An ordinary man called Elton Pope becomes obsessed
with the Doctor and Rose and their mysterious blue box.
But when Elton's investigations bring him
to the attention of the enigmatic Victor Kennedy, his harmless hobby suddenly
plunges him into a living nightmare.
EPISODE TEN REVIEW
DOCTOR WHO does monsters well, chasing up and down the same
hardboard corridors well, and does good/evil morality well.
What the series have never done well are
clean & clinical sanitised views
of the far future (the future that STAR TREK and STAR
WARS are expert practitioners in), or the psychological thriller or
the quirky & sideways view of space & time travelling.
In LOVE & MONSTERS, Russell T Davies' has attempted
to draw together a set of perspectives that nudges our iconic protagonists to
the side and unravels a story from a third-party's point of view. Add to that
the necessity to include a monster created for a children's television magazine
Either one of those constraints that bound his hands could be seen as a threat
to the episode's success.
Thankfully, in being skilled, creative and
knowing the nature of both the series & viewers, Davies has surpassed any
lukewarm reception that LOVE & MONSTERS was
to receive. Following the archetypal deep-space-evil-threat DOCTOR WHO story
( THE IMPOSSIBLE PLANET / THE SATAN PIT ),
a story about a group of disparate Doctor-hunting 'geeks' aided by a green, overweight
alien would, unlike the portly alien, take some swallowing.
And would the viewer accept the lack of
appearance of the Doctor & Rose?
Unlike many of this series', LOVE & MONSTERS is
an episode that not only warrants re-watching but it deserves your time. It is
easy to watch, enjoyable, and with every new viewing that is something new to 'spot' or to understand
(this could be due to the expertise of Dan Zeff's innovative - for DOCTOR
WHO - direction & staging). All the elements of the series are
there but in a different ratio we (fans) are just not familiar with.
An alien running (seemingly with a terrible haemorrhoid affliction) amok in
darkest Woolwich; how does the Doctor know a young man who seems to know the
significance of a Police Public Call Box; flashback to an auton window-shop dummy
invasion; another alien with shape-shifting capabilities hunting the TARDIS crew;
continuity folklore; a quirky resolution that only DOCTOR WHO could
So, why does this episode have fans on its side? Is this SERIES 2's BOOM
TOWN ? Attacked for being too comedic, too soapy and too not- DOCTOR
WHO . However, anal DOCTOR WHO fans (the vocal ones
over thirty and over-onlined who seem to think that their view is life-and-death.
Well, that most DOCTOR WHO fan websites - British or American)
dismiss too quickly and too often. I do it too, and I am very anal.
However, LOVE & MONSTERS is to be credited for its structure,
narrative and intelligence.
Adopting a first-person narrative (knowing
T Davies' love for junk & daytime
television, this device was probably subconsciously snatched from Wisteria Lane)
by the garrulous Elton ("And the clouds in the air.") Pope (utterly convincingly
played by Marc Warren), complete with flash forwards (in terms of the episode
format) and backwards, was entertainingly engaging even to a point where you
start forgetting that you haven't actually seen the TARDIS crew (in fact, after
twenty minutes it is refreshing not have Tennant gurning and shouting McCoy-esque).
With the death of his Mother (by an elemental shadow that has escaped from the
Howling Halls, and had tried to be stopped by the Doctor), Elton understands
the emotional dimension that accompanies the TARDIS. Hence, the episode's title.
ELTON: And then they were destroyed. It's
not his fault. But maybe that's what happened if you touch the Doctor. Even for
a second. I keep thinking of Rose & Jackie. How much longer before they pay
Added to this a group of Doctor ferreting
disparate individuals that T Davies' expediently establishes cause & motif
and likeable characterisations (and under the umbrella of LINDA, the group is
one that DOCTOR WHO fans
would want to be accepted into). Though, "bless" Bliss got the raw end of the
LINDA's eventual nemesis, Victor Kennedy,
like a potter gradually turning a pot from a lump of malleable clay to a substantial
vase, gradually ingratiated himself into the group and then twisting the relationship
from "employee" to "employer" and
then to "executioner".
In the same vein of numerous DOCTOR WHO guest-star villains,
Peter Kay plays the character straight with so much relish that would give hot
dog sellers a run for their money. There is a lot of Kevin Stoney's Tobias Vaughn
( THE INVASION - 1968) about his performance, substantial and
quirky but with a menace that could turn on a sixpence. The archetypal villain,
replete with non-verbal communication signals of pencil-thin moustache (and goatee),
fur-lined collar and the threatening authority of a walking cane. However, the
veneers of being human are peeled away to reveal an alien with the penchant for
reading THE DAILY TELEGRAPH. The Lancastrian accent of the Abzorbaloff from planet
Clom is disquieting but genius at its core. Why the Clomling is on Earth is not
revealed but potentially his presence could be catastrophic - gradually digesting
personality and intelligence - for the planet. A threat that could have been
more menacing on screen which could have given the episode a depth (that some
critics have criticised in lacking). However, Kay demonstrated a minatory presence
that was made more overpowering next to the shockingly banal:
ABZORBALOFF (after devouring Ursula): She tastes like chicken.
In both guises, an ideal action figure.
Like many fans, my heart (singular) sinks when the series returns to present-day
Earth, and more so to the fictional Powell Estate and, oh no palpitations, bottle-blond
Unfortunately, the series had OD'ed on Rose Tyler's mother and time has come
to resolve why Jackie is there. The story-arc must be completed.
However, (as I tuck into humble-pie) LOVE & MONSTERS allowed
both Jackie Tyler and Camille Coduri to effervesce. An engaging comic-timing
masterclass that is absent in today's television sitcoms (primarily on BBC THREE
and CHANNEL 4).
JACKIE (to Elton): Here I am flashing you me knickers.
Coduri's scenes with Warren, both in the Laundrette and her flat (or should
that be lair), were a hybrid of FRIENDS and THIS LIFE ,
giving the episode a unique charm.
LOVE & MONSTERS is
a prime example of Russell T Davies' brave re-working of the DOCTOR WHO brand.
And that is a positive comment. Storytelling, in its 45 minutes format (well,
about 41 minutes worth of drama), that is so far from science fiction as Tony
Blair is from Socialism. Added to that a 180° athletic
twist to the normal DOCTOR WHO format, with the Doctor merely
a peripheral bystander. But it worked.
It was not experimental failure as critics has
asserted but a substantive drama under the DOCTOR WHO brand.
A crisp script and compelling naturalistic performances made for a enduring and