Thursday, July 02, 2009

My Review of Doctor Who's 2x11: "Fear Her"

Written by Matthew Graham
Directed by Euros Lyn

Chloe (to Trish): “I didn’t draw him like that.”

Loneliness is the kind of thing that we as audiences can all relate to in one way or another but this episode takes that universal sentiment to a new level as our latest TARDIS trip see Doctor Who doing just what every other show has and will continue to do by exploring a dark underbelly in a simple neighbourhood.

The sinister aspect of this episode being the disappearance of three children in nearly a week, with a strange feeling in the air because of it. The obvious supernatural element aside, you could just imagine this kind of plot on Desperate Housewives, though it’s probably dealt with here in a far less predictable manner than how it would be on Wisteria Lane.

The episode begins simply enough. It’s the year 2012 and the Olympic torch is coming to this idyllic enough neighbourhood and people are in spirit for it. They are a bunch of lads playing football in the garden and across the street a brooding but slightly scary twelve year old Chloe is in her room. She retreats from her window to draw Tommy, one of the lads playing football. Seconds later after her neat drawing is done, Tommy disappears for real as his father is being warned by an old woman named Maeve over the sinister atmosphere now present in the neighbourhood. Strange or what? Maybe not but it’s certainly a good way of opening proceedings.

Elsewhere The Doctor and Rose manage to land in this time period where Rose muses momentarily about how different things are. Well the last time you were in London in the future you had to deal with the Cyberman, so this may be a step down but at least The Doctor’s enthusiasm for the Olympics manages to not be annoying or excessive and as a non sporty kind of bloke, that is a good thing for me. But enough of the Olympics for now, let’s talk about the nasty goings on, shall we?

Getting back to the rather wonderful Maeve, isn’t it a little odd that not only is she the only one who feels a nasty presence in the air but also that the neighbours, including the Dad/guardian/supervisor of Tommy isn’t quite as frantic over the child being gone? The lack of an explanation and the way he was more laidback, compared to Maeve just felt odd to me. Even if he wasn’t the child’s father, surely he would still be a tad worried? I know I certainly would be.

Although he was far from the only one. The other neighbours there, despite appearing a bit cautious in the middle part of the episode, weren’t exactly panicking, although one woman was pretty keen on accusing poor council worker Kel of being suspicious and even the father had a go at The Doctor when he caught him snooping at Tommy’s goalpost.

Accusations and nonchalant behaviour aside at least Maeve showed a perceptive streak. She may not have believed that The Doctor or Rose was police but she certainly volunteered them to help look for the children and find out the real reason behind their disappearances. It’s a good job they did because these bunch of neighbours are quite a useless bunch. I feel like making some awful Friday Night Project style joke at their expense but I’ll fight it for now – useless bunch!

In terms of deduction skills, Rose deserves a big fat shiny medal this week as the girl certainly seems to be getting more perceptive as the weeks pass. Seriously it didn’t exactly take her long to start looking at the right places and be handed the right clues. She went to a garage door where she heard noises coming out of it and despite the fact she tried to resist opening it, she still did. It also seems that being attacked by a ball of Graphite, found in HP pencils lead to another clue.

The clues we had gotten so far were that there was a residual energy within the air; The Doctor smelt lead and the attacking ball drawing. Yes Watkins the answers for the missing – they are being drawn by another kid and trapped away. Think I’m lying or losing the plot – think again!

The revelation then leads us to Chloe Webber, the twelve year old artist from earlier on. Like I had mentioned whenever Chloe draws someone or something it automatically disappears and becomes confined within the paper it’s been drawn it. That being said just because it’s trapped it doesn’t mean that Tommy and the other kids can’t show their misery and anger at being imprisoned and they do.

Chloe’s mother Trish (played by David Tennant’s Casanova co-star and former Teachers actress Nina Sossanya) reacts to her daughter’s newfound abilities that suburbanite apparently would do – deny their existence. It feels strange because despite tricked easily by The Doctor and Rose into letting them into her home and wanting to help her child, she seems a little too adamant that Chloe isn’t possessed and the drawings on her wall and table cannot move.

Rose proves that wrong when snooping into Chloe’s room she manages to find a scary drawing of Chloe’s dead father in the girl’s wardrobe, who can talk as well being able to control Chloe. Rose goes on to ask Trish how a twelve year old girl can be this powerful just as The Doctor proves that Chloe isn’t quite herself.

It’s not a big blow to the system that Chloe isn’t really behind all the kids being held captive through drawings, nor is it that despite her attitude is she a bad child. We soon discover that the real cause behind it is a lost entity called an Isolus is the master behind Chloe’s actions and even they aren’t evil.

The Isolus became detached from its mother and siblings and latched onto Chloe because it identified with her loneliness. Its plans aren’t exactly sinister either as unable to get home it wants to find vessels for the rest of its kind and with the Olympics literally around the corner and on TV; you can see what its thinking.

There’s an interesting disagreement between The Doctor and Rose as the former admits to understanding why the Isolus is doing what it’s doing in order to fight its isolation. Chloe’s loneliness stems from something more common as her abusive father died a year ago and she had beared the brunt of most of his rages. I also think that the drawing of him on her wardrobe may have had to do with her nightmares too.

With Rose determined to stop things from escalating any further, her and The Doctor managed to locate the Isolus’ spaceship (literally a tiny pod) but with The Doctor, The TARDIS and even the crowd, athletes and commentators at the Olympics now captive in drawing as Chloe begins to lose the plot and draw the Earth on her wall, this is the time for Rose to save the day and not The Doctor (though even trapped in drawing, he does give her a vital clue).

Some people might gripe and say that episodes like this see the series more about Billie Piper’s plucky assistant rather than The Doctor but you know, I actually like seeing an assertive Rose, I enjoy it and this episode gave me a lot to enjoy. The way she demanded Chloe not to cause any more damage, the way she took a pickaxe from Kel’s van and without batting an eyelid, how she dug at the ground until she got the little spaceship.

However it wasn’t enough as that was when the Olympic crowd vanished and The Doctor handed her a vital clue. The pod needed to be recharged, it needed heat. The only heat that was going to suffice was from the Olympic torch. Rose may not have been able to get past the police but she still got the pod onto the torch with a good throw. Even then, things weren’t completely restored.

Okay so the missing kids were back and so were the Olympic crowd but Chloe and Trish were still trapped in their house with the Evil Father drawing and it took a lot of coaxing from Rose, who was on the other side of the door, to get Chloe to face her fears. When Chloe and Trish did confront their fears and the drawing which we didn’t see but could certainly feel left, I have to admit I cheered. This episode’s take on domestic violence and abuse was quite intelligent.

Then there was the thing with The Doctor. Why did it take him longer to appear than anyone else? At least the tension was milked without becoming tedious and although having David Tennant running with the Olympic torch was a little cheesy, it was still a fun moment to watch.

The episode’s final scene however, was its most powerful. Although it was Rose who mainly saved the day here, her presence on this show is looking more and more likely to be outnumbered. Two weeks The Doctor adamantly said that he believed in her. Now as took in the crowd and the euphoria of the 2012 Olympics, he expressed sheer reluctance and doubt as Rose told him that nothing could split them up. The last moment with The Doctor telling her that a storm is rising is appropriate in more ways than one.

Also in “Fear Her”

Missing kids: Aside from Tommy, there was also Jane and Dale even though Chloe had drawn quite a lot of children on her wall. Were some of them near the area or kids already reported missing?

Father: “What’s your game?”
The Doctor: “Snakes and ladders. I’m also quite good at squash.”

When The Doctor referred to Rose as “Lewis”, I couldn’t help but think of Inspector Morse. Was that deliberate on the writer’s part?

The Doctor (to Rose): “I’m not really a cat person. Once you’ve been threatened by one in a nun’s wimple, it takes the fun out of them.”

Trish (re Chloe’s father): “I’m telling you he’s dead.”
Rose: “He’s very loud for a dead bloke.”

Did anyone else think that there may be a link to the Isolus and the Gelth? I actually thought they were the Gelth at first with the way they talked about being lost.

Rose (to The Doctor): “And I know what kids can be like – right little terrors.”

Anyone else find that line a tad realistic? Especially if you have cousins, siblings or nieces and nephews like that. Oh and The Doctor told Rose about being a father – nice one!

Kel (re pod): “What is that?”
Rose: “It’s a spaceship. Not a council spaceship, sorry.”

Chloe: “I have to go now. Goodbye Chloe Webber, I love you.”

There were some amusing little bits in this episode such as The Doctor’s “shush” thing and Rose’s look of disgust at a Shayne Ward poster. Oh and some homoeroticism from The Doctor regarding the Olympics.

Trish (to Chloe): “I’m with you, you’re not alone. You’ll never be alone again.”

This episode was written by Life On Mars creator Matthew Graham. The cop banter between The Doctor and Rose was a bit of a giveaway.

Commentator (re Olympic torch): “It’s more than a flame; it’s more than heat and light. It’s courage, its love.”

Rose: “They keep trying to split us up but they never will.”
The Doctor: “Never say never.”

Standout music: I found Murray Gold’s score a little similar to American Beauty in one or two places.

For an episode that’s clearly a bottle saver for the final two instalments, “Fear Her” certainly had a lot to smug about. We had a great array of guest stars (though not as many as last week), a brilliant guest writer as well as another vital clue for the finale, which judging by the trailer for next week, is going to be something we’ll be discussing for weeks to come.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

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