Monday, 4 February 2013

Review: Doctor Who 2.11: Fear Her

Much like Queen Bess, this blog has two birthdays - December 7th, which denotes my first published review, and today, which denotes the actual creation of what was then Audenshaw Reviews. I usually put less pathos on the second for various stupid reasons, but this year it's happened to fall on one hell of an episode. So, as we celebrate my three-year-long hobby, we also take a look at one of the most universally hated stories in NuWho this side of Love and Monsters. (Which I reviewed last Summer, so no complaining.)

The real ceremony somehow managed to be cooler
than this.

Doctor Who - Season 28, Episode Eleven - Fear Her
Written between 13th and 18th of January 2013

It's hard to put a finger on what exactly went wrong with Fear Her. The concepts, at least at the beginning, are fundamentally sound, but they tap into several things which are quite risky - mainly making reference to future cultural events and by having a large part of the episode revolve around a child actress. Fear Her's irreverent jabs at the 2012 London Olympics, and Matthew Graham's "Power of Love" solution, push a story that was already pretty lightweight into the dark, demonic depths of mediocrity. And that's pretty much the worst crime you can come up with for a show like this.
     Because really, there's nothing that's too bad about this episode. Ten and Rose are still a little smug here or there, but they're generally tolerable for the most part, especially with some small moments between them discussing The Doctor's past. The main beef of the episode comes from Abisola Agbaje, who plays Chloe Webber. While I'm sure that she's a lovely girl in reality, her acting is piss-poor and it's no surprise that Fear Her was the only thing she ever did. Her line reads are unconvincing and she turns what could be the rather scary prospect of an alien-possessed little girl into something innately laughable. It's probably a fault of the direction and just the general environment, but this story hinged around having a competent child actor and unfortunately that just wasn't the case.
     The story follows The Doctor and Rose as they land in 2012 London, on a small cul-de-sac in which children have been disappearing. It's the run-up to the Olympics, which will be passing the street in a few days. They find in one of the houses a small girl named Chloe Webber, with the power to absorb people into drawings. She's been possessed by an isolus, a space-dwelling plant that has been seperated from its mother and its four billion brothers and sisters, and so is using its amazing reality-bending powers of loneliness to get new friends. Just when they think everything's sorted, a series of stupid mistakes gives Chloe the chance to draw The Doctor, leaving Rose to have to stop her from drawing the entire world. Eventually, Rose is able to use the passion and spirit of Olympic fever to restart the Isolus' pod, and the creature returns home.
      The idea at the core of the story is one that I'm not very happy with, if only, ironically, for its lack of imagination. We're supposed to accept that these tiny little wisp-like creatures have the power to morph reality in quite a profound way, and yet can't even get a tiny spaceship off the ground. I suppose the idea of it all is that this is an alien race powered by love, which is a nice thought but doesn't exactly help me to maintain my suspension of disbelief. It's a bad idea, badly executed, and next to the sub-par acting it causes the story to spiral into the mess that it becomes.
Klow-ee Webbah
     Three years ago I started this blog because I wanted to have a place to write about things without feeling like I was being one of those annoying Facebook people. Now, I’m still here, still writing, perhaps not what I thought I’d be writing about, but regardless at the end of a mountain of work which is longer than most short books. (And, in hindsight, I wish I’d used the time to do that instead.) When I look back, I wonder whether it’s all bee worth it. Nobody has really ever read any of my reviews except out of a strange feeling of pity, and the only commenters here are few and far between. It is simply, in the end, a question of whether I should continue writing even when I know that nobody is ever going to injest it. And the answer, resoundingly, is yes. Because it lets me contribute something, no matter how small. And for me, at least, that's important. Fear Her wasn't the worst story in Who history, but it had such flaws on every level that at the end of the day, it might as well be.

Thanks.

This review is dedicated to my friend Asher, who passed away on the 17th January. She was someone whose extraordinary kindness and good humour made me the man I am today, and my sympathies are still with her family and closest friends. May she rest in peace.

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