Somehow, following Love & Monsters seems to disproportionately improve the quality of this episode. It was a pretty average story, but even an average story is actually kind of refreshing after what came before. For this reason, I think I enjoyed Fear Her more than I otherwise would have — which is not necessarily anomalous as these episodes are supposed to be watched in order, as part of a series. I mean, obviously the producers didn’t intend Love & Monsters to be received negatively, but somehow it kind of worked out: Fear Her, although not a terribly good episode itself, was a welcome reprieve from the rot of Love & Monsters.
When I say the episode was “not terribly good”, I’ll admit that I found it interesting, even fun, but it was hardly the most inspired of concepts or the most ambitious of works. It’s self-admittedly unambitious and self-consciously camp and tongue-in-cheek, so it shouldn’t expect the best of receptions, although, at the same time, that also makes it less offensive—I can hardly fault it for trying and failing when all it was trying to do was entertain. It had its good points; in particular, it was very creepy in parts. There’s an air of mystery and menace hanging over the story for much of its initial stages, when the Doctor and Rose were investigating the disappearances. It was also funny in parts: Kel, with his council-philia, was a much appreciated bit of comic relief, and I actually laughed out loud when he was reproaching Rose for offending his blessed council. I found that I really liked David Tennant’s performance in this episode. Yes, it’s a funny episode for which to praise Tennant’s acting, but I just got the sense, in this episode, that Tennant had properly taken hold of the role of the Doctor and made it decisively his own. He got off to a nervous start in The Christmas Invasion, but I can see here that he’s settled nicely into the role and is at ease with the character.
To say something about what I wasn’t so impressed with, the plot, although played out with all due creep, was a bit rubbish. The “monster”, the alien flower thingy, was rubbish. The idea of stealing people away by drawing them was rubbish. It was all a bit rubbish. This kind of stuff satisfies some people, but I can’t bring myself to take this seriously. It was a poor idea only redeemed by quality production and acting. In regards to the child actor, Abisola Agbaje, I know it’s not good form to be too harsh on child actors, but surely someone better could have been found? The thing about child actors is that if they’re not totally convincing, they positively detract from the story as you’re left unduly distracted by their dodgy acting. This one was particularly distracting. I also thought the resolution was a bit ridiculous. I didn’t even understand it, but I gather it had something to do with the power of love… channelled through the Olympic torch. More feel-good, lovey-dovey stuff that satisfies the nannas and the kiddies, but a total cop-out from my perspective. I also cringed at the Doctor carrying the Olympic flame. Like… seriously? On a more macro level, the repeated alien interventions in London are becoming a bit tiresome and questionable. In the course of two series, London, and 21st Century Earth at large, has been invaded by aliens on a large scale four times. Russell T Davies is playing havoc with continuity here. How many times must London be invaded by aliens before the citizens start to wonder if perhaps there really is something out there after all…?