Doctor Who 2.11 Fear Her
David Tennant, Billie Piper, Abisola Agbaje, Edna Doré, Nina Sosanya, Abdul Salis
If “The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit” was a double helping of premium taste-the-difference Who, then “Fear Her” is from the discount basics aisle.
Within moments of the opening credits you’re watching the SF equivalent of Neighbours. People wander into the road to discuss events on their spotless housing estate. There’s even a cheerful council worker, chuffed with his tarmac-laying skills. It’s broad daylight, the TARDIS is sandwiched between two skips, and our only glimpse of life outside this street of showhomes is telly coverage of the Olympics.
Following some of the imaginative leaps earlier in the series (even the controversial Abzorbaloff comedy episode) this plot is… ordinary. The Big Bad is a possessed girl who – we discover in the pre-title sequence – is capturing other children by drawing them into her pictures.
Some people might be put off by the low-budget presentation – not me. It ain’t no masterpiece, but does the story suffer because it’s not set creepily at night with giant 3-D monsters? Nah. In fact, the spookiness is cranked up for kids because of the it-could-be-your-street mentality, and the claustrophobic effect of limiting the action to one household works. It’s clear this wasn’t an expensive episode, but that doesn’t mean the scenes are insipid. If “The Satan Pit” was about the Devil in space, this one is about the demons lurking in your own cupboard.
Life on Mars writer Matthew Graham has penned some pleasing dialogue. People won’t be talking about the special effects in “Fear Her”, but they will definitely be discussing the Doctor’s throwaway remark to having been “a dad, once” – or his ominous final warning about not taking togetherness for granted. It’s another episode about loneliness, but it’s also lifted by some genuinely funny lines (personal favourite, Billie’s sarky response to Abdul Salis’s puzzled road worker – “When you find out, put it in a big book about tarmacking.”)
“Fear Her” is probably not destined to be a classic, and many of the SF ideas are over-familiar. But don’t let the magnolia décor fool you. It’s a decent breather before grander adventures to come, and the feel-good ending might even play a tune on your heartstrings, if you’re not too much of a cynic.