"Dale Hicks in your garden, playing with your Tommy..."

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A quiet street draped with flags and bunting. A national event which brings everyone together to watch it on telly. An alien who steals people. A dysfunctional father. A lonely and abused child. A home invasion by the TARDIS crew. An abduction of one of the TARDIS crew by the alien.

Do not adjust your browser. You haven't strayed into our review of Idiot's Lantern by mistake. This, believe it or not, is supposed to be an entirely different episode.

We know Fear Her was a late substitute when the Stephen Fry episode turned to custard. But so what? Doctor Who has been up against the no time/no money wall before, and that's often produced some of the programme's best work (The Mind Robber, Inside The Spaceship). There's zero excuse for rerunning a plot we've seen only a few episodes before (and it wasn't even that interesting the first time).

Dear God, it's boring. Boring, tedious, dull, ho-hum, wearisome. Boring. Booooooring. It isn't the first time we've been bored by Doctor Who, but it's the first time we've been so actively bored by the revived series. Quite the milestone, huh?

It's not just the Idiot's Lantern rerun, either. The stuff that's different we've also seen before, far too many times. Yes, Matthew Graham's done Life On Mars. But he also churned out the spectacularly tedious and unoriginal The Last Train. (Main character's name: Harriet Jones. Oh, yes, we're just exploding with fun trivia.) And alas, it's The Last Train that Fear Her more closely resembles. That was a Threads/Survivors clone; here, he rips off the many SF shows who've done someone stealing people by drawing them, then throws in a few more as a bonus. Sapphire And Steel, Paperhouse, The X-Files, Star Trek... is there any SF he didn't loot?

It didn't have to be this way. Although the drawing idea's been done to death, there's still some potential there. The scribble creature is one of the best monsters we've ever seen, and the frightened drawn kid running towards the camera in the teaser is fantastic. Imagine how much fun it would have been if we'd followed the Doctor into the drawn world: it would have made for some unique and deeply original Doctor Who. Not to mention an episode that's actually different from Idiot's Lantern.

But that stuff costs. And since the budget was clearly bleeding from the eyes, no chance. So why take a story that needs dosh to make it catch fire and shove it into the spare-change slot? Sigh.

Since they can't afford the fun stuff, what we get instead is people explaining things to us. Chloe's mum about their family history, the Isolus about itself, the Doctor and Rose about all of it: blah blah blah, yap yap yap, on and on. We don't think we've ever seen a talkier episode. And so much of it takes place in Chloe's bedroom we were starting to get claustrophobia. About the most they can work up in the way of excitement is Chloe talking in a scratchy voice and a red light with a bit of growling. Not exactly riveting, is it? It's a show with half (the action half, the interesting half) of it missing. Normally we like the talky stuff a lot better than the monster-stabbing, so for us to moan about the gabbing quotient shows just how off-track this episode is.

It might have worked better if the underpinnings were solid. But they're as shaky as a pensioner in a high wind.

Yes, it's nice to have an alien who isn't bent on world domination. And it comes with a lot more (talky) justification than The Wire. But what's all this people-grabbing about, anyway? We know the Isolus is actually inside Chloe (somewhere in her digestive tract, presumably. Why hasn't she digested it? Also, ew), so where are all the kids going to? And why? How's whisking them into a different dimension or something helping with the loneliness? If it's able to be friends with Chloe, why not just make friends with the other 5,999,999,999 and save all the scribbling? And as with the disappearing people in Idiot's Lantern, the defensiveness of the parents and the fact that police aren't swarming all over the street makes no sense. Nor does the wallfull of pictures when only a few kids seem to have disappeared.

The complete nothingishness of the other side doesn't help, either. Obviously it's bad if people disappear, but it's kind of tough worrying about them appropriately when we have no clue whether they're in horrible torture or are having the time of their lives. Yes, the drawn Dale looks scared, but on the other hand none of the people coming back look particularly bovvered, so it can't have been all that traumatic. Mysteriously, Dale seems to be the only one that can move, but hastily skipping past that part, it seems clear they're still in touch with our side, because of the Doctor's drawing. Since they're therefore conscious of what they're going through, doesn't it seem a fraction weird that three seconds after returning they're back to their bikes as if nothing happened? (You might also be wondering how the Doctor managed to draw something from, er, the other side of the paper, but we think that's obvious. He used the bloody all-singing, all-dancing, all-sketching sonic screwdriver.)

So if we can't invest all that much in the inconsistent and underrealised disappearances, how about the Social Relevance of the domestic abuse story? Doesn't that drag us into the story with our empathies flapping wildly? Alas, we don't like this bit either. First of all, it just doesn't make sense: how is Chloe creating a creature when all the others are going the other way? And why is it still hanging around at the end? (There's a hideously lame explanation in there about "leftover energy" which just made us snort and roll our eyes.)

Secondly, it trips over its own feet by draining some of the sympathy out of Chloe's mother: there are many valid reasons why women stay in abusive relationships, but when there are children involved and they're also being abused, it's nevertheless hard for the audience not to be concerned that their mother didn't act to get them out. Chloe's mother's casual remark about Chloe always getting the worst of it is therefore a bit of a jaw-dropper. And third, it's way too similar to Idiot's Lantern. It's interesting to note that there was general uproar after Terror Of The Autons screened on the basis that making everyday things like plastic lethal was too scary for kids: here, they bring the fear even closer to home (literally) by making an actual parent the monster. How times change, etc etc.

Then there's the Olympics plot, which is sheer creeping horror from start to finish. From the thump-you-over-the-head hints dropped clangingly in about the Olympic torch passing by, to the appalling commentary from Huw Edwards about et tu Bob and beacons of love, to the cheesy smugarama ending of the Doctor mysteriously avoiding being riddled with bullets by security staff whilst lighting the torch, it's a complete stinker. And that's leaving out the utter nonsense of the run with the torch still continuing when 80,000 people have disappeared, not to mention the whatever attitude when they get back. Or the fact that it seems to be night in the stadium when down the road it's broad daylight. Or the fact that the camaramen were the only ones not transported. Or the stupidity of fixing potholes when the torch isn't even going down that street. Please, stop us before we froth ourselves to death.

So there you have it: static, derivative, dull and badly thought through. Are there any good bits? Sure. The remarkably gorgeous Euros Lyn (why isnít he in front of the camera?) does a great job, making the episode look rather more expensive than it is. There are some lovely little touches, like the fantastic moment at the beginning when the Doctor has to turn the TARDIS round to get out (which struck us as a scene long overdue). The council worker, with his council axe in his council van on his council road, is good-natured comic relief even if he's a bit overblown.

And there's some good character stuff in here for both the Doctor and Rose. From Rose's enchanting "not gonna open it, not gonna open it..." moment to her chance to do the sleuthing while the Doctor's offstage, it's actually a very nice episode for her. Her Morse and Lewis scenes with the Doctor are also fun, if a little too pop-cultury (again). The Doctor's more of a mixed bag: we hate the silly "Fingers on lips!" scene, which rings about as true as a four-pound note, and the appearance yet again of the psychic paper (remember when the Doctor used to be able to convince people to do things through sheer force of personality?). And urgh, the mind-meldy thing. But we do love the moment in the kitchen when he's about to stick his fingers in the jar and Rose has to shake her head. And the way he says "I'm being facetious... there's no call for it". Abisola Agbaje and Nina Sosanya are perfectly fine as Chloe and her mum: it's not the actors' fault that the characters are so bland it's hard to work up any enthusiasm for them.

It's got its good points, but overall? Rubbish. No matter how temptingly they hold the cake out, we're not swallowing this load of balls.

MORAL: Keep your mouth shut. And your windows.



What was all that stuff about with the weird aura and the freak weather conditions (tee hee!)? It all implied that the Isolus's influence only extended that far, yet the nicking of the stadium crowd contradicted that completely.


Nina Sosanya is yet another Casanova alumna. Like a lot of TV people, Russell T Davies sure likes to keep it in the family.


Why does Rose sneak upstairs and hide in the cupboard when Chloe's mum's already said she'll take them to see her?


"What have you done to my little girl?" Argh. "So. Lonely." Double argh.


How does the scribble get from Chloe's room to the garage?


The TARDIS gone again? Was that really necessary? The Doctor disappearing is quite bad enough.


Why doesn't the Doctor reappear with everyone else? And oi! Where's the cat?


"This means the Olympic dream is dead?" What, because the torchbearer fell over? Give us strength.

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