Doctor Who: Fear Her
(1 episode, s02e11, 2006)
Fighting the monster of abuse.
It’s a bright and beautiful day as London prepares for the 2012 Olympic Games. The mood turns mysterious and somewhat ominous as Maeve Griffiths, an elderly woman, tells Dale and Tom Hicks to get inside. The boys look to their father and continue playing as Maeve tells them that “it is happening again” and “it likes it when they’re playing.” Across the street, a girl sings to herself as she sketches Dale, and the boy vanishes into her picture, screaming wordlessly for help.
Later on, the TARDIS arrives – with a quick adjustment to the parking job – on the day of the opening ceremonies. As the Doctor muses over the Olympics, Rose notices a man putting up missing posters for children. The street’s citizens are scared and the Doctor notes residual energy at Dale’s soccer goal. Rose watches a car stall out and helps to push it along. She also meets Maeve as she learns that the street is supposed to host the ceremonial torchbearers. The Doctor spoofs a police officer’s identity as the neighbors fight over their paranoia, and Rose spots the child artist, Chloe, in the window.
The Doctor and Rose investigate, chasing residual energy and a strange smell. Rose meets a ginger cat who disappears inside a cardboard box as Chloe the girl draws it into Dale’s picture. Chloe sees that Dale is scowling in anger, and she tried to cheer him up with the cat, but he’s still unhappy. So are all the other people in her drawings.
While wandering down one of the estate’s streets, Rose hears a noise from a garage and investigates. When she opens the doors, a creature looking like Chloe’s furious scribblings rushes out and attacks her. The Doctor deactivates it with his sonic and deduces that it is alien in origin, despite being made of graphite. They trace it back to Chloe’s house and meet with Trish, her mother, while spoofing as representatives of Child Services.
Trish explains that Chloe is secluded and quiet, mostly due her abusive father who recently died. Rose heads upstairs to Chloe’s room and sees all of the pictures. The scowling images point her to the closet which contains a hand-drawn image of Chloe’s father, effectively trapping the girl’s psychic demons in the dark. Downstairs, the Doctor meets Chloe and offers her a Vulcan salute, but the girl is not impressed. Rose calls in distress and the Doctor helps close the closet door before investigating the drawings. Trish tries to dismiss all of it, but the Doctor convinces her that he needs to look inside Chloe’s subconscious to find answers.
The Doctor hypnotizes Chloe and discovers that she is housing an Isolus, an alien life-form with four billion siblings who befriended Chloe when she discovered it drifting on the wind. The Doctor invokes the Shadow Proclamation to get more information: The Isolus has psychic powers, hence the trapped children in the drawings, and Rose wonders what the Isolus wants. The Doctor suggests that all it wants is a surrogate family. Unfortunately, because it is a child, it is effectively throwing a tantrum and unwilling to accept its wrongdoing. Since it is hungry for companionship, the Doctor warns that the Isolus will use the billions of people watching the Olympic opening ceremony to replace its family.
It’s not evil, just lonely and ignorant.
The Doctor and Rose return to the TARDIS to locate the crashed Isolus pod, but Chloe follows them and sketches the TARDIS and the Doctor, trapping them both and forcing Rose to solve the mystery on her own. She confronts the Isolus but gets nowhere, so she searches by rationalizing that the pod is following heat. She asks Kel, a councilmember who is repairing the street about his patches, digs up his most recent pothole with a pickaxe, and finds the pod. Meanwhile, Chloe has sketched the entire crowd at the Olympic stadium and trapped them. Her next target is the entire planet.
Rose realizes that she needs to offer the Isolus pod heat and emotion. The Doctor is able to send her a message by drawing the Olympic torch, and Rose responds by tossing the pod towards the torch as it is run down the street. Her gambit is successful and the Isolus leaves Chloe. All along the street, the missing children reappear, but Rose worries as the Doctor doesn’t follow suit.
The demon in the closet still remains.
Rose tries to help, but the demon has locked the doors. She tells Trish that love will stop the beast, and as Trish and Chloe sing together, the demon vanishes. The Doctor does not return to Rose even as the Olympic spectators reappear. Rose, Trish, and Chloe watch the television as the torchbearer approaches the Olympic Stadium and staggers, but the Doctor suddenly appears, completes the run, and lights the Olympic Flame. The heat of the flame and the emotion of the crowd power the Isolus pod, and the alien returns to the stars and its people.
Later on, the Doctor and Rose are reunited and decide to go watch the Olympics. Rose remarks that however hard the universe tries, nothing will ever split them up. The Doctor is not so sure: There is a storm coming and an ominous prophecy propelling them forward.
Fear Her is a fascinating story that plays some games in order to save money for the upcoming season finale. First, it’s almost a “Doctor-lite” episode – a story where the Doctor is not extensively featured in the narrative – like Love & Monsters before it. In fact, Love & Monsters and Fear Her were written specifically to be filmed at the same time, saving both time and money in a measure called “double banking.” Second, the sets and location shoots were very limited, relying on narrative progression through use of previously recorded video footage on the television.
This story also spotlighted the companion by incapacitating the Doctor, something we have seen before in the revival era (World War Three, The Long Game, and The Christmas Invasion) and to a lesser degree in parts of classic serials. This is something that will continue on.
Overall, I like the story and how it tackles abuse, a darker element of the human condition. The idea of trying to heal the psychic wounds inflicted by those closest to you by capturing people for companionship via sketches is fairly unique. The mystery was fairly well handled: Sure, we knew it was Chloe from the outset, but watching the range of paranoia, deflecting, and hiding added a thriller aspect to the narrative.
My big downside here is the unnecessary fan-service of having the Doctor finish the torch run and light the Olympic cauldron. It came across as cheesy, and while I like a great deal of cheese in science fiction, it distracted from the story for me.
Rating: 3/5 – “Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow.”
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