LOVE AND MONSTERS – 17th June
By Russell T. Davies
Review and Commentary by Andrew Panero
After all the grimness of last week’s story we have some light relief in the shape of this bouncy little episode from RTD. Much has been made of this being an unusual Doctor Who story in that it is not drawn from the Doctor and Rose’s point of view. I’m sure millions of us old time male obsessive types must have been screaming at the TV ‘what about ‘Mission to the Unknown,’ but nevertheless this is still a very unique phenomena as far as Doctor Who goes. A lot of American shows have been doing this kind of thing for years of course, most of HBO’s output seems to be based on the premise of shifting perspectives, and there is ABC’s ‘Lost’, which exploits this narrative technique to the point of nausea.
Where ‘Love and Monsters’ differs from these is in the use of the equivalent of the first person story in film, the video diary. The author of this video diary is one Elton Pope (Marc Warren) a young man who has become obsessed with the Doctor and Rose. He has reason to as well, having woken up in the middle of the night as a child to find the Time Lord in his house. Years later, after a series of bizarre encounters with alien life forms (he is witness to all the contemporary invasions such as the Slitheen and the Autons) he comes across a picture of the Doctor on a website. This turns out to be the personal blog of fellow Doctor obsessive Ursula Blake (Shirley Henderson) who soon fills him in on what is known about the mystery figure.
Soon they are joining with other people, a ‘select band’ who know of the Doctor and whose curiosity is piqued. There is Mr Skinner who is also writing a novel, Bridget who has lost her daughter to drugs and Bliss who, just is. Together they form L.I.N.D.A (a curious acronym which involves the words ‘London’ and ‘Detective Agency’) and quickly start to have so much fun together that they forget about the obsession that brought them together in the first place.
All this changes when Victor Kennedy (played brilliantly by British comedian Peter Kay) makes his appearance. An impresario type figure with a penchant for the dramatic, Victor is soon taking over the group and applying more vigorous techniques to the quest for the Doctor. He brings with him files from Torchwood that includes a photo of the Doctor and Rose. Victor sets them the task of finding this mystery woman, someone who Elton immediately recognises as coming from London. He is entrusted with the task of tracking her down and instead he finds Jackie Tyler, who quickly latches onto him in her desperate lonely sense of need.
This doesn’t help Elton in his growing infatuation with Ursula but pleases Victor, who is one step closer to his own personal goal, which is to steal the TARDIS. Not that the hapless members of LINDA are aware of this of course, any more than the fact that he is really a slimy green monster who absorbs people.
There is much to like in this episode; it’s humanity and humour being top of the class. Peter Kay gives a splendidly impressive performance as the monster with a Lancashire accent, his funniest line being what he thinks of the Slitheen. Comedians often seem to make good baddies and this one takes the prize for gross stupidity. Barely able to contain its hunger for absorbing sentient life forms the creature tries to blackmail the Doctor at the story’s denouement by threatening to absorb Elton. The Doctor, however, couldn’t give a damn, he seems more concerned with the fact that Elton has upset Jackie and by doing so has caused grief for Rose.
The Abzorbaloff itself is a nice concept for a monster, even if it does come across as hugely ridiculous in the way in which it chases after Elton. The horror of having its victim’s faces popping out from its slimy green body was well executed, a great idea from the monster’s creator ten-year-old William Grantham, the winner of a ‘Blue Peter’ design a monster competition. He had apparently conceived of the being as tall as a double decker bus and was bitterly disappointed to find out it was man sized instead.
This episode was filmed in tandem with the preceding two part serial ‘The Impossible Planet,’ which was another reason RTD wrote a script that features very little of the Doctor and Rose. Instead we have Elton centre stage and his growing love affair with Ursula, who tragically ends up as part of a paving slab. Not that this concerns Elton too much who proudly tells the audience that they even have something of a love life (my thirteen year old son laughed at this, showing he understood the context of this gag perfectly!) much to Ursula’s disquiet. RTD shows an amazing talent for surreal comedy and for once there aren’t any awkward gags that fall flat on their face in this episode (such as Rose trying desperately to get Queen Victoria to say ‘we are not amused’ in ‘Tooth and Claw’). Definitely one of the best Davies’ scripts so far this season.