Saturday, 21 May 2016


                              FEAR HER

I have never been much of a Disney fan. The man, himself, led a fascinating life and I'm impressed with his achievements. But, within seconds of his death, Satan appeared to take over his company. Nowadays, Disney comes across as just a gang of greedy bastards who want to run everything in the world. There should almost be an episode of Doctor Who where the Doctor takes Disney on and defeats them in their evil plans.

But the thing I hate most about Disney is the "shmaltziness" that they have to put into almost all of their films. Even in their more classic days, when they weren't trying to just pluck our heartstrings to get more money from us, sentimentalism was often taken just a bit further than it needed to be. Lots of these movies were made for children so the creators felt they could push the emotional factor a bit harder. But, even as a kid, I would watch certain moments in a Disney project and just say to myself: "This is getting too sappy!".

Fear Her is, very much, a Disney version of Doctor Who. Particularly since one of the central characters is a child and her character progression becomes key in the resolution of the conflict. There's also a big nasty monster who just seems big and nasty but doesn't actually do anything that bad and nasty. A very kind and friendly hero also decorates the storyline. All popular elements of Disney tales that we see over and over. Even the aggressive ball of pencil scribbles has a very "cartoony" feel to it. Making the whole thing feel even more like a Disney flick.

But, of course, the biggest Disney influence is the shmaltziness. A lonely lovey-dovey alien takes root in the heart of a disenfranchised girl and starts bringing her dreams to life. Even the fact that there are some sinister consequences to this still gives the whole thing a Disney feel (magic going wrong and creating some "darkness" in the plot happens in many of these films - Magician's Apprentice, for instance).

So, having taken so much time to explain my hatred of All Things Disney and the bearing it seems to have on Fear Her should make this an open-and-shut case. Disney sucks. Fear Her sucks. End of story, right?

I still don't think I've made it through Fear Her without my eyes, at least, watering up a bit. I hate to admit that. Really, I do. But if I'm admitting to guilty pleasures, I need to come totally clean: Fear Her has reduced me to tears. It doesn't hit me as bad Father's Day. But then, nothing does!

I can't entirely figure out why the story affects me the way it does. It shouldn't, really. It doesn't have a lot of plot. The actual storyline that does exist is pretty ludicrous, at best. Particularly as we near the end. I mean, would we really keep the olympic torch moving along if all the people in the arena that were waiting for it had suddenly disappeared? Would a random stranger out of nowhere be allowed to keep carrying it after the proper runner fell? Is it, perhaps, just a bit too coincidental that the olympic flame is nearby when an alien needs lots of heat and a focus for love and hope to propel itself back into the cosmos? It's a bit much to swallow.

But I still can't fight back those warm fuzzies as the space ship dives into the relay torch. Or the Isolus proclaims: "I love you Chloe Weber" and departs from her body. Or the Doctor picks up the torch and carries on the run. Moments like that get me every time.

And I hate it.

I shouldn't enjoy that kind of shmaltziness - it's always made me cringe. But, somehow, Fear Her slips under the wire and hits me in the feels. I wish I knew how it did it.

One of the things that genuinely impresses me about the story is the fact that it deals with domestic abuse. A topic we haven't seen covered since Keys of Marinus (there's a wild theory that the Doctor's attempt to strangle Peri in Twin Dilemna is also domestic violence - but let's not go there!). Marinus only faces the issue in passing whereas Fear Her makes it a fairly central part of its plot. I quite like that it even dispels a common myth that domestic abuse survivors tend to believe in. That, once the abuser is removed from the situation, everything is all right. Poor little Chloe is dealing with all kinds of fallout because even if Daddy might be gone, what he did to her still affects her. The abuse might be over but she still needs help. I like that this was written into the story. It's Doctor Who actually passing on an important message about a delicate subject. Fear Her needs to be commended for that.

Some folks like to rip on the performance of the child actress. I think she actually did pretty good. To play a kid possessed by an alien has got to be pretty tricky. Particularly since it wasn't just an evil one. But, rather, one with a few "layers" to it. To just run around being vicious and scary cause an alien has taken over your body wouldn't have been such a tall order. But to have a benevolent-but-confused-and-petulant alien controlling you is a bit tougher. I think she fares well in the portrayal - particularly for a girl of her age. Could someone have played the role better? Probably. But a whole lot of people could've played it worse.

But as much I try to stress the good points of this tale, Fear Her has the distinct feel of a New Who version of Time Flight. The money appears to have run out (unlike Time Flight, this isn't the last story of the season - but the real budget is being pumped into a huge Cybermen/Dalek battle that is just around the corner) Because the production team has five pounds to make the whole thing, they drive out to a nearby suburb and try to create a story, there. They can afford one cheap CGI effect for about half-a-dozen shots. Otherwise, everything's gotta be shot practically. They can't even afford a real monster suit - just scary lights coming out of a closet.

But instead of working around the budget limits, the writer seems to fall victim to them. A whole lot of nothing happens for most of the first half of the episode. The Doctor and Rose investigate where the kids disappeared but don't really discover much. Chloe keeps sucking stuff into her pictures. More investigation that doesn't really turn up anything. More stuff sucking from Chloe. And so on...

Waiting for characters to figure out what's going on when we already know what is happening is always a tricky thing to do when plotting a story. It can become tortuous pretty quickly. Fear Her has to mark some serious time to fill out the episode, though, so it milks this for all its worth. We finally get a bit of excitement from the scribble attack - but it's such a silly idea that one has to wonder if it was worth it all. We also get a mid-episode TARDIS console-room visit - another notorious time filler.

Finally figuring out that it's Chloe causing the problem and discovering how she's doing it is probably the high point of the adventure. The Isolus are an interesting and cleverly-devised race. The symbiotic relationship that has developed between Chloe and the alien is quite touching (Rob starts getting his first few sniffles right around here).

But then the second half of the story kicks in and things get more and more preposterous. Rose running around with the pick-ax is a bit fun (the man from the Council seems to veer between amusing and annoying) but even that seems a bit hard to swallow. Would a mother really let a crazy pick-ax-wielding blond smash her way into her daughter's room? From there, of course, credulity gets stretched more and more. As does the shmaltziness of it all. Murray Gold's score has never tried harder to heighten the emotion of a moment. It's especially needed since we have a fairly boring story that gets flat-out silly toward the end.

And yet, somehow, I fall victim to a lot of the emotional manipulation. I get caught up in the rush and even end up having a little cry, now and again (still so embarrassed to admit this!). Overall, I enjoy this goofy little story that is considered by many to be the biggest mistake the New Series has made. I agree entirely with what the critics have said. And yet, I still love it when that little egg-shaped spaceship shoots out of the olympic torch and races off into space as David Tennant coos at it.

Hits me right in the feels every time.

Other Guilty Pleasures:




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