Doctor Who: Fear Her

Rose: 'I was attacked by a pencil scribble?'

One thing I've found particularly frustrating this season is the show's general lack of consistency. How many times have we seen a potentially good storyline ruined by either poorly judged dialogue or a badly realised villain, or great characterisation nullified by poor storytelling? The thing that really irks me is, it doesn't have to be this way. They are capable of getting it right. 'School Reunion' and 'The Girl in the Fireplace' are proof positive they can crank out a good story—but they've so rarely hit the mark this season. Which is a shame for Billie and David, because they deserve better scripts than this.

Some of the characterisation I thought serviceable. The Doctor in particular, apart from some supposedly comedic moments, had a decent episode. He came across as funny, compassionate, reasonable, playful, mysterious, heroic—in fact, all the things we come to know and love about him these past 12 weeks. I even laughed when he whooped with delight as he lit the Olympic flame. (I know, I know... absolutely feeble, but it made me smile. I can't tell my face what to do, it just does as it pleases.)

And there was much to like about the Isolus. I liked the idea of them being spores, travelling through space, creating fantasy worlds and filling them with captured humans. I liked too the idea of their ionic power being able to transform living people into drawings and vice versa. And for once we got a 'villain' that wasn't intent upon taking over the world. In fact, their predicament pretty much mirrored the Doctor's. Of course, travelling with the Doctor is an essentially voluntary occupation—unlike the Isolus, whose preferred method of recruitment was kidnap—but they're immature beings, so let's not judge them too harshly.

But visually, everything about this episode looked horrendous. Where did the visual effects budget go? Did someone spend it on pies or something? Or did they blow it all on 'The Impossible Planet' and 'The Satan Pit'? Did they seriously give us a scribble monster? And a crap looking scribble monster at that. It was just some... scribble!

Plus, the story itself threw up so many questions, that about half way through, I had to switch off my brain. On being freed from his virtual prison, would Dale really have just started playing football again? Would the previously imprisoned throngs at the Olympic stadium, on reappearing, just continue to wave flags as if nothing had happened? Chloe seemed to suggest that Dale was sad in his virtual world, yet on returning, he seemed completely unfazed by the experience. Was the memory expunged from his mind or something? And where did that street-lining, torch-cheering crowd come from? They seemed to spring from nowhere and then disappear back into nowhere as soon as they became surplus to requirement. And seriously, is the Olympic torch really love? Is it? Or is it just a stick with a flame at the end?

The episode also bore some stark similarities to 'The Idiot's Lantern'. It's almost as if Graham and Gatiss were given the same plot outline—the Doctor and Rose land in suburbia; people are going missing; they knock on doors to ask questions, but no one wants to let them in; something's going on upstairs; the father figure has an abusive personality; people are being turned into pictures; and in the end, an invisible alien is to blame. Is any of this sounding familiar yet?

Despite the nonsense, they did throw in some decent intrigue at the end. A few episodes ago, the Doctor was adamant that the Beast was wrong about Rose dying in battle, yet this week he looked far less sure of himself. It's looking more and more like the Doctor's going to be proved wrong again. And we're going to lose Rose.

Other Thoughts:

—This episode replaced a script originally penned by Stephen Fry. I would dearly have loved to see that episode. Fry's one funny guy.

—Why do faked news reports never sound realistic? Even Huw Edwards (an actual newsreader) failed to inject any realism into the proceedings.

—Fingers on lips? Even Billie looked embarrassed at that one.

—The Doctor called Rose 'Lewis', a character from the popular (now defunct) detective show Inspector Morse.

—Lucky for Rose she didn't hit the Isolus spaceship with her pick-axe. What are the chances?

—What was the Cookie Monster doing in the wardrobe?

—Huw Edwards can be heard mentioning Torchwood in the background.

Billie says...

Oh, the hideous scribble episode. This was my least favorite episode of the new Who, at least so far. As Paul pointed out, it resembled "The Idiot's Lantern" in structure right down to the flags in the windows, but managed to be even worse. The vanishing audience was just ridiculous, and unfortunately, so was the torch scene. Come on. The kitchen stove wasn't hot enough? And how could the people take away her loneliness if they were trapped on paper?

The Doctor/Rose banter and near-romantic interaction was the best part of it. It almost made the episode bearable. But not quite. It felt like they were just *this* close to something meaningful, too. The monster in the closet as the dead, abusive father. The tragic human (and alien) condition of loneliness, the cold summer, cars breaking down, could have been pathos all over the place.

But whatever they were going for, it didn't work. If I were rating these episodes, I'd give it one star.

Quotes:

Doctor: "Only seems like yesterday a few naked blokes were tossing a discus about, wrestling with each other in the sand, as the crowds stood around baying. No, wait a minute, that was Club Med."

Doctor: "Nobody else in this entire galaxy has ever even bothered to make edible ball bearings. Genius!"

Rose: (to the cat) "Oh, aren't you a beautiful boy!"
Doctor: "Thanks! I'm experimenting with back-combing."

Doctor: "I'm not really a cat person. Once you've been threatened by one in a nun's wimple, it kind of takes the joy out of it."

Doctor: "We need to find the source of that power. Find the source and you will find whatever has taken to stealing children and fluffy animals."

Doctor: "I was a dad once."
Rose: "What did you say?"

Kel: "You just took a council axe from a council van, and now you're digging up a council road! I'm reporting you to the council!"

Rose: "Who's going to hold his hand now?"

Rose: "You know what? They keep on trying to split us up, but they never ever will."
Doctor: "Never say 'never ever'."
Rose: "Nah, we'll always be okay, you and me. Don't you reckon, Doctor?"
Doctor: "Something in the air. Something coming."
Rose: "What?"
Doctor: "A storm's approaching."
---
Four moor peaces eye rote, sea hear.

5 comments:

Mark Greig said...

Hard to believe this came from the same writer who gave us Life on Mars. Possibly the most boring episode of Doctor Who ever made. And I’ve seen Underworld!

Would’ve been so much better if the Gene Genie had shown up in his Ford Cortina, pushed thr Doctor out of the way and twated that silly scribble monster. Ahhhh, the endless possibilities of one’s imagination. Often the best way to cope with bad television.

The only thing I liked about this episode was Rose’s shocked reaction upon hearing that the Doctor used to be a dad. She certainly didn’t see that one coming.

Paul Kelly said...

Mark, he also created and wrote Bonekickers. Need I say more? :-)

Kudos though for the Gene Genie. Best TV cop ever!

Mark Greig said...

Never seen even a single second of Bonekickers.

shawnlunn2002 said...

Bit of a pointless, filler episode I guess. Some okay moments. I think I liked it more when it first aired compared to now.

Rose and the Doctor, yeah they're romantic moments but it's doomed.

Some good guest appearances but overall, a weak eppy.

Trousers said...

Just rewatched this one, and found it much less bad than the first time round.

Oh it's cheap as hell, but it's got some good characterisation, and it's a nice bit of fluff for the doctor and rose before they get torn apart.

Also, quite cool to hear Huw Edwards doing the commentary for the Olympic Opening Ceremony, having just heard him do the real thing!