. They were just good. Also they were not as a rule ironic, simply good stories that took themselves just seriously enough for the reader/audience to do the same. Arguing that we shouldn't take some of these stories too seriously because they were written for a young audience is a tired old excuse for rubbish and badly made TV. I don't know about you lot, but this excuse as used by both the programme makers and fans alike is something the children on my planet would find insulting ... now where did I last hear that?

Last Saturday's episode 'Fear her', like 'Love and Monsters' and the 'Idiots Lantern' before it, is an all too familiar form of this 'ironic' and ultimately corrosive attitude to good science fiction and fantasy storytelling. What is far worse in this episode, however, is that for a second week fans are short-changed in another blatant attempt to save money by having a 'monster in suburbia' story in which the Doctor and Rose become hermetically sealed in a tiny and dull earthbound world in which people merrily trust them enough to tell them everything they need to know and let them roam around their houses and streets as children vanish. A world were suitably ethnically diverse homeowners wander around their dead end street like characters in a computer game, and were 'cockerney' council workers not only take great pride in tarmacing a small section of road, but are also a great means of moving the story along with their senseless exposition. This kind of sterile fantasy of Britain is fine on other BBC shows like Eastenders, Holby City, Doctors (pardon the pun) etc., but its insulting and just plain weird on a show like Doctor Who. Add to this the (god it hurts just to think of it again) torch of love crap with the Doctor running up to light the Olympic flame!

Come on people! Please God, look at what I've just written - the Doctor carried the Olympic torch to the sound of a faux BBC commentary talking about love and unity!! As fans we've got to stop being apologists for RTD and start opening our eyes to what is going on. Our favourite TV show is being hijacked by a glossy, morally hygienic, and ultimately hollow British Broadcasting Corporation vision of England and Doctor Who. It's an insidious form of propaganda and we're the ones cheering it along for fear that if we don't then our favourite show will get cancelled! Yet with every uncritical and apologetic review we as fans are giving RTD and co. an even more powerful warrant to make this kind of nonsense and then to abandon the show (and its spin offs) when the BBC and all concerned have made enough money. If we are happy to sit and accept this kind of ironic simplistic rubbish as a good example of British television (let alone science fiction) then we deserve the show to be cancelled after Series 3 - which is undoubtedly what the BBC will do if viewing figures continue to drop (World Cup or no World Cup). One final thought, this series (like the previous one) is obsessed with 'those that get left behind'. Is it just me, or have we spent so much time in the company of these people that it is now us, the Doctor and Rose that are getting left behind? Left behind whilst the rest of the potential Who universe of time and space is left unexplored, as well as increasingly left behind more exciting and challenging imported TV shows.