So, my review of The Idiot's Lantern was a bit brief. It's a problematic episode to review. It's not a bad one - perfectly competent and not really boring. It's not a good one, though, either - there's no real tension, or excitement, or particularly memorable humor, or strong characterizations. Nothing really imaginative. The one creepy idea it has - people's faces being erased - isn't done in a particularly creepy fashion. It's very, very mediocre. But it's also one of the rarest birds in Doctor Who: it's an episode that isn't interesting.
And that's frustrating. Doctor Who is almost always interesting. Even when it's bad, even when it's really, really bad, it's interesting. The worst of the worst -- Time and the Rani, Timelash, Terminus, Nightmare of Eden, The Celestial Toymaker -- are all in some ways interesting. They have settings and ideas that are, on some level or another, intriguing. But The Idiot Lantern doesn't. There's not one interesting, original, or unusual thing about it. It's really hard to do that with Doctor Who, and maybe it deserves some sort of reward for actually pulling that off.
Fear Her is like The Idiot Lantern, except bad. Really, really bad. And unlike those other terrible episodes, it isn't even interesting. It's difficult to believe that a director as good as Euros Lyn and a writer as talented as Matthew Graham could make something as fundamentally awful as The Celestial Toymaker, but by making something so terribly uninteresting, they've actually, in some ways, created something much, much worse.
For starters, it's in (essentially) present-day earth. This doesn't mean it's bad - after all, I loved School Reunion and Christmas Invasion - but it does mean we won't be getting any interesting world-building. It takes place in an ordinary area of an ordinary block, so much so that it's a wonder the Doctor doesn't just turn around and leave. Again, though, that doesn't make it bad.
But the dialogue is dreadful right away. "It seems like only yesterday a few Greek blokes were tossing a discus about, wrestling each other in the sand and the crowed stood around…no, wait a minute, that was Club Med." I'm usually pretty tolerant of the RTD-era pop-culture name-dropping, and I rather liked the Doctor launching into "Circle of Life" on accident in Christmas Invasion. At worst, it's usually just a brief annoyance. But the Doctor pointlessly name-dropping Club Med is so far afield of his character - and the line so witless - it puts you off the episode immediately, if Murray Gold's uncharacteristically awful music hasn't done so already.
It doesn't improve. Graham's idea of TennantDoctor dialogue is to write the most immensely annoying, pointless monologues he can. Tennant is almost unwatchably obnoxious here, and I feel fairly confident in saying that's the only time I will ever say something like that about David Tennant.
These people are just kind of annoyed. I can't imagine parents would be letting their children outside of the house if they weren't standing over them, holding their hands every second. These parents are just kind of mildly annoyed at the whole thing.
And then there's the monster itself, whose motives and actions are completely incompatible, and...
Oh, the Olympic Torch scene! Awful on so many levels, and...
I can't do this. I can't go on about this episode. The entire thing is simply wrong. It's not just filler. It's garbage, absolute garbage that makes a total muck of the theme of abused children. It's a failure of storytelling, a failure of imagination, a failure in every conceivable way. And it's boring. A tedious, pointless time-waster. A black hole sucking out the souls of those who watch it and crushing them under its sheer inanity. 45 minutes of digital video that kick kittens, murder puppies, and suck monkey balls.
Not a fan, is what I'm getting at.
- All that said, the idea of an evil child's drawing is, abstractly, kind of cool. In fact, it could have been awesome: imagine the Doctor stuck in a world of children's drawings, all animated, including himself. How do you get out of that? How many different things can you do with that? A child's vast imagination unfettered, free to roam, but filled with monsters, as they invariably are. All hand-drawn. It's a perfect Doctor Who premise. It's a setup for one of the greatest Who stories ever.
- Then again, so was Celestial Toymaker.