The Natural History of Fear is one of those rare stories that has you reaching for your thinking caps to fully appreciate this mindscrew of a script.
For the Eighth Doctor and Charley there have been a few mind-bending adventures, but this one blows them all out of the water. The work day has begun as normal, like every other day, it is monotonous and perfect. Happiness must prevail and Happiness comes through productivity. At first glance, this story comes across as a rehash of The Happiness Patrol but when you get into it, it is a lot darker and insidious. Light City comes across as a much more developed totalitarian society than the one seen in The Happiness Patrol.
In sci-fi, totalitarian dystopias are nothing new but The Natural History of Fear takes those familiar themes and makes them feel fresh and original. More importantly though, the story is incredibly tightly structured and has a mixture of symbolic imagery and taught dialogue. And in the midst of the whole, 'Big Brother is watching' plot, there are some startling and subversive ideas.
All the actors involved really rose to the occasion. Sean Carlson, (Narvin in the Gallifrey series), is involved to add a little more zest to the proceedings and elevates the guest cast. As for the main cast, wow! Paul McGann, India Fisher and Conrad Westmass are in original characters but in ways that one can't mention without spoiling the whole thing!
I didn't want to like The Natural History of Fear but this is a really good drama. It is surprisingly entertaining and is a story that requires you to pay attention at all times, not just to passively observe. But it is also nightmarish and isn't one you'll be reaching for when you want a good-old squash buckling adventure...