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25 January 2015

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...

Day 755: Fear Her

Dear diary,

Fear Her is another one of those stories like The Long Game, or Boom Town, which people tend to think of as simply being weaker elements to their respective seasons, and overlook. I’ve always thought of this one as being one of the worst episodes that the programme has given us, and I’ve consciously avoided watching it again since it was first broadcast. Over the years, I think it’s taken on such a reputation in my own mind that I’d grown to actively despise it. But then there’s my friend Nick. We tend to have pretty similar views than it comes to Doctor Who (indeed, I’ve mentioned him a lot throughout the course of the 50 Year Diary, and our views have usually correlated), and he really likes this one. Because of that, it went from being one I was approaching with a sense of dread, and instead became a story that I was looking forward to re-evaluating.

And you know what? It’s not as bad as I was expecting it to be. Not remotely as bad as that. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a complete convert, and I can’t profess to really like this story now (sorry, Nick), but I’ve certainly come away from it with a much higher opinion than I had going in, and that’s always a positive thing. So; thing I liked about Fear Her this time around…

Well, for a start, it’s a very funny episode, and that can usually fare pretty well with me. Right from the TARDIS arriving the wrong way round, and the Doctor having to correct his parking (that’s the kind of thing I would have rolled my eyes at when I was younger and things had to be ‘serious’, which probably counted against this story on first viewing), through his flippant remarks and jokes as they investigate the missing children, and on to what might be one of my favourite exchanges in Doctor Who history, as Rose realises where the Isolus pod has crashed, and grabs a pickaxe to dig up the road;


Whoa, wait, wait, wait. You just removed a council axe from a council van. Put it back. No, don't, wait. Put the axe back in the van. That's my van. Give me the axe. No! Wait! No!
[Rose starts hacking at the road surface Kel has just laid]


No! You, stop! 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!


It went for the hottest thing in the street. Your tar.


What is it?


It's a spaceship. Not a council spaceship, I'm afraid.

Once again, it’s the kind of thing I know I’d have sneered at as a teenager, so I’m glad I can appreciate it this time around. That said, Rose is really getting on my wick again in this one. When people start to reappear, she just becomes absolutely useless, wandering around and whining that the Doctor hasn’t reappeared yet. Does she not think to go and check the end of the street where she last saw him? I know he’s quickly run off to chase the Olympic Flame, but it feels like Rose is too busy moping at people to actually think straight… 

I also have to confess that I really like the way they drop in the Doctor’s remark about being a father. It’s done so simply, without feeling forced, and lingered on for just the right amount of time before the story takes over once again and we’re back into the main thrust of the narrative. It’s part of a grander drip-feeding of information about the Doctor that we’ve been getting since the return of the programme, introducing new viewers to all these little things that had built up about him throughout the ‘classic’ years, and it’s very well done. It’s telling that we’re almost at the end of the second season, and we’ve still not had him actually name Gallifrey (that’ll be coming in the Christmas Special). It feels like they’re trying really hard to not overwhelm you with information about the show’s mythology all at once (though it did feel strange when the Doctor kept referring to it as ‘my home planet’ in The Impossible Planet…!) 

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