From the awesome high-concept sci-fi of ?he Satan Pit?and the mould-breaking experimental drama of ?ove & Monsters? it? down to Earth with a bump for the second season of new DOCTOR WHO, courtesy of one of the new series?rare misfires, an episode which, despite some decent ideas and an interesting EDWARD SCISSORHANDS visual style, didn? actually amount to very much. It? frustrating and disappointing that Matthew Graham, creator of the BBC? other must-see drama of the year, LIFE ON MARS, felt compelled to turn in such an unexceptional script for his first journey into the world of DOCTOR WHO. The story was based upon the idea of the TARDIS turning up in the most domestic setting of all, right on your own doorstep. That may be all well and good for a starting point but the appeal of the show has generally been that the TARDIS may well appear outside your own home but it? what happens when you step on board and leave your own life behind that things get really interesting. ?ear Her?came and went because, set in and around a bland, contemporary housing estate setting and with something vague and ethereal providing the threat, there just wasn? anything interesting to get particularly worked up about.
So the story? this; the Doctor decides to take Rose to London in 2012 to see the Olympics. Materialising near a new housing estate ?tidy lawns, red-brick houses, neat and tidy ?the pair quickly realise something? amiss when they see the lamppost flyers seeking information about missing children. Something? rotten in Dame Kelly Holmes Close; what mysterious force is lifting kids and cats out of thin air and what mysterious power does little Chloe Webber possess?
If ?ear Her?seemed familiar it? because there? nothing very new on display. The dreary contemporary setting plays host to a story which is part SAPPHIRE AND STEEL and part PAPERCHASE, with most viewers of a certain age being reminded of the novel ?arianne Dreams?(or its creepy TV adaptation ESCAPE INTO NIGHT. Young Chloe (a convincing performance from newcomer Agbaje) is host to the Isolus, an alien space-dwelling spore-like entity cut off from its own kind and craving company. This is the episode? real strength ?the idea of a frustrated, ultimately harmless alien which is itself little more than a child. It just wants company, it wants to be loved ?and it has no real conception of or interest in the misery and devastation it causes as it lifts children out of existence and turns them into illustrations to populate its own strange world. When the stakes are raised and the Isolus prepares to ?idnap?the world? entire population, it? down to the ever-resourceful Rose to save the day when the Doctor and the TARDIS are swept out of reality.
There? a skewed, fairytale quality about ?ear Her?which just about manages to lift the episode from mundanity. The Olympic setting adds some scale and there are a couple of effective CGI shots of a bustling Olympic Stadium and some less-convincing sequences involving a few desultory cheering spectators as the flame-bearer paces through the streets. But ?ear Her?never really takes flight and, when the Doctor is reconstituted just in time to rescue the falling torch from a stricken athlete and rushes triumphantly into the stadium to keep the flame alive, it? hard not to groan at the cheesiness of it all. Once again we?e treated to an episode where Rose seems to lose the Doctor forever only to witness her unbounded joy at his inevitable return. But Piper is on top form here and when Tennant manages to control his exuberance he remains good value in the lead role.
DOCTOR WHO, even now, is sometimes taken to task for trying to do too much. Here the opposite is true; clearly a cost-saving episode, ?ear Her?doesn? seem to try to do enough and as such it just passes forty-five minutes pleasantly without really threatening to linger long in the memory. Ultimately it? an episode which we?l remember because of the ?ext week?trailer rather than because of the story itself?n