The episode saw a return to the year 2012, not seen since Dalek in series one, this time focusing on the Olympic Games as a backdrop to the events of the story, which (a first in the show) directly explored the impact of child abuse through the character Chloe Webber. Tardisode 11 served as its prologue.
It also served as one of the few times that the Doctor has been rendered incapacitated in some way and has to leave resolving the conflict to his allies. This theme had previously been used in World War Three, The Long Game and The Christmas Invasion, and would be repeated in Turn Left (albeit in an alternate timeline), The Crimson Horror, Flatline, and The Pyramid at the End of the World.
Two kids Dale Hicks and Tom are playing football in Tom's yard on Dame Kelly Holmes Close. Elderly Maeve Griffiths walks by and tells them to get inside quickly, prompting Tom's dad to exit the house and demand to know why she's disturbing the kids. Maeve tells the father that 'it" likes seeing them play. Watching from her first floor room across the street is a little girl. She begins drawing Dale with coloured pencils. As Maeve and the father keep arguing, Dale suddenly vanishes. Elsewhere, the girl has finished her drawing of Dale, which comes to life and screams in horror: she's trapped him inside her picture!
Some time later, the TARDIS materialises on the day of the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games. On the street, concern is divided between preparation for the Games, as the torchbearer will pass by on the final leg to the stadium, and the continued disappearance of children. A Car breaks down on the street and Rose lends a hand in pushing the vehicle until it restarts and the driver continues on his way. A council worker, Kel, states this has been happening all week.
The Doctor, in the meantime, has traced residual energy to the spot Dale vanished. Putting his hand over the spot, he notes it 'tickles". Tom's father exits the house, hostilely demanding the Doctor explain himself, drawing a crowd and Rose. The Doctor yells for silence and pulls out the Psychic Paper, introducing himself and Rose as inspectors. After learning from Maeve about an unknown entity at work, the Doctor and Rose investigate.
In her room, the girl sees her picture of Dale scowling in anger at her. She tells him that she tried to cheer him up by giving him a friend - a ginger cat. However, he's still unhappy, just like all the other kids in her drawings. After making a mistake in her next drawing, the girl furiously scribbles over it...
Wandering down one of the neighbourhood streets, Rose hears a noise from one of the garages and decides to investigate. As she opens the door, a fuzzy Scribble creature flies out, hitting Rose square in the face. Rose swats at it helplessly. The Doctor arrives and deactivates it with the sonic screwdriver. He deduces from the residual energy and the carbon of the scribble that the problem is alien in origin. Rose tells him about the little girl she saw watching them, and they theorise that she might be connected to the disappearances.
The Doctor and Rose pass themselves as representatives of Child Services to Trish Webber, hoping to be of help to her daughter Chloe. Trish explains that Chloe is very much a secluded and quiet child, due to her horrible father, who became abusive towards them when he was drunk. Rose heads upstairs to Chloe's room, but finds that she isn't in; seeing all the scowls from the pictures, Rose checks Chloe's closet. However, this is a poor choice as drawn on the wall is a demonic picture of Chloe's father. When the Doctor comes into the room with Trish and Chloe, Rose tells him of the pictures and he decides that he needs to look inside Chloe's subconscious to find answers.
The Doctor uses his telepathy to send Chloe to sleep, asking that she tell him who she is. Chloe answers in a raspy, whispery voice that she's an Isolus, an alien life-form with four billion siblings, who had befriended Chloe when its ship crashed on the road; it has psychic powers, hence the trapped children and the scribble creature. Rose wonders what the Isolus wants, to which the Doctor says is a surrogate family. The Doctor warns that the Isolus is desperate for love, and will use whoever it can to replace its family.
The Doctor returns to the TARDIS and locates the Isolus pod in the Close. However, a frantic Chloe draws the TARDIS and the Doctor, trapping them both in one of her sketches and forcing Rose to try to find the pod herself. She rationalises that the pod is located in the hottest spot on the street - the pothole that Kel has not long filled up with hot tar. She takes a pickaxe from Kel's council van, and, much to Kel's protestations, digs the pod out of the tar.
Meanwhile, Chloe has caused the entire crowd at the Olympic stadium to disappear and is now set on making everyone in the world disappear. Following a clue the Doctor left in the drawing of himself, Rose realises she needs to offer the pod heat and emotion, which she does by throwing the pod towards the Olympic torch which is being ran past the street.
As the missing children start to reappear, Rose realises that so will the demon-like drawing that Chloe has made of her father. Rose and Chloe's mother calm Chloe enough to destroy him. However, the Doctor does not reappear like everyone else, worrying Rose.
Rose, Trish and Chloe turn on the TV and discover that everyone has reappeared and the opening ceremony is continuing as planned. As the torch bearer approaches the Olympic Flame, he staggers and collapses, but the Doctor suddenly appears, completes the run and lights the Flame himself. The heat of the flame and the emotion of the crowd power the pod, allowing the Isolus to return home.
The Doctor returns to Dame Kelly Holmes Close and reunites with Rose, who remarks that however hard "they" try, nothing will ever split up the two of them. However, the Doctor does not seem so sure. He looks ominously up at the sky and tells Rose that "a storm's approaching".
- The Doctor - David Tennant
- Rose Tyler - Billie Piper
- Trish - Nina Sosanya
- Chloe - Abisola Agbaje
- Maeve - Edna Dore
- Tom's Dad - Tim Faraday
- Kel - Abdul Salis
- Driver - Richard Nichols
- Neighbour- Erica Eirian
- Police Officer - Stephen Marzella
- Commentator - Huw Edwards
|Executive Producers Russell T Davies and Julie Gardner|
|Not every person who worked on this adventure was credited. The absence of a credit for a position doesn't necessarily mean the job wasn't required. The information above is based solely on observations of the actual end credits of the episodes as broadcast, and does not relay information from IMDB or other sources.|
- The first three children taken are Danny Edwards, Jane McKillen and Dale Hicks. Their parents, Mr Edwards, Mrs McKillen and Mrs Hicks, greet them when they're restored.
- Danny Fairweather carries the Olympic torch through Dame Kelly Holmes Close.
- Lord Coe is mentioned.
- The International Olympic Committee is mentioned.
- The Doctor lists three things necessary to travel the universe: wormhole refractors, a warp drive and a hand to hold.
People from the real world
- The Doctor tries to remember the name of the torch-lighter in 1948: "Mark? John? Mark? It's John Mark".
- Shayne Ward's new album is advertised just next to where the Doctor parks the TARDIS.
- The Doctor claims to be reasonably adept at squash and jokingly mentions Snakes & Ladders when asked "what his game is".
- The Doctor marvels over edible ball bearings.
- When the Doctor is in the kitchen with Rose and Trish Webber, he eats orange marmalade.
- The Doctor invokes the Shadow Proclamation.
- The young Isolus begin their journey in the Deep Realms.
- Humanoid catkind are mentioned, and the Doctor cites them as the reason he's no longer a "cat person".
- The Doctor shows that he can do the Vulcan salute from the American science-fiction show Star Trek.
- Papua New Guinea surprises everyone in the shot put at the 2012 Olympics.
- The Doctor uses a binary dot tool.
- The Doctor mentions a copper's hunch.
- Kel tells Rose that he does not care if Snow White and the Seven Dwarves are buried under the tar.
- The story featured the first instance of a 2D-animated segment, in the form of the drawings made by Chloe which takes the object or person drawn out from reality and makes them come alive on her paper drawings.
- This episode was originally lined up for the next season. When a script by Stephen Fry fell through, it was hastily moved in to fill the slot.
- This is the first televised Doctor Who story to deal with actual child abuse, although there is a possible allusion to the subject in The Empty Child.
- This is the first episode, since The Doctor Dances to have no casualties at all for the entire run time.
- Working titles for this episode included Chloe Webber Destroys the Earth and You're a Bad Girl, Chloe Webber.
- In 2009, Doctor Who Magazine conducted a reader poll to rank the first 200 Doctor Who stories in order of preference. Fear Her ranked 192nd out of 200, earning it the dubious distinction of being the lowest-ranked story of the 2005-present revival. (DWM 413) In another DWM reader poll in 2014 where the first fifty years of Doctor Who stories were ranked, Fear Her was also the lowest-ranked story of the revival, this time ranking 240th out of 241. (DWM 474)
- The London 2012 logo seen at the start is the bid logo, not the final logo of the games, which wasn't unveiled until after the episode was produced.
- The writer, Matthew Graham, noted on the DVD commentary that the scribble creature was never to be called a "scribble monster", as the Doctor would never call anything a monster.
- The idea of a child bringing things to life through drawings was also featured in the 1991 Eerie Indiana episode "Who's Who".
- The mini-episode Good as Gold takes place during the 2012 Olympic opening ceremony. However, the circumstances are shown to be clearly different, with an athlete carrying the torch and the Weeping Angels involved.
- This story idea of the Tenth Doctor's involvement in the 2012 Olympics sparked a petition from thousands of fans all over the world wishing David Tennant to carry the Olympic Torch. However, it was not Tennant, but Matt Smith who would carry the 2012 Olympic torch in Wales on 26 May 2012. Neither did the Tenth Doctor appear at the official opening ceremony, even though David Tennant himself claimed to be up for it, having heard about the petition.
- In the real world, it was the rower Sir Steve Redgrave who finally delivered the torch to the Olympic Stadium in London, and a group of seven young athletes who lit the Olympic Flame. However, newsreader Huw Edwards did provide the commentary on the ceremony, and during one of the elaborate production numbers prior to this, the sound of the TARDIS materialising was also heard. Also, the torch in this episode is at least similar to the actual one.
- Matthew Graham was told by Russell T Davies that it was going to be an inexpensive episode and had to take place on a housing estate, but Graham was nevertheless thrilled to be asked to write an episode.
- Matthew Graham stated in 2011 that they "set out to do right from the start" making the episode more aimed at children, rather than adults and older fans, as the much darker finale would be broadcast following it. Davies specifically asked Graham to write for his seven-year-old son.
- Matthew Graham originally suggested a story about a man who had the ability to drain Earth of its beauty, but Russell T Davies preferred his own idea about the eerie nature of paintings or illustration.
- At one point, the story took place on another planet.
- Dame Kelly Holmes, who was mentioned in the episode, was considered for the part of the torchbearer, but was committed to Dancing On Ice at the time.
- Nina Sosanya and Abdul Salis had both appeared in the 2003 film Love Actually, which was written and directed by Richard Curtis, who would go on to write Vincent and the Doctor.
- Abisola Agbaje, who portrayed Chloe, was discovered at an after-school drama club, where casting director Andy Pryor had held auditions for the part. This would be her only acting role.
- Abisola Agbaje had to play both Chloe's normal character and her character while being possessed by the Isolus, which Agbaje felt was "weird". When performing as the Isolus she had to whisper, and an echo was added in post-production. Agbaje found it "a bit hard to whisper" because she had a husky voice.
- A hand double for Abisola Agbaje drew the pictures, while the series' storyboarder Shaun Williams drew the father in the cupboard.
- While they haven't dismissed the episode as being outright bad, David Tennant, Russell T Davies and Euros Lyn have all gone on record as admitting that the episode could have been a lot better, and was hurt by a lack of budget and rushed writing and filming schedules.
- When Matthew Graham was asked about the poor response to this episode during an interview that tied in with his later return to the series several years later, Graham flatly replied that he honestly couldn't have cared less whether or not the show's hardcore fans liked the episode, and that he wrote it for children first and foremost. "It was only later that I realised that the older fans had reacted badly to it, so I went, 'Well, it's a shame that they have, but it wasn't meant for them".
- Rose notices ads for singer Shayne Ward doing a "greatest hits tour". At the time the episode was filmed, he was best known as the winner of the second series of The X Factor. By the real 2012, he was becoming more known for acting, and is now best known for his role on Coronation Street.
- When Rose and the Doctor see the cat, the Doctor says that he's "not really a cat person", making a reference to New Earth. In Postman Pat: The Movie, David Tennant voices a character who has an allergy to cats.
- The Isolus was inspired by the villains in the 1978 film Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
- In the 1986 Twilight Zone episode The Toys of Caliban, a child can bring things to existence by looking at pictures of them.
- 7.14 million (UK final)
- Temorfa, Cardiff
- When the Doctor and Rose walk down the lane, the road is perfect, with no blemishes. However, when the Doctor later picks up the Isolus pod, there is a clear paving spot.
- In a shot before the cat disappears, the white flowers in the ground behind Rose are obviously fabric.
- In the kitchen, the Doctor sticks one finger into a jar of marmalade and then into his mouth. Rose gives him a look and shakes her head and he freezes but is then seen to have two fingers in his mouth.
- When the Doctor rubs out part of the pencil scribble creature, the rubber on his pencil clearly does not touch the ball of graphite. Also, in the next shot, the creature is whole again.
- The Doctor materialises the TARDIS facing a wall, in this case, the side of a rubbish bin. The Eighth Doctor previously materialised facing a wall in a broom cupboard. (AUDIO: The Starship of Theseus)
- The Doctor uses telepathy. (TV: The Sensorites, Terror of the Zygons, The Hand of Fear, The Girl in the Fireplace)
- The Doctor knows the Isolus is lonely due to him having had a lonely childhood, and therefore being able to sense it. (TV: The Empty Child, The Girl in the Fireplace)
- The Doctor previously had a foreboding sensation in his hands during his first incarnation. (TV: The War Machines)
- The Doctor cites his confrontation with the Sisters of Plenitude as the reason why he is no longer a "cat person". (TV: New Earth)
- During his eleventh incarnation, the Doctor would visit the 2012 Olympic Games once again in the company of Amy Pond. (TV: Good as Gold) He had previously visited 2012 on at least one occasion during or prior to his sixth incarnation (AUDIO: The Raincloud Man) as well as during his seventh, (AUDIO: Frozen Time) eighth (PROSE: The Shadows of Avalon) and ninth incarnations. (TV: Dalek)
- In the far future, radio and television broadcasts concerning the 2012 Olympic Games could be accessed via the Gogglebox inside the Moon. (AUDIO: The Reaping, The Gathering)
- When the Doctor talks to Chloe about drawing, he says, "I'm rubbish. Stickmen're about my limit." He is apparently lying. He did skilled drawings in A Journal of Impossible Things, and when Joan Redfern asks where he learned to draw, the Doctor, as John Smith, says Gallifrey. (TV: Human Nature)
- The Doctor comments that he "used to be a dad once". (TV: An Unearthly Child, et. al.) In his previous incarnation, he similarly related to Dr. Constantine's remark about having been a father and grandfather in the past. (TV: The Empty Child)
- The ginger cat that Chloe draws reappears in the video game Art Attack. There he is named Ginger.
- The Fifth Doctor previously attempted to take Nyssa and Tegan Jovanka to the 2012 Olympics but the TARDIS instead materialised in London in 1982. (AUDIO: The King of the Dead)
- When Trish turns the TV on for her daughter, Big Ben can be seen on the programme. It must have been entirely rebuilt after the Slitheen family had destroyed six years prior. (TV: Aliens of London)
Home video releases
- This story was released on a vanilla DVD (a DVD release containing no extra features) with Army of Ghosts and Doomsday.
- It was also released as part of the Series 2 DVD box set.
- BBC - Doctor Who - Episode Guide - Fear Her
- The Discontinuity Guide to: Fear Her at The Whoniverse
- Fear Her at Shannon Sullivan's A Brief History of Time (Travel)
- Fear her at The Locations Guide