I realized that I haven’t covered any of the modern Doctor Who series, but I like to give an episode a year or two before I cover it here (so don’t expect much Matt Smith or Big Finish Tom Baker stuff here until next year at the earliest). Distance is important and only seems fair to me.
I figured I would delve into the Tennant era with a bang, so to that end, here’s the worst episode of Series 2: Fear Her. Set the bar for this one already, haven’t I?
Doctor: David Tennant
Companion: Rose (Billie Piper)
Writer: Matthew Graham
Aired: 24 June 2006
It’s been pretty well confirmed by the staff that this was a replacement episode for the Stephen Fry script that was-never-to-be and, especially considering that Fry now gets his kicks insulting the program for the lulz, less-and-less-likely-to-be. Even if it hadn’t been confirmed, it’s pretty obvious from the rushed feel of the script and the really paint-by-numbers story (more on that later).
So, let’s reverse the polarity of the review flow:
David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor had stolen the hearts and minds of Whovians (I didn’t come up with the name) since his premiere, besting even His Scarfiness, the great Tom Baker, in opinion polls (likely due to Baker refusing to be seen near a scarf or a vaguely blue box since he quit the show unless he’s selling a computer or something) and he’s at his manic best in this episode.
Tennant’s jovial flights of weirdness aren’t featured too much in the finale due to its seriousness, so it’s nice to see him enjoying what ends up being his last fun adventure with Rose. Watching him watching Rose solve the puzzles is good fun too. It feels like he’s watching her grow up, and it somehow escapes the he’s-900/she’s-19 weirdness of the romance moments being forced down classic-Who-fan’s throats with this series.
He also gets moments of proper seriousness too, which he plays well, but he’s just spouting technobabble, really. Tennant does it very well, though, up there with the best of the technobabble-spouters in the series’ history. Then, he goes and lights the 2010 Olympic flame and people don’t seem to notice…
I’ve never been a huge fan of Billie Piper’s Rose Tyler, but she is actually written quite well in this episode. She’s actively working to solve the mystery while, at the same time, holding back the Doctor’s weirdness in this bit of average-world suburbia. She’s the detective, rather than the distraction that she lets the Doctor play and it’s a fun dynamic switch in the depictions of the Doctor/Companion relationship.
She’s way more capable than the Doctor in this weird 2012 London full of five-year-old everything (oh cost-saving…), which is fun to see when the writer occasionally and unfortunately less-than-often takes notice of it too. She’s not out of her depth on a space station, she’s a few years away from home in a neighborhood that might as well be down the street from her and she owns it.
I love the depiction of Rose in this episode mainly because she’s so clearly enjoying herself here too, right before the Doctor gets sidelined by the Evil Colored Pencils of Death, and then we get to see her solve the mystery and stop the monster, which is even greater. It’s so cool to see a character like the originally-aimless Rose become so focused and strong in the span of two seasons of show like Rose did, even if she’s not my favorite companion ever.
In terms of monsters, can we first talk about the graphite Scribble of Death? Most “we really need a tenth-page action beat” moment of the season and gotten rid of with the Doctor’s Plot Device…ahem, Sonic Screwdriver…just as quickly as they got their Rose-in-Peril moment for the trailer. Awesome.
Also, it makes no sense, considering that Chloe Webber (the “monster” of the week) later draws a flock of creatures and a solar flare and neither of those things show up. The inconsistency and nonsensical nature of the powers (she draws stuff, she traps it in the paper, unless she draws something and makes it real, UNLESS she just draws something and it’s just a drawing) bug the crap out of me too. A hell of a lot more story ground could’ve been covered with a little girl drawing anything either capturing or making it real.
The “monster” proper being a little girl is, to quote another Doctor, “pretty sort of obvious.” Let’s set it in suburbia, what would everyone…ahem, no one…expect? A little girl on the street to be the baddie! Filling her with monster juice doesn’t really make the story more dynamic.
It would’ve been so much more interesting had it actually been a damaged little girl with powers, rather than taking the easy alien-takeover route. The switch from genuine threat to helpless monster girl is contrived. Doctor Who’s done scare properly and having a scary little girl actually be a scary little girl would’ve been a rather bold idea (something sorely lacking in a lot of the Tennant run, really) and something entirely worth exploring. Such a waste of a great “creepy little girl” actor. And don’t get me started on Nightmare Closet Dad…
Fear Her feels like a script-by-committee. They needed to fill a space, so they slapped this together. What’s cheap? Suburb. How do we avoid Rose’s family? Set it a little in the future. What’s an easy date? A barely-seen (cost. saving.) London 2012 Olympics. It’s like the writing staff got together and decided to build a heaping great pile of “meh.”
The “jokes” in the episode are generally less-than-funny (an actually-funny exception being the TARDIS door being in the wrong direction at landing). The scares aren’t really scary. The monsters are…nonexistent really. It’s pretty obviously an episode designed to fill a slot for as cheaply as possible considering the finale that’s coming.
Oh, and the “storm is coming” cliffhanger is utter rubbish. They have to go back in time for the “storm.” They’re SIX (five in-show) YEARS after the “storm.” It’s stupid. So there.
Should I Watch It?
I give it one torch ceremony out of five.