The Case For… Fear Her
Is the Series 2 episode as bad as many make out? Guest contributor Patrick Kavanagh makes the case.
‘Fear Her’ is not a classic. It is not particularly good and it is not well executed. However, this is a ‘The Case for…’ article, so I have to defend it. It has the obvious pros and the all too clear cons. Let me concentrate on the pros and briefly mention the cons.
The drama of the episode, takes place in Dame Kelly Holmes Close, a fictional cul-de-sac located in suburban London. The year is 2012, coincidently, this year, and it’s July, the day of the London 2012 Olympic Games opening ceremony. The Doctor and his chirpy companion, Rose arrive eager to view the upcoming games. Within minutes, they’ve spotted missing children posters and with it being the Doctor, well, he just can’t resist.
The episode is the penultimate story of the series, with the nail-biting finale, ‘Army of Ghosts’/‘Doomsday’ following a week later in the series. After the climax of the series was over, fans looked back at ‘Fear Her’ and shunned it, particularly because it occurred before the critically acclaimed pinnacle of Series 2. I feel if examined alone, the episode is actually pretty decent. The original script for the episode, as covered in my article ‘The Writers of Yesterday (The RTD Era)’, was to be written by Stephen Fry. But Fry’s episode was cut due to budgetary reasons and he was replaced by Matthew Graham. Graham has since penned for the Eleventh Doctor. ‘The Rebel Flesh’/’The Almost People’ aired as part of Series 6 and was met with praise by fans and critics alike. If I were the executive producer of Doctor Who then I would never have considered Matthew Graham for another episode, let alone a two-parter. ‘Fear Her’ was alright, but was not something that I’d want a sequel of.
The Doctor in this episode, has only banter for script. This makes a change from the quite ludicrous previous story, ‘Love & Monsters’ and the deadly serious, ‘The Impossible Planet’/’The Satan Pit’ two-parter. Admittedly it gets irksome but the badinage between the Doctor and Rose is enjoyable, good fun. The jovial chat doesn’t rise to the seriousness the episode dishes out but still keeps the episode level. The seriousness being the difficult social issue ‘Fear Her’ touches on; child abuse.
The chilling voice of Chloe’s dad, manifested as a drawing in her bedroom, descending down the stairs towards the terrified Chloe and Trish is sad. The young girl has clearly been abused when her father was alive, this is mentioned by Trish when she says that Chloe took the brunt of drunkenness. He subsequently killed himself in a car accident, with mother and daughter relieved of his maltreatment. The Doctor, Rose and Trish all acknowledge this throughout the episode but it is never addressed full on. This brings an attractive sense of subtlety to the matter.
It’s never been too clear who the chief villain of the episode is. Displayed on the Doctor Who Wiki page, is the ‘scribble monster’ and ‘Chloe Webber’s father’. The former creature is possibly the most ridiculous monster of the season. Even the Abzorbaloff from the previous episode, ‘Love & Monsters’ had more charm than the dull ‘scribble monster’. It was defeated by the sonic screwdriver, the simple plot convenience tool of the revived series.
The life-size illustration of Chloe’s dad in her wardrobe is the primary villain of the piece, a dark, concealed representation of the father from hell, drawn by the Isolus in an angry rage.
Nina Sosanya does a terrific job as a terrified mother, scared of her own daughter whilst Abisola Agbaje is a moderate child actress that fulfills her role nicely. Billie Piper and David Tennant are on usual comic form but nothing more. The supporting roles such as Abdul Salis as council worker, Kel and Edna Doré as near psychic pensioner Maeve, are reasonable, nothing more than well acted secondary characters.
The resolution of the episode is believable enough but still childish. I shan’t go into a debate about what audience Doctor Who is targeted at, children or adults, but I shall say that this episode was intended for younger viewers. At the time of commission, Russell T Davies asked Matthew Graham to write for his son. This was reiterated in a 2011 interview with Den of Geek, Graham decided that his Series 6 two-parter was made to silence ‘Fear Her’ haters. I was unsatisfied with the result, many could protest this but everyone has their own opinions.
If I had to sum up ‘Fear Her’ in one word it would be: okay. A simple word, used daily, a word that many could consider reasonable. This article did not begin with the intentions of convincing you to adore it, it set out to prove that ‘Fear Her’ isn’t as bad as many make out. When I first viewed it in 2006, my initial reaction was, ‘poor’, my second recent viewing was ‘not bad’. I sincerely hope you look back at this episode and examine it a second time. It isn’t a classic, it isn’t brilliant, but it isn’t bad.
What are your opinions on ‘Fear Her’? Did you go with the majority and dislike it or are you a secret fan? Whatever your opinion, please share it in the comments below.