“Fear Her” is unique in Doctor Who history as being a story set against the backdrop of an immediately forthcoming historical event—namely the 2012 London Olympic Games—and it’s a story that was very quickly overtaken by the event to such a degree that watching it now is like looking at those line drawings from 1900 where artists attempt to guess what the year 2000 will look like, and in the attempt, reveal something about their own time.
And yet, the story it tells is only 10 years old, and the real Olympic opening ceremony, not the one in which the Doctor carries the torch into the stadium, really happened four years ago. So it was only a vision of a potential future for six years before real life took over.
Here are a few things that you should keep an eye out for, the next time you watch.
This was the first script developed for Doctor Who by Matthew Graham (best known for the BBC’s other time-travel drama Life on Mars), who would go on to write the Eleventh Doctor two-parter “The Rebel Flesh” / “The Almost People.” His original concept was that Rose and the Doctor would do battle with a man who had the power to extract beauty, having already stripped his planet bare of all color and glamor. Russell T Davies already had an idea about a Dorian Grey-style relationship between art and humanity, so Matthew worked up the idea of a young girl with the power to entrap people in her drawings.
Matthew’s idea was brought in to replace an unfinished script submitted by Stephen Fry called “The 1920s,” which had to be taken off the Season Two shooting slate for cost reasons, and would have made a reappearance in Season Three. However, in the interim there was the not-inconsiderable matter of Rose Tyler’s exile to a parallel dimension, which would have necessitated a full rewrite of the script for Martha Jones’s character instead. This clashed with Stephen Fry’s exceptionally busy schedule, which meant his script had to be put to one side, and eventually shelved for good.
Matthew originally wanted to call the episode “Chloe Webber Destroys The Earth” or “You’re A Bad Girl, Chloe Webber,” as the audience is clear who is taking the missing children right from the start. Both titles were felt to be too long, however.
This story was deliberately aimed at the younger end of Doctor Who fandom, because the production team knew what was on the way with “Army of Ghosts” and “Doomsday.” In an interview with Den of Geek, Matthew recalls how Russell T Davies encouraged him to tell his story: “‘Army Of Ghosts’ and ‘Doomsday’ were coming up, and they were going to be very big, very dark and very traumatic. And Russell wanted a playground adventure. He said, “How old is your son?” At the time he was seven. So, he said, “Write this one for your son.” That’s what I did. I did something that was in primary colors, that had a scary voice in the cupboard. I always say that other people got Cybermen, I got two blokes with a red lamp rattling a wardrobe!”
The story was conceived and told some six years before the London Olympics of 2012. The official logo for the games had not yet been revealed, forcing the Doctor Who production team to use imagery from the bid campaign to secure the games in the first place. The official torch of the games had a very different look too, as did the final Olympic torch. And while there was a strong campaign from Doctor Who fans to get David Tennant to fulfill the story’s ending by having him run with the torch in the actual 2012, in the end it was Matt Smith who did the honors:
There is an excellent joke hidden in the Doctor’s mumbled wondering about the name of the man who lit the ceremonial torch at the 1948 London Olympics: “Fella carrying the torch… lovely chap, what was his…? Mark…? John..? Mark…? Legs like pipe cleaners, but strong as a whippet.”
His name was John Mark. And he represented the U.K. in the 400 meters.
The street on which this all takes place is named Dame Kelly Holmes Close, after the middle-distance British runner who had won two gold medals (800m and 1500m) at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. Dame Kelly had been invited to take part in the story herself, but had to refuse as she was working on the reality TV show Dancing on Ice at the time of filming.
Making a plot point out of a production necessity, the Doctor refers to the street as being cold and to the Isolus sucking heat from the area. This was principally because the story was set in lovely warm July 2012 but filmed in freezing cold January 2006. You can get an inkling of how cold it was in this clip from Doctor Who Confidential, concerning an unwilling cat:
The Doctor has used his hands to sense alien activity before. The First Doctor, on arriving in London at the beginning of a series of events that would become “The War Machines,” finds his hands shaking and his skin prickling, and puts it down to there being something “alien” about the newly-completed Post Office Tower.
There’s a running gag throughout the script in which the Doctor and Rose pretend to be police officers, based largely on the sort of things police officers do in TV shows. So, the Doctor refers to Rose as his colleague, and calls her Lewis (a reference to the hugely popular British police procedural Inspector Morse), and lightly mocks her for correctly spotting the link between the graphite scribble creature and the girl drawing everything that happens in the street from her bedroom. A “copper’s hunch” only tends to crop up in TV crime scripts when a police officer has a wild theory (that usually turns out to be true) but no evidence.
NEXT: 10 Things You May Not Know About ‘Army of Ghosts’
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